Secrets to being a Top Leader in Tough Times

New Brunswick Business Journal logo


You don’t need to look at the recent state of the global economy to know we are in difficult times. New Brunswick is living through them too.

The province’s deficit nearly doubled this year and unemployment in the province is the highest it has ever been. Companies alike are implementing spending cuts, layoffs and downsizing to maximize profits. So what does it take to be a top leader in tough times?

Dave Veale knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a successful leader. Eight years ago, he started his company Vision Coaching Inc. because he wanted to see a world withDave_for_Martin's_article cropped values that could be transformed by creative compassion and resilient leadership. His team of coaches share his vision and helps executives and leaders to be as effective and efficient as possible.

Veale has also interviewed company CEOs and presidents, founders, entrepreneurs, hospital department heads. “What I’m seeing in successful leaders that I’ve interacted, interviewed and worked directly with is their capacity to be very resilient,” Veale says.

A definition of resilience that resonated with Veale is the idea that a person doesn’t just will something to happen. As they go through a difficult time, they grow and learn and develop the ability to test their resiliency again and again. “What I find in resilient leaders is their ability to create and communicate a strong vision of the future,” Veale says. He believes in an idea called “future preference,” — a belief that the future will be brighter and that things will develop and grow if we push forward regardless of what is going on right now.

Valerie Roy firmly believes that the same principles apply to leadership in tough times as they do when the economy is hot.

“Top leaders have strong values,” says Roy, vice-president of chamber and member services of the Atlantic Provinces Chamber of Commerce. “They are honest and ethical in their dealings with people. They respect their staff, their suppliers and their customers. They are of course concerned with profit, but not at any cost.”

Roy worked from entry level to CEO, even chairman of the board, in a career that has spanned more than 40 years. She received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in August of this year for her contributions to her peers, the community and Canada. She believes successful leaders are in business because they have a passion for their product or service and this passion drives employee enthusiasm and innovation. “They also have a passion for their communities and are generous volunteers and financial supporters,” says Roy. “Top leaders give back, are very often humble, and share the spotlight with the people who helped them to become successful.”

Veale believes that leaders with strong communication skills are the most successful, and more so in tough times. They have an ability to communicate the vision and create momentum and belief about what the future looks like. “Leaders with a higher emotional intelligence have a higher probability of success,” says Veale. “And I think it would be amplified in tough times.”

Veale is referring to the five pillars of emotional intelligence that include self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy and people skills. The term “emotional intelligence” was brought into the mainstream in 1995 by Daniel Goleman, a New York Times behavioral science columnist.

Goleman states that having a high IQ is not the decisive factor for success. A leader with strong emotional intelligence behaves assertively when necessary, faces difficult situations with confidence, all without making enemies and without damaging the self-esteem of others.

Veale says limited thinking is a big obstacle. “When you get sucked in hard times and feel like you are losing your inspiration and motivation to keep going, having a strong peer group and community around you can really help you identify the obstacles,” Veale says.
Roy stresses that in today’s work place, with demographic challenges and a competitive global economy, our top leaders realize more than ever they must invest in themselves and their people in order to succeed.

Strong leaders have the ability to anticipate. They look at the obstacles and find ways to clear the way for themselves and their organizations. “You need to see past the current reality and bring people together and get all the information you need. So that takes a special type of leader because you have to build trust,” says Veale.

“Something that can derail a leader is hubris or the lack of humility. As leaders you need to have the ability to mine for conflict, to dig in and to find out what’s not working well right now — even when the revenue is there.”

Veale once again stresses resilience, explaining the ability to change and adapt is so crucial. He cited the failure of Blockbuster as an example. “They were doing so well as an organization, they did not anticipate where the market was going and that led to a spiral down a path were they couldn’t recover.”

“I use to go to Blockbuster and it wasn’t long ago that the store was filled with people,” says Veale. “Now the doors are closed and it’s an empty space. This is in the last five years. The leaders obviously did not anticipate the behaviour change.”
One process Veale’s coaching company uses with its customers is what he calls a 360-degree assessment. “Let’s find out what you think about your leadership abilities,” says Veale. “How your peer group feels, people that report to you and people you report to, let’s look at the patterns that emerge as a result of this feedback from people around you.”
Veale acknowledged that it takes a lot of courage because people are evaluating your strengths and weaknesses. How do you fully leverage those strengths? What are the perceptions and the gaps that you have? Is it knowledge, the ability to communicate, integrity? What are the things that are slowing your career progression down and ability to lead?

From a coaching perspective, Veale starts with that data. Then, he works with the individual to address and then work out an action plan. Some people have a natural ability to lead, but Veale strongly believes leadership needs to be continually nurtured and grown.

“A leader doesn’t hunker down or button down the hatches,” he says. “It’s important not to be isolated. It takes a certain amount of willingness and ability to be vulnerable.”

Celebrating Atlantic Canadian Leaders featured in the Leadership Unleashed column in 2011-12

We recently celebrated Atlantic Canada’s leaders who have shared their wisdom in our Leadership Unleashed column in the Business section of the Telelgraph-Journal in 2011-12. It’s easier to read at full size!



Atlantic Canada Blessed with Talented Innovators

As published in the Telegraph and Journal 12/29/2012

It’s that time of year to look back at the last twelve months and, more importantly, focus on what lies ahead in 2013. I’ve had the good fortune of interviewing over 50 leaders from our region in the last three years. I can say – without any hesitation – that we’re blessed with an abundance of talented leaders in Atlantic Canada. For my last column of 2012, I thought it would be fitting to talk to some exceptional business leaders that we should be watching in 2013. I will have more in-depth interviews with each of these leaders in the New Year.

The first leader to watch has 20 global brands piloting his technology right now. His product will literally change consumer behaviour in the retail sector. The company is ZapTap ( and the leader is Yan Simard, who is the founder and CEO of the Fredericton-based company.

The second leader to watch is a former provincial deputy minister who served under Frank McKenna. Francis McGuire has been the president and chief executive officer of Major Drilling Group International Inc. since August 2000. Major Drilling Group International Inc., ( is growing and plans to dominate the international market for specialized drilling jobs. McGuire was inducted into the prestigious New Brunswick Business Hall of Fame earlier this year.

The final leaders to watch are business partners Michelle McCutcheon and Cathy Daley of Blossoms Fresh Fruit Arrangements Ltd. (blossomsfruitarrangements. com). They have a great story that needs to be shared. Blossoms moved from a home-based operation into retail space in Saint John and currently has close to 60 locations across North America.


I asked the leaders five questions to help shed some light on the year that just passed as well as the challenges and opportunities they see in 2013. Here are their unique responses …

What was the most important lesson you learned in 2012?

Yan: That making a real difference is destabilizing for all people involved, be it clients, employees or investors. An old mentor of mine once told me that if it’s not a bit painful, you’re not making any difference.

Francis: 2012 was an interesting year. I found that we were dealing with a lot of uncertainty. What was very important was being very flexible and dealing with information as it presented itself. I found we were reacting to circumstances in the moment. In comparison with other years there was a lot of movement in the market and, as a result, it was important to react quickly as new data became available.

Michelle & Cathy: We had to learn how to let other people contribute to our business. When you are an entrepreneur, you are used to doing everything yourself. As you grow you need to become comfortable with letting go of some of this control and trusting your employees.

Hiring the right people is critical. What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your business in 2013?

Yan: Zaptap has a real shot at becoming the global leader in the Augmented Retail Experience space by the end of the year. Our service is a great solution to a global business need. With proper execution, we can achieve that global leader status.

Francis: If the Americans create a credible solution to deal with the fiscal cliff, we’ll see a very big opportunity to continue to grow our business. I’m watching this situation unfold and am hopeful that we have a stable environment that supports our business growth.

Michelle & Cathy: Our biggest opportunity is to have stores in every major centre across Canada. As we close 2012, we are closer to achieving that goal. It’s critical to begin advertising nationally. National advertising will drive traffic to our website and toll free number, which is our critical on-going revenue stream, and it also has the halo effect of getting people interested in opening new stores.

What do you feel are the top challenges facing leaders in 2013?

Yan: With the shaky economy, it’s really easy to worry a lot about factors outside of our control. In my mind the main challenge for leaders is to stay focused on developing their businesses. The fluctuating economy creates risks but also opportunities. The best leaders know how to take this external data (economy) and turn it into value for their companies.

Francis: The important question in 2013 is ‘As a leader, how do you deal with uncertainty?’ It will be important for leaders to make decisions without complete clarity. If you are a rigid thinker, 2013 will be challenging. I believe 2013 requires flexibility in leadership thinking.

Michelle & Cathy: Social media is such a minefield for us at the moment, and we feel like everyone is just starting to come to terms with it. It touches everything from how you interact with your customers to how you interact with your employees. You used to be able to manage your message through traditional media, even web pages and email blasts. Right now there are more questions than answers when it comes to our social media strategy – sticking your head in the sand never works.

What’s the most important issue you are dealing with as we move into the New Year?

Yan: Building a world-class company requires world-class people. As we are going into a year of aggressive growth for Zaptap, my main concern is making sure that we not only hire good people, but great people. Finding these pearls takes time, energy and a bit of luck. That’s our single biggest challenge for the coming year.

Francis: If I look at things positively, my focus will be on how I expand things on the human resources side of our business, which includes hiring, training and retaining great people. If the economy is having challenges, my focus is on preserving the talented people we currently employ.

Michelle & Cathy: The most important issue we are dealing with as we move into the New Year is managing our growth. We’ve reached the point where we need more people and infrastructure, both requiring significant investments. This is a pretty typical challenge for a startup company and it is the classic “good problem to have” but still a challenge we need to address.

As you look ahead to 2013, what are you most excited about from a business perspective?

Yan: We have a chance to change the way people experience retail on a global scale and grow a company that matters. That kind of opportunity doesn’t happen every day, so there is a lot of excitement, anticipation and, to be honest, a bit of nervousness in the air. The whole Zaptap team is ready to take on this challenge. It couldn’t get much more exciting than this!

Francis: If the U.S. gets over the cliff, we are prepared to continue our expansion. We will continue to follow our current business strategy of being one of the largest specialized operators in the world and leveraging our main competitive advantages – specialized equipment, long standing relationships with the world’s largest mining companies, access to capital and skilled personnel.

Michelle & Cathy: We feel like we are at the tipping point before we expand significantly. We have had pretty steady growth so far and as this year closes we can really feel some momentum right across our business. This includes locally, here in Saint John, with our corporate store as more people choose our Blossoms. It also includes our new cafe and catering business, which is starting to gain traction. On a larger scale, we are continuing to grow across Canada and are very close to breaking into some new markets overseas.

Dave Veale is a leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at or via Twitter@Dave_Veale . To read past columns and watch videos go to


Practicing Gratitude – Adrian Nadeau’s Powerful Story

‘In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.’  – Brother David Steindl-Rast


Adrian & his son, Forrest

When I was asked to write an article on gratitude for our December newsletter I thought ‘no problem’, I can bang that out quickly and it will be a very cool Christmas message. What I was not expecting was that I would struggle in writing about gratitude. What makes writing this so challenging? Well, in my case, I quickly realized that I’m not practicing ‘being grateful’ nearly as much as I should be. 

So, I began to think of the people in my life who are role models for me in the area of gratitude. A few people came to mind, but one person that I’d like to introduce you to is a shining example of ‘being grateful’ on a daily basis.

Adrian Nadeau is a friend who understands the power of gratitude on an entirely different level. On February 28th his life changed dramatically. His story is remarkable in that – despite life throwing him and his family a big curveball – he has continued on with his mantra of ‘loving life…and living one day at a time’.

To read Adrian’s story…

My interview with Adrian on what he’s learned about being grateful and a very cool tool to ‘bring more gratitude into the world’

Q: What does being grateful mean to you at this point in your life?
Adrian: Being grateful to me means appreciating the amazing things we have and focusing on them instead of thinking of the other “negative” circumstances and giving them our time and energy. I try to focus on being grateful for things as soon as I wake in the morning. Grateful for the day ahead, the bed I slept in, the warm water in the shower, etc. It’s a great way for me to start my day and focus on the great things I have in my life. It also helps me to always remember that there are MANY people in much worse situations so I have nothing to be upset or angry about.

Q: Have you always felt this way about being grateful?
Adrian: I have always been a positive person and looked at things in a positive, optimistic way but being grateful didn’t really come into my life until 4 or 5 years ago when I was going through a bit of an difficult time in my life and really needed it to help me focus on the right things and help me get through that time. It also helped that I researched gratitude and found that many studies have shown that being grateful can have many health benefits for us. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Q: What prompted you to start your gratitude journal?
Adrian: When I first started thinking more about being grateful, I had a close friend who was going through a difficult time also and we made an agreement to text each other every morning a few things we were grateful for. It was a great way to focus and also keep each other motivated – similar to a workout friend for the gym. After awhile, I figured I could use my Technology skill set and write an online program so others could benefit from the same sort of daily ritual. That’s when was first spawned and now it’s available for anyone (for free of course) to use so they can also keep their gratitude journal – and share with the world if they’d like to since I think we can always use a little more gratitude in our world :)

Q: How has raising your awareness of what you are grateful for been helpful to you?
Adrian: Being “aware” of what you are grateful for is a fantastic way to word it. It’s not something we can really do, but we have to allow ourselves to let it happen on a regular basis. Sometimes if you are feeling nervous or anxious about anything it can really help to just focus on being grateful for whatever the situation is (or anything else) and then you will typically relax, almost immediately. For me that has helped a lot. The past 9 months have been quite a roller coaster ride of emotions. For me to focus on all the great things that I have really helps. There have even been some fantastic things happen because of my health problems, the main one being home with my baby boy to watch him grow, learn, crawl, walk, run, and talk just to name a few. A lot of people don’t get to see things like this while they are working and aren’t able to be at home as much.

Q: What advice would you give to people around the power of gratitude?
Adrian: I would recommend giving it a shot. It doesn’t take much to try it – grab a pen and paper and write down 2 or 3 things a day you are grateful for and feel the difference. As I mentioned previously, it can even be small things. Once you start appreciating things I believe the Universe will work with you to keep providing you with more amazing things. If you focus on being negative it will also give you more of that… so at the end of the day it’s our choice! I would love to also help people be more grateful and healthy and that’s why I started to write a blog a couple months ago, to hopefully share my knowledge – if interested, please check it out at and let me know your thoughts.

Q: How do you feel being grateful has impacted your health? Your relationships?
Adrian: Being grateful, along with using meditation, are 2 of the key factors that have saved my life. I truly believe that. While recovering from treatment these last few months I have constantly meditated on feeling good and thinking of all the positive things in my life. I don’t know how long I’ll be here (none of us do), all I know is how great I feel to be getting better and to be with my family and friends and I’m grateful for that today!

Q: Who is a role model, or inspiration, for you about being grateful?
Wow, that is a tough question. I guess the only way I can try to put it in words is that the Universe is my greatest role model. I’ve read so many good books from authors like Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Anita Moorjani, along with many others. I also believe the Universe works with us when we allow it to and over the past 4-5 months I have found many amazing online blogs from people who have gone through similar situations to mine and they are a great inspiration to me, while educating me at the same time.

Q: Do the Christmas Holidays have any additional impact on how grateful you feel?
Adrian: Our family has always been very close and celebrated Christmas together. I wouldn’t know it any other way, even though I know that’s not always the case with some families. So it’s hard for me to say I’m more grateful during this time. I think this year might be a little more emotional for me after everything I’ve been through and I might be a little more appreciative and grateful of the time, time will tell – Happy Holidays!

Q: How can people learn more about you and your story?
Adrian: As I mentioned earlier, people can visit my blog at for more information on how I am living my life and being grateful for each day. I’m also sharing lots of other tips and knowledge in there that I’ve researched over the last half year. I’ve done a lot of research on many different topics so hopefully it can help a few people out there. That is my main goal in life now, to help others in similar situations or others who want to be healthier.


Passion + Reason = Rate of Change according to Chris Boudreau

Dave Veale interviews Chris Boudreau, CEO of ClinicServer, as part of his Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders.

Watch the quick video and read the full interview…

About a million dollars was raised in 90 days  

Leadership Unleashed Column by Dave Veale
as published in the Telegraph and Journal
12/08/2012, Page C01

My interview with Chris Boudreau, CEO of ClinicServer, was my longest interview to date but not nearly long enough for me to ask all the questions I had for this innovative entrepreneur. 

ClinicServer, a restart of a company that’s been in existence since 1999, has gone from a company with three employees in home offices to an international tech firm with a staff of 13 and $1.2 million in angel funding since Chris took the helm in 2010. While he is happy with the business results, Chris is quick to point out to me that his immediate focus is to continue to build relationships with IT partners and investors in Canada and abroad.

Chris has had a diverse career that includes a number of entrepreneurial pursuits as well as being a globalization specialist with Nortel for ten years. A chance meeting at a barbecue in rural New Brunswick provided an opportunity to amass his experience and knowledge and, more importantly, shape his compelling vision of “democratizing health care.” ClinicServer offers a web-based management system that simplifies, empowers and grows clinics by allowing medical professionals to communicate and share patient records securely. Using ClinicServer’s software, clinicians can book appointments, record patient records and manage their billings without downloads or servers. 

I began by asking Chris what prepared him for the leadership ride he has been on with Clinic-Server. 

A: My first job at Nortel was ridiculous. I found it absolutely excruciating, so I would look for things to do. In the end I became a globalization specialist with them. That’s where I got my patent application and some of the toolsets that I put together for Nortel at the time. I was with them right up until December 1999, when I cashed out my chips and went on to other things. 

Q: You have a patent? 

A: Yeah, it’s in controlled language, translation memory and machine translation. 

Q: Tell me about how you entered the entrepreneurial world. 

A: I started a company called Arvise Technologies. It was meant just to be myself. I was going to do some consulting and continue my R&D work because I had some really cool ideas for the language industry. 

I eventually merged Arvise Technologies with Living Language Services into BabelFish technologies. It was both the best and worst time of my life. 

Q: Sounds like there is a lot to this story. What was the biggest lesson from this experience? 

A: Follow your gut with detail. When your gut is telling you to look a little bit deeper, do it. You might not be able to put your finger on something, but the very fact that it’s triggered something means that there’s information that’s missing – and you need to find that information somehow. 

Q: How did ClinicServer pop into the picture? 

A: I was invited to a barbecue in the middle of nowhere in central New Brunswick. A few beers, a nice camp fire and a great chat and I learned about this little company called ClinicServer and about Paul Kasdan and Tom McLean (co-founders). 

I’d never heard of Kasdan & McLean, and the more I learned, the more I began to understand that these are brilliant men who built this brilliant enterprise product and they were just stuck. 

Q: Did you sense immediately that you would become the CEO? 

A: My initial intent was to get them refocused, get a plan put together and provide them with a circle of influence for mentorship, knowing the money would come. That turned into them asking me if I would run the company, which I’m sure was a huge step for them because it’s their baby. 

Q: Can you give me an example of how health care is behind other sectors when it comes to IT? 

A: You go to a bank today, you can sign up online and they’ll even give you a graphical representation of where you’re spending your money. They’re actually giving you back meaningful information to help you make decisions quickly. We’re not doing that in health care. Imagine if we could get meaningful information in health care? How powerful that would be? 

Q: What has surprised you as you’ve worked on taking ClinicServer to the next level? 

A: I think probably the biggest surprise for me is, or has been, from the investment community that’s here. There’s a lot of money in New Brunswick – a lot of money that people are unaware of. 

Q: What is the message for other entrepreneurs? 

A: If you have the right idea, the right team and the right vision, people are willing to take a risk on you. 

Q: How much did you raise and what was the timeline? 

A: About a million dollars. The majority was raised in 90 days. 

Q: Did it surprise you that it wasn’t more challenging to get the investment? 

A: I had expected it to take us longer than it did. 

Q: What do you think helped you secure that investment so quickly? 

A: Clear vision, knowing what your market is and having a strong team. An investor will know whether you’re wishywashy in the first two minutes. They may not verbalize it, but they can tell. 

Q: Were there any unexpected challenges in raising the money? 

A: What was a challenge, initially, was that institutional types of investors didn’t appear to have the appetite for innovation and risk. As much as they say they do, they don’t. 

Q: I understand this wasn’t the case with angel investors? 

A: Angels came quickly because we targeted our angel investors rather than use a shotgun approach. We wanted people involved with this company who not only contributed financially but also with their intellect. It is not all about money, it is about filling your knowledge gaps with people who can help drive your business. 

Q: In your opinion, what does a leader need to do to really develop a culture of innovation? 

A: You look to bring people to the forefront and let them express their ideas in a way that’s not judgmental, and that helps them become critical of their own thinking. 

You also want to be able to encourage idea sharing. As a leader, you want people to share everything with you. 

The net net is that you need to have a culture where vulnerability can exist because vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation. 

Q: How would you finish the following sentence?”A leader’s job is to …” 

A: A leader’s job is to inspire.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is considering jumping into an entrepreneurial startup environment? 

A: Identify your limits up front. Before you leap, ask yourself the important questions: “Have I talked to my significant other? Do we know what we’re willing to give up? How much money can we survive with?” Answering these questions can dictate what type of enterprise to get involved with and at what stage. 

Q: What’s the best advice you ever got? 

A: I’ve been given a lot of good advice. One of the best pieces of advice was”Failure is always an option, but fear is not.” 

Q: What’s the most exciting business opportunity ClinicServer has right now? 

A: We’re releasing our product in Zimbabwe, which is a unique opportunity. We’re offering it to the country’s entire private health-care sector. What excites me even more is very soon we’ll be able to drive value to the patient. That’s what makes me wake up every day and go full out. 

Q: Democratizing health care? 

A: You bet.

Dave Veale is a leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at or via Twitter@Dave_Veale. To read past columns and watch videos go to