Straight and steady wins the race

Dean McCann, CPA, CA and Canadian Tire’s executive vice-president and CFO, is the winner of the 2015 CFO of the Year Award. McCann credits 50% of his success to blind luck. Many people would disagree.

If some people are born to rise, McCann is surely one of them. From his boyhood "I-wanna-be-a-fireman" phase to his current perch on the upper stratum, McCann has made one good career decision after another.

After graduating from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., McCann did a four-year stretch at Coopers & Lybrand, where he worked on "very cool" files such as the Toronto Blue Jays audit. Then a recruiter persuaded him to join the shoe repair company Moneysworth & Best. Plunged into an entrepreneurial environment for the first time, McCann "got to do a bit of everything," from forging relationships with banks to setting up franchises. "It’s where I grew up, from a business point of view."

Then shoes started changing — leather soles out, rubber soles in — and the shoe repair business took a hit. Recognizing that his own path had reached a fork, McCann joined the Canadian Tire real estate group. After the intimacy of Moneysworth, McCann wasn’t sure he would fit in such a large outfit as Canadian Tire. "It was a hard left turn," he concedes.

But as he grew into his mandate to develop business cases for new stores, McCann began to get noticed. After a stint as corporate comptroller, he landed in the financial services division, where he brought thousands of customers to the nascent Canadian Tire MasterCard program and increased revenue by a factor of five.

When asked to consider the CFO position in 2012, McCann saw it as a dream come true. Three years into the role, he says his days consist largely of high-level strategy meetings. "Retail used to be boring, but now it’s more dynamic than ever," he says, citing e-commerce and digital marketing as quantum changes. He also oversees the preparation of quarterly statements, builds relations with investors and makes decisions about capital allocation.

"Canadian Tire has been around for 93 years," he says. "My job is to lay the foundations for the next 93 years." So far, so good. "We’re in the best financial shape we’ve ever been, which gives us the luxury of avoiding short-termism and making decisions that support our future health."

A passion for golf rounds out McCann’s busy life. "I’m terrible at it," he says, "but I intend to change that. I’ve put a simulator in my basement." If his work ethic is any indication, his golf opponents had better watch out.

For McCann’s thoughts on leadership, innovation and mentoring, see