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Ninety per cent of the $1-billion in annual revenue at CAE, which employs 4,800 worldwide, is based on exports. Founded just after World War II as Canadian Aviation Electronics Ltd., the company is the world's top supplier of civil aviation simulation devices. It also participates substantially in the global military defence industry and the training of commercial pilots. For Mr. Raquepas, that means his "routine is never routine. You always have to reinvent yourself and motivate the team to continue to deliver value to our shareholders," he says.

"It's a bit strange, because I thought when I started my career that I'd earn my stripes with my education," he says, "with what I knew, starting with tax and moving to structured finance. For sure these helped me to deliver on many mandates, but right now it's more my management skills that make a difference."

Yet the job, like the industry itself, is not without its challenges, from the downturn in aerospace after the terrorist attacks of September 11 to the rising Canadian dollar and its corresponding productivity issues.

"Now that it's relatively stable and we're getting past the restructuring period, the challenge in front of us is to refocus on growth and leverage these technologies we have," Mr. Raquepas says. "I'm really excited about that."

Mr. Raquepas grew up on Montreal's South Shore and still lives there today with his wife, Marie-Claude, and two children. In his spare time, he likes to ski and chill out in his Eastern Townships country house. He does enough foreign travelling, he says, for the job.

Ian Wilson, 36 President, Wilson Fuel Co., Halifax


Mr. Wilson grew up in the city that his family company helped rebuild after the Halifax Explosion of 1914. Back then, the Wilsons were in the construction business; before that, they were merchant traders based in Colchester County in the early 1800s.

Today, along with affiliated businesses in heating-appliance manufacturing and the distribution of heating and refrigeration equipment, Wilson Fuel is Atlantic Canada's largest independent marketer of petroleum products, and the eighth generation is in charge.

The firm has also been rated for the second year in a row as one of Canada's 50 best-managed companies, which, Mr. Wilson says, is a "reflection of the performance of the company as a whole, as a result of the collective effort of everyone working at the business."

It wasn't a sure thing he'd take over, says Mr. Wilson, who studied sciences at Queens University. He earned a masters in environmental technology at the University of London's Imperial College in England.

But with his father's sudden death in 1999, Mr. Wilson took the helm as president of Wilson Fuel after seven years in sales and management of the automotive petroleum side of the business, along with environmental management.

Working for a cleaner environment is one of his extra-curricular activities; he's on the board of Clean Nova Scotia, which educates the public about green issues.

When asked about his goals, Mr. Wilson laughs and recounts how he tells people that some day he'd like to be president of a larger, more successful organization. "And they say, 'Oh, well, what organization?' And I say, 'This one,' " he jokes. In a more serious tone, he adds, "I'd like to concentrate on making this a better place to work, and a better company, more productive, more profitable and more successful."

Away from the office, he spends time sailing and skiing with his wife and their two children.

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