What some of Canada’s top senior executives learned in 2016

We asked eight corporate titans to share their top takeaways from 2016. Here’s what they said

There’s no substitute for a great idea

“This business will always be about the power of good ideas. While things change dramatically every year with new media, technology and ways to look at data, in the end, consumers will engage and interact with good ideas that capture their hearts and minds.”

Judy John, CEO, Canada and chief creative officer North America, Leo Burnett

Pressure creates diamonds

“The most valuable thing I learned in 2016 was to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’ve come to realize that I work best under pressure and in a slight state of chaos.”

Harley Finkelstein, chief operating officer, Shopify

Keep your eye on the customer

“I spent 30 years in the corporate world, most recently as CEO of Purolator, before moving to [car-sharing co-op] Modo this year. I’ve come to appreciate how closely our business model is aligned to our purpose and customer needs. When you rise through corporate ranks you get a little removed from the daily business—not necessarily for the good. Here, I am directly responsible to the people who use the services. There is no third-party group of shareholders, which can have conflicting agendas. I find it completely invigorating

Patrick Nangle, CEO, Modo

Smartphones transform retail

“From one day to the next, business operates at an ever-faster pace. Consumers expect immediate gratification—they want their needs and desires met now. Smartphones have, of course, fundamentally restructured the relationship that retailers today have with consumers. Now, at your fingertips, you can access any number of retailers who offer the same, or similar products, as do we. Unless we are nimble and seize promising opportunities, we will be left behind.”

David Labistour, CEO, MEC

Inclusiveness fosters innovation

“I’ve just celebrated my second year in Canada and I am continually impressed by the country’s appetite for innovation. Canada is demonstrating it can build collaborative ecosystems to address innovation and that speaks to me about Canada’s inclusiveness and diversity. At a time when this seems to be hard to find around the world, it’s exciting to see.”

Bernadette Wightman, president, Cisco Canada

Community matters

“Since arriving in Canada, I’ve felt a sense that we’re building something together. We celebrate our diversity, we count our co-workers as our friends and we cheer Canadian wins as if they were our own. From the perspective of someone who calls himself a new Canadian, what we have here is exceptional. This sense of community and shared ambition may be Canada’s greatest market differentiator. The events of 2016 made that clear to me.”

Sam Sebastian, managing director, Google Canada

Culture matters more than ever

“I’d lived in the U.S. for years, and in February I came back full-time to run Roots. We have a brand with 43 years of connection to the Canadian public, and an incredible culture. There are some extremely talented people in this country, but for us a hire ultimately comes down to the cultural fit. And I’ve found that to really understand that, we have to invest a lot of time with candidates, and they must take the time to get to know us, too. That’s been a huge lesson for our team as we move from being a founder-led organization to one that isn’t, but still needs to keep our values at the heart of everything we do.”

Jim Gabel, president and CEO, Roots

Vulnerability is strength

“In 2016, I learned that trust is the foundation of being a good leader. You need to invest in building it with your employees by being vulnerable and honest with them. I feel a kind of deeply uncomfortable candour is what gets through the best to people.”

Peter Aceto, president and CEO, Tangerine Bank