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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Nelson

$16 Billion Portfolio, Mines With Huge Potential, Canadian Retail Giant: Behind Success Season 2

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

Behind Success is back! After a few months since the last episode, season 2 is here. Now better than ever before. Improved audio, a great guest list and exciting conversation! To kick it off correctly, I’m giving you 3 episodes instead of 1.

In the premiere episode of Behind Success season 2, I’m joined by Paul Dunstan, founder of Plenary Group. Plenary Group is the largest PPP company in North America. They are responsible for an over $16 billion portfolio. In this interview, Paul and I talk about his early career, what made him successful and how his company grew.

“Really think about why you’ll be successful. What do you have to offer, is there a void in the market, do you have a better product, do you have an edge?”

At one point, Plenary Group was on the brink of failure. In one last strive for hope, Paul made a phone call that saved the company.

“We won our biggest deal which was an $800 million dollar hospital. We put a lot of our money back into this deal. That was a hard 18 months for us. We put up a lot of guarantees that we could do the deal, pretty much bet the shop. Our banks left us and our financiers left us, we spent 18 months trying to repair that deal and had a team of 20 people working nonstop trying to save it… Basically, we got to a point where we failed and they said that’s it… It was over, it was a good try, we had a good run at plenary for 5 years but it’s over. We’ve got no money, we owe the government money, we didn’t follow through on our commitments. For an hour, we were technically dead. I called the Ontario government guy back and said this is bad for us, bad for you, can we meet in the middle somewhere? Luckily he said ok, and we finished the deal.”

“It was my sort of moment where I hit the bottom and then came back up… Everything else seemed easy after that.”

“I think it definitely reinforces that idea that if you just keep working and working… It gives you confidence, gives you motivation and believe in yourself. No matter how bad it is, if you keep going and don’t give up, you can get there.”

During this conversation, Paul shared a lot of information about the environment at Plenary and how that helped the company grow to as big as it was.

“Everyone knew what everyone else was doing, everyone was sharing ideas real time. It was a group environment and (the leaders) let them succeed, encouraged them, motivated them, rewarded them.”

“The end result is to get the deal done, make money and if you have a different approach from the guy next to you, that’s fine.”

“Normally at a conference there are little clicks. When these same people sit together and these same people sit together and they have their little groups. At this conference, everyone just walks in and nobody cares who they sit next to. Everyone’s happy to sit next to any colleague.”

In our second episode, Russ Starr, CEO and President of Trillium Gold joins me in a conversation. It was a more brief interview but educational nonetheless.

To start, Russ shared a few thoughts about becoming a successful leader in the junior mining industry.

“It’s all about people. You have to have relationships, you have to be able to get on podcasts like this. You have to be able to resonate with people, you have to be a good sales person, you have to be tenacious.”

“Grade is king, oxide is queen, that’s all you need to know. You need high grade and if you don’t have that, you need oxides.”

Further in the conversation, Russ emphasized the importance of having a great team.

“I’m honestly always looking for people that are better than I am at almost anything.”

“Having the right people and good people around you is the most important thing you can do.”

In the third episode of Behind Success season 2, I’m joined by Clint Mahlman, President and COO at London Drugs. Clint has seen it all in the retail industry, nearly perfecting his craft. He had so many things to share with us and he couldn’t have done it better.

“Without a doubt, the personal discipline to set and review goals that are specific and measurable that allows you to work towards them. It’s very much a hallmark of people who achieve something or not.”

On the inside of London Drugs, there’s a lot of critical analysis that goes into their products and how they want to reflect their brand.

“We spend a lot of time thinking about what are the problems we can anticipate that customers have. Then, how do we solve them so it feels easy and right when a customer is shopping online or in stores.”

“We spend a lot of time going around the world and looking for unique products and bringing that into our stores.”

When asked to pinpoint one thing that made London Drugs successful. Clint responds with, “Being highly adaptable and never taking or giving yourself a day off from being successful.”

“You have to have great people. No matter what it is you’re doing or what retail you are in, you have to hire bright people that are able to understand your vision and articulate your vision.”

Thank you to all my guests who participated in the season premier of Behind Success Season 2. I’m very grateful to have had the chance to learn and engage in conversation with all of you.

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