Best CEOs stay on top of best ways to reach the top

National Post (Latest Edition) - - MOST ADMIRED CORPORATE CULTURES -

There’s a com­mon phi­los­o­phy among Canada’s Most Ad­mired CEOs: They see the ‘ how’ as the most im­por­tant thing to drive the ‘what.’

Marty Parker, CEO of Water­stone Hu­man Cap­i­tal, says suc­cess­ful CEOs and their or­ga­ni­za­tions de­fine their cor­po­rate cul­ture, stay on top of it and ar­tic­u­late it.

“And they use the ar­tic­u­la­tion of that to link their sys­tems, whether it’s com­pen­sa­tion, recog­ni­tion, train­ing, de­vel­op­ment, re­cruit­ment, re­tain­ing peo­ple; they’re all are linked to the ‘ how,’” he says.

“It’s not easy to do, be­cause while you’re do­ing all th­ese things you still need to make sure you’re per­form­ing. But th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions un­der­stand that it’s the ‘ how’ that drives cul­ture and cul­ture drives per­for­mance.”

Tone at the top is crit­i­cally im­por­tant, he adds. “Pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive stuff does roll down­hill.”

Lead­ers must rep­re­sent the be­hav­iour that is be­ing ar­tic­u­lated. “If it’s re­ally part of you as the leader, then it’s go­ing to be re­ally easy to im­ple­ment.”

In 2015, Water­stone added a CEO cat­e­gory to its an­nual se­lec­tion of Canada’s 10 Most Ad­mired Cor­po­rate Cul­tures. This year’s selections: David( Patch) Patchell-Evans, pres­i­dent/ CEO, Goodlife Fit­ness Cen­tres Inc.

Fit­ness clubs come and go, but Goodlife, it seems, is al­ways there — al­most ev­ery­where.

Patchell- Evans bought his first gym in 1979, a tiny, 2,000-square-foot space. Now he owns al­most 400 clubs, with 50 open­ing this year alone. He em­ploys 15,000 staff, serv­ing al­most 1.3 mil­lion mem­bers.

A mem­ber of the na­tional row­ing team who got the fit­ness bug while re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing from a se­ri­ous mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent, Patchell-Evans had no idea when he set out where he was headed, but he knew his cor­po­rate cul­ture.

“That was the same right from the start,” he says, not­ing he came to ap­pre­ci­ate the “enor­mous power” in health af­ter los­ing his ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the ac­ci­dent and then re­gain­ing them, at the age of 19.

“It made me want to help other peo­ple the same way.”

Al­ready fi­nanc­ing his education with a snow­plough op­er­a­tion, he switched his ma­jor to ki­ne­si­ol­ogy from busi­ness at Western Univer­sity, bought the club he at­tended and pon­dered how it could be bet­ter run.

Other clubs charged dues but “didn’t ac­tu­ally get into peo­ple’s heads as to why they should work out, what was go­ing to mo­ti­vate them, what’s the long-term ben­e­fit of this ex­er­cise stuff.”

“When you de­cide be­tween that other piece of choco­late cake or that beer, or not, you have to have the ‘why’ in­side of you. That’s what I thought I could add to the equa­tion, what I could do dif­fer­ently. So the cul­ture right then was car­ing for peo­ple.

How I ex­pressed my car­ing was through fit­ness but my core busi­ness was car­ing. I knew that’s what I wanted to do — make a dif­fer­ence in peo­ple’s lives.”

Goodlife has a l arge “peo­ple depart­ment,” where in­ter­view­ers ask prospec­tive em­ploy­ees ques­tions aimed at find­ing out if they care and what mo­ti­vates them.

“You can teach ev­ery­thing else but there’s got to be some rea­son, some­thing in your back­ground that says ‘I want to make a dif­fer­ence in the world.’ What we try to do is hire peo­ple who want to help peo­ple have a bet­ter life.” Chuck Jeannes pres­i­dent/ CEO, Gold­corp

When Chuck Jeannes ar­rived, the gold min­ing com­pany was an “as­sim­i­la­tion of as­sets” as­sem­bled through merg­ers and ac­qui­si­tions: sys­tems, pro­cesses, or­ga­ni­za­tions and peo­ple with no de­fined cor­po­rate cul­ture. Jeannes changed that, nur­tur­ing an en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit de­vel­op­ing a com­pa­ny­wide cul­ture of col­lab­o­ra­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

In his eight years, Gold­corp has gone from min­ing 2.2 mil­lion ounces of gold yearly to about 3.5 mil­lion fore­cast this year. Rev­enue and cash flow rose through 2012, de­spite a ma­jor drop in gold prices.

Em­ploy­ment has grown from 8,000 to 19,000. It’s added Ar­gentina and the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic to its coun­tries of op­er­a­tion, and it opened new mines in Canada and Mex­ico.

The com­pany’s vi­sion is “to­gether, cre­at­ing sus­tain­able value” and, in a world of di­min­ish­ing re­sources and ris­ing con­cern for the en­vi­ron­ment, Gold­corp has es­tab­lished it­self as a leader in col­lab­o­ra­tion. It’s par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant with stake­hold­ers such as in­dige­nous peo­ples, lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups and gov­ern­ments, for whom a pro­ject must also cre­ate value.

“That is ab­so­lutely cen­tral to ev­ery­thing we do be­cause we know that we won’t be suc­cess­ful as a busi­ness if th­ese broader range of stake­hold­ers don’t see ben­e­fits,” says Jeannes. “In min­ing, we start off as a neg­a­tive ev­ery time be­cause we go and dig a hole in the ground, and peo­ple don’t like that.

“So we have to show the com­mu­nity and the coun­try and all of the civil so­ci­ety stake­hold­ers that we’re go­ing to op­er­ate that mine in a way that pro­vides net ben­e­fits.”

Those ben­e­fits de­rive from pay­roll, com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties, en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity and safety. That fo­cus on what Jeannes calls “holis­tic value cre­ation” is key to Gold­corp’s over­ar­ch­ing suc­cess. “If you do all those things, then you’re go­ing to earn that li­cence to do it again. And that’s what we need to do in min­ing.” We­huns Tan man­ag­ing di­rec­tor/CEO, Flipp Corp.

If you were in busi­ness and some­one said you could do some­thing you do all the time for a tenth of the price, and save trees in the process, wouldn’t you do it?

That was the idea be­hind Toronto- based Flipp Corp., which is re­plac­ing the pa­per flyer and coupons shop­pers use for dis­counts with an app.

It’s ef­fi­cient. There is no wastage or en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact. Ev­ery­one wins.

Retail is a $ 2.7- tril­lion- ayear in­dus­try in North Amer­ica, and re­tail­ers spend about $18 bil­lion an­nu­ally on pa­per fly­ers. We­huns Tan and three fel­low en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ates of Water­loo Univer­sity said there has to be a bet­ter way.

Now, 90 per cent of Cana­dian re­tail­ers have signed on with Flipp and more than 10 mil­lion shop­pers have down­loaded its app. It em­ploys 500 peo­ple world­wide.

A for­mer Mi­crosoft en­gi­neer, Tan left the soft­ware gi­ant in 2008 and teamed with his fel­low Water­loo alumni a year later to form what was then known as Wishabi Corp.

“There were a lot of chal­lenges just mak­ing sure we had the thing that con­sumers wanted,” says Tan. “We failed a bunch of times, but the thing that re­ally made it come to­gether was our team.”

They fol­lowed the prin­ci­ple of ho­moth­u­madon — a Greek word mean­ing “be­ing of one mind.”

“That’s the thing that uni­fies us — be­ing of one mind,” he says. “No mat­ter what the chal­lenges and the tribu­la­tions are, we’ve got to just stay fo­cused on the vi­sion ahead.

“And the vi­sion is not just about money for us. It’s about how do we shape the fab­ric of so­ci­ety. This is prob­a­bly one of the most im­por­tant things we will do to help the middle class suc­ceed — and the middle class needs a lot of help.”

The com­pany is grow­ing at 400 per cent an­nu­ally, the kind of growth that de­mands at­ten­tion to hir­ing to main­tain its team- first cor­po­rate cul­ture. “So we only hire by cul­ture,” says Tan, 35. “And even if the per­son is com­pe­tent but they don’t have a cul­tural fit, we won’t hire them.”

New hires have to be hun­gry and highly in­tel­li­gent, but they have to be hum­ble. “Hu­mil­ity, com­bined with hunger and high in­tel­li­gence, gives us our com­pet­i­tive edge.” Marc and Craig Kiel­burger co- founders/co- CEOs, Free the Chil­dren

In ac­tivist terms, Craig Kiel­burger was a child prodigy, mov­ing his Grade 7 class­mates to ac­tion af­ter read­ing about the mur­der of a 12-yearold child-slav­ery op­po­nent in Pak­istan.

A group pe­ti­tion was in­stru­men­tal in the re­lease of im­pris­oned child labour ac­tivist Kailash Sat­yarthi, who went on to win the 2014 No­bel Peace Prize.

Their im­pact grew. Free the Chil­dren is now in 12 coun­tries. About half its work is in the de­vel­op­ing world, pri­mar­ily pro­mot­ing education and health through its Adopt a Vil­lage pro­gram; the rest is in de­vel­oped coun­tries, pro­mot­ing lead­er­ship, change and good works.

Its an­nual We Day event brings to­gether tens of thou­sands of youth in an in­spi­ra­tional event that fea­tures no­table speak­ers and per­form­ers. From hum­ble roots in Toronto in 2007, it is now in 13 other cities, in­clud­ing Lon­don, Chicago and Seat­tle.

Craig Kiel­burger says he and brother Marc started as young, naïve and ide­al­is­tic, but with the help of a few men­tors, they came into their own — peo­ple like Oprah Win­frey, who, when Craig was 15, pledged to build 100 schools and made the CEO of her com­pany, Harpo Pro­duc­tions, avail­able to the pair as a teacher and guide, help­ing them bring a busi­ness struc­ture to run­ning a char­ity.

Jef­frey Skoll, the Mon­tre­al­born for­mer pres­i­dent of eBay, helped them launch Me To We, a for-profit so­cial en­ter­prise that pro­vides so­cially re­spon­si­ble prod­ucts and ser­vices, with half its net prof­its go­ing to Free the Chil­dren.

With renown came oth­ers, in­clud­ing busi­ness lead­ers look­ing for legacy projects that, in the Kiel­burg­ers’ case, in­cluded ad­vice and di­rec­tion as well as money.

Now, 91 per cent of funds raised go to projects, with just nine per cent spent on ad­min­is­tra­tion. Its unique form of so­cial en­trepreneur­ship aims to col­lab­o­rate with cor­po­rate part­ners on projects, min­i­miz­ing costs and com­pound­ing im­pact.

“We al­ways main­tain a fo­cus on the end re­sult and core val­ues,” says Craig. “And, for us, the end re­sult is the num­ber of lives im­pacted.”

They didn’t think much about core val­ues un­til the or­ga­ni­za­tion started to grow so big that they couldn’t per­son­ally re­view ev­ery hire. They re­al­ized in­di­vid­u­als needed core val­ues as a frame­work in de­ci­sion-mak­ing — and in an or­ga­ni­za­tion the size of Free the Chil­dren, thou­sands of de­ci­sions are made daily.

One of the core val­ues is grat­i­tude. The av­er­age do­na­tion is $8, and if a child raises $ 8 for Free the Chil­dren, they’re treated with the same grat­i­tude as a cor­po­ra­tion that raises much more.

“A lot of what we’re try­ing to do has never been done be­fore,” says Craig. “At home in Canada, we are try­ing to make sure that we put ser­vice in ev­ery sin­gle Cana­dian school.”

THERE WERE A LOT OF CHAL­LENGES JUST MAK­ING SURE WE HAD THE THING THAT CON­SUMERS WANTED. WE FAILED A BUNCH OF TIMES, BUT THE THING THAT RE­ALLY MADE IT COME TO­GETHER WAS OUR TEAM ... THAT’S THE THING THAT UNI­FIES US — BE­ING OF ONE MIND. NO MAT­TER WHAT THE CHAL­LENGES AND THE TRIBU­LA­TIONS ARE, WE’VE GOT TO JUST STAY FO­CUSED ON THE VI­SION AHEAD — WE­HUNS TAN, FLIPP COR­PO­RA­TION CEO

PHO­TO­GRAPH COUR­TESY OF FLIPP COR­PO­RA­TION

Water­stone’s Top CEOs (clock­wise, from top left): David Patchell-Evans, Chuck

Jeannes, We­huns Tan, Craig and Marc Kiel­burger.

PHO­TO­GRAPH COUR­TESY OF GOODLIFE FIT­NESS

TYLER AN­DER­SON / NA­TIONAL POST

VAN­COU­VER SUN PHO­TO­GRAPH

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