"True Learning Happens At The Edge of Your Comfort Zone", states Gilles Lebeau

Gilles Lebeau, a life-long resident of Sudbury, has travelled a long and winding journey from the time he walked off the stage with a diploma from Ecole Secondaire Hanmer. Today he is Vice President of Finance and Operations of one of the area's most prominent mining sector businesses, the Mansour Group of Companies, where he is in charge of numerous and diverse business interests and is responsible for the livelihood of over 600 full- and part-time employees.

Gilles was the special guest March 10, 2008 on “Inside Education”, a local talk show on CKLU 96.7 FM that is broadcast live every Monday evening at 6 p.m. from the studios at Laurentian University. Robert Kirwan, an Independent Education & Career Development Specialist who operates a private practice called The Greater Sudbury Learning Clinic, is the producer and host of the program which consists of an engaging conversation with a person from a different career field each week. The purpose of the show is to provide listeners with some valuable down-to-earth insight and information which may prove helpful for those who are looking for tips and strategies that will help them become more successful in their current or future careers.  

After high school, Mr. Lebeau went on to attend Laurentian University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the School of Business and Commerce in 1982. From there he went to Toronto where he worked as a Chartered Accountant for two and a half years with a large company that had over 2000 accountants in its employ. He soon tired of the "mass of humanity" in the big city and after gaining a wealth of experience in a short time he returned to Sudbury to work for KPMG for the next ten years. 

"After being in the accounting business for over a dozen years, I decided that I wanted a change. It was a nice career and I respect and admire anyone working in the accounting field, but I felt that I needed something different. That's when I decided to try my hand in the Public Sector for a while," explained Lebeau who stated that if he was going to do it all over again he would have pursued a career in medicine but when he was in high school he didn't pay enough attention to getting high marks. He stated that he likes the idea of saving lives and would have enjoyed a career in the health field. "People in the public sector work very hard and during my two years with them I certainly gained a new level of respect for what they do."

He was then offered a position with Sandvik, in what he refered to as an 'institutionalized company'. He spent ten years with that firm, eventually rising to the position of President of the Canadian arm of the international company. When the head office decided to restructure and close up the Canadian Division, Lebeau was offered the position he currently fills with Mansour Group of Companies.

"Working for a grass roots company like Mansour Group is a lot different than working for Sandvik," explained Lebeau. "With Sandvik, if I had an idea to propose to head office I had to go through several stages of presentations and often wait months for approval. This is often the case with any large organization. They must be careful to make sure all of their decisions are consistent with general company policy and as a result there are many checks and balances to protect the integrity of the system. With the Mansour Group, I just go down the hall to our owner, Milad Mansour and he gives me an answer right away. It is this speed of decision-making which gives smaller companies an edge over larger institutions when it comes to capitalizing on opportunities. And a man like Milad Mansour has certainly made the most of his opportunities."

Gilles has nothing but praise for the founder of Mansour Mining. Milad Mansour came over to Canada from Lebanon at the age of 16 with absolutely nothing. "He started shoveling driveways during his first winter and told the owners of the homes that they could pay him if they wanted. He said he had nothing else to do so he may as well be doing something useful. With the first bit of money he earned shoveling, he bought a pair of winter boots because he said it was cold shoveling in street shoes."

Today, Milad Mansour is a millionaire and is still "working on a hundred different projects at a time."

"Our biggest challenge in the industry right now is to be able to hire competent people," Gilles commented. "I look for people who are enthusiastic, creative, and confident. We need people who are competitive, because everything in business today is competitive and if you aren't looking for new and better ways of providing services and products to your customers you won't survive."

Gilles is a strong proponent of using "mentoring" to one's advantage. He even commented that young people today should not be afraid of competition from baby boomers, but they definitely should try to learn everything they can from these people while they are still on the job.

He feels that young students should decide what it is that they love to do and then pursue a career in that field. "If you are good at what you do, and you do it with a lot of enthusiasm and energy, you are going to make a lot of money. It will just happen naturally. That is the secret to success. You must first of all decide what it is you are good at and that you like. Then go forward from there and learn from people who are successful in that field. Find a "mentor" who will teach you what you need to know to be successful."

He also encourages students to utilize employment agencies as much as possible when looking for work. "I seldom put job wanted ads in newspapers. The last thing I want to do is go through hundreds of resumes. I usually just call up a company like Levert Personnel and let them send me several prospects. I then do the final interviews until I am satisfied I have found a good person for the job."

He also stated that he relies a lot on "referrals from people he trusts and respects" when it comes to filling vacancies in his company. "I don't support nepotism, but if a valued employee is willing to vouch for you, I will at least give you consideration for any vacancy I may have. It gets your foot in the door, so be prepared to do a lot of networking and get to know a lot of different people."

"Once I hire a person I tell him that I cannot guarantee him a job for life, but I can guarantee that I will make him marketable so that he will not have any trouble getting another job if he ever has to leave our company," he commented. "I think that is something that all young people must work a little harder on. They must try to market themselves a lot better than they are today. It is the little things that count, like being on time, being neat and organized, being polite and respectful of others, and genuinely and sincerely trying to learn everything you can about everything you can all of the time. 

Indeed, one of Gilles' favourite quotations is, "True learning happens at the edge of your comfort zone. It is only when you push yourself and when you are willing to take the hard road, not the easy way out, that you truly learn. That is what makes the difference between excellence and mediocrity."

As a final bit of wisdom, Gilles Lebeau wants young people to remember that "There is only one thing that no one can take away from you, and that is your reputation. Guard it carefully and it will serve you well."

And always remember that the people who do the hiring today believe as he does, namely that, "I always hire on attitude. I can teach everything else, but I can't teach attitude. Without the proper attitude, you are not going to be much use to anyone."


The Learning Clinic is The Private Practice of
Robert Kirwan, B.A. (Math), M.A. (Education), OCT
4456 Noel Crescent, Val Therese, ON P3P 1S8
Phone: (705) 969-7215    Email:    rkirwan@thelearningclinic.ca

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