Search
  • Katie McLean

Luc Villeneuve on Leadership


Katie:

Hi everyone. I would like to introduce you today to an old friend of mine, Luc Villeneuve, he's the president of Benchmark in Toronto and formerly he was the CEO and country manager of Red Hat Canada.


Katie:

Luc, it's lovely to have you here today. Can you give me a brief summary of who you are as a person and as an established leader in the Canadian tech community?


Luc:

It's so hard to believe Katie, that it's been 37 years already, that I've been working in the IT industry. It's been about 10 years in Montreal and the past 25 years in the GTA Toronto area. It's been amazing. The industry has given me a lot. Over the years I've learned a lot and I think I've been giving back a lot for the last few years as well with my diversity initiatives and my trying to be a big sponsor of different cultures and so forth. I'm also involved in a not-for-profit board for them. I'm giving back to what I've received over the years. And I'm so amazed to have my two children now, adults, 28, 27 years old, Jean-Phillip and Stefan that have pursued the IT career as well. They're right behind me and pushing me even further.


Katie:

That's amazing. Well, you are a leader in many ways, obviously as both a parent and as a business leader. That's incredible. And I would just like to mention what a big difference you have made to women in technology with all of your initiatives. I certainly have been a beneficiary of that over the years and your willingness to help people when they need help and to sort of advocate for women in the business community as well. Tell me about the importance of relationships as a leader in technology.


Luc:

I think first of all, you only have one thing in life that matters and that is your reputation. And if you think about it, you behave in one way, you act in one way and you have to be consistent along the way. To me as a leader, when I join different companies, the first thing is you have to have a vision. A vision to grow the company. Having a clear vision, a clear purpose is very important. How you deliver that message and that vision to the team and willing to adjust along the way and adapt key market triggers like we have these days with COVID-19. And I think I've been able to adapt myself along the way very well and be able to bring a sense of purpose to my team along the way.


Katie:

Purpose is pretty much my favorite word. With obstacles, you talked about COVID-19, but can you give some advice to our Growth Movement community about how you deal with the sort of things that can get in the way?


Luc:

There will always be, when you come into a company, “distractor people” and they wonder why you got the job, why you're there. People don't really understand sometimes because I don't speak English as well, because I'm French. Kidding. But I think sometimes people don't get it early on. And these people are called distractors. Distractors need to accept the new strategy, the new vision early on, or need to go do something else because a distractor can delay the performance of your growth, the success of the company and your ability to show the shareholders, the investors that you can actually do what you were hired for is to take your company to a different place. I think that a leader that is able to identify those because the noise in the background will hit you, will come to you all the time and these distractor things, you never going to hear about it, but you do. But you need to behave and react quickly otherwise you could lose a lot of momentum into what you're trying to do.


Katie:

“Distractors” is a good word because it's hard not to have them take more of your attention than is warranted. Or they could be, I suppose, called naysayers as well as saying, "Oh, you can't do that or that's not possible, or that's the wrong direction." And so you're saying you just hold firm to what you believe and make sure that you don't give them too much time.


Luc:

Well, you need to listen as sometimes the distractor makes sense. It can help you to change direction a little bit, add some special sauce to what are you're trying to do and I think you need to be listening. But at the end of the day, they cannot be shutting you down on what you're trying to do. We need to be able to move in the direction you believe is the right way.


Katie:

That makes sense to me. You talked a bit, sort of the secret sauce. What has been the secret sauce to your leadership along the way?


Luc:

Well, I think surrounding yourself with top talent has always been part of what I do. Every company I've worked, every new employee I interview personally. Every one of them. And when that did not happen for a particular reason, I regretted it six months later, I should have spent some time with that person. And the way I lead my interview process, the way I'm engaging with HR, who I'm engaging with the marketplace, we have headhunters involved, if I take it personally to hire someone that would fit the culture of our company. That's someone I can work with and someone who will be different than potentially the rest of the team. I take high pride in hiring good people and helping people along the way and be a big supporter of them for the duration they're going to be with us.


Katie:

And so how do you actually interview for that? It's a conversation? Are you ticking some boxes? I Like the idea of culture fit. I also like the idea of values. I like values, people believing in the same thing, right?


Luc:

Well, the last 10 years I tried to target the market I'm trying to hire for and I want a person to have good knowledge of those customer markets. Very targeted. And then you have a bank of customers or candidates and you try to handle, pick up the best. I get three or four people interviewed, get feedback from everybody. It's interesting because over the past 30 years, I hired people back up to five times to work for me.

Came back to work for me three, four times. And I would say there's probably 15 or 20 people like that in my network that kept reaching out after a period of time and came to work and they were successful before, I knew I could count on them to be successful in the future. And it's been a great journey to assist them, help them. And they helped me. It's a good 360 degree affair.


Katie:

Well, I think that you're touching on relationships and long term relationships, which has always been one of my favourite things about you, is your ability to support so many different people over a long period of time. There's something quite obviously genuine about how you carry yourself. And so I think that comes from a special place where it's genuine. It's not about winning short term, it's about having a very long term vision.


Luc:

When I look where I grew up, I grew up in a very little town, 200 people. We knew each other and everybody needed to help each other for different things. And you don't choose your friend because there are only five people in your age group so you play with five people, otherwise you don't have friends. Along the way, I think I always kept a friendly approach to things. I'm very genuine and I like helping people. And when I go talk to customers, I really want to help them. I genuinely want to help them. I feel that I'm going to miss something in that relationship with trying to establish. It's not a one way street. It has to be both ways. I'm a big fan of helping my partners and my customers.


Luc:

One of the things I have been saying, since I joined Benchmark 18 months ago, I want to bring the big value of the VAR, value added reseller back into the play, because I felt many, many partnear out there don't bring the value that they were hiring for by the customer or the partner. I think we are adding a lot of value and I'm very proud of that, of our journey so far where we're taking Benchmark.


Katie:

Yeah. And then it sounds to me like what you've worked towards is a win-win relationship. And that's so important in business and in long term relationships is to make sure that each person gets equal value out of a relationship, that it's not one sided. Who wants to work with someone if you didn't get the value out of an encounter with someone? That's what helps build trust, right?


Luc:

It's true. Through 25 years in Toronto, I've had relationships with so many customers from one company to the other. I've become a bit of a trusted advisor to them and them to me and we exchange a lot. It's kind of rewarding to see that some of them have become good friends. It's kind of cool.


Katie:

I think it is great. And so if you could give us one word of advice as a leader, what would it be?


Luc:

One thing, don't be selfish with your time. People that get into different leadership roles, suddenly their excuse is they're too busy for everything around them. And I promised myself to return every phone call every day, every email every day. I get too many LinkedIn requests so I can't respond to all of them every day, but I try to anyway. But I think don't be selfish with your time, your people, your partners, your customers and the people around you in the industry. There's a lot of people that have reached out to me over the years for different opportunities in the marketplace. And I share my time with them, try to help them as much as I can. And that's what I'm saying. Don't be selfish with your time.


Katie:

I love that advice. Obviously you're such a people person, but giving of your time, it's never forgotten over periods of time. If I think about you and I, there's probably a gap of about 15 years where we didn't connect at all. And out of the blue, I reached out to you and yeah, I got that same day response and we set up our first lunch in such a long time. And it was like we didn't have those 15 years apart. We picked up, learned what each other's careers had been about and carried on from there. Luc, thank you very much for spending time with us today. Your leadership insight is quite valuable to us and aligns with what we're thinking of for the Growth Movement in putting people first and companies before revenue, but also having the ability to grow by doing that. Thanks again.


Luc:

Thank you, Katie. Appreciate it very much. Have a great weekend. Bye bye.


Katie:

Thank you.

14 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All