CEO, LifeLabs Medical Laboratory Services
WHAT SETS HER APART
LifeLabs delivers over 90 million diagnostic tests each year and includes 300 patient centers that support over 20,000 physicians
2013 saw two acquisitions—BC Biomedical Laboratories and Canadian Medical Laboratories; LifeLabs now has over 5,400 employees
Sue was appointed to the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council on the Public Service
Stuart McLaughlin, President, Grouse Mountain Resort and owner, Whistler Water Inc.
From Stuart McLaughlin
As told to Rhea Seymour
When Sue was nine, her parents sent her to England for a little over two years. She learned to stand on her own two feet early on, which gave her a degree of confidence. She’s very independent. In her teens, she was a wrangler on a hunting territory, getting up at 4:30 a.m. to find the horses for the hunting groups, and in her 20s, she was a cook in a mining camp in the Yukon.
For nearly a decade, Sue and I have belonged to the same group where we meet monthly to explore business and personal issues. She’d never been in a group like ours and she joined it to have a group of peers to bounce ideas off. She’s never the first person to talk, but when she does it’s always well thought through and adds a lot of value. We’ve noticed that Sue always asks three questions and they’re always insightful and get to the core. That ability to find the nub of the issue comes from her background as a lawyer. She knows how to sum things up and get you to focus on the important parts.
When Sue starts something, there’s always change. She led the expansion of the law firm Fasken from one office in Vancouver to nine offices internationally. It’s not easy leading a group of equal partners. You have to create alignment amongst offices and partners and give everyone inspiration, setting the values and making things come together.
It was a huge leap of faith for her to go from managing partner at Faskin to CEO at Pharmasave. Most lawyers don’t make good CEOs, but her background in labour law was good preparation. She understood how to talk to people and how to be fair. It’s what makes her a good business leader. She knows you can get the job done, but you need to make sure people also feel good about themselves.
If I had to describe Sue in one word it would be dedicated. When she was the director at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, we’d have social events and Sue wouldn’t have a drink at dinner with us. She said: “There’s no way I can have a drop of alcohol and get behind the wheel.” She knew that was the right thing to do. She’s not preachy—it’s just how she lives her life.
She loves to drive herself as hard as she can. She’s very athletic and does the Grouse Grind in Vancouver many times a year. It’s a hike from the base of Grouse Mountain straight up 2,800 feet so sometimes we call it Mother Nature’s Stairmaster. It’s a really important part of Sue’s life. I think she likes to do it on her own because it’s her thinking time. I’ve never done the Grind with Sue and I actually might be a little afraid to. She certainly wouldn’t wait for me.