Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/11/2016 (1581 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A couple of years ago Paul Soubry, the CEO of New Flyer Industries, participated in a fireside chat at a University of Winnipeg event about leadership.
His big message that day was leadership as service.
Now, he has bragging rights to being named number one CEO of the Year according to the National Post in a ranking published this week.
Soubry is a big bear of a guy. You might rightly expect a solid hip check from him as opposed to the kind of gracious and thorough attentiveness that is his style.
His leadership-as-service-mantra was a surprise to hear from someone so accomplished. But it clearly works. The guy was already an executive all-star.
The Post's ranking is based on two-year percentage return, but it might just as well have been on overall leadership effectiveness.
And Soubry is not one to brag.
"It’s flattering to be on list," he said, in an attempt to blur the fact that he is at the very top of this national list, beating out the the entire Bay Street cohort including the CEO's of the all the vaunted Big Five Canadian banks.
"I’m truly lucky to be on a great team, with an awesome board of directors and doing it from Winnipeg."
New Flyer's two-year return to investors was 243 per cent. Soubry, 52, has turned a decidedly un-sexy bus making business, that was down on its heels when he took it over in 2009, into the darling of the TSX.
He has analysts eating out of the palm of his hand, but the fact is Soubry delivers on complex, systemic overhauls that require company-wide buy-ins that just would not be achievable if people didn't want to work for him.
Under his leadership, New Flyer bought the parts business of one shuttered competitor and then bought another competitor outright. In its biggest deal, it bought Winnipeg's other bus company, Motor Coach Industries, rescuing it from a string of absentee owners it had been subjected to for decades.
If there was any doubt that New Flyer was a good investment, the large Brazilian company, Marcopolo S.A., put that to rest in 2013 when it sunk $116 million into New Flyer for a 20 per cent stake in the company. It recently cashed out less than half of those shares, pocketing tidy profits.
The National Post lists his 2015 remuneration at $2.7 million, right in the middle of the pack of the top 15 CEOs.
But Soubry is the quintessential Winnipegger, so of course there is no lording of success over others. If anything, he will be happy to let you know that he probably works harder than you, and it will likely be true.
Mark Chipman, executive chairman of True North Sports and Entertainment and the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club, is an old friend of Soubry's.
He's effusive about Soubry and worries that their long friendship might discount the value of his praise. It doesn't.
"I have had the view that Paul Soubry is the most talented CEO in the city of Winnipeg for some time," Chipman said. "He is such a rare combination of intelligence and hard work and he's a man of the people."
Chipman tells the story of getting a tour of New Flyer's plant shortly after Soubry took over in 2009.
"It looked like it something from the past," Chipman recalled. "A year later he knew the name of everyone on the shop floor and the place looked like a surgical theatre."
Soubry's success at New Flyer is not a surprise. He deserves a great deal of credit for the growth and on-going operational excellence at StandardAero where he worked for many years eventually rising to become its CEO. Under his helm, it became the world's largest independent gas turbine engine maintenance, repair and overhaul operation in the world.
From the perspective of the economic dynamics in Winnipeg, you could say he is responsible for the establishment of two large industrial enterprises that are globally competitive. They still have to deal with the vicissitudes of that global market but the world-class status of both of them is now sustainable as is their Winnipeg workforces -- about 1,400 at each.
When he was let go by StandardAero in 2008 after it was bought by a Dubai-based private equity firm, he became, by many accounts, the most eligible CEO on the market.
New Flyer investors were clearly the winners in the Paul Soubry sweepstakes.
A solid contingent of Manitoba CEO's joined Soubry in National Post's list of 100 top CEO's.
Brock Bulbuck of Boyd Group Income Fund at number 11, Bruce Berry of Winpak Inc. at number 17, Edward Kennedy of North West Co. Inc. at number 41, Paul Mahon at Great-West Lifeco Inc. at number 61 and Armin Martens at Artis REIT at number 80.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.