What does it take to lead a company recognized as one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies for seven consecutive years? Jean-Paul Deveau took over the reins of Acadian Seaplants from his father in 2002, building the company into a multimillion-dollar performer exporting to 70 markets worldwide. Not one to rest on his laurels, he is constantly focused on what’s next.
My father started this company out of my childhood bedroom in 1981. He had one customer, one product and positive cash flow, which is significant for a startup.
Just after I earned my bachelor degree in engineering, Imperial Oil offered me an industrial sales job in St. John’s, Newfoundland. No one in engineering wanted to do sales. I told my father I was ready to quit and he said, ‘It’s a great opportunity. You should seriously consider it.’ I took the job and he was right. The communication and negotiation skills I learned put me on the path to where I am today. If you want to build a successful organization, you have to do it through your people. The challenge is how to set the goals, the framework and the vision, and then get out of the way so they can do it.
Spend time on what is important, not what is urgent. Urgent things aggressively try to take valuable time away from you. Determine what’s important, focus on those things and push the urgent ones aside.
Our company has evolved considerably. Ten years ago, it was more autocratic – a command-driven, top-down organization. We made a conscious decision to bring in top talent and allowed them to do what they do best in their areas of expertise. It took time to make that evolution, but they performed better than I expected.
Interviewed by Jeff Forbes, vice president, Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette – Atlantic Canada’s leading recruitment and human resource consulting firm. Leader’s Insight conversations are published in each issue of Atlantic BusinessMagazine.