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Germain Lamonde
Founder, Chairman and CEO, EXFO
Ambition and determination

$100: that was the extent of Germain Lamonde’s start-up capital when he founded EXFO Electro-Optical Engineering back in 1985. Over the past 23 years, his company has become a worldwide phenomenon boasting an enviable set of sales figures. Germain may not have started out with a lot of money, but his tireless devotion and steadfast determination took him all the way to the top.

Germain Lamonde
  • Chairman and CEO, EXFO Electro-Optical Engineering Inc.
  • Bachelor’s degree in physical engineering, Montreal Polytechnic (EPM)
  • Master’s degree in fibre-optics, Laval University
  • Management degree, Richard Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario

  • Founded in 1985
  • Provides testing and monitoring solutions for telecommunications network operators and equipment manufacturers worldwide
  • Headquartered in Quebec City
  • Listed on the NASDAQ (NYC), TSX (Toronto) and MDX (Montreal) stock exchanges since June 2000
  • Number of employees: 1,200 (600 in Quebec City)
  • Sales in 2008: CA$186 million
  • Steady annual growth: 20%-30%
  • 95% of EXFO’s products are exported in 70 countries, for a total of CA$1.5 billion since the company was founded
  • Total R&D; investments: over CA$45 million annually (5 R&D; centres)
  • Ranked 1st in the world for portable optical test equipment
  • Ranked 2nd in the world for portable telecom test equipment

One of seven children, Germain was raised on a dairy farm in the Montmagny region. There was nothing to suggest that he was destined to rub shoulders with the international business elite, other than what he describes as his “burning desire to get things done”, rattling off the phrase at high speed. Germain, who tends to speak quickly and deliberately, is a master at living in the here-and-now. In keeping with his trademark intensity, he insists that he would schedule 24 hours of back-to-back meetings in Europe if it meant being able to spend a little more time with his three children, who range in age from 10 to 18.

Germain’s trademark intensity was certainly on display at Montreal Polytechnic, where he completed the four-year physical engineering program in only three years. He then completed his master’s in optics at Laval University while working full-time as an engineer! EXFO’s growth has been equally impressive. Germain proudly points out that since he founded the company 23 years ago, its growth has consistently outpaced that of the overall sector. As a result, EXFO has become a global force to be reckoned with!

Keys to success

EXFO’s sector is highly specialized – and booming! Initially specializing in optical testing and measurement, the company eventually expanded to include next-generation telecommunications, focusing on innovation, market understanding and the continuous anticipation of customer needs. “In part, EXFO’s success is thanks to our corporate vision,” says Germain. “When we were offering ultra-portable modular devices, our competitors spent five years trying to convince everyone that we were on the wrong track. They wasted valuable time while we were extending our leadership! The keys to our success are really quite simple: a combination of excellence, market-focused innovation, reliability and customer satisfaction.”

EXFO offers state-of-the-art products and unparalleled service. “We might not be the cheapest, but we have a superior product. Our motto is simple: provide excellent products and impeccable service! That way, our customers stay happy and keep on coming back.”

A competitive streak

With just a hint of hesitation, Germain candidly admits that the other secret to his success is his competitive streak. “I play to win. At EXFO, we’re not only in the game, we’re shooting for the Stanley Cup! So I don’t surround myself with losers. The pursuit of excellence is crucial. Either do it right or don’t do it at all!”

Germain’s quest for excellence, combined with a healthy dose of ambition, led him to invest in the US and European markets before taking on the local trans-Canadian market. That decision flew in the face of traditional business thinking, according to which companies must think small before they think big!

In the pursuit of new opportunities, Germain’s entrepreneurial instincts have served him well. He cites another example of how traditional practices don’t always provide the best roadmap: “In 1985, the markets were opening up in the US and Europe and I jumped at the opportunity. So when the Canadian market began to take off, I was ready.” With more than 1,200 employees in 18 countries around the world, EXFO has a proven record of success.

In love with the planet

Germain describes the current trend towards globalization as both inevitable and beneficial. “I wanted EXFO to have an international reach because I love the world and I love this planet.” With a deep affinity for different cultures and an insatiable curiosity, Germain has successfully opened his company’s doors to the world. “And I’ve discovered how wonderful it is to bring people from different cultures together.”

Solidly rooted in Quebec City

Although EXFO is multinational, it remains solidly rooted in Quebec City. After Montreal Polytechnic, Germain completed his master’s degree at Laval University before setting out on his entrepreneurial journey. The local region has been another key success factor over the years. “If we’d started out in Montreal, we would have had a harder time attracting and retaining the level of talent we needed. In Quebec City, I had access not only to the very best optics experts, but also to a large pool of skilled and dedicated workers. We also had a high enough profile to launch a successful recruitment campaign. In fact, EXFO received support from the whole community – it was truly amazing! Quebec City really is a great business incubator.”

Cécile Gladel

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