“Periodically, take a step back. Assess your risks, recalibrate team dynamics, refresh your toolkit, and savor every step of the entrepreneurial journey.”
We’re thrilled to introduce Manon Brouillette, joining Inovia as an Executive Advisor. With vast experience spanning the telecom and tech sectors, Manon is distinguished by her remarkable tenure as the CEO of Verizon Consumer Group and her transformative 15-year career at Videotron.
From her humble beginnings in a small town, Manon ascended to leadership roles at global giants like Verizon. Under her leadership, Verizon ventured into the pioneering domain of 5G, launching game-changing products like the “5G Home” and the entertainment platform “+Play.” Previously, at Videotron, she was the driving force behind its groundbreaking venture into the wireless market and the conceptualization of the first Canadian SVOD, Club Illico. Her leadership resulted in Videotron’s massive growth and its leading position as the most admired telecom company in Canada.
In addition to her executive journey, Manon chairs the Board at Hydro Québec and has impacted corporate governance at industry titans such as the National Bank of Canada, French Telecom SFR and Altice USA. She also currently serves on the boards of Beauty For All Industry, based in California, and Lightspeed POS. Her leadership has earned her accolades, including the coveted Femmes d’Affaires du Québec award, and has twice been named among Canada’s Top 100 Most Influential Women.
With her diverse experience, Manon offers a rich reservoir of insights to Inovia portfolio companies. We recently delved into her perspectives on balancing career with personal life, understanding resilience, and the importance of constant reinvention.
You’ve had an impressive career thus far. Can you highlight a few things you are most proud of?
One of my greatest sources of pride is being part of a generation of women who have built impactful careers without sacrificing personal and family life. Above all else, my most cherished achievement is having managed to strike a balance between my demanding career and the irreplaceable moments with my husband and children.
I am also proud of my approach to challenges. I’ve consistently faced them head-on, carving out my own path and taking risks. Along the way, I’ve bolstered my own capabilities while also scaling organizations.
Lastly, a guiding philosophy I stand by is to courageously embrace risks. True growth happens when we step outside our comfort zones. As for setbacks? I see them as mere chapters in a larger story. Every leap, no matter the outcome, teaches invaluable lessons.
Tell us something most people may not know about you.
Classical music played an instrumental role in shaping my early years. The violin and clarinet weren’t just tools; they were integral to my identity. For two decades, spanning my childhood to college, I dedicated myself to classical training.
Though I’ve since set the instruments aside, the resonance of those diligent practice hours lingers. I recall moments when, yearning for connection, my father would allow me to watch friends from our balcony as I practiced, ensuring I remained tethered to the joys of youth.
While the melodies of my past are cherished, those intense training sessions also taught me valuable life lessons, notably the fine line between heartfelt passion and overwhelming pressure.
Can you share one of the biggest challenges or failures that you learned from?
Throughout my career journey, I’ve come to understand that progression doesn’t always follow a straight path. After my tenure at Videotron, I thought my biggest career achievement was to scale a business from 700M$ revenue to close to 4B$. But then, came along the tremendous challenge to run the largest telecom in the US. The shift from steering a $4B enterprise to navigating the intricacies of a $100B revenue giant marked a pivotal point in my career. This enabled me to expand my horizons and develop even more, navigating challenging waters in a highly competitive market dynamic and facing a very different organizational culture.
Despite the fact that I am very proud of myself for rising up to such a huge challenge, having the courage to acknowledge that bigger didn’t mean better for me – and that I was not happy – was an important milestone not only in my career but also in my life. This experience highlighted the paramount importance of alignment. At times, the true challenge and success lies in identifying misalignments, re-evaluating one’s path, and bravely stepping into new territories. Maintaining humility and embracing learning in every scenario have been essential anchors for me.
What’s the best piece of advice you received in your career?
Choosing a single piece of advice is a challenge, but a consistent theme in my career has been the immense value of coaching. During various stages, I actively sought guidance through complex challenges to elevate my potential. Intriguingly, as my career progressed, my learning shifted depending on the challenge ahead. This change wasn’t arbitrary; it was based on introspective realizations, valuable external feedback and deliberate choices. The journey of self-improvement never really ends; even in esteemed positions like chairing Hydro Quebec, I continually push towards excellence and growth.
What’s a question you wish people asked you more often?
As a woman in leadership roles, the conversation often focuses on the topic of imposter syndrome, especially with women. I wish the dialogue would pivot more towards the fact that getting outside of your comfort zone feels sometimes uncomfortable. This feeling is totally normal. I strongly believe that being uncomfortable facing a leadership or a professional challenge means that you are learning and scaling yourself! This has nothing to do with being an imposter but rather more about growing!While understanding and addressing imposter syndrome is crucial, there’s immense value in highlighting taking risks outside of your comfort zone. Such a shift in conversation can be powerful in both bolstering confidence and recognizing accomplishments as it is the best path towards success.
What energizes you? How do you take care of yourself?
I am fueled by the formation of dynamic and complex ecosystems. The orchestration of the right talent, strategies, and resources is a skill that can be fostered all your career and it fascinates me. I love the dynamism of real-time adjustments, and the art of negotiation with stakeholders. While every entrepreneur starts with an expertise, it’s the metamorphosis from a specialist to a generalist — extending one’s perspective beyond their primary skill — that really fascinates me. This evolution, encompassing a broader vision of people, long-term strategies and the future’s blueprint, is crucial for enduring success in leadership.
Among other things, my leadership has been influenced by two books: “The Four Agreements” and “The Brand-Driven CEO” The former serves as a foundational guide for me, emphasizing the potency of our words and the importance of understanding everyone’s unique perceptions. Meanwhile, “The Brand-Driven CEO” mirrors my perspective on business, emphasizing the primacy of brand identity and its alignment with all aspects of your business. Your company’s culture is your company’s brand and vice versa. Once you acknowledge that, it can unlock tremendous potential of alignment between employees, customers and stakeholders.
Finally, regular physical activity, whether it’s a run outdoors or on a treadmill, is integral to my self-care. It serves as a counterweight to my leadership roles and fosters my personal growth. Running offers me a reflective pause, akin to meditation, bringing renewed clarity and focus.
In your role at Inovia, what questions should founders ask you?
At Inovia, I can offer founders a panoramic view of business, a blend of specialist insight with generalist oversight. I have managed through growth and transformation cycles and despite the fact that this can be very energizing and exciting, there is also a lot of struggle one goes through on such a path. If you seek clarity amidst challenges, need insights into strategic planning, aim to refine team dynamics, or want to understand stakeholder expectations, I’m at your service.
Over time, I’ve developed a comprehensive framework that emphasizes the synergy of various business elements. True success is an amalgamation of product alignment, long-term vision, immediate tactics, team synergy and cultural values. There’s a sublime alchemy in harmonizing these facets. While your niche expertise offers value, embracing a broader view is imperative.
A consistent observation of mine is this: When on a growth trajectory, there’s a temptation to ‘bite off more than one can chew’ due to the confidence in your organization’s skill set. It’s essential to balance ambition with practicality. While aiming high is commendable, remember that your team might benefit from phased goals. Consider it akin to an Everest expedition; you don’t solely focus on the summit. You strategize for basecamps, acclimatizing and adapting. Not every initial team member may reach the peak – and that’s okay. Both your toolkit and team will undergo evolution. Endeavoring to conquer every challenge with your initial resources might not be feasible.
Periodically, take a step back. Assess your risks, recalibrate team dynamics, refresh your toolkit, and savor every step of the entrepreneurial journey.
Anything I didn’t ask you that you’d want to share?
An underlying mindset, often subtle but significantly influential in our professional lives, is the constant fixation on an end goal. Many see success as achieving milestones without enjoying the journey, believing in the notion that success and happiness lies at the achievement of one or many big milestones. Yet, from my experiences, I’ve realized it’s not only the destination but the journey itself that holds profound value.
It’s concerning to observe many deferring their joy, waiting for a ‘perfect moment’ in the future. While ambition and drive are commendable, anchoring our entire sense of fulfillment on future accomplishments can be limiting. We should cherish the present, relishing everyday intricacies and adapting as we move forward. Here’s a thought that may challenge conventional wisdom: It’s okay not to have a crystal-clear goal. Embracing an open mindset and nurturing an innate curiosity can be liberating. Life often has a beautiful way of unraveling when we grant ourselves the latitude to venture without stringent boundaries
Want to benefit from Manon’s expertise? Get in touch!