50. It’s a funny number. It seems so arbitrary when you think about it. Why cut something off at 50? Why not 100? 500? Honestly, I don’t know. However, I recently was among 49 other people in Moncton, New Brunswick where we as a group were declared the Top 50 CEOs in Atlantic Canada.
That is heady stuff. Top 50? Me? Come on now, I just run what feels like a tiny business in Newfoundland and Labrador. Sure, we employ 14 people. Yes, we feel like we are making a difference in the construction industry. We definitely are fighting ‘against the tide’ of popular opinion in our province, where times are tough and the outlook for the future generally ranges between ‘total extinction’ and ‘sort of a disaster.’
There are roughly 90,000 businesses in Atlantic Canada. Ninety thousand! I had to look the number up as I was curious. I lead one of them. It is easy to see how many of us may feel small when we consider our impact on our communities. Nevertheless, I found out I was on the list and my wife and I hopped on a plane for the journey to Moncton as this qualifies as a *Big Deal* for a tiny company like Vigilant.
At 4:30 on the day of the event the 50 winners were required to go to a group photo and networking session. I consider myself to be fairly secure in my own self-worth and capabilities but walking into this room of 49 business leaders was a bit of a gut check moment for me. Hey look, that guy runs a company that does over a billion a year in sales. That one has 1500 employees. That girl is a force for positive change in her community. What the hell am I doing here?
One of the first people to speak to me was Dr. Andrew Furey of Team Broken Earth. Dr. Furey is a widely known physician and leader who responded to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti by founding an organization that today sends countless healthcare professionals to the area to aid in their ongoing recovery. He knew me from Twitter (which can either be really good, or really really bad) and wanted to know about my business.
If you want to get me talking on something, ask me about Vigilant, I’ll happily talk your ear off as it is something I care deeply about. Here is a man who has directly saved thousands of lives and he wants to talk to me about my company. Honestly, I felt like a bit of an ass prattling on about Vigilant but he seemed to be genuinely interested and was so very kind. From there, the evening kind of took on a life of its own, as conversations between award recipients merged into the celebration of the night and everyone had a great time.
The day after, driving across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to Halifax (which is a lovely drive by the way), my mind wandered to the experience of the whole thing and what it meant to me and Vigilant and everyone who is a part of what we are trying to accomplish. There were parts of the evening where I felt like we really shouldn’t be there, our tiny company, from a tiny province, trying to change a gigantic industry with huge players who have deep influence over everything. In many ways, comparing Vigilant to some of the companies that were there is like comparing my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador to the State of California. Sure we share some structural similarities, but they are so vastly different that the comparison seems absurd. How can my company of 14 relate to Pennecon, to Hickman Motors, to NB Power?
What struck me was that while the road each award recipient had travelled to arrive in that room in Moncton was different and varied, the end result was a group of people filled with purpose who were trying to move things forward. Our purposes were all different, we work in different industries, in different provinces, but the goal was the same: try to make things better. Many of the people I spoke to were dealing with the same challenges of growing and sustaining a company during uncertain times. We may arrive at different solutions but we share in the same crazy experience of trying to be leaders within our respective organizations.
None of that really explains why I was in that room. I don’t really think I have done anything special. The people who work with me at Vigilant are the ones who deliver value every day to our clients. They’re the ones who bring projects in on time and on budget. They find new solutions to complex problems. I just make it so they can do what they do. Ask me about why what they do is special, I’ll tell you all about it. Ask me why the status quo cannot stand in the construction industry, I’ll go on for hours. Ask me why my team has some of the most talented people ever put into the same room, I’ll tell you all their stories.
But don’t ask me why I was named one of the Top 50 CEOs in Atlantic Canada. I still haven’t figured that out. However, I am immensely proud and humbled to have been put in that room with those 49 people who are completely deserving of the recognition. I hope I can measure up to their example someday.