October 27, 2016
“Being an entrepreneur means inventing yourself,” says Alain Bouchard. “It’s always given me more pleasure than pain. I tell would-be entrepreneurs that the best way to succeed is to make sure you surround yourself with people who are better than you.” The President and founder of Couche-Tard was pleased to take on the role of Professor for a Day at HEC Montréal. He first met with MBA students, and then answered questions from the cohort of entrepreneurs in the Accélérateur Banque Nationale – HEC Montréal program.
“It’s a unique privilege for us to welcome Alain Bouchard,” said MBA Program Director Louis Hébert. “What he has managed to accomplish – building a business of this size in less than one generation – is exceptional.”
Bouchard opened his first convenience store in 1980. The company he founded in Laval went on to become a multinational, Alimentation Couche-Tard. It now has 12,000 stores and over 100,000 employees, with sales of nearly $50 billion.
He answered all kinds of questions from the MBA students, concerning different aspects of his company’s management. In particular he touched on the corporate culture at Couche-Tard, how this culture is integrated into a constantly expanding multinational, and the moral and legislative issues in operating abroad.
He also spoke about future plans and challenges. “Our goal is to evolve and to keep pace with what people want, right now, without falling behind or being too far ahead,” explained Bouchard. “In the end, what we are selling is time. No matter what the store stocks, it takes 1 to 2 minutes to walk into a Couche-Tard and walk out again.”
With the entrepreneurs in the Accélérateur program, Bouchard also talked about the company’s human resources management. In particular, on the topic of balancing work and family life, he said: “You can go ahead and work 15 hours a day if you want, but not for me. Go home and spend time with your children and family.”
(Photo : Mehdi Drissi, Co-Founder, Bridgr)
He was also asked about his worst mistake as a manager. He said that he had learned that it’s best to get away from managers who don’t share the company’s values, even if they are very good at what they do. The impact of a manager who doesn’t respect employees, he said, can be felt throughout the whole company.
Louis Hébert, Alain Gosselin, Alain Bouchard, Guy Gendron, Michel Patry and Denis Chênevert