With the announcement in September that Elizabeth Henry would be taking the reins at Adviso as CEO and another a few weeks ago about the arrival of three new shareholders, one thing is certain: Adviso’s business succession is definitely underway.
When Simon Lamarche and I first announced that we favoured this particular direction, the path we would take was not obvious. This was true both for us as well as for our team, who, I believe, found the idea a bit… unclear. And for good reason! We had no way of moving forwards without knowing exactly how. We too were very fuzzy on the details.
First, it’s important to mention that Simon and I have never once arrived at the office in the morning with the intention to sell our business. We have always kept the flame alive, for our product and our team. That’s the truth.
I have known entrepreneurs who, on the other hand, were completely driven by this ambition. My motivations are completely different. When I read that a company has been sold and see people congratulating the business owner in question, I think in some cases other decisions could have been made. The ability to act independently and maintain business continuity are too important, in my opinion.
I’ve also had the opportunity to take part in the process of acquiring service businesses and, frankly, I quickly came to the conclusion that for someone like me, who values the journey just as much as (if not more than) the destination, this option wasn’t for me.
In short, our desire to remain independent is definitely stronger than our desire to see our business sold to a big organization.
This conviction served as a starting point for further reflection.
We quickly understood that we needed to provide the team with a plan, even if we ourselves were far from clear on what path we would take. When a few years ago a number of firms that Adviso was either competing with or in the same industry as were sold, our employees frequently approached us to ask if we would be doing the same thing. We reassured them that we had no intentions in that direction, despite not having a detailed plan of how we would proceed, but their imaginations continued to fill the void left by that uncertainty.
We decided to end the uncertainty by announcing our choice, which was to pursue a business succession, and to communicate the principles that would be guiding the future transition. Even though the news created more questions than it provided answers, I think stating the nature of our intentions still reassured our team and I would make the same decision again if I had to.
Any remaining uncertainty was quickly filled with two objectives: to help evolve Adviso’s employees who already had an entrepreneurial profile and to maintain the independence of the company. After speaking with experts, we learned that our vision was a natural part of a business succession approach, which involves transforming intrapreneurs into entrepreneurs by giving them the means to acquire a stake in a business that they truly believe in.
While some entrepreneurs pushed us towards business succession by showing us that acquisition wasn’t an option for us, others acted as beacons lighting the way on the succession journey. We realized that other entrepreneurs were our friends, despite never having spoken to them before.
Two examples: Sylvain Labarre (LG2) and Benoit Cartier (Cartier).
I’ve taken the liberty of naming them specifically, because these two leaders have already successfully accomplished similar processes to the one we are about to undertake. I would like to thank them for the huge generosity, transparency and goodwill they showed a couple of literal unknowns, which is what we were to them. They invested many hours in helping us navigate this complex undertaking.
We also took the time to meet with two business leaders with experience from the other side of the process so that we could better understand their motivations and the issues they had to face. In particular, we met with Pénélope Fournier and Claude Auchu, from LG2, who shared their precious knowledge with us. Without their support, our succession program wouldn’t be as compassionate nor as adapted to the challenges facing Adviso’s next generation of leaders.
In my opinion, the biggest winners in our succession program are our clients.
They’ll be able to rely on services provided by a Canadian and Quebecois company, in line with their concerns and familiar with the particularities of their market. They’ll also benefit from the support of motivated entrepreneurs that care about the success of their mandates and the excellence of their results, entrepreneurs that are interested first and foremost in their success and a fruitful collaboration in the long term. Our independence also enables us to maintain control of our business, which once again benefits our clients. It also ensures alignment between our company and our clients’ objectives and to fully express our values (competence, transparency, boldness, team spirit and fun/balance), without their being diluted within a larger organization that might require us to make certain decisions. We prefer to make our own decisions, which we make in the interest of our clients, but also in the interest of our employees, since ultimately our clients’ success is in their hands.
As far as our successors are concerned, they’ll benefit from an advantageous financing program that will facilitate the acquisition of a share in the firm. This new commitment will bring a tangibly renewed energy and motivation, and the succession team will directly benefit from the value they contribute to generating.
Our employees are also influenced positively by this program, since they get more contact with entrepreneurs and vice-versa. We believe the sense of belonging at Adviso will be enhanced and that this will launch a new chapter in the evolution of our business culture.
Finally, my faithful co-founder, Simon, and myself have just as much to gain.
It’s true that we could have sold out to a big firm and won the jackpot. But no amount of money would be worth taking this adventure, where we can watch as super-motived new talent gradually take over the reins. While my share in Adviso will be smaller, its performance will grow faster—I’m totally convinced of this.
On a personal note, just being part of this project has revived my entrepreneurial spirit, and the challenge of collaborating with this new team gives me even more motivation to get up every morning. I’m convinced that this spark wouldn’t at all be the same if we had decided to sell the company to a big group based in New York or London.
With this type of project, it’s important to stay true to your principles and values, and to speak frankly, watching other people I love succeed based on their talent and engagement and the support of our succession program fills me with joy!