Leadership Interview with Frank Dottori, former President & CEO of Tembec In
Date: Friday, March 23 2007
Leadership Interview with Frank Dottori, former President & CEO of Tembec Inc.
Thursday, 22 March 2007
We are pleased to present a Leadership Interview with Frank Dottori, former President and CEO—and co-founder—of Tembec Inc. In the first part of the interview, Fank Dottori explains how he decided to create Tembec, how the company lives up to its motto of "a company of people building their own future," and Tembec's actions regarding environmental initiatives, bio-energy, and FSC certification. He illustrates how working with environmental groups has helped Tembec achieve a reputation of environmental leader. He also speaks about the role of partnerships, including with First Nations. The interview then covers the softwood lumber agreement, the role of plantations in Canada and whether privatization of some Crown lands would be beneficial for long-term competitiveness.
In the second part of the interview Frank Dottori comments on recent mergers and take-overs and the idea that "bigger is better." He comments on the forest and paper industry’s need for recovery and how Canada could stop being a "third-world country" in terms of funding for R&D. He briefly returns to the economic side to discuss free trade vs. protection and investing domestically vs. abroad. To end the interview, Frank Dottori comments on the numerous awards he has received throughout his career, takes a retrospective look at his leadership of Tembec, comments on his leadership style—sometimes depicted as Napoleonian—and shares views on his own retirement and future plans.
What drove you to create Tembec out of a closed-down pulp mill in Témiscaming?
I would say that it was the way the Canadian International Paper Company handled the shut-down. They had created a lot of hope that they would restructure the mill. Instead, the President showed up, read a press release announcing shut-down of the mill within 90 days—which was the minimum allowance they had to give before a shut-down—and just walked away. No discussion. They left everyone hanging and basically shut-down the economy of north-western Quebec without any consideration except saying, “tough luck; we’re moving everything down to the U.S. This mill is shut-down.” At the time, you have to take into account that the Americans were in Vietnam, the CIA had just assassinated some of the leaders of Central America for being Communists or for objecting to American intervention into their politics, and so there was a fairly strong anti-U.S. sentiment. My view at the time was that what they did to Témiscaming was immoral and improper. I had worked on several projects in Témiscaming and we had viable alternatives. I decided we would buy the mill and control our own destiny and build our own future. I got all the employees involved and said, “Hey, I’ve got a project, so let’s put it together and make it work.” Basically that was the scenario.
Tembec was established as a “Company of People Building their Own Future.” Do you consider that Tembec has been successful in implementing this vision?
I think it was very successful in Témiscaming in particular, and it was successful for the first twenty-some years. As the company got bigger, it was harder. Culture takes time to implement within companies, so as we did acquisitions and it became a little bit harder to implement the culture. But generally speaking, I think our method of management, allowing employees to participate and being very open and transparent, was broadly successful in its implementation.