The Greater the Challenge, The Greater the Reward
Stephane Guay loves the thrill of an adrenaline rush. His endeavors in scuba diving, mountain climbing and sky diving are all fueled by the motivation to always surpass himself. “These things are scary in the beginning and at first your mind will tell you not to do it,” Stephane explains. “But when you get beyond your fears and do it, it’s a great feeling. You can apply this to business by trying to go beyond the limit of your current structure and always pushing to achieve better results.”
He relates the traits that he uses to set goals and tackle his adrenaline-filled adventures to those he uses in his leadership style to reach successes in business. He implements the same determination, while making sure to provide a secure feeling to his employees. Stephane’s most recent personal endeavor was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and he notes that “when looking up at the top of the mountain, it’s easy to get discouraged, but at the top it’s worth it.” He believes that no matter how impossible a goal may seem, when you focus and work hard you will be able to achieve it.
Growing up, the adventure of becoming the CEO of Transit Warehouse, an auto parts distribution company, was never something that Stephane Guay had thought about.
"Never be afraid to be challenged. Try to be challenged as much as possible. It can be hard on the ego, but don’t hesitate; this is the same in business as it is in life."
- Stephane Guay
Transit Warehouse began as a one man business in 1971 in Levis, Quebec under Stephane’s father as Jacques Guay Inc. In 1992, Jacques told Stephane he wanted to retire and sell the business, but there was great business potential to sell auto parts directly to retail stores. “I took my suitcase, catalogues and samples to retail stores in Quebec and tried to sell them auto parts,” Stephane says.
Two years later, business was growing and Stephane told his dad that he wanted to buy the company as soon as possible. Stephane bought the company in 1994 for a quarter percent less than the highest loan he could get from the bank. “I was 24, and the bank does not want to loan money to a 24-year-old. After I got the loan, there were two of us, then we hired another employee,” he explains. To date, Transit Warehouse has experienced growth to 100 employees and has expanded to eight warehouses across Canada.
Stephane became a TEC member in 2007, appreciating seeing top notch speakers from around the world. “The things that you learn and can apply to your business in the next couple days or months are what keep business growing, and this really attracted me at the beginning,” Stephane explains.
One speaker who has influenced Stephane and his business was Jim Alampi with the Execution Roadmap. Alampi’s presentation on improving strategic planning and the ability to achieve goals resonated with Stephane. It suggests that failure is not from the lack of a vision, but from the inability to execute the vision. Similar to climbing Kilimanjaro, the perseverance and implementing a concrete goal is what led Stephane and his vision to the top.
The biggest challenge that has affected Stephane’s business in the past 20 years is the easy access to information. In the early days of Transit Warehouse, customers would call to ask for parts. Now, more than 50 percent of business for Transit Warehouse is online. “You cannot be reactive; you have to be proactive with all of the technology, even with social media,” Stephane advises. Transit Warehouse expects that 85 percent of their business will be conducted online before the end of 2015.
With the many changes and challenges that face businesses, Stephane emphasizes the importance of having informed directors of his company, most of which are younger than him.
“I think these days it’s really important to be surrounded by knowledgeable people. I will always listen to my team and that’s why I think we are successful in these times,” Stephane states.
Stephane’s advice to other leaders is to be surrounded by good people who will provide strong advice, ideas and put a question mark on projects and ideas to challenge you. “Never be afraid to be challenged. Try to be challenged as much as possible,” Stephane says. “It can be hard on the ego, but don’t hesitate; this is the same in business as it is in life."
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