In The Shoe Guys, we bring you insight and expertise from some of the most prominent figures in business, politics and beyond. We talk business, we talk style, we talk shoes. Stephen Lund understands the importance of an impression, on an individual, organizational and provincial level. He’s the CEO of Opportunities New Brunswick and Deputy Minister of an organization mandated to accelerate, attract and develop business and industry in New Brunswick.

Recently, Stephen Lund, the CEO of Opportunities New Brunswick, walked into a doctor’s office waiting room and took a seat.

“I’m sitting there and this nice older lady looks over and says ‘Excuse me, I just had to say how nice it is to see a man in a suit these days. You look so classy and dignified. I really appreciate a gentleman who is put together properly,’” said Lund from his corner office in downtown Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Lund is a man who understands the importance of an impression. Not only the impression that's given by himself or individuals but the impression given by a province and its cities.

In his role as the CEO of an organization charged with improving the economy of an entire province, Lund knows that achieving a knockout impression requires a holistic approach. Everything matters.

“We have to be the best. People don’t wake up in the morning and say ‘You know what? We should go open up an office in New Brunswick,’” said Lund. “People in New York, India or China, that’s not what they think... People say you get one chance to make that impression, so it has got to be a good one... We do things that set us apart from other places.”

Lund has been a key fixture since ONB was created four years ago. He’s been its guiding light since. The organization has closed many business attraction and development deals, enticing industry powerhouses like Siemens, IBM and TD Bank to grow deep roots in the province.

Lund chalks up these successes to his three main business pillars: Results, work culture and the drive to be “world class.”

"Culture is a top priority for us. We were named one of the top 25 employers in Atlantic Canada in each of the first three years in operation and one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures in 2018," says Lund.

Before ONB, Lund was a Saint John expat working on Bay Street in Toronto, landing in Halifax after a number of career moves.

Lund spent 12 years running Nova Scotia Business Inc., an organization credited with pulling large organizations like IBM to Nova Scotia, and helping shape Halifax into the booming business ecosystem it enjoys today.

“I’ve been lucky to have a lot of great opportunities and work with a lot of great people,” he said.

Valuing his team and work culture highly, Lund personally interviews every new hire after their skills have been vetted. “I’ve done, personally, over 350 interviews here... You can tell their level of confidence, you can tell if they’re going to be a good fit. How they shake a hand, how they enter a room, how they leave a room, those are all the things that are really important,” said Lund.

Your skills will get you into the room, but there’s no escaping the visual impression and an interviewer’s perception of your self-confidence.

“When I took a job years ago, one of my best friends said to me, ‘This is the only advice I’m going to give you: Go buy a really nice looking, expensive pair of shoes, it will set you apart,’” he said.

The old adage, “Look good, feel good,” still holds weight, certainly as it pertains to self-confidence in your work. Dressing respectfully subconsciously persuades others to project competence onto you. This is a business and networking tool that should be leveraged at all levels of business, politics and other fields.

“I have an image of my Dad. He was a doctor, every day he was impeccably dressed. I think he personally kept a men’s store in Saint John open for business,” said Lund. “But, I have an image of him by the kitchen counter... Every Sunday night after supper, he would line up all his shoes and he would line up all his shoe-shining stuff and he would spend hours shining his shoes... That stuck with me all my life.”

Attention to detail matters, both in your work and your appearance. Going that extra mile says a lot about someone’s character and it gets noticed. This is a lesson that Lund has woven throughout his organization and his personal life.

“I have two kids in their 20s and they’re going through school and interviews and my advice to them is ‘if you’re not sure what the event is, dress up, not down. Even if you know the event, dress a little bit above.’ I tell them that all the time... It’s better to take a tie off rather than scramble to find one,” he said.

“I’ve managed people for 30 years. If you’re confident as an individual and your organization is confident, then that's a huge step towards success. Projecting how you feel, how you dress, how you look and how you act, is extremely important for success these days.”

Sean McCullum