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Questions for Gordon Maron, FCMA.

Q Today's CFOs not only oversee financial reporting, but also provide strategic direction. Can you touch on an organizational strategy you helped put in place during your tenure as CFO for PCL?

A: I took the lead in developing a strategic approach to risk management. Managing risk effectively means you can parcel it out and retain an appropriate share. There's a whole matrix of risk to be managed, including production risk, execution risk, financial risk and reputation risk, Having such a program in place allowed us to react to unforeseen circumstances, such as the global financial meltdown.

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Q: You have been recognized as Canada's CFO of the Year. One of the award's judging criteria was social responsibility. How would you advise organizations to balance this vital dimension with bottom-line concerns?

A: If you believe business is an integral part of community life, you find a way to support the community. "Giving back" makes for a healthier company, because the community rallies around the organization. In the long-term, community engagement spills over into the bottom line.

Q: How did you get started with the PCL group, and what changes did you witness or oversee during your 40-year tenure?

A: I started back in 1966 - my very first summer Job. We were a small family-owned construction group operating solely in Western Canada. Now we operate in 26 profit centres across North America.

In 1978, the then-CEO began offering shares to employees. Today we're 100 per cent employee owned, with about 3,600 shareholders. Over the past decade we've doubled our business, with revenues topping $6 billion last year.

Q: What do you think it takes for a CMA to "rise through the ranks" to a position of greater influence?

A: Once you've learned the technical side of things, your climb up the ladder is driven by your capacity to build and lead a team. I don't think leadership is something you either have or don't have: you can learn a lot from taking courses and watching others.

Back in the 1980s, an IBM change management course helped raise my awareness of the "soft" persuasion skills needed to get detractors onboard and control the zealots. Some years later, I took a six-week executive management course at the Ivey School of Management where I learned more about strategic thinking.

Q: You've made it a priority to identify new business trends. How has this mindset contributed to PCL's business success?

A: When the P3 markets [public-private partnerships] were in their infancy, for example, we realized we would need more financial capacity. We started working with business partners in the surety and banking industries and grew our equity to create that capacity. Anticipating the change allowed us to capitalize early on new opportunities.

Q: You've recently transitioned to the role of executive vice-president. How do you think your financial background will inform your new role?

A: Finance is the universal language of business. I'm also keenly aware of my fiduciary responsibilities toward our employees - all the more because PCL is employee-owned and many of my fellow workers have their life savings bound up with the company. The costs of a misstep - and the rewards of making good business decisions - are that much higher.

Gordon Maron, FCMA, is executive vice-president of PCL Construction Holdings Ltd. and won Canada's CFO of the Year award for 2011, presented annually by Financial Executives International Canada (FBI Canada), PwC and Robert Half
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Title Annotation:CONVERSATION
Author:Bauer, Gabrielle
Publication:CMA Magazine (Mississauga)
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:May 1, 2011
Words:573
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