Ben Lalonde had already experienced business success when a chance encounter with Dr. Jack Kitts, President and CEO of the Ottawa Hospital, set him on a path of tremendous personal and professional growth. “I mentioned I had once considered an Executive Masters of Business Administration but I had never gotten around to applying. Jack told me that if I was fine with just my two automotive service shops then I shouldn’t bother, but if I ever wanted to expand my business, it would be a good idea to seek out the skills and knowledge an Executive MBA has to offer.”
After researching options across North America, Ben chose the University of Ottawa’s Telfer Executive MBA program, which was the program Dr. Kitts completed in 2001. Ben completed the program in 2016 and was also honoured as one of the recipients of the prestigious Forty under 40 Award that same year. Ben has more than 20 years of automotive service industry and is currently President of Orleans AutoPro with two locations. His entrepreneurial growth continued while in the program when Ben along with three of his Executive MBA colleagues founded Rebel Technologies in April of 2015. Together they are developing an innovative patent pending shop management solution that gives complete transparency to the vehicle servicing process. The solution enables consumers to receive service based on their preferences and to access a full suite of service information.
Self-examination leads to tremendous personal development
“I chose the Telfer Executive MBA program because I felt it was the most relevant and it offered the chance to work on live projects in a peer-based environment,” explains Ben, who admits that he did initially have some self-doubt. “It was a big leap for me to go right to graduate school because I did not hold a post-secondary education,” he recalls. “I was sitting in a room full of people with university degrees and wondered if I belonged. I then realized that everyone felt the same way to a certain extent and I was going to be OK. I was fortunate to have real world business experience as a serial entrepreneur and knew those skills were relevant.”
"The emotional intelligence aspects of the Telfer Executive MBA has helped me learn how to develop more holistic business strategies in combination with the hard skills that I learned"
“I initially expected that the program would give me the hard skills I was looking for, including learning how to create marketing plans and devise business strategies. I learned all of that, but what I didn’t expect to gain was the soft skills. I learned how to work more effectively in a team including expanding my communication capabilities. I was always comfortable speaking to large groups but I now feel like I have an increased knowledge and a new vocabulary that gives me the capability to have influence outside of my own industry. The emotional intelligence aspects of the Telfer Executive MBA has helped me learn how to develop more holistic business strategies in combination with the hard skills that I learned.”
Team projects have real-world application
As one of the Six Signature Series of Six Business Consulting projects, Telfer Executive MBA candidates are required to complete the Individual Business Consulting Project, either to delve deeper in their current industry or explore new paths. For Ben and his three colleagues, their summer was spent developing the strategy for Rebel Technologies. They continued to leverage the program’s platform in the fall semester, “After the summer, we pitched Rebel as part of the Technology Entrepreneurship course, which requires us to function as though we are running a tech start-up. The course is focused on entrepreneurship and innovation and our classmates along with a panel of investors scrutinized our project like they would an independent company, offering invaluable advice and support.”
Ben concludes the experience he gained through his Telfer Executive MBA was vital to launching Rebel. “Working with my team improved my original design, making the product simpler yet offering more functionality and value. It’s currently testing really well in focus groups because it’s designed to protect the consumer and to help business owners at the same time.”
Ben enthusiastically confirms that the Telfer Executive MBA program is worth every penny. “It’s the best business decision I’ve ever made. As I work to apply the skills and knowledge I gained from the program, our customer satisfaction is going through the roof. Our sales growth has been tremendous and I believe this is due to a new clarity of focus combined with enhanced marketing and communication, and that’s all thanks to my Telfer Executive MBA experience.”