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Masters of Change: Profiles of Canadian Businesses Thriving in Turbulent Times

by Daniel Stoffman,ed.

This book might more aptly be called “Risk-takers” or, less grandly, “How Business Copes in the 1990s,” for, while it’s certain that each of the 15 companies and executives profiled are depending on ingenuity to steer through difficult times, whether they are indeed “masters” is yet to be seen. The jury is still out on whether many of them will succeed beyond the short term.

That said, the stories, selected reprints from the past three years of Report on Business magazine, compiled by editor Daniel Stoffman (of Boom, Bust & Echo fame), do portray an impressive entrepreneurial ethic across a range of industries. Stoffman strains throughout to fit each article into his neat thesis, to show how each company faces the forces of globalization, demographics, and technology. But the bottom line is that most of the articles serve up an executive who is daring enough to think outside the box, and who possesses the foresight to know when such daring is necessary.

Witness Hollinger Inc.’s David Radler struggling as the underdog publisher in Chicago, watch how Fishery Products International’s Victor Young learns how to survive without Newfoundland’s cod, follow CanWest Global’s Izzy Asper to Australia and back, and hover anxiously while Sherritt Inc.’s Ian Delaney risks all on the uncertain political climate in Cuba.

Prepare to be convinced, if you don’t believe it already, that Canadian businesses are anything but slogs – anything but meek. Does Intrawest dare to aspire to be one of the largest upscale ski resort chains in the world? Does Bank of Montreal chair Matthew Barrett have the gall to portray a bank as compassionate? Masters of Change is a collection of convincing testimony that, with the right combination of instinct, leadership, common sense, and foolish ambition, just about anything is possible in the world of business.

Where the book stumbles is in its effort to be more than a collection of reprinted articles. Stoffman’s forewords, while providing valuable context, often tell much more than the reader needs, even revealing what would have been nice surprises in the articles themselves. And while the afterwords are necessary, as a two- or three-year-old story certainly begs updating, one can’t help wondering whether the articles – all written by well-respected business journalists – could have been given more of a chance to stand on their own. It might have sufficed to have simply written: Here are those businesses in Canada most bombarded by change; watch their leaders take it on.


Reviewer: Anita Lahey

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Ryerson


Price: $22.99

Page Count: 217 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 0-07-552828-2

Released: July

Issue Date: 1997-9

Categories: Politics & Current Affairs