The ABCs of CEOs (Page 2)

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Home > McGill News > 2004 > Summer 2004 > The ABCs of CEOs > The ABCs of CEOs (Page 2)

The ABCs of CEOs (Page 2)

Leaders of the Pack

John Beck, BEng'63

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Aecon Group Inc

John Beck.

John Beck wishes you knew about his company. And you should.

After all, Aecon is, as Beck notes, "the largest and most diversified publicly listed construction and infrastructure development organization in Canada."

Created through a merger between Armbro Enterprises Inc. and BFC Construction Corporation, Aecon and its predecessors have had a hand in some of Canada's most challenging construction efforts - including the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Trans-Canada Highway.

Aecon was a partner in the development of Ontario's Highway 407, the world's first all-electronic toll highway, and its success with that project led to an invitation to help construct a similar highway all across Israel.

Caption follows
The CN Tower in Toronto.
courtesy Aecon Group Inc.

The company was involved in one of the biggest recent construction projects in Canada, the expansion of Toronto's Pearson International Airport, which has increased passenger capacity by over 40%. Aecon, which also lists the Confederation Bridge, the CN Tower, the Sky Dome and the award-winning Nortel Networks world headquarters among its past projects (the Nortel gig earned praise for its skillful redevelopment of a 1960s manufacturing plant into a state-of-the-art office complex), can tackle everything from casinos to dams.

What is the best part of your job?
Celebrating success together with the team that made it happen.

What is the worst part of your job?
Frustration with people who want to be on the team, but don't "get it."

What are you most proud of in terms of your contributions to Aecon?
To have assembled a dynamic team that has allowed Aecon to participate in major construction and infrastructure development projects in Canada and internationally.

What is the biggest misconception about CEOs and the work they do?
That they are grossly overpaid for the work they do.

What is the most important skill for a CEO to have?
The ability to develop and/or recruit top-quality members of a management team and to assess people correctly.

If you hadn't become a corporate executive, what would you be doing for a living?
Corporate law.

What is your all-time favourite comedy?
An Evening with Victor Borge.

Alain Bellemare, MBA'93

Pratt & Whitney Canada

Alain Bellemare.

According to the company's 2001 annual report, about every two seconds, somewhere in the world an aircraft powered by an engine built by Pratt & Whitney Canada takes flight.

It's Alain Bellemare's job to ensure that P&WC stays on course and steers clear of turbulence. No doubt his pilot's licence comes in handy. As does the postgraduate training in aeronautical engineering he received in France following his studies at McGill.

A world leader in producing engines for planes and helicopters, P&WC has produced more than 53,000 engines for clients in over 180 countries.

No Canadian company spends more on research and development in the aerospace sector and Bellemare says P&WC is proud of that distinction. "We'd like to be known as a leader in developing game-changing technologies."

As a youngster, Bellemare dreamed of a career as either a pro hockey player or a pilot.

He became one of the country's bright young corporate stars instead. Bellemare was named to Canada's Top 40 Under 40 listing in 2000 and earned the 1995 Quebec Arista Award for Young Executive of Quebec.

What is the best part of your job?
I especially enjoy activities that help to strengthen my team: identifying potential, training, succession planning, etc. The quality of a company's management team is the key ingredient for success.

What is the worst part of your job?
Due to a challenging business environment in the aerospace industry in recent years, we had the difficult task of resizing our organization to reflect the current level of activities.

What is the biggest misconception about CEOs and the work they do?
That CEOs are disconnected from employees' issues and concerns. I invest a lot of time talking to our people, sharing my vision of the future with them and listening to their suggestions and concerns. These moments are invaluable in helping me craft our growth strategy and making sure we are all engaged in achieving our goals.

Caption follows
A Pratt & Whitney employee at work.

What is the most important skill for a CEO to have?
A drive for growth; building a strong team to achieve our growth objectives; sharing a compelling vision of the future and engaging employees to achieve our common goals; optimism and dynamism.

If you hadn't become a corporate executive, what would you be doing for a living?
I am very sensitive to people's suffering and needs; I would most probably be a doctor today.

Aldo Bensadoun, BCom'64

President, Chief Executive Officer and Founder
The Aldo Group Inc

Aldo Bensadoun.

As anyone who has ever attended McGill knows firsthand, the University's not-so-secret weapon is the city it is located in and the unique and abundant charms Montreal has to offer. Case in point: Aldo Bensadoun.

In 1959, Bensadoun, the Moroccan-born son of a French shoe merchant and the grandson of a cobbler, began his studies at Cornell University in the U.S. Following a weekend trip to Montreal, Bensadoun quickly fell under the city's spell and decided to transfer to McGill. Following graduation, Bensadoun returned to France to complete his military service and to briefly teach economics. He soon returned to Montreal, this time for good.

Aldo Shoes began in 1972 as a footwear concession within Le Ch√Ęteau, operating in four stores. By 1980, Aldo Shoes was independent and began rapidly expanding, establishing its credo - "quality and cutting-edge trends at affordable prices, season after season."

Today, Aldo Group operates over 600 retail stores across Canada, the U.S. and Britain. In Canada, the company oversees the operation of several different retail banners (Transit, Globo and Pegabo are among the members of the Aldo family). Aldo has also set up shop in Asia and the Middle east, and Australia will welcome its first Aldo store next year.

Bensadoun's long-term goal is for the Aldo Group to become "the best footwear retailer in the world." Experts aren't betting against him. In 2001, the Retail Council of Canada presented Bensadoun with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Said RCC president Diane J. Brisebois, "Mr. Bensadoun has become a standard-bearer for retailing excellence in Canada and abroad."

What is the best part of your job?
I enjoy seeing the personal growth of our associates.

What is the worst part of your job?
Administrative functions.

What is the biggest misconception about CEOs and the work they do?
That they are generalistic and far from the action.

What is the most important skill for a CEO to have?
To listen, to get involved, to make decisions.

If you hadn't become a corporate executive, what would you be doing for a living?
Growing trees.

What is your all-time favourite comedy?
Monty Python.

What would people be surprised to find out about you?
I can be very insecure.

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