Finding your limits, and surpassing them

Forty Under 40 alumni Stephan May on the merits of his Telfer Executive MBA
Stephan May, Managing Director, Mergers & Acquisitions, Welch group Consulting
Stephan May, Managing Director, Mergers & Acquisitions, Welch group Consulting (photo provided)

It takes a lot to overwhelm Stephan May these days. He’s learned to take even the most stressful situation in stride and stay focused on the big picture. 

He acquired such poise during his two years of juggling school, family and work commitments while attending the Telfer Executive MBA program. 

“The Executive MBA really did stretch me to my limits and build my tolerance to balance all aspects of my professional and personal life,” May said. “It helped me to become a better manager, a better team player and to put stressful circumstances in perspective.” 

May, who earned his degree in 2013, made the cut for the Ottawa’s Forty under 40 award last year. These days he is Managing Director of the rapidly growing mergers and acquisitions practice at WelchGroup Consulting, a corporate finance and business advisory firm. 

WelchGroup’s M&A practice focuses on the mid-market, where deals range between $5 million and $20 million. With so many aging boomers eager to exit their businesses and retire after weathering the financial crisis of 2008, business is, well, booming. 

“I think we’re going to see this for the next few years – a lot of exits and a lot of owners needing help to prepare their business for sale and go to market to find buyers,” May said. “There is only a small group of local providers that offer this service.” 

LEARNING TO THINK OUTSIDE YOUR BOX

Learning to balance priorities was just one of many skills that Stephan acquired in the program. He understood that leadership in business takes much more than technical know-how. Developing emotional intelligence, the “soft skills,” is just as important. 

May waited until he had progressed in his career before attending Telfer’s Executive MBA program. 

“It was something I always wanted to do, but there is an advantage in doing it later in your career,” he said. “You’re in a better position to grasp the concepts and apply the managerial skills you’ve learned.” 

Learning doesn’t just come from the professors in the Telfer program. In addition to an outstanding mix of faculty members with real-world experience, May was part of a cohort of business professionals with diverse experiences and perspectives from which he could also learn. 

“Being able to tap into that pool of seasoned business people with diverse backgrounds and work with them to solve real issues for actual organizations is a huge value,” May said. “I learned as much from a doctor and his perspective on how to tackle a problem as I did from an engineer. Learning someone else’s approach to problem solving added to the learning experience.” 

Telfer Executive MBA candidates work in teams during their 21-month experience. The strong emphasis on teams focuses on the reality of the global economy. May and his team completed six diverse projects where they consulted on real business challenges for client organizations in a multitude of industries. 

The international project for Stephan and his team led them to Vietnam. By managing diversity and culture, levering each other’s strengths by understanding team dynamics and appreciating the process for sharing leadership and responsibility, they were able to provide compelling value and a successful outcome to their client. 

BUILDING CONSENSUS TO ACHIEVE RESULTS 

“Telfer’s team approach really does strengthen your managerial soft skills,” May said. “You have six people in a working group, all with Type A personalities where no one is leader who can just tell everyone else what to do. You must learn how to work together and motivate each other by learning to use influence and articulate your point of view.” 

After two years working so closely with his peers, May didn’t leave Telfer with only an MBA degree. 

“The bonds we have now are pretty tight,” he said. “We still support each other as we move forward with our individual careers.” 

To learn more about the Telfer Executive MBA program, please visit emba.uOttawa.ca