Techopia Live: 2017 CEO of the Year tells you how to be a better CEO

If you’re hoping for a preview of the 2017 CEO of the Year’s acceptance speech, Calian Group’s Kevin Ford gave us a glimpse on Techopia Live this week.

Spoiler alert, it’s going to be humble.

Ford was quick to deflect any praise, focusing instead on Calian itself. It has “always been a great company,” he told Techopia Live.

He insists the fundamental changes during his two and a half years at the helm have been about communicating the Calian story, both to the market and inside the company itself.

Still, who better to ask for leadership tips? Ford broke down his top three tips for being a better CEO like this:

  1. You set the vision. “It’s important for you to understand where you want to take the company,” he told Techopia Live, and then work with the executive team to execute on the big picture.

  2. You are the yardstick for passion, both on good days and especially on the bad ones. “An organization runs at the pace of its leader,” he said, and employees need to be able to look at the CEO for motivation and as an example of determination.

  3. Be true to yourself. “There’s no veneer here. I am who I am, and I don’t know everything,” Ford said. Be upfront about who you are, your strengths and your weaknesses. Your team and your customers will appreciate authenticity above all.

The path forward

After a successful year that has seen the firm net a $1-billion contract renewal with the Canadian military and acquire an Ottawa-based firm, Ford spelled out his vision for Calian’s path forward.

In terms of healthcare, he sees the future in technology.

“Whether it’s your wearables, your real-time monitoring devices … I think every day you hear about a new healthcare innovation,” he said. While there are only so many doctors and nurses to go around, the potentials for technology to lessen the burden on healthcare systems are exponential.

“Looking at the technology elements of healthcare is where we really need to focus.”

Calian’s three-year plan focuses on maximizing a few fundamental elements: customer retention and diversification, embracing the firm’s internal diversity and evolving its service line and trimming expenses through new tech offerings.

Ford says the company’s M&A strategy plays well into this plan. Acquiring companies allows Calian to acquire new technical capabilities, as well as expanding into different areas of the world. It’s acquisition of IRS earlier this year, for example, brought the company into the Netherlands and Dubai.

Ford said there’s one good question to ask the company when considering new acquisitions or areas of growth: “Where can we do what we do today in a new sector?”