Frank A. Dottori retires as President & CEO of Tembec
January 1, 2006 By Pulp & Paper Canada
PPC: When your retirement was officially announced on June 25, 2005, Gordon Lackenbauer, chairman of the board of directors of Tembec referred to your leadership and service for the p…
PPC: When your retirement was officially announced on June 25, 2005, Gordon Lackenbauer, chairman of the board of directors of Tembec referred to your leadership and service for the past 32 years, and highlighted what he referred to as your “inspired vision” in leading people. What is your own definition of your management style, and why do you think it has been so successful?
Dottori: I am not a sophisticated individual. I am really a down-to-earth type of person. I see myself as one of the people at Tembec, not a cut above anybody else. However, I am also a strong believer that we must have very precise objectives. I like to be very focused on what I want to achieve and make it very clear what the objectives are. There are many ways to climb a mountain, and to be an effective leader, I have always believed that you need to get as much input as possible from every level of the organization. Everybody knows that they can come into my office and argue with me and that I will always be receptive to different points of view. I can be outspoken at times, but people always know the reasons for my point of view. I tell people that we are all equal, the only difference is that with the title of CEO I have the right to multiple votes.
PPC: Many from within and also from outside of the pulp and paper industry have referred to you as one of Canada’s leading CEOs. After over 30 years in the industry this must be a great honour. What is your reaction to this?
Dottori: I am always flattered when people say things like that, but I tend to look at my role as a problem solver. As an engineer, I have an analytic mind, and I tend to use good logic. I think I have common horse sense, which I apply every day. I tend to take big problems and dissect them into smaller pieces, and by doing this, low and behold, you arrive at the answer to the big problem.
PPC: At age 66, your official retirement date will be January 26, 2006. What does the future hold for you?
Dottori: I have agreed to stay on half-time as an advisor. The transition will bother me a lot less than most people think. I have always gotten the greatest satisfaction from being creative in the process of problem solving and not from titles. I feel that Tembec is my baby, and at this point it is going through some health problems, and I cannot just simply walk away. This is one of the toughest businesses, and even with our efficiency and the dedication of the employees, we cannot control global issues such as currency rates. The change of currency can make you a hero or the opposite. In the past year Tembec lost eight to nine hundred million dollars, due to currency exchange.
I am also a firm believer that out of a crisis situation comes opportunity, after all, that is how Tembec got its start. In the years to come, I believe that with positive thinking, “the people can build their own future” culture that we have created, and our strong management group, the future for Tembec will be strong.
PPC: Do you think that the vision statement or slogan “a company of people building their own future” has the same meaning to employees today as it did in 1973, when it was the rallying cry for the community of Temiscaming and its people to refuse to give up their livelihood without a fight?
Dottori: The vision statement that we have highlights the power of the people, and their power to create change. The nice thing is that people can relate to this. But you also have to make it part of their every day culture, and this did not happen overnight. I think that what makes our company different is that the majority not only believe in this culture, but actively participate in it. This culture is unique to our company, and many of our suppliers often make reference to it. What makes me personally proud is that people at Tembec truly believe that they can make a difference, and they do every day.
PPC: You are a self-proclaimed workaholic, but surely you will not miss the stress that goes hand in hand with an operation as massive as Tembec?
Dottori: I am an extremely adaptable person, but I must admit that I love stress. I am the kind of person who believes that stress is good. If you don’t have stress, you are either in a coma or you are dead. Stress makes life exciting; it gets the adrenaline going and allows you to tackle problems. It is probably stress that creates entrepreneurs. I admire that.
PPC: In 2004 you were awarded the first ever Rainforest Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award, for leadership in setting the standard in sustainable forest management. In 1989 you were awarded the Order of Canada. This is in addition to having been named Man of the Year by the United States Paper Industry Management Association, and Businessman of the Year by the Northern Ontario Business Community. You were also awarded an Honourary Ph.D from the University of Quebec, and a Medal of Excellence from the Professional Engineers of Ontario. What do public acknowledgements such as these mean to you? Where do you keep these awards now, and where will they be displayed after your retirement on January 26, 2006?
Dottori: I admit that in a way, it is a nice recognition for your efforts, but receiving awards does not motivate me. What gives me the greatest satisfaction is that I have made a difference. I do not have these awards displayed in my office, because it seems that I am thumping my chest about how good I am. The acknowledgements are positive for me since they have the effect of propelling me to consider other projects that I believe are right. People in my position sometimes have a self-motivated missionary zeal, I know I do. I love to achieve results, because it makes me feel good. If others believe that results are worthy of an honour, it is almost like a bit of a bonus.
PPC: In your estimation, what has been the greatest technological change in the industry in the past 30 years?
Dottori: The computer technology that we use in the mills today has revolutionized our entire operation. It has created significant changes in all industries, much more than most people realize. I would say that not since the Industrial Revolution has the manufacturing sector been so strongly effected by new technology. In the mills it has increased productivity easily by 20%-30%, using the same type of equipment. We have better process control, improved online controls and effective tools to analyze and solve problems before they happen. Many people say that we don’t build many new mills anymore, and yet our production capacity keeps growing up. It is the effect of this technology.
PPC: For the many years that you dedicated yourself to Tembec and the pulp and paper industry, how would you like to be remembered?
Dottori: From a philosophical point of view, I am a firm believer that you have the power to make a significant contribution to your own destiny. I have always believed that. I hope to leave a message to the people who work at Tembec, that if the same guy who started off milking cows on a farm, and who was an engineer in a small community can build a four billion dollar company, then why can’t you?
Tembec: The Culture
VISION: “A Company of People Building their own Future”
MISSION: Tembec’s corporate mission is to be a low-cost, profitable integrated forest products company converting forest resources into innovative and competitive quality products for customers while protecting the environment and creating positive long-term social, cultural and economic benefits for the region and its people, employees and shareholders.
James Lopez will be appointed Tembec President and Chief Executive Officer on January 26, 2006 upon Frank Dottori’s retirement. He is currently executiv
e vice president and president of the Tembec Forest Products Group and has been with the company since 1989. Lopez said, “I will work closely with Frank to ensure an orderly transition. Priorities will be to improve the company’s economic performance along with maintaining its steadfast reputation for environmental sustainability and social responsibility.”
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