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YOUNG LEADERS

What it takes

The Caldwell Partners' annual Top 40 Under 40 awards celebrate the achievements of the sharpest young minds in Canada, and every one is profiled inside this special report. But how did they do it? We asked this year's winners to name the personal qualities they believe helped drive them to success. The words on this page record their responses. The larger the word, the more frequently it was cited

Passion Perseverance Integrity

Family support

Focus

Good judgment

Commitment

Humility Team player Work ethic

Determination

Good judgment

Creativity

People-person

Enthusiasm

Tenacity

Courage

Risk-taking

Strategic thinking

Empathy

Generosity

-----

Honesty

Compassion

Optimism

Sincerity

Respect

Leadership

Curiosity

Sense of humour

Responsibility

High standards

Open-mindedness

Fairness

Intellectual curiosity

Straight shooter

Caring

Sense of purpose

Drive

Instinct

Motivation

Clarity

Dedication

Goal-orientated

Adaptability

Decisiveness

High-energy

*****

THE AWARDS: SELECTION CRITERIA

'I call these people swans': Bright young leaders honoured

BY SUSAN SMITH

Since Douglas Caldwell, chairman of Caldwell Partners International Inc., founded the Top 40 Under 40 Awards in 1995, he has seen key issues wax and wane: national unity, recessions, brain drains, dot.com delirium ... This year, one of the key areas in the Canadian economy is the resource sector, where there's a wealth of opportunity for young stars to make their mark.

But when he starts talking about the awards, Mr. Caldwell is clearly more interested in the universal traits of what makes a good leader than he is about the latest business trend or hot sector.

"One thing that distinguishes the group [of honorees] this year is the giving back these people have seen as a responsibility," Mr. Caldwell says. "That is an important thing to be doing."

He and his team of 26 advisory board members, who chose the 2007 honorees from among 1,600 applicants, held to the same criteria that applied to winners in the past: They looked for people (who had to be under the age of 40 as of Dec. 31, 2007) who have shown vision and leadership, innovation and achievement, people who have made an impact and been involved in their community.

"I call these people swans," Mr. Caldwell adds, explaining that the honorees are smart, work hard, are ambitious, "and they are also nice people."

The awards - which will be presented in Toronto today - honour 40 people from across the country and across a spectrum of sectors, from business to science to civil service and academia.

The winners will attend a two-day conference featuring presentations by business leaders and an opportunity to network with hundreds of guests, many of whom are Top 40 alumni.

Mr. Caldwell says that acknowledging the accomplishments and highlighting the promise of the under-40 set is more important than ever because of changing demographics and the pace of business today,

The age of top leaders has dropped dramatically in the past 20 years, he points out. To succeed, he says, Canada needs the "energy and passion" of youth.

The writers

The profiles of the Top 40 Under 40 honorees for 2007 were written by: Cathryn Atkinson, Allison Dunfield, Unnati Gandhi, Kerry Gold, Marlene Habib, Marjo Johne, Michael Ryval, Lisa Stephens and Susan Smith.

*****

KIM BAIRD, 37, BRITISH COLUMBIA

First nation chief negotiated historic treaty

Chief, Tsawwassen First Nation, B.C.

BY LISA STEPHENS

Kim Baird, the youngest chief elected to head the 400-member Tsawwassen First Nation, was a key player in negotiating British Columbia's first modern urban land treaty, an agreement she proudly says will let her people "take control over our own destiny."

The historic treaty, signed on Parliament Hill last December, was the first achieved under the B.C. treaty claims procedure set up in the early 1990s, and is expected to be ratified this year. The treaty will give the Tsawwassen band ownership of lands in the Greater Vancouver Delta region, self-government provisions, fishing rights and a cash settlement.

"The Tsawwassen treaty proves that negotiations work. My community and I are absolutely convinced that the treaty is our way forward," says Chief Baird. "We no longer have to miss out on opportunities other British Columbians and Canadians have enjoyed for over the past century."

She assumed her leadership role at the youthful age of 28, when she was elected to her first term as chief of the Tsawwassen band. She was the youngest chief elected, the first woman in living memory, and is now serving her fifth term of office until 2010.

The road to ratifying the historic treaty began when she was a student at Kwantlen University College. "When I learned the history of poor relations between aboriginal nations and the province of British Columbia," she says, "and the reasons behind some of the socioeconomic conditions on the reserve, I became inspired to see if I could get involved at some level."

In fact, she was continuing a family tradition: her great-great-grandfather, Kwuntilum, known as Chief Harry Joe, initiated the land claims process for the band in 1914. Her first move was to become a land claims researcher for the band, while studying social geography at the University of British Columbia. After becoming chief in 1999, she took on the task of negotiating a viable living space for her people within their traditional terrain of the Georgia Straits, in what is now the metro Vancouver area.

Chief Baird quickly found that persuading other governments to share her vision was not the only challenge. Selling the treaty to her own band, to neighbouring land owners and the metropolitan government proved equally daunting. "Being behind such massive change isn't always popular, both within my own community, my peers and the public," she notes. "I've had to toughen up my skin," she adds wryly. "But there have been many high points along the way. And if the goals are worthwhile, the satisfaction outweighs the stress."

Of her skills at finding agreement among so many diverse communities she says, modestly, "anyone can have leadership skills and make changes to their community - you don't have to be a politician, just speak up and participate in any way you can - and make your community a better place to be."

Chief Baird, who has two young daughters, four-year-old Amy and 18-month-old Sophie, is still working on her BA degree at UBC.

"Maybe I'll finish it by the time I'm 80," she laughs.

*****

MICHAEL HYATT, 33, ONTARIO

Leadership means knowing when to let go

Chief executive officer and co-founder, BlueCat Networks, Toronto

BY LISA STEPHENS

The tech company might be called BlueCat, but Michael Hyatt knows he's riding a tiger.

Since co-founding the company with his brother Richard in 2001, he has watched BlueCat become one of the 50 fastest-growing technology companies in Canada. It has taken the lead in its field of Internet-address management after going toe-to-toe with the likes of Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems and even British Telecom. BlueCat recently was designated best in its field by NetworkWorld magazine.

The privately held company has 125 employees in offices across Canada, the United States and Europe. It doesn't release sales figures, but he does allow that sales are in the "millions per month."

BlueCat is actually his second tech success. His first was Dyadem International Ltd., which he and Richard founded in 1993 (in "suite two of our parent's home - our bedroom"), selling software they had created for their engineer father while Michael was still a student at the University of Western Ontario. The brothers still own Dyadem, which is on a similar trajectory to that of BlueCat, boasting rapid revenue growth and 125 employees.

Remarkably, both companies operate without typical venture capital support or debt. "But we have very, very good advisers," Mr. Hyatt says. "We look for smarter people than us."

The trick to being a good entrepreneur is "giving up authority as quickly as you can to people who are smarter than you. I try to become the 'dumbest guy in the room' - quickly - and empower people to make sound decisions and take total ownership for them," he says.

"If you're going to be successful as an entrepreneur, what you're constantly doing is downloading responsibility and giving up authority. The challenge is always 'letting go' and allowing the best people to run your business," he adds.

A bachelor, he laughs that "there are probably people who like entrepreneurs, but I'd have to make the time to meet them."

*****

YURI LEITH FULMER, 33, BRITISH COLUMBIA

Fast-food baron started in the drive-through

President and chief executive officer, FDC Brands, Vancouver

BY UNNATI GANDHI

After working his way up the food chain at a North Vancouver A&W, from drive-through attendant to manager in three years, Yuri Fulmer was faced with a tough decision.

The A&W head office had decided to downsize its presence in the chain, and was franchising out 120 of its 180 locations. Employees like Mr. Fulmer, who was planning to go back to university in the fall, were given the chance to buy a restaurant. His decision to bite turned out to be one of the smartest he has ever made, although he says he hardly felt that way at the time. After all, he was just 18.

"You lie awake at night and do math on the bedroom ceiling, adding things together to make sure you're going to make it," he recalls. "But I thought, most people go into the business doing something they don't know a lot about."

He had always thought like that, which is how he got to Vancouver in the first place. Leaving his native Australia at 16 to see the world, he fell in love with Vancouver and stayed put.

He intended to do the same thing with this business; he put all his money into the venture, while his mother remortgaged her condo to help pad the bank loans. He barely made ends meet in the first year. But business picked up, and Mr. Fulmer bought a second location, then a third.

Eventually, his company held assets in seven A&W restaurants and 27 Pizza Hut locations in British Columbia and Alberta. In 2006, his FDC Brands acquired the entire Mr. Mikes Steakhouse and Bar chain, and rebranded it.

Mr. Fulmer hasn't looked back; he has no regrets about not obtaining a university education and says he has never been happier.

"I've always been prepared to make change in my life when something wasn't working out," he says. "If I have to make teen burgers myself at one A&W in order to keep working for myself, I would rather do that than have any sort of senior management or executive job working for somebody else."

*****

PAUL JEWER, 35, NOVA SCOTIA

Diverse résumé takes exec to grocery business

Senior vice-president, finance, and treasurer, Sobeys Inc., Stellarton, N.S.

BY MICHAEL RYVAL

At the ripe age of 31, Paul Jewer was hired in 2003 to fill one of the most senior posts at Sobeys, the second-largest supermarket chain in Canada. "They took a bit of a chance on me," admits Mr. Jewer. "They saw what I was able to accomplish already in my short career, albeit an eventful one."

A native of Grand Falls-Windsor, Nfld., he is a 1994 graduate of Acadia University, where he earned a BA in business administration. He joined Sobeys with a diverse background that includes accountancy and senior positions in the software industry.

He began his career at Ernst & Young LLP and stayed four years, ultimately becoming manager of assurance and business advisory services. He then joined the fast-paced technology sector and became the controller at Halifax-based FastLane Technologies Inc.

When the company was sold in 2000 to a U.S. firm, Mr. Jewer helped the new owners integrate it with some smaller Canadian operations. Then, because Halifax had become his home, Mr. Jewer accepted an offer from Core Networks Inc. to become vice-president of finance and corporate development.

When Sobeys came knocking on his door, he was drawn to one of the best-known success stories in Atlantic Canada. "Sobeys was a chance to get back to my finance roots - and with a company in Atlantic Canada whose scale was difficult to match," notes Mr. Jewer, a recreational runner who is married and has a daughter.

Today, he is a senior member of the team that manages a vast operation, with revenues of more than $13-billion, 75,000 employees and more than 1,300 stores under several banners, including Sobeys, IGA and Thrifty Foods. Challenges are ever-present, he says.

"The grocery business is very competitive and it's critical to engage all your employees. Our customers come to know all our people - whether it's the store manager, the cashier, the butcher or the seafood manager. It's a business that is delivered with a personal touch."

*****

ATUL HUMAR, 38, ALBERTA

Childhood trips to India spurred research quest

Director, Transplant Infectious Diseases; Associate professor, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton

It was the thrill of venturing into uncharted territory that initially drew Atul Humar into his profession.

Nearly two decades later, he still hasn't emerged from the depths of the unknown.

As director of one of only a few transplant infectious disease laboratories in the world, Dr. Humar is never quite sure where his research will take him next.

And with the specialty being a relatively new field, no one else is too sure, either.

"I liked that there was an opportunity to be on the cutting edge of something and have the opportunity to develop innovative things," he says of his decision to focus on transplants and infection diseases.

His passion was first ignited as a child, during family visits to his native India where he saw the impact that infectious diseases have on so much of that country's population.

His family immigrated to Ottawa when he was two years old and young Atul grew up looking up to his father, a civil engineering professor, and his ongoing research.

It was also during those trips to India that the future doctor noticed that transplants, which were meant to save lives, often made situations worse, because patients became infected with a disease in the process.

"They're on the waiting list for years and years, they're really sick on the waiting list, they finally get a transplant and ... they get this infection that seems to come out of the blue," Dr. Humar explains. "Some even think the transplant isn't all that they hoped for."

He immediately saw that there was a major gap in medical knowledge and decided to help close it.

From his undergraduate degree at Carleton University, to the University of Ottawa for medical school, Dr. Humar took the first steps into a just-emerging specialty.

Luckily, he says, he was able to train with two of the field's pioneers, doctors Jay Fischman and Robert Rubin, in Massachusetts.

Armed with newfound knowledge, Dr. Humar was recruited by the University of Toronto to start up a transplant infectious disease program - the first in the country - in 1999.

He was just 28, but says he didn't encounter much resistance from the older faculty.

"I created a niche for myself, because that was something nobody else at the university was doing," he explains.

And once he showed colleagues how patients could be prepared for transplants, and the chances of infection reduced drastically, "the transplant people really embraced the whole concept and they really recognized it as an important part of the whole transplant program."

Dr. Humar and his wife, Deepali Kumar, also a transplant infectious disease physician, were recruited to the University of Alberta Hospital last year, to start a program "unlike any in the country, really," he says.

They are the only husband-wife transplant infectious disease team in the world.

Their new program houses three full-time transplant infectious diseases physicians, three lab scientists, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

They prepare patients for transplants, and meet with them during and after the procedure for follow-ups.

When he isn't travelling for work, Dr. Humar tries to spend all his free time with his children, Sapna, 7, Saurav, 4, and Sonika, 2. (His other love is science fiction.)

His next venture is to help bring the transplant infectious disease programs into every transplant clinic.

And while that may be a sign that his specialty is no longer new, he's sure there is much more to be discovered, and many lives to be saved.

*****

SCOTT SAXBERG, 39, ALBERTA

Riding the energy wave

President and chief executive officer, Crescent Point Energy Trust, Calgary

BY ALLISON DUNFIELD

The route from the Winnipeg Jets dressing room to the oil sands of Alberta may have been unconventional, but it worked well for Scott Saxberg, president and CEO of Calgary-based Crescent Energy Trust.

The Manitoba native says his start in the oil industry was fostered, in part, by the discipline required to juggle his university job - videotaping the Jets' performances to help the hockey players improve - with his engineering studies at the University of Manitoba.

"I look back on that now as probably where I learned a lot [in] communicating ... The environment gave me a head start."

Armed with his mechanical engineering degree, he joined Wascana Energy Inc. in Regina in 1991. But rather than having a typical junior engineer role (looking after facilities, for example) he was placed in the company's acquisition and divesture division, called Pasqua Resources, where he gained experience buying and selling properties and developing new companies.

That gave him another jump-start on his current success: "I started from the business side - that really has been the foundation of a lot of my training and experience in the last couple of years."

He worked with another company, Numac Energy, until 1996. Then a group he had worked with at Pasqua began a startup called Magin Energy, where he started as a senior engineer but quickly rose to manager of business development by 1999.

After the company was acquired in 2001 by NCE Petrofund Corp., he decided the time was right to move to Calgary, where the energy sector was booming.

There, he launched Crescent Point with partner Paul Colborne in 2001 (the company is named for the road leading to the Saxberg family's cottage in Thunder Bay). "We grew Crescent Point very rapidly as a junior [oil and gas company]. In 18 months, we were at 5,000 barrels a day."

Mr. Saxberg was named president and CEO in 2003, when the company acquired Tappit Resources Ltd. and changed into a royalty trust. He's proud that Crescent Point has grown using the same business plan as when it started, a combination of acquisitions, exploration and development.

So far, it has acquired $1-billion worth of junior companies and expanded its ownership in southeast Saskatchewan's Bakken play, an oil pool that has huge potential. Mr. Saxberg calls it "Saskatchewan's Hibernia."

"We are a $4-billion-plus entity, but we could grow it to $8-billion through growing our own assets," he says, projecting that development within three to five years.

He and wife Rachel have two sons, Graeme, 9, and Kellen, 6. Now that he's a CEO, something the soft-spoken Mr. Saxberg says he never dreamed of becoming, he has time to get back to his sports roots - coaching hockey for his boys.

"Maybe I can be coach of the year," he laughs.

*****

CHRISTINA ANTHONY, 32, BRITISH COLUMBIA

Inspired by, and inspiring, women at work

Founder and president, Forum for Women Entrepreneurs Canada, Vancouver; Director, Odlum Brown Limited

BY UNNATI GANDHI

Christina Anthony was on her way home from one of her own training sessions for female entrepreneurs when she noticed one of the attendees preparing to spend the night in a car.

The woman, who made the two-hour trek into Vancouver to take part in programs offered by Ms. Anthony's Forum for Women Entrepreneurs organization, told Ms. Anthony that money was so tight at her fledgling company that she couldn't afford to stay in a hotel, and it was too late for her to make the long drive home. Yet here she was, week after week, upgrading her entrepreneurial skills through FWE programs.

"I just was so blown away," Ms. Anthony recalls. "I've always been very inspired by people who take risks and start their own businesses ... but it's that kind of motivation to do it, really at all costs, that was really so amazing."

Ms. Anthony, who opened her home to the woman for the night, has always had a weak spot for entrepreneurial ambition. The proof goes back to her days of winning science fairs across the country as a child (more for her knack at selling the idea of her project than displaying the science behind it) and to when she switched from a first-year science program at the University of British Columbia to a commerce program where she was able to manage a $2-million endowment fund for course credit.

That's why, when the Richmond, B.C., native moved back to Vancouver after a stint at Goldman Sachs in Seattle in 2002, she immediately saw the city had a need for mentors and training programs to help female entrepreneurs.

When she wasn't busy with her day job as a portfolio manager and director at Odlum Brown Ltd., she launched the B.C. chapter of FWE.

Now, despite having two young children and a third on the way, she has managed to expand FWE into a resource for hundreds of women who are just starting out, or are already successful, to upgrade their skills and network.

*****

JOSEPH MICHAEL JOHNSON, 38, ONTARIO

Taking over family firm put career on new track

President, Joe Johnson Equipment Inc., Innisfil, Ont.

BY SUSAN SMITH

Joe Johnson Jr. was a gung-ho, fledgling lawyer in Waterloo, Ont., when his father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1996. But when he decided to take time off work to move to Barrie and help care for his father, he suddenly found himself with a whole new career plan.

The senior Mr. Johnson had started Joe Johnson Equipment Inc. in the mid-1980s as a distributor of maintenance equipment for public works projects, and now he needed a succession plan, fast.

"My dad, to my surprise when I got here, said, 'If I've only got three months I don't want to be sitting behind a desk,' " Joe recalls. "So he threw the keys at me and said, 'You're the president.' "

There wasn't really any way to refuse. It was a trying time for the entire family and there was a business with $4-million in annual sales to run.

While Mr. Johnson was young to be running a company - he was still in his 20s - he had a good foundation.

His law degree from York University's Osgoode Hall proved invaluable in countless ways and because his time in practice had been spent representing municipalities, he understood the tendering process for a government department that needed, say, an industrial vacuum or a recycling vehicle or an ice resurfacer.

And his father lived for more than two years after the diagnosis, giving him time to help Joe find his stride.

Initially, the new president had to work hard to build relationships with customers and suppliers. "As far as they were concerned, I'm just a young snot-nose, a silver-spoon-in-the-mouth type of lawyer that has been entrusted with this role."

At the same time, Mr. Johnson realized that to take the business further he would have to rely on more than relationships and bring solid business disciplines to bear.

He has also learned to practice discipline when it comes to working, and co-owning, with family.

His older brother, Jeff, is vice-president of sales, and his younger brother, Jamie, is manager of inventory control. They have a policy of not confusing family, ownership and management.

"If I ever saw one of my brothers saying, 'I'm an owner of this company so I'm not just going to come in on Thursday,' well, that's not kosher," Mr. Johnson says.

"At the same time, I can't be in an ownership meeting and say, 'You know what, Jamie, you made that exact same comment when we were playing T-ball 15 years ago. You've always been that way!' "

Now married with three children, he says there is no doubt that taking on the family business was the right move for him, though he doesn't expect his children to necessarily follow the same path.

"I regret what brought me to the position," he says. "But it's been phenomenal, both for me personally and professionally, and for the company."

Joe Johnson Equipment now has annual sales of $75-million and offices across Canada, as well as one in Rochester, N.Y. And the company president knows his father would be proud.

*****

JAMES FRASER, 39, ONTARIO

HIV/AIDS charity born of experience

Co-founder, executive director, Dignitas International, Toronto

BY MARLENE HABIB

Haunted by the memory of a malnourished woman dying at the side of a road in the jungle in Zaire, James Fraser became determined not to let others perish alone. "That was the humanitarian spark, so to speak, of Dignitas International," he says of the humanitarian organization he co-founded in 2002 with Dr. James Orbinski.

The Toronto-based organization works in the developing world, notably Malawi, providing HIV/AIDS-related prevention, treatment, care and support through a community-based care model.

After six years with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Mr. Fraser left that charitable group to write a book about his eye-opening 1997 mission to Zaire, where refugees were being massacred and locals murdered for helping refugees and MSF workers.

But when he put pen to paper, he couldn't get past the first page because of his recollections of that dying woman. "I realized that I have skills to stop others from dying in a similar fashion, completely alone."

The middle of three children growing up in Sudbury, Mr. Fraser says his parents emphasized thinking independently - "and following our stomach."

After graduating from the University of Toronto with a BA in peace and conflict studies/international relations and a master's in political science/public administration, he joined MSF, working in hot spots around the world. From 2000 to 2002, he served as program development officer for More Than Bandages, helping children in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Mexico.

To get Dignitas off the ground, Mr. Fraser contacted friends and former MSF colleagues, including Dr. Orbinski, who accepted the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of MSF and is now Dignitas's board chairman. The registered charity has 12 employees in Toronto, an office in New York City, and a budget that jumped to an estimated $6-million this year from $13,000 in 2003.

Mr. Fraser travels several times a year to the developing world, spending 10 to 25 days at a time away from his wife, Laura Janzen, a pediatric neuro-psychologist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and their children, Elliot, 7, and Natalie, 4.

Although he is "immersed" in work, he has begun taking karate and piano lessons with his children to "bring balance to my life."

*****

PETER ZANDSTRA, 39, ONTARIO

Momentum fuels cell researcher

Professor, Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto

BY MARJO JOHNE

Imagine if doctors could put a cardiac-cell "bandage" over a damaged heart, or inject a gel loaded with insulin-responsive cells into a diabetic's bloodstream.

For Peter Zandstra, professor of tissue engineering and principal investigator at University of Toronto's Institute of Biomaterial and Biomedical Engineering, envisioning such medical advances is not so much an exercise in imagination as it is an educated speculation of things to come.

Dr. Zandstra trained to be an engineer at McGill University in Montreal before earning a PhD in chemical engineering and biotechnology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Now he is also a Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Bioengineering, and leads a team of researchers looking into next-generation cellular therapy based on science's ability to engineer how cells interact and communicate.

Potential applications for the research include manipulating stem cells so they become compatible with a patient's antibodies (thus reducing the risk of rejection of implanted cells), or creating barriers around the implanted cells so they don't interact with the patient's immune system.

"We're trying to understand how to control the environment around cells," says Dr. Zandstra.

It may take a few years for his work to move from the lab bench to the hospital bedside. But momentum is building in the field of cellular therapy. While he and researchers around the world are hard at work deciphering the stem cell, other scientists are busy developing methods for delivering cellular treatment.

"This is where bioengineering comes in: for instance, building tissue-engineered substrates or scaffolds that could be placed upon the heart like a Band-Aid," he says. "Or maybe the means for delivery could be an injectable gel. There are a number of possibilities."

Although scientists have been studying stem cells for years, the ability to bioengineer complex cellular systems is opening new possibilities, he says.

"I think we will see the benefits to this type of technology very rapidly. It may take us longer to score home runs, such as being able to cure a particular disease, but the field of cellular therapy is moving very quickly and we're making headway year after year."

*****

MICHAEL D. PENNER, 38, QUEBEC

Business is 'personal thing,' even when it's global

President and chief executive officer, Richelieu Legwear, Montreal

BY LISA STEPHENS

Michael Penner has taken the old-line Quebec maker of Richelieu Legwear into the 21st century with aplomb and confidence.

A history graduate of McGill University who went on to earn his juris doctor at Hofstra University and was called to the bar in New York state, he returned to Montreal to work with his father as a specialist in mergers and acquisitions when the elder Mr. Penner acquired Richelieu Knitting Inc. in a leveraged buyout.

In 2006, Michael became president and CEO of Richelieu when he purchased the company. He set a new course, determined to reinvent Richelieu as a global, branded and entirely offshore maker of socks and leg wear. After deciding to reduce the Canadian head office to a small group and produce its knitwear offshore, Richelieu was rewarded in 2008 by being named top vendor of the year for Wal-Mart Canada, with a 33-per-cent sales increase.

Richelieu is also making inroads in the U.S. and European markets. Its products are sold under the brands OshKosh B'Gosh, Wonderbra, Peds, Eddie Bauer, Gold Bug and WonderKids. Its customers include Sears, Loblaws, The Bay, Polo, Zellers, Sam's Club, Costco, Wal-Mart and Disney.

The price of going offshore to reduce costs is a heavy travel schedule for Mr. Penner. A typical week sees him winging from Montreal to Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul, Phnom Penh, Dubai and Istanbul.

"I really grind it out. I fly overnight to avoid staying in hotels."

But he notes that a changing international business environment still demands the human touch. "Business is still a personal thing, no matter where you are in the world - you have to be there, talking with your team," he says. "This gives us a huge competitive advantage."

Mr. Penner is married and has two young daughters. One of his favourite family pastimes is using his travel points to go on trips together.

*****

WILLIAM MOORE, 37 ALBERTA

Newcomer finds Canada a 'wonderful opportunity'

Senior vice-president, operations, Enerflex Systems Income Fund, Calgary

BY CATHRYN ATKINSON

William Moore moved his family to Calgary four years ago, when he was appointed vice-president of mechanical services for Enerflex, a supplier of products and services to the oil and gas industry. In February, the Australian native received his permanent residency card.

"It feels good to be a Canadian and now a Top 40 Canadian," he says with a laugh. "It has all come rather quickly."

Mr. Moore graduated with a bachelor of chemical engineering from the University of Sydney in 1992 and worked for the Australian Gas Light Co. before joining Enerflex's Australian operations in 1996.

He was moved to Calgary in 2004 as vice-president of mechanical services, with responsibility for operations in Canada and Central and South America. Now, as senior vice-president of operations, he supports the Australasia and European regions of Enerflex with the export of products from Canadian operations.

When it comes to doing business, Canada is similar to Australia "because both countries are fairly reliant on energy and mining," he says. "I had been coming to Canada for many years ... business-wise it hasn't been a huge difference."

Enerflex has 2,800 employees around the world, with 1,900 based in Canada. Mr. Moore says it has become more international since he moved to Canada, with about half its business coming from overseas, so he has to travel frequently.

But he likes to return to his new home town, which he says his son and daughter have taken to like ducks to water. "They love the skiing and their school. My wife was trying to organize a holiday back to Australia this June and the kids don't even want to go, and they're only six and nine."

All in all, he says, the move to Canada has been a "wonderful opportunity that I've enjoyed very much."

*****

NICOLE LETOURNEAU, 38, NEW BRUNSWICK

Lighting a 'beacon of hope' for new mothers

Professor of nursing and Canada Research Chair in Healthy Child Development, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton

As a child, Nicole Letourneau wanted adults to stop treating her like, well, a child. She remembers thinking, "Don't talk down to me." She also felt that "people didn't give kids enough credit," says the recently appointed Canada Research Chair in Healthy Child Development at the University of New Brunswick.

"I've always been interested in children," says Prof. Letourneau, creator of the Child Health Intervention and Longitudinal Development (CHILD) studies program at the university. "Even when I was a child I wondered how we can make the best environment for children. I thought that parents and other adults had a very powerful role and they should just use that power better."

That interest was rekindled when she entered nursing school and discovered the fields of child health and pediatric nursing. She received her RN at UNB and her master's and PhD from the University of Alberta, with postgraduate certifications in child-assessment data analysis, French and teaching, before being appointed assistant professor of nursing at UofA in 1999.

In 2007, she became a tenured professor at UNB and recipient of the Canada Research Chair grant, as well as the Peter Lougheed/Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy fellowships.

But it was the difficult birth of her own child and her subsequent experience with the agonies of postpartum depression that provided the stimulus for the creation of the CHILD program.

Despite being a nurse, she didn't recognize she was depressed because "I didn't know what depression really was," she recalls. Worse, "no one around me recognized [it] even though I was surrounded by nurses and health care providers."

She knew that depressed mothers may not pick up on their baby's cues or provide positive feedback or meet their needs. These disturbances in mother-infant interactions can affect a baby's social and cognitive development. Intrigued, she began to explore the needs and barriers that prevented new mothers from seeking treatment for depression. She found that they wanted advice and counselling from others who had suffered postpartum depression, but from "a mother that wasn't their own mother."

The CHILD program being developed uses mothers as volunteers to counsel new mothers. "We're finding that the power of support doesn't come from professionals but from people who've been through the same experience," Prof. Letourneau says.

"They can be a beacon of hope; they can understand more."

The peer volunteers are not in the program for pay, she adds. "They're there because it turns a very negative experience [in their own past] into something very positive."

*****

DARRYL WHITE, 39, QUEBEC

A juggler of roles in financial services

Executive managing director/head, Montreal investment and corporate banking, BMO Capital Markets, Montreal

BY ALLISON DUNFIELD

Financial services executive Darryl White has come a long way from his days as a University of Western Ontario business student who didn't know what he wanted to do until he was interviewing for jobs at the end of his studies.

But after landing a job right after graduation in 1994 with Nesbitt Thomson (now BMO Nesbitt Burns) as an analyst, he knew he had found his niche.

Because he was in a general management program at UWO, he was comfortable with the idea of juggling several roles and tasks, which served him well during his initial years. He thrives on the challenge of a job where the agenda can change abruptly.

He thinks of himself as a "part-time financial expert, part-time accountant, part-time lawyer, part-time salesman, part-time psychologist and part-time coach."

Mr. White describes his first years as an analyst and the gruelling 80- to 90-hour workweeks as a necessary "boot camp" to learn the ropes. In 1996, he was hired as an associate in investment banking at BMO Nesbitt Burns in Toronto; he was promoted to vice-president of investment banking in 1999 and then to managing director, investment and corporate banking, in 2002.

In 2006, he made the jump from Toronto to his home town of Montreal. Heading up the company's investment and corporate banking practice for Quebec has been a "homecoming" for him and his family (wife Cassandra, son Nolan, 3, and daughter Leah, 1). He's thrilled to be able to get from home to office in seven minutes, and to take in the city's jazz festival and nearby skiing.

During his first full year in the position, his team achieved 40-per-cent growth in revenue. He believes part of that success may be because he has worked hard to develop rapport with his staff.

"You have to be sensitive to the fact that people are looking at you as having been sent by the Mother Ship: 'Are you one of us or one of them?' One of the things I'm proud of is I think I've achieved a sense of respect from the people who work with me."

*****

COURT CARRUTHERS, 35, ONTARIO

Finding and keeping 'amazing' staff key part of success

President, Acklands-Grainger Inc., Richmond Hill, Ont.

BY MARLENE HABIB

Court Carruthers is the first to admit that dabbling in welding equipment and janitorial and safety supplies isn't the most glamorous business.

The president of Acklands-Grainger Inc. (AGI) and newly minted senior vice-president of the Illinois-based parent company, W.W. Grainger Inc., also says most people don't know what the company is all about, even though its roots go back nearly 120 years.

But with revenues of $700-million a year, serving 65,000 customers through 155 branches across the country, five distribution centres and about 2,200 employees, Canada's largest supplier of industrial, safety and fastener products is obviously attracting the right crowd.

"We are very focused on selling to industry and government. It's not a glamorous business or industry, but we're all fine with that," says Mr. Carruthers, who held a number of senior leadership roles in the transportation and logistics industries before joining AGI in 2002.

It's as if Mr. Carruthers, Saskatoon-born and Alberta-bred, was going home when he joined Acklands-Grainger. Founded in Winnipeg in 1889, the company grew from manufacturing and supplying wooden goods to making and selling carriages, wagons and farm machinery; when the automobile came along, it added car parts and accessories to its offerings.

In 1996, it was bought by Illinois-based Grainger, the largest industrial distributor in the United States. Acklands-Grainger, through vendor partners including 3M, GE and Black and Decker, serves a variety of industries with more than 100,000 products.

"The business is very complex from a logistics and execution standpoint," says Mr. Carruthers, a certified management accountant whose education and training have given him the tools to keep his business wits about him.

With a bachelor of commerce degree from the University of Alberta (1993) and an MBA from Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., Mr. Carruthers worked with Purolator Courier in Western Canada, progressing from sales rep to vice-president, field sales, and moving to Toronto in 1997.

In 2000, he joined Veredex Logistics as senior vice-president, business development, North America, and took on the same role, but as a vice-president, for Dynamex Inc. in 2001.

At Acklands-Grainger, he started as vice-president, national accounts and sales, and moved up. "I have worked for and with some amazing people, and this is really the most important preparation for success - finding, keeping and motivating world-class talent to achieve the full potential of a business."

The devout Edmonton Oilers hockey fan and avid golfer is preparing for a new challenge - fatherhood. His wife, Kristin, a marketing director with Purolator Courier, is expecting their first child in June.

"For me, it is very busy all the time, but only with activities that I like and people I really enjoy being around, both at work and outside."

*****

REZA SATCHU, 38, ONTARIO

'Always seek positions of discomfort'

Co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer, Stellation Asset Management, Toronto

BY ALLISON DUNFIELD

Reza Satchu is a big believer in taking risks, putting himself in challenging situations and creating his own opportunities.

"One of my big mottos is: Always seek positions of discomfort," says the entrepreneur and founder of Stellation Asset Management LLC, a global equity hedge fund.

Nothing has come easy for Mr. Satchu, who emigrated from Kenya to Scarborough, Ont., with his family as a child. But he appreciates that his parents, Rustom and Zarina, encouraged risk-taking and fostered high expectations in their children at an early age. "They showed me that taking risks in a calculated way is a smart thing to do."

After high school he headed to McGill University to become a doctor, a "typical Indian family" thing to do, he says. But he realized that he gravitated toward capitalizing on opportunities and switched to economics, graduating in 1991.

Seeking greater challenges, he headed to Wall Street and landed a job at Merrill Lynch & Co. as a financial analyst.

But he realized he wasn't interested in the corporate side of business. "I wanted to be someone who was actually creating something."

He then went to Harvard Business School, earning his MBA in 1996. From there, his career took a number of risky, and highly profitable, turns. He was a managing director at Fenway Partners in New York, a private equity investment firm that bought and sold underperforming companies.

In 1999, he and his brother, Asif, created SupplierMarket, a procurement software company that sold products to Fortune 500 companies; two years later, they sold the company for $925-million.

Mr. Satchu and his wife, Marian Annau, started a family and decided to move back to Toronto (they now have three children, six-year-old Talia and four-year-old twins, Alyana and Nikhil).

In 2002, Mr. Satchu and his brother established a second business, StorageNow Holdings, which became Canada's second-largest storage company; last year, they sold it for $110-million.

His launched his latest project, Stellation, in 2005. The highly successful hedge fund company was ranked by UBS as one of the top global equity long/short hedge fund of funds for 2007 and includes investors from the world's largest private equity funds, including Citibank.

Although Mr. Satchu says Stellation combines all of his previous talents and ambitions into something he finds satisfying, he has also set his sights on another challenge: developing the entrepreneurs of the future.

To that end, he created a class in "economics of entrepreneurship" at University of Toronto's economics department.

He and his family knocked on the school's door and pitched the idea of a class funded, taught and administered by Mr. Satchu. He isn't paid for his teaching, and every year gives the top student in the class a $5,000 scholarship.

True to his nature, the class is highly competitive and forces students to think on their feet, but has been rated by students as a top arts and science course for four years running. "It's highly uncomfortable," he says, "but guess what? You learn the most when you are uncomfortable."

*****

MARTIN COUTURE, 39, QUEBEC

A third-generation, eco-friendly businessman

President, chief operating officer, Sanimax, Montreal

BY MARLENE HABIB

Martin Couture is passionate about getting the word out that one person's, or workplace's, garbage is another industry's gold mine.

He puts in long weeks as head of operations across five business units of Montreal-based Sanimax, which transforms byproducts from the meat and food industries into materials for other sectors.

The married father of three young children tries to keep the weekends and holidays solely for his loved ones. But given the size of the family-owned business, with about 1,200 employees, and facilities in Quebec, other parts of Canada and the United States, and his efforts to increase public awareness of Sanimax's work, it's hard to avoid shop talk on off-work days.

"I've always had one goal in life - to possibly grow our company and increase the value," Mr. Couture says, eager to build on the success that began with the business his grandfather, Alex, founded in 1939. "I look at some of the pictures of my grandfather's first rendering plant, which was in a small building ... and that's always motivating."

Despite Sanimax's role in the food and agribusiness industries in North America, such as collecting used cooking oil and animal byproducts that would normally be tossed out, it hasn't always been easy to convince the public that what it does is good for the planet.

That's changing. As consumers become more environmentally aware and eco-friendly, Mr. Couture is placing a lot of emphasis on marketing. "When you go to the grocery store and you get your chicken, you get the top-quality stuff; you don't worry about where the rest of the product [such as bones, fat, offal and feathers] is going to go," he notes. "We're using that product."

"What really feels good is people are slowly starting to recognize what we do," he adds. "In the early days, when people heard we took byproducts from plants, they would have said, 'You guys pollute.' ... We do not pollute. We are taking byproducts out of the environment and putting them to use."

Through its rendering service, Sanimax diverts animal byproducts from landfill sites and transforms them into purified fat and protein products, serving butcher shops, farmers, supermarkets, restaurants and meat processors.

The food and restaurant industry, which generates thousands of tonnes of used cooking oil and grease each day, has benefited from Sanimax's sanitary removal system since 1927, when the company was known as Burbank Grease Services. Instead of clogging municipal sewer systems and landfills, the oil and grease are recycled into products such as clean-burning biodiesel, animal feed and soap.

In 1990, Mr. Couture earned a BA in economics from St. Lawrence University in New York and joined his family's company, Sanimal Inc., as director of corporate development.

Having also studied at the McGill International Executive Institute, he was promoted to executive vice-president, overseeing all subsidiary companies, in 1997, and became president in 2000 - the same year his father, board chairman Murray Couture, passed away.

Five years later, Martin Couture and his brother André, the new board chairman, oversaw a major acquisition and doubling of the company's size. Sanimax was created from Sanimal; the Anamax Group, a recycler of food products since 1981 in Green Bay, Wisc.; and Bi-Pro Marketing Ltd., a worldwide marketer of premium products and ingredients based in Guelph, Ont.

Sanimax is also involved in joint ventures and is constantly striving to fine-tune its business strategies, to stave off competition from companies such as Maple Leaf Foods and boost the bottom line.

"We'd like to be more aligned towards acquisitions in the U.S.," Mr. Couture says. "If there are acquisitions available, we're looking at them."

*****

ADRIENNE O'PRAY, 38, NEW BRUNSWICK

Corporate strategist loves a challenge

Senior vice-president, operations, Atlantic Lottery Corp., Moncton

BY MICHAEL RYVAL

When Adrienne O'Pray was studying neuroscience at Dalhousie University in the late 1980s, she spent summers working at a Canada Employment Centre, helping students find summer jobs.

"I really enjoyed assessing peoples' needs and promoting student employment with this team of people, working in both English and French," she recalls.

The St. John's native had planned to become a pharmacist. Then it happened. She was in a classroom laboratory studying cockroach legs when it dawned on her: "This isn't me. I don't see myself like this, working on my own. But I had to finish the science degree and decided to get an MBA."

Ever since that realization, her métier has been in managing people and helping organizations go through change. After earning an MBA at the University of New Brunswick in 1992, and completing an internship at a clothing factory in Poland, Ms. O'Pray got the call, literally, from telecom company NBTel Inc.

She flew home to start in sales and eventually became a sales manager. Working with chief executive officer Gerry Pond, she appreciated how the organization adapted to far-ranging regulatory change.

Over the next 11 years, and as NBTel was renamed Aliant Inc. (which later joined the BCE Inc. family), she moved to other posts and her role expanded. She became director of customer service and also took on special projects, such as product development.

"It was by design. The leadership was aggressive and made sure that people could work, and see, all parts of the company," says Ms. O'Pray, a mother of two who relaxes by skating in the family's backyard rink and practising yoga.

In 2000 she became general manager of client services at xwave, a business solutions provider that is now a division of Bell Aliant. For two years, she was responsible for developing a support services team that grew to 500 employees from 50.

She wasn't planning to change jobs but in 2003 she did just that, taking on a senior post at Atlantic Lottery Corp., which manages the lottery and gaming business in the four Atlantic provinces, and earned a profit of $382-million on $1-billion in revenue in 2006-07.

"I really liked working in the corporate strategy area and dealing with the changes required to stay current," says Ms. O'Pray, who joined ALC because its new CEO, Michelle Carinci, wanted to revitalize the organization. That goal has been largely accomplished, she says.

"We are looking for responsible growth through innovation. That's why we continue to focus on new channels and new lines of business to deliver relevant, responsible products that provide the experience that our players are looking for."

*****

PATRICK SPENCE, 33, ONTARIO

In at the start, RIM exec still excited

Vice-president, Research In Motion Ltd., Waterloo

BY MICHAEL RYVAL

Patrick Spence displayed some impeccable timing back in 1998. While many of his classmates at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario were going into investment banking, he joined Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM), maker of the now-ubiquitous BlackBerry.

The hand-held communication device was still on the drawing board, and the company employed about 180 people, compared with 7,500 today. "Nobody had heard of the company, so there were a few raised eyebrows. I had to explain why I didn't want to go to London or New York," he recalls.

However, he had spent a spring break at RIM and was convinced he had a future there. He remembers how his classmates were intrigued by the Inter@active Pager, a precursor to the BlackBerry.

"They seemed to start getting it then ... It was a little different [career path] for a business grad."

His choice panned out; over the next decade his career at RIM coincided with the remarkable growth of the BlackBerry, now used by more than 14 million people worldwide.

At first, the company needed to break new ground. Mr. Spence, who began as a product manager, helped accomplish that when he successfully targeted the Inter@active Pager to the financial services community. In 2000, within a year of the launch of the BlackBerry, he and his team had landed major deals with clients such as Merrill Lynch and Fidelity Investments.

"RIM is a large company, but it has an entrepreneurial environment," he says. "I was able to use [its] resources and was given a lot of leeway to do what we had to do to become successful."

Then he took another unorthodox step. He moved to the company's information technology side and, as senior manager of customer implementations, helped develop RIM's enterprise resource-planning system, covering its entire operations, from finance to manufacturing.

In 2002, he moved to Melbourne, Australia; as vice-president, Asia-Pacific, he focused on developing relationships with telecommunications carriers in Hong Kong, India and Australia. On his return two years later, he continued to oversee that region's growth for about a year and then became vice-president responsible for RIM's largest carriers in North America.

He says one of the most exciting developments is the way lower-cost versions of the BlackBerry, such as the Pearl, have taken off; they now account for about 30 per cent of the subscriber base.

"We are still in the early days," says Mr. Spence, a father of two who recently took up marathon running. "More consumers want real-time access to e-mail or instant messaging or social networking."

*****

BRENDAN CALDWELL, 37, ONTARIO

Father inspired financial go-getter

President and chief executive officer, Caldwell Investment Management Ltd., Toronto

BY MARLENE HABIB

As one of the top movers and shakers in the financial services industry in North America, Brendan Caldwell, head of various divisions of Caldwell Securities, doesn't have to look far to find his inspiration.

Mr. Caldwell says his dad Tom ("who is only 64") founded the company in 1980 at age 37 - Brendan's age.

"My father is still very much engaged in our business, and has been a tremendous influence on me personally and professionally ... Fathers are always a source of inspiration and competition for their sons," says Mr. Caldwell, who has four children with his wife of nearly 15 years, Sandra.

Tom Caldwell is chairman of Caldwell Financial and his younger son, Theo, is also a force in the firm, which has offices across southern Ontario and in New York City.

In a family dedicated to philanthropy and volunteer work, Brendan is passionate about his church, the Church of the Messiah, and Christian education, serving on the board of trustees at various schools.

He spent more than three years as an investment adviser at RBC Dominion Securities before joining his father's firm in 1995, when he became a chartered financial analyst. He rebranded the investment management division as Caldwell Investment Management, becoming president and CEO. He is also president of Caldwell Securities Ltd.; executive vice-president, Caldwell Financial; vice-president, Caldwell Asset Management; and founding president, Caldwell Insurance Services.

He earned a BSc from University of Toronto in 1991 and a master's degree in literary studies from Royal Holloway and Bedford New College in England in 1992.

His first "real job" was a five-month stint in customer service at Mackenzie Financial in 1991. "They put me on the phone to handle calls from investors and financial sales people," he recalls.

"Phenomenal experience not only in how the mechanisms of the mutual fund industry work, but in investor psychology, and in understanding their hopes and dreams - and their fears."

*****

PERNILLE IRONSIDE, 33, ALBERTA

On the front lines for the world's children

Protection specialist, Democratic Republic of the Congo (eastern zone), UNICEF, Congo

BY MARJO JOHNE

Pernille Ironside's house has a view of Lake Kivu, one of the Great Lakes of Africa that lies on the border of Congo, where she lives, and Rwanda.

"When you're overlooking the lake, you have such a sense of calmness and serenity," says the Alberta native who moved to the Congolese city of Goma from New York two years ago after UNICEF assigned her the role of protection specialist in its Child Protection Section.

"It's such a contrast with what's on the other side of the compound."

What's on the other side of her housing compound is the aftermath of almost a decade of conflict in Congo. More than four million people were killed, including women and children, many of whom were raped and tortured by both government soldiers and rebel fighters.

As many as 30,000 children were also abducted from their homes and forced to join the army or rebel groups as fighters, sex slaves or camp workers, according to UNICEF.

Ms. Ironside is in Goma to help reclaim the lost children and reunite them with their families. Congo, the third-largest country in Africa, has negotiated a peace deal, and the army and various militia groups have agreed to "demobilize" and form a new army.

"The first month I arrived here, we separated more than 500 children from militia groups," says Ms. Ironside, who has a law degree from York University's Osgoode Hall in Toronto and a master's degree from Columbia University in New York.

"That involved many days of continually going back to this huge military site way off in the boonies, always heavily escorted by UN armed troops."

The fact that she is a woman helped in some ways, she says. "Being a Western woman coming to meet with Congolese military commanders, you have a certain surprise factor because they're thinking, 'Who is this cute little thing coming to chat with me?' and in the meantime you're prepared to do some serious negotiation and hammering."

She was no stranger to such a task, having previously worked at the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre in New Delhi and the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts, among other posts.

In Goma, children taken into her care stay in a transitory centre or are placed with a foster family until their own relatives - if they are still alive - are located. The children get medical help and counselling, as well as a "reintegration package" that lets them go to school to learn a vocation or to invest in a livelihood, such as raising goats, she says.

While she can claim credit for rescuing hundreds of children, she says it's often difficult to feel victorious in the face of all that has happened in the country. "It's toughest when I interview the children on a one-on-one basis, to hear the tiny voice explaining the horrific things that happened to them," she says.

"But it is also awe-inspiring to see how courageous they are, and so rewarding to see the relief and joy in their eyes when they realize they are coming into protective care."

*****

HAMNETT HILL, 36, QUEBEC

Dot.com bubble veteran back on the fast track

President, chief executive officer and co-founder, Radialpoint Inc., Montreal

BY SUSAN SMITH

In many industries, Hamnett Hill would not be deemed old enough to lean back and tell war stories. But his business is technology, where it doesn't take long to earn the status of veteran. He did, after all, come through the dot.com crash of 2001 and live to tell about it.

He got his start in start-ups early. While studying business administration at Montana State University in the early 1990s, he founded a company to help executives create multimedia presentations. Though he was on track to become an accountant, he switched gears to come back to Montreal to start, along with his father and brother, an Internet service provider called Infobahn. The company eventually merged with a competitor and was sold to BCE Emergis.

In 1997, they started Zero-Knowledge Systems, offering encryption technology to help customers ensure privacy on the Net.

The company raised $55-million (U.S.) in venture capital and attracted top-notch techies.

But when the dot.com bubble burst, Mr. Hill was forced to reduce his staff to 50 from 275 and reposition the company - fast - before the money ran out. In 2005, Zero-Knowledge was reborn as Radialpoint; it works with broadband service providers, such as Bell Canada and Telus, to provide Internet virus protection, firewalls, backup and parental controls.

"Ultimately it was a combination of being stubborn and also feeling a lot of responsibility to people who had invested," he says of the drive to keep going through tough times. His staff has grown to 140 and the company went from zero to $40-million revenue in five years, putting it back on the fast track.

"Business is going to go up and down. Markets are going to change. You're not going to hit every time," says Mr. Hill, who is single and whose hobbies include sailing, scuba diving and skiing.

He believes the old analogy of "turning the ship around" doesn't work any more for his kind of business. "In technology, it's more like a plane," he explains.

"You can't just sit there and float - you're either going down, or you're going up. You're going to hit all kinds of turbulence. You've got to just keep driving forward."

*****

GREG HICKS, 36, ONTARIO

A passion for retail, and the lure of rural life

Chief operating officer, TSC Stores L.P., London, Ont.

BY MARLENE HABIB

Keep the city, just give Greg Hicks that countryside - and consumers looking for farm tools and equipment, work wear, pet and horse supplies and garden needs.

Mr. Hicks is chief operating officer of TSC Stores, a limited partnership operation with 36 stores in Ontario, from Sarnia to Cornwall, and one in Brandon, Man. A cross between a "country general store and a do-it-yourself centre," the London, Ont.-based firm has three more stores coming, two in Ontario and one in Manitoba.

"At TSC Stores ... we have a saying that, 'You can buy everything we carry somewhere else, but you can't find somewhere else that sells all that we carry,'" says Mr. Hicks.

TSC Canada began as a wholly owned subsidiary of Tractor Supply Co. of Nashville in 1966, but has been Canadian-owned and operated since 1987. Birch Hill Equity Partners of Toronto purchased majority control of TSC Stores in May, 2005.

Recruited by Birch Hill in 2006, Mr. Hicks knows what it takes to make a retail winner. The second eldest of four boys growing up in Markham, Ont., his dad and two uncles owned Canadian Tire stores. While working at his father's Aldershot store, he realized "a small store makes you appreciate the mechanics of retail, and this is where I began to develop a passion for being in retail."

He earned a BA in political science from the University of Western Ontario in 1993, and then a bachelor in business administration at the Ivey School in marketing and accounting in 1995.

After graduation, Mr. Hicks moved through the Canadian Tire ranks, becoming divisional regional vice-president, store design and merchandising, before moving to TSC Stores.

"I found myself running to a great opportunity for myself and my family here at TSC, not running away from anything at Canadian Tire," says Mr. Hicks, who has two sons under the age of two with his wife, Alison.

With more than 800 "team members," Mr. Hicks sees TSC Stores becoming a national retailer - though you won't find one in urban centres.

"We solely operate in small and rural towns and suburbs. ... We stick to our knitting, which is catering to those who enjoy what we call the country lifestyle."

*****

CAROLYN ROGERS, 38, BRITISH COLUMBIA

Hands-on CEO employs power of teamwork

President and chief executive officer, Hydroxyl Systems Inc., Victoria

BY KERRY GOLD

When Carolyn Rogers joined Victoria's Hydroxyl Systems in 2005, she inherited a small, troubled business in urgent need of a

makeover. The wastewater treatment company was coming out of bankruptcy protection, and it was her job to regain the trust of both customers and staff.

"The first thing is, you don't try to pretend the past didn't happen," says Ms. Rogers, who has an MBA from Queen's University. "You own up, you say, 'We screwed up, but it's not the end of the world - here's how we are going to make it different.' "

Hydroxyl designs and installs wastewater-treatment technology and had suffered partly because it was ahead of the environmental curve. She says it also needed to refocus its spending, which is where she came in as chief financial officer. A year later, she was steering the ship as CEO, successfully re-establishing relationships with customers such as a cruise ship line.

Ms. Rogers says it's in her nature to go into a company and fix things. The Winnipeg native got her BA from Brandon University and quickly worked her way up banking and credit union systems in management positions in Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

After she and her husband, Matt, moved to Vancouver, she worked for three years as a business consultant. But she missed having "skin in the game" - direct responsibility for a project. Her hands-on philosophy extends to the community volunteer work she has done since age 11; today, she is a member of the board of a seniors theatre group.

"When [Hydroxyl] came along my husband said, 'You wanted a chance to do it your way, so here it is.' ... It's harder than a startup, where at least you have a clean slate. But we had 10 years of sketchy history and mistakes. We had to start with all that baggage and it was challenging."

Since she came on board three years ago, she has built the staff roster to 38 employees from nine. She sees her greatest achievement as changing the company culture. "When you have a group of people who have lived through a near-death experience like that, it gets to be a pretty cynical bunch. It wasn't much teamwork. And the team we have now is just amazing."

*****

SIMON KENNEDY, 38, ONTARIO

Cabinet insider sees job as 'privilege'

Deputy secretary to the Cabinet (operations), Privy Council Office, Government of Canada, Ottawa

BY MARJO JOHNE

A working day in the life of Simon Kennedy is busy with the business of helping to make this country tick.

As deputy secretary of cabinet operations in the Privy Council Office - the government agency that gives the Prime Minister public-service advice on policy and operational matters - Mr. Kennedy is part of an important group of public servants who assist the Prime Minister and manage cabinet's decision-making system.

"The way our parliamentary democracy is structured, if you are a minister and you want to do something to fix an issue that falls within your statutory responsibility and you have a program and budget that allows it, then you go and do it," explains Mr. Kennedy, who became operations deputy secretary last year after a decade working in many roles at the Privy Council Office.

"But if an issue isn't addressed by policy, if you have no budget for it, and if it falls outside your scope of responsibility, then that's a decision that must be made by cabinet."

This is where Mr. Kennedy comes in, working behind the scenes to put proposals on the cabinet agenda, making sure the right people are involved, and providing non-partisan advice on public policy issues.

"The majority of what I deal with involves domestic policy. My role is to work with departments and facilitate their business, to resolve problems, and try to get decisions while at the same time providing the Prime Minister with independent advice."

Providing non-partisan policy advice can be challenging, requiring the ability to distinguish between solid analysis and his own personal biases, says Mr. Kennedy, who began his public service career at Transport Canada, where he held various positions between 1990 and 1997.

After more than 10 years of being part of the inner workings of Canadian democracy, he's still impressed. "It is so amazing to see it working day in and day out, and to watch the seriousness with which members of cabinet deliberate the issues that affect our country. And to be a part of that - it's a real privilege."

*****

MIHNEA C. MOLDOVEANU, 39, ONTARIO

Entrepreneur carves niches in two worlds

Founder and chief technical officer, Redline Communications Group Inc., Markham, Ont.;

Associate professor and director, Desautels Centre for Integrative Thinking, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

BY ALLISON DUNFIELD

Since he was a child, Romanian-born professor Mihnea Moldoveanu has sought to examine the world and its great thinkers. But success came to him as the founder of technology company Redline Communications and the director of the Desautels Centre for Integrative Thinking because he isn't content to simply think and examine - action must follow.

"It's a bit different and strange because I've done this concurrently," he says of his dual career as a businessman and teacher.

"Usually people do something entrepreneurial and then they go into academia, or they are in academia and then they go out and do something entrepreneurial. But I like to do things, and I like to think about things at the same time, so it didn't really work for me to do one at a time."

He says the crux of the Desautels centre, part of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, is to encourage students to learn an innovative, integrative way to process information. The method taps into the thinking patterns of leaders in fields such as engineering, medicine and design, and applies them to business.

He finds the process highly rewarding. "I don't know of any program in the world in which students are trained in this and allowed to practice these skills."

His own life has been a series of trying out various ways of thinking. In 1980, his family fled to Canada from the political turmoil of Romania and began to develop a life in Toronto. Early on, he thought his path was set - as a classical pianist.

But by age 16, he realized he didn't want to spend hours a day practising. He finished all of his Grade 13 classes in Grade 12; boredom drove him to complete high school early.

He was accepted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1986 and graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering in 1992. However, he still felt unsettled and took graduate classes in a variety of topics, including French literature.

After several false starts on PhDs in areas such as biomechanics and plasma physics, he was accepted to Harvard Business School's doctorate program and graduated with his doctor of business administration in 1997. Later, he did a post-doc fellowship at Harvard's graduate school of business.

While working on his DBA in 1994, he had become interested in digital processing and landed a $270,000 Canadian government industrial research grant. That allowed him, in 1995, to launch Hefaistos Inc., a high-tech company in Markham, Ont.. And he began commuting to Markham every two weeks from Boston.

In 1999, he moved to Toronto and sold Hefaistos for a $20-million profit to private investors, right before the Internet boom began to dissolve.

That same year, he jumped back into the fray, creating another tech company, Redline, which focuses on wireless broadband equipment, wireless-based stations, as well as handsets and customer equipment. He continues to be involved as chief technical officer.

After a fateful 1999 meeting with Roger Martin, dean of Rotman, at which the two began developing the Desautels centre, he says he now feels like a "kid in a candy store," able to spend his "17-hour days" in both academia and the business world.

And Mr. Moldoveanu, who has been married for six years to Violeta Luca, recently published a book, The Future of the MBA: Designing the Thinker of the Future, which he hopes will become a sort of blueprint for business school management teams. "I'm looking forward to integrative thinking becoming a movement across business academia."

*****

GEORGE ROSSOLATOS, 35, ONTARIO

Taste for commerce born in father's repair shop

Partner and co-founder, TorQuest Partners Inc., Toronto

BY MARJO JOHNE

George Rossolatos learned about business in his father's auto repair garage, where he spent many summers working for what seemed like a kingly wage of 50 cents an hour.

"I was balancing cash when I was nine years old and dealing with customers," recalls Mr. Rossolatos, partner and co-founder of TorQuest Partners Inc. in Toronto.

Those informal business lessons - later supplemented with a commerce degree from Queen's University in Kingston and an MBA from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Chicago - have certainly come in handy.

For seven years, he and business partner Brent Belzberg have been building their company, as well as other businesses. As a private equity firm, TorQuest seeks control or partnerships in companies operating in established industries. "We do friendly deals," Mr. Rossolatos says.

"We look primarily at Canadian businesses where we can bring our expertise and transform them into something that's bigger, better and has more value."

Along the way, TorQuest has grown, to 19 employees and more than $700-million of equity capital under management. Not bad for a company born in a coffee shop. In 2001, Mr. Rossolatos was working as assistant vice-president at the Toronto investment firm Harrowston Inc. when it was bought by TD Capital. Shortly after, Mr. Belzberg, who had founded Harrowston, approached him about starting a company. "We met at Starbucks and figured out what we wanted the new company to look like," Mr. Rossolatos recalls. "We drafted the prospectus and then pitched our idea to investors."

By February of 2002, TorQuest had raised $135-million of private equity capital. He is happy to report that his father, now retired, is extremely proud of him.

"I still go back and visit the garage, which is now run by some of the guys who were working for my Dad. There are a lot of happy memories in that place."

*****

LAKSHMI RAJ, 38, ALBERTA

For software exec, business is a family affair

Co-chief executive officer and co-founder, Replicon Inc., Calgary

BY CATHRYN ATKINSON

Lakshmi Raj is currently on maternity leave with her seven-month-old daughter, her first child. She prepared for the big event by ensuring that her brainchild, Replicon, the Calgary software engineering company she founded in 1996 with husband Raj Narayanaswamy, was well taken care of. Now checking e-mails and attending occasional meetings is a huge change of pace for Ms. Raj, the company's co-chief executive officer. "Life has changed dramatically," she says.

"I've learned to take things slowly and there aren't big schedules to keep right now. We are trying to stay flexible to [my daughter's] needs, so I made sure we hired key people into the roles I would be vacating."

Time management, it seems, is in her blood, not least because the products created by Replicon are meant to help business owners and employees do just that. The company is a world leader in Web-based time and expense management software. Its flagship product, Web Timesheet, creates a real-time analysis of worker productivity and helps set employee productivity goals.

Replicon now has 6,700 customers in 58 countries, 140 staff in Calgary, and $15-million a year in revenue. Ms. Raj says its success with clients such as Hewlett-Packard, Nike, Amazon, BP Oil and Ferrari was built on the back of three early product failures shortly after Replicon began.

"After that experience, we sat down and asked ourselves what we were doing wrong. We felt we were coming from a very non-business perspective, so we looked at our customers and their needs more closely," says Ms. Raj, who earned a BE in electrical engineering from Anna University in India in 1991, and a BSc in computer science from the University of Calgary in 1995.

The change in approach paid off. Replicon's products are known for their ease of use, and the company espouses high-quality customer service. Ms. Raj says its employees are also key.

"We have a list of core values for our employees, and while we are a highly achievement-driven company, we also try to have a lot of fun."

*****

TODD TOWERS, 35, BRITISH COLUMBIA

Artistic self-starter has down-home roots

Founder and president, Farmboy Fine Arts Inc., Vancouver

BY KERRY GOLD

Todd Towers credits his upbringing on a ranch outside Red Deer, Alta., for his success as founding owner of Farmboy Fine Arts. His Alberta roots run deep: the Towers family has owned the ranch for 100 years, and his grandfather, Gordon, was a long-serving MP in the 1970s and lieutenant-governor of the province in the '90s.

Todd credits his father for his own business drive: "I think my dad's an artist. He grew up on a cattle ranch and is very creative, the way they do things. So having that entrepreneurial spirit, I always thought I could make a go of it in the fine arts."

His eight-year-old company develops site-specific art for corporate environments, including internationally owned hotels such as Starwood, Trump, Hyatt, Caesar's Palace, MGM and Wynn.

Mr. Towers, who is engaged to Jasmine Kamel, graduated with a degee in fine arts from University of Calgary in 1996 and converted a warehouse space into a gallery. He worked at odd jobs while building his art-making career.

A light bulb went off when he realized there was a niche in the hospitality market for customized artwork. "You sell one piece in a private residence," he explains, "but in a hotel environment you multiply that times 500."

A year after he started Farmboy, the company suffered a setback because of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "Not much was happening in my industry; people weren't buying art and they certainly weren't staying in hotels."

He rebounded when he was awarded a six-figure contract with luxury hotel chain W Hotels. Today, Farmboy, which emphasizes technology and an online presence in its business plan, licenses work by more than 150 photographers, artists and illustrators.

The company has grown to a staff of 16 and Mr. Towers, who also sits on the foundation board of Vancouver's Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design, has two active business partners.

Farmboy is now broadening its reach and negotiating a deal for a line of home décor products, he says. "As my dad always said, I would rather have 10 per cent of something rather than 100 per cent of nothing."

*****

MARK J. COHEN, 39, QUEBEC

Laser-vision surgeon saw an opportunity

President, Lasik MD, Montreal

BY LISA STEPHENS

Mark Cohen co-founded Lasik MD in 2001 and has since built the company into the top provider of laser vision correction in Canada and the country's largest privately owned medical services firm.

The company has some 350 employees and has been named one of the 50 best managed businesses in Canada. With 19 clinics, Lasik MD performs about one of every three laser-vision procedures in this country.

As a practising surgeon, Dr. Cohen has performed more than 40,000 procedures himself and spends three days a week in the operating room of his Montreal clinic. He also teaches ophthalmology residents at the medical schools of Université de Montréal, Université de Sherbrooke and McGill University.

His interest in ophthalmology and lasers was piqued before he applied to medical school at age 18. He had seen some laser-vision experiments on TV and was fascinated by the combination of optics and physics. "I already knew I wanted ophthalmology - you're able to do a lot for people, since a large majority of the conditions are treatable or curable," he says.

But starting his own practice in the uncertain business climate that followed the terrorist attacks of September, 2001, provided a steep learning curve.

He saw opportunities to standardize medical protocols in his field and gain the co-operation of other surgeons in group practices.

"We really got a bunch of doctors in a field where they'd been essentially independent, and got them to make a very cohesive, strong group. That's fairly unique in medicine because typically doctors have their own practice," he says.

"We learn from each other and cover each other. I try to get as many as possible to become shareholders - and then they have a vested interest in the success of their clinic."

Dr. Cohen is single and "married to my work," he laughs. "But I live in Old Montreal, so the fun is easy to come by. The restaurants and night spots on Saint-Laurent Street are great."

*****

PAUL SALVINI, 39, ONTARIO

Helping superheroes come to life

Chief technology officer and vice-president, Canadian operations, Side Effects Software Inc., Toronto

BY MICHAEL RYVAL

Paul Salvini always knew he would work in a creative environment, but he never expected to be in the computer graphics industry and at a company like Side Effects Software Inc. The Toronto-based firm is one of the leading providers of software used to create eye-popping special effects for scores of Hollywood movies such as Spider-Man 3 and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

He credits a teacher at his high school in Uxbridge, Ont., who told him that a mathematics degree offered a great deal more flexibility than he could imagine.

"I never dreamed I would be involved in math as a career," says Dr. Salvini, who did his undergraduate math degree at the University of Waterloo and earned three more degrees, including his doctorate, at the University of Toronto.

"But I had a phenomenal computer science teacher, Richard Watson, in Grade 11 ... and he got me very interested in computers. He broke the news to me that there was a bit of a relationship between computer science and math. It was time to think favourably about math."

Dr. Salvini has since parlayed his skills into a career that has taken him to three organizations. And as an adjunct professor at University of Toronto, and formerly at Ryerson University, he has been a mentor to students trying to find their own career paths.

After graduating from UW, he joined Canadian Pacific Railway in 1992 and worked as a systems specialist in the computers and communications control branch. He helped develop a control system that monitored signals, switches and other devices for more than 700 kilometres of track in British Columbia.

"I played with real-world train sets," recalls Dr. Salvini, who is married, has two children and enjoys flying his own Cessna Skylane airplane on trips as far as Florida.

He completed his master's degree and PhD in traffic engineering and assumed that was where his future lay. From 1994 to 1996 he worked as an assistant programming supervisor at Metro Toronto Transportation and presided over key enhancements to the city's traffic-signal system.

One day he saw a newspaper ad: Side Effects was looking for someone with experience in a type of software development that, coincidentally, he was teaching in a Ryerson course. He got the job and began applying his skills to a new industry.

"The language is a little different sometimes, but [the computer applications] are all related," says Dr. Salvini, who counts the Spider-Man films among his favourite projects. "Seeing Spider-Man's web come to life for the first time was particularly rewarding, because you're helping a superhero with his super powers."

As chief technology officer at Side Effects since 1999, he has been instrumental in establishing its main software product, Houdini, within the special effects industry. Among Side Effects's larger clients is the Hollywood-based production studio Digital Domain, whose work is seen in movies such as Titanic, The Day After Tomorrow and The Lord of the Rings series.

"The key to our success ... is to have a small number of people who understand the problems and develop innovative solutions - and also have fun along the way," says Dr. Salvini, who supervises about 20 mathematicians and software architects.

"The most important thing I've done here is to find the best people and build the best possible team."

*****

RICK MCKENNEY, 39, ONTARIO

From engineering to CFO

Executive vice-president and chief financial officer, Sun Life Financial Inc., Toronto

BY LISA STEPHENS

From a background in engineering to the financial helm of a $30-billion company isn't your ordinary career path, particularly in the conservative world of insurance and investment management.

But it's one hewn by Rick McKenney, taking him from General Electric's manufacturing management program in the United States to its global internal audit division, a post that sent him travelling worldwide to explore ways to improve the company's audit process and kindling his growing interest in finance. From there, he began an ascent through the world of global finance.

It's not atypical of GE, he notes, to take people from all walks of life and "let them excel at doing what they enjoy," so he took advantage of his growing exposure to the world of finance to get a full education in it.

He rose quickly to become the chief financial officer for the life insurance and audit division, and vice-president for business planning and analysis for GE's Financial Assurance Co.

Born in Maine and educated at Tufts University in Massachusetts, Mr. McKenney was senior vice-president and CFI of Genworth Financial Co. when he heard the call of the north and joined Sun Life in 2006 as its executive vice-president and global CFO.

Sun Life makes about 55 per cent of its income from sources outside Canada, with 15 million clients in North America, Europe and Asia.

Of his shift into finance, he says: "General Electric believes in stretching people. And," he laughs, "I was one of the people who got stretched."

Married and the father of three young children, he enjoys spending his free time being active with his family.

He is also energized by global duties that take him to Asia: "The pace in places like Mumbai and Hong Kong is exhilarating."

*****

PATRICK LAUZON, 39, QUEBEC

A pioneer on the Net frontier

Executive vice-president, Canoe Inc., Quebecor Media, Montreal

BY MARJO JOHNE

Patrick Lauzon always believed that the Internet was the way of the future. Coming out of Montreal's Concordia University in the mid-1990s, he embarked on a couple of short-lived ventures - first a laser tag club with an Internet café, then a franchise that sold and installed Internet kiosks.

"That was in 1996, when the Internet was new and no one really knew what would come out of it," says Mr. Lauzon, who two years ago left his job as sales and business development vice-president for Sympatico/MSN to join Canoe, the Quebecor Media company that owns a number of online content and services sites such as Canoe.ca, Canoe Money and Jobboom.com.

"I didn't know what the Internet would lead to but it was of huge interest to me. I just knew that there would be plenty of business opportunities in this new frontier."

With that new frontier now an established settlement, the executive vice-president of Montreal-based Canoe hunts for ways to expand its business. He has done this by forging strategic partnerships with Yahoo! Canada and Rogers Communications.

He has also relaunched Canoe.ca's English and French websites, giving both a common look and feel to reinforce the Canoe.ca brand. When he started at Canoe, its network of websites had about 6 million visitors a month; under his leadership, that number has grown to 7.8 million.

But forget about asking him to put his feet up on his desk and take a well-deserved rest. He has already set his sights on the next big opportunity: mobile devices.

"There are a lot more cellphones than computers today in Canada, mobile bandwidth continues to expand, and the new devices are a lot faster and able to provide much richer and better user experiences," he says. "Mobile is the next growth area, and we're ready to go after it."

*****

CHRISTOPHER S. POTTER, 35, ALBERTA

Keen player in Alberta resources

President, Peters & Co. Ltd., Calgary

BY CATHRYN ATKINSON

Location, location, location has worked in Christopher Potter's favour, professionally.

The president of Peters & Co. in Calgary is an Albertan through and through, and he greatly enjoys his role managing the independent, "boutique-style" investment firm that caters to the Canadian oil, natural gas, and oil field services industries.

"I've had opportunities to ... work for other organizations that were New York-based, or Houston-based or Toronto-based. But Alberta is a great place to live, there are lots of things both on the work side as well as the lifestyle side that lend well for people to be a part of Calgary and what is going on here," he says.

With the oil and gas business being so capital intensive, he adds, money is attracted to Calgary and Alberta, so there is no shortage of interesting opportunities for his company.

Married with two daughters, Mr. Potter is relatively young to be a president of a major Alberta investment company, which he first joined as an analyst in corporate finance after completing his bachelor of commerce at the University of Calgary in 1994.

He went on to gain his qualification as a chartered financial analyst in 1999, and last summer became president of the 37-year-old company, which has more than 80 employees.

Mr. Potter says that throughout his years at school, he was attracted to the financial side of business, and was well aware of how the oil sands were transforming the financial landscape of Alberta. He says Peters & Co. is well placed for the current hot energy market.

"We've had the wind in our sails here, in terms of financing oil sands projects. There has been strong demand in the oil field services industries over the last four or five years," he says. "It has been a good time to be in the space we are in right now."

*****

TERRIE-LYNNE DEVONISH, 36, ONT.

'The child who would challenge'

Chief counsel, Aon Canada Inc., Toronto

BY MARLENE HABIB

Terrie-Lynne Devonish leaves no question unasked in her role as chief counsel of Aon Canada Inc.

Guess nothing has changed since she was growing up in Toronto, the middle of three daughters of immigrant parents.

"Law is something my parents thought I would be good at when I was younger because I was always the child who would challenge things, and question and argue everything," she says. Her mother was a nurse and her father worked as an electrician when the family settled in Sudbury, after moving from Guyana.

"As I grew older, I also became interested in the law as a conduit to justice and as a means of helping people, whether at work or through volunteering."

Since October, Ms. Devonish has been giving legal advice and guidance to all business units of Aon Canada, which provides risk management services, insurance brokerage and management consulting.

"I very much enjoy the mix of law and business ... and I hope to continue in a challenging legal role where I can be creative and make a difference, and add real value," she says.

With a BA in political science from York University in Toronto in 1992 and a law degree from Osgoode Hall in 1995, Ms. Devonish began her career as an associate at the law firm Fraser Milner in 1997. Three years later, she became legal counsel for HSBC Securities (Canada) Inc., and was appointed chief compliance officer, general counsel and corporate secretary in 2002. In 2004, she joined Primus Telecommunications Canada Inc. as general counsel and corporate secretary.

Her position at Aon gets so busy that she sometimes schedules time for herself into her calendar. "Sharing a really good belly laugh with my friends and my partner, or a meal with my family, or a hug from my niece and nephew centres me and keeps me going."

*****

FERIO PUGLIESE, 39, ALBERTA

People person who likes to spread the wealth

Executive vice-president, people, WestJet Airlines Ltd., Calgary

BY SUSAN SMITH

Ferio Pugliese's title is the first indication that human resources at WestJet is a little different than at other companies. The Calgary-based airline made its mark as a people-pleaser, and the executive vice-president of people is charged with keeping it that way.

WestJet's staff has grown to 6,700 since it was founded in 1996, and each growth spurt has made it more difficult to keep the company culture from becoming impersonal.

"As we grow, the challenge is how do you maintain the culture without losing the intimacy you once had," says Mr. Pugliese, a native of the small town of Kearns in Northern Ontario.

He has degrees in social sciences, business and adult education and held HR positions in the paper and casino industries before joining WestJet.

He became VP of people last June and is now focusing on new practices in recruitment, benefits and employee relations. First, it's a matter of hiring the right people: "We look for those behaviours where a person is more upbeat, more team-oriented, a little more free-spirited," says Mr. Pugliese, who is married with two young sons.

Then it's a matter of providing the right kind of training and the right kind of atmosphere to keep your people happy so they're willing go the extra mile to do the same for customers.

The company culture is one of flexibility and inclusion, which means executives are expected to be visible and to pitch in when needed."We don't get bogged down in bureaucracy. We don't look at this stuff as programs - it's the way we do business."

Then there's the money, always a people-pleaser. More than 85 per cent of WestJet's staff participates in a share-purchase plan that allows them to use up to 20 per cent of their pretax earnings to buy shares, with the company matching contributions. Twice a year there is also a profit-sharing disbursement, which amounted to $30-million last November.

"Those are amazing events," he says of the excitement generated by the profit sharing. "I saw people dance, I saw people cry, I saw people jump up and down."

How many HR directors can make that brag?

*****

SARAH RICHARDSON, 36, ONTARIO

Designing an empire, one room at a time

Host, co-producer and co-creator, Room Service, Design Inc. and Sarah's House;

Principal, Sarah Richardson Design, Toronto

BY MARJO JOHNE

Some days Sarah Richardson is like a storm tracker, chasing after chaos and mishaps with the camera crew from her television shows Design Inc. and Sarah's House. And while she and her crew are unlikely to capture footage of roofs being sucked up by tornadoes or windows being smashed by debris, there's a good chance they'll run into a hallway mirror broken in transit or upholstery fabric not quite cut out for the room she had in mind.

"Our show is a realistic portrayal of the interior design process and we shoot live to tape, as things happen," explains Ms. Richardson, who hosts the two programs and co-produces them with long-time collaborator Michael Prini.

"There's enough that can, and does, go wrong in the design process that we don't need to fabricate a situation to create drama," adds Ms. Richardson, who also creates furniture and lends her interior design services to private clients through her Toronto company, Sarah Richardson Design. (She also writes a column in The Globe and Mail's Real Estate section.)

Her unvarnished approach to storytelling, combined with her elegantly clean design aesthetic and appealing on-camera presence, has clearly hit a sweet spot. She is a star in the competitive world of TV designers, with a hit show that attracts hundreds of thousands of viewers in Canada and around the world.

"I get tons of mail from Brazil and Italy. It's extremely rewarding for me to know that design concepts we're implementing here ... also resonate with people living in different climates and cultures."

Ms. Richardson, whose father taught architectural history at the University of Toronto and whose mother was director of parks planning and design for the city, didn't set out to be an interior designer or a TV personality. But in the mid-1990s, thanks to a friend from university who remembered her tastefully decorated student apartment, she landed a job as a set designer for a now-defunct show called Home Style, produced by Mr. Prini. There, she got a crash course in television.

"Working behind the scenes for intense, 16-hour days, I learned what went into a great TV show and what made people succeed - drive and limitless energy, and knowing how to work collaboratively as part of a creative community," says Ms. Richardson, who has a two-year-old daughter, Robin, with husband Alexander Younger.

"I still apply those same lessons to what I'm doing today."

*****

JASON DYCK, 39, ALBERTA

Career doors opened for heart researcher

Professor and director, cardiovascular research group, department of pediatrics, University of Alberta;

Canada Research Chair and Senior scholar, Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research;

Vice-president, Metabolic Modulators Research Ltd., Edmonton

BY UNNATI GANDHI

As little as two years ago, Jason Dyck never imagined he would be where he is today - director for a number of research groups, vice-president of a world-leading company in the application of novel drugs, and holding one of Canada's highly respected and coveted research chair positions.

In fact, Dr. Dyck says he has never been a big planner, preferring instead to go where he's taken.

"Sometimes your path chooses you, instead of you choosing your path. And doors open and you just have to decide whether you'll step through," says Dr. Dyck, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Biology of Heart Disease.

Doors first started to open in high school, where the Edmonton native always excelled at the sciences. But in university he "went through the not-really-knowing-what-I-wanted-to-do-as-an-undergrad phase." He took pre-entry-level courses in everything from medicine and dentistry to law and business.

Eventually, he tried a summer research position at a lab. He was so good that his supervisor suggested he apply for some external funding, and he was granted a $15,000 annual stipend. Then a professor suggested he get a PhD; after all, he was told, "you're so close."

After post-doctoral fellowships across the United States, he was drawn back to Edmonton with an offer from the University of Alberta's faculty of medicine.

In the years since, he has studied how hearts use different fuels (fats versus sugars) for energy. A key finding - "if we could regulate the metabolism of the heart we would be able to promote sugar use as opposed to fat in disease situations and that would improve function" - helped Dr. Dyck found a biotech company, Metabolic Modulators Research Ltd., in 1999.

Serendipitously, researchers have found that the drugs the company has developed for heart disease also target the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls appetite. The drugs can now be applied to target obesity and diabetes. "It's just like typical science - you can't really plan what's going to happen in the lab," he says, laughing.

And where does this non-planner see himself in 10 years? Surprisingly, he has an answer: "On a beach in Mexico."

*****

UGO DIONNE, 36, QUEBEC

'Never say no' attitude and a zeal for business

President and co-owner, Synesis Inc., Montreal

BY MICHAEL RYVAL

A lawyer by training, Ugo Dionne discovered in 1998 that he was better suited to business. Indeed, he planned to obtain an MBA and become a corporate manager. Then he was introduced to Doug Wiseman.

"He's the anglophone equivalent of you," a mutual friend told him. The two hit it off and within six weeks of meeting they made an offer to purchase Synesis Inc., a company that offers specialized information technology training and recruitment services.

" 'Let's meet these people and then you can make up your mind,' Doug said to me. I said to myself, 'What have I got to lose?' " recalls Mr. Dionne, who earned his law degree at Université de Montréal and practised civil and commercial litigation for three years at Brouillette Charpentier Fortin LLP.

Becoming an entrepreneur meant assuming some risk. "You have to live with that and say, 'I accept the possibility of failure,' " says Mr. Dionne, who says he gave up law because he wasn't cut out for it.

That risk clearly paid off. Synesis, which began with one office and four employees, has emerged as the largest corporate training firm in Quebec. And it grew rapidly thanks to his "never say no" attitude, which focused on meeting client needs.

In the early days, that single-minded approach sometimes drew laughs. The firm pretended it had laptops, when in fact it had desktops with a large TV that served as a kind of mobile classroom. "We made it happen - and the client liked that," says Mr. Dionne, who is married and has two young children.

That attitude prevailed even as the firm grew to 100 teaching specialists and has evolved into teaching soft skills, such as stress management, project management and language training. Among Synesis's clients are Loto-Québec, Hydro-Québec and National Bank of Canada.

Synesis has also grown through acquisition. In 2006, it acquired the Multihexa training centres in Montreal and Laval. Last year, it acquired Versalys Inc., its largest competitor. It has also formed a strategic partnership with TrainCanada, a Calgary-based software and technical training firm with 25 offices across the country.

"If you are an entrepreneur and your business is going well, you can't ask for much more," says Mr. Dionne, who channels some of his passion into helping one of his pet projects, Bénévoles d'affaires (Business Volunteers), which brings together business owners and non-profit groups.

*****

ALEX RECHICHI, 34, ONTARIO

Passion for food feeds entrepreneur's success

President and chief executive officer, Extreme Brandz Inc., Mississauga, Ont.

BY MICHAEL RYVAL

Entrepreneurial by nature, Alex Rechichi and his brother Mark ran several businesses during high school. In one venture, they cleaned and sealed interlocking brick driveways, which put both through Queen's University in Kingston. Then, in 1997, they launched Extreme Pita, a fast-food chain that depends on the Middle Eastern pita for its staple.

"People get a chuckle when they hear I'm Italian. But I always had a passion for food and knew I would always run my own business," says Alex, who focused on the rapidly growing sandwich market after reading about it in Entrepreneur magazine.

"I realized how big an opportunity there was: We could set a bar in healthy dining in the sandwich category and be more focused on the fillings and less on the bread."

After eating a lot of pita sandwiches in Montreal and Toronto, and winning the support of their contractor father, Gaetano, the brothers raised $60,000 and built the first outlet in Waterloo, Ont.

For the first two years, Alex also worked in sales for an industrial supply company. In late 1998, he quit to concentrate on Extreme Pita, whose name, he says, expresses the brothers' sense of living life to the fullest. Mark, a chartered accountant, joined the company full-time a year later.

They channelled profits into new stores, and Extreme Pita has grown to more than 200 franchises in Canada and 30 in the United States. The chain differentiates itself from such competitors as Subway and Quiznos by sautéing meats and vegetables on a grill and using no cooking oil, he says.

"We are all fighting for share of stomach," he says, noting that Extreme Pita was a leader in posting nutritional information prominently. "Our promise to our customers is that we offer a wide range of great-tasting, healthy food."

Extreme Brandz, the parent company of Extreme Pita, launched its first Mucho Burrito outlet, a Mexican-style eatery, in June, 2006, in Mississauga. Today there are five locations in Ontario, one in Alberta, and 22 franchises in development.

"We are leveraging our franchise platform and a lot of the resources and relationships that we developed over the years," says Mr. Rechichi, who is married and has two young children.

"It's an opportunity to introduce a different brand that is in a similar category but is focused on a slightly higher ticket."

*****

TIPS FOR SUCCESS

Words of wisdom from the winners

"What is one piece of advice given to you early in your career that you still draw upon?"

We put this question to the 2007 Top 40 Under 40 honorees, and drew a wide variety of responses. Here's a sampling of the replies:

"Stop wishing you were someone else - you'd hate it."

Adrienne O'Pray, senior vice-president, operations, Atlantic Lottery Corp.

"That the seven worst words in the English language are 'because we've always done it this way.' "

Greg Hicks, chief operating officer, TSC Stores L.P.

"A three-fold tidbit from my grandmother ... (a) trust God no matter what, (b) respect and love people, no matter what, and (c) a little bit of brown sugar makes every recipe taste good."

Terrie-Lynne Devonish, chief counsel, Aon Canada

"Treat your employees as if they are your most important customers."

Court Carruthers, president, Acklands-Grainger Inc.

"Keep it simple, have alternatives, be prepared, keep your head up, and don't coach in the NHL."

Scott Saxberg, president and CEO, Crescent Point Energy Trust

"Everybody is Fred Astaire until they have to get up and dance."

Michael Penner, president and CEO, Richelieu Legwear

"Surround yourself with the best people, give them a good compass, stay the heck out of their way, support them through their failures and broadly acknowledge and celebrate their success.

Lead your way to your own redundancy."

Paul Jewer, senior vice-president finance and treasurer, Sobeys Inc.

"The easiest way to appear honourable is to actually be honourable."

Yuri Fulmer, president and CEO, FDC Brands

"Don't allow fear to hold you back from realizing your dreams."

Pernille Ironside, protection specialist, UNICEF

"As a team leader, your best performers will judge you by your tolerance of your worst performers."

Joseph Johnson, president, Joe Johnson Equipment Inc.

"Always seek out situations of discomfort; if you are comfortable it's time to move the goal line."

Reza Satchu, co-founder, chairman and CEO, Stellation Asset Management

"If someone helps you, you have the responsibility to help someone else."

Christina Anthony, founder and president, Forum for Women Entrepreneurs Canada; director, Odlum Brown Ltd.

"100% commitment and effort provide 100% results - mentioned to me when I started my business while still holding onto the security of a full-time job. I quit my job soon after this sunk in!"

Alex Rechichi, president and CEO, Extreme Brandz Inc.

"Don't be afraid to change your plan."

Paul Salvini, chief technology officer and vice-president, Canadian operations, Side Effects Software

"If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well (from my Dad)."

Carolyn Rogers, president and CEO, Hydroxyl Systems Inc.

"Focus on improving yourself (or your own business) and never put down others (or competitors)."

Mark Cohen, president, Lasik MD

"Try to provide others with the kind of environment and opportunities to grow and succeed that you have been provided."

Patrick Spence, vice-president, Research in Motion

© The Globe and Mail

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