Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 model community spirit

How do you compare scientists to business people? Humanitarians to entrepreneurs? By the impact they have on their chosen fields and on the larger community, says Avo Oudabachian, partner, The Caldwell Partners International.

“This award equalizes people’s efforts,” he says.

Established in 1995 by Doug Caldwell, the Top 40 Under 40 awards annually celebrates the achievements of young Canadians. In whittling down the nominees to the final honorees, the company’s partners and members of an independent advisory board give equal weighting to five categories: vision and leadership; innovation and achievement; impact; growth and development; and community work.

“You can be the smartest scientist or make a lot of money, but if you are not involved in the community or helped someone grow and develop, you are not going to be in the Top 40,” says Mr. Oudabachian.

The company’s partners took the 1,000 nominees and whittled them down to 100 by sector. For instance, Mr. Oudabachian, heads up the pharmaceutical and life sciences practice for The Caldwell Partners, an executive search firm. He evaluated nominees in this sector. Other partners evaluated nominees in other sectors, such as financial services, or retail.

Mr. Oudabachian stresses the weight put on evaluating the nominees’ impact, vision, and innovation. He cites as one example Alex Rechichi, a 2007 Top 40 recipient who started a sandwich shop on a $1,000 loan. He is now the co-founder of Extreme Pita, which has more than 250 franchised restaurants across North America.

“He didn’t just open a Subway and say ‘That’s my job,'” he says.

Or, as another example, he mentions John Poulos, CEO of Dominion Voting Systems Corp., a recipient of the award this year.

“He came up with an innovative way to vote in a market that has been around for centuries,” he says.

“When people said, ‘It’s been done before,’ he didn’t listen to that.”

Another example he mentioned is 2009 award recipient Sean Ivens, founder of Medic North, which supplies remote medical services in northern Canada.

“Would you go up to the Northwest Territories and start a service?” he asks.

“These are the people, who, in their chosen field, are bringing about change that has a huge impact.”

He notes that the awards are an opportunity to recognize recipients’ efforts, when often, to themselves, “what they’re doing is normal.”

“I will never forget sitting next to Dr. Atul Humar, a 2007 winner who is a transplant infectious diseases doctor. He’s in awe of Extreme Pita’s Alex Rechichi, who says to him, ‘Let me get this straight. When a very smart doctor in France has problems with infection after a transplant, he calls you. I make sandwiches.”

Mr. Oudabachian adds that community service is a strong consideration in the choice of winners.

“We’re all very busy, but someone who finds the time to coach their daughter’s team and sit on boards and do charity or political work … I don’t know where they find the time, but they do.”

When he talks to younger people who aspire to win a Top 40 Under 40 award, he feels the program has done its job.

“I look at it as an amazing program that recognizes a diverse and amazing group of people across the country who are not only accomplishing things in their field but also in their community.”

The awards honour recipients for their roles and ages in 2010, and are this year sponsored by WestJet and The Globe and Mail.

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