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CRA polling firm sold

Don Mills
Don Mills - Contributed

HALIFAX - A lot has changed since Don Mills co-founded Corporate Research Associates Inc. (CRA) in 1978, but his passion for Atlantic Canada remains as fervent as ever.

“I just want to emphasize I love the fact that we’ve been able to create a business headquartered in Nova Scotia that has got national recognition,” said Mills during an interview with the Chronicle Herald.

Mills announced on Wednesday that after 40 years, he will be selling CRA to three members of its senior management team. Margaret Brigley is slated to become the company’s next CEO.

And, although CRA has 30 research professionals in its offices spread across Atlantic Canada, Ottawa and Bermuda, Mills highlighted that the company has humble beginnings.

“When we started this business, we were working off a kitchen table. We didn’t have computers, we didn’t have cellphones, we didn’t have the Internet,” he said.

But, explained Mills, all of the advances in technology have helped make CRA into an adaptable company.

Mills also said one of the lessons he’s learned over years is that to grow, companies need to sniff out opportunity.

“We’re always going to be current in the practice of market research. We have to look outside our markets for new business,” said Mills. “I see our core market as being Atlantic Canada.”

At this time, roughly 35 per cent of CRA’s revenue comes from outside Atlantic Canada. Mills said the company is looking to increase that number to around 50 per cent in the future.

However, Mills noted that he will still be around once CRA’s sale kicks in on Dec.31: he’ll become chairman of the board and act as senior counsel moving forward.

Mills said he will continue to champion a better, more economically diverse Atlantic Canada, and is looking to invest in a number of local businesses.

“We need to do things a little differently to achieve the potential we have,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of really successful businesses here operating under the radar. But we need more.”

For his part, Mills said he will speak to anyone who wants to hear his opinion on the region’s economic future: these are, he said, conversations that need to happen.

Margaret Brigley, who is currently working as CRA’s president and COO, said that she will miss Mills’ opinions and advice but is looking forward to the company’s future.

“Don has been an amazing mentor for me,” she said. “I’m excited about making my own mark on the company with my partners.”

Margaret Chapman and Peter MacIntosh are the other two buyers.

And Mills said he is always ready to lend a hand— but it’ll have to be between spending time with family, travelling and learning to play guitar.

“I finally intend to take lessons,” he said with a laugh.

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