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Distech Controls: a judgment that paid off

08 November 2015 by National Bank
Distech Controls

Étienne Veilleux has every reason to be proud: Distech Controls, the company that he cofounded was acquired on September 1st for $318 million Canadian.


In his eyes, the judgment he has shown in business has been a key to his success:


The winner of the 2015 National Bank SME Award in the "Export SME" category told us about the role this principle has played in his growth as an entrepreneur, as well as ways for savers to apply it.


Keeping the right people around

The first point Étienne Veilleux associates with judgment is choosing your partners wisely.


The CEO of Distech Controls admits that at the start of his career, "I didn't have the best people around me." His first associates did not share his business vision. He sometimes joined forces with investors who proved to be primarily interested in their own profits and explains that some hiring decisions disappointed him.


These painful experiences taught him the importance of having the right people around him. The deciding moment in this regard was when his spouse, Maria Lorenzo, got involved in the organization. Together, they bought back Distech Controls in 1995 and Ms. Lorenzo put her studies in economics and finance, analytical mind and business savvy to work to transform the company over the next six years.


Distech Controls then turned away from the service industry to focus on developing home automation products and set out to take on the world.


This shift spurred the couple to enlist the help of highly qualified workers, particularly in the technology sector. "You need to put the right person in the right seat and you can't be afraid of hiring people who know more than you do! I applied that concept very early in my career," explains the entrepreneur who started out in business at age 24.


Mr. Veilleux believes that this principle applies not only to businesspeople, but also for individuals. "You need to have the right advisors to help you develop your financial plan," he explains. In his opinion, a solid plan is key to exercising judgment. In this area, the best approach is to call on a professional to help you achieve your goals.


Developing a global vision

The other area where exercising judgment is crucial for the CEO of Distech Controls is developing a global vision.


He explains that one of the fundamentals in helping Distech Controls grow has been establishing long-term objectives for the business. "Where will we be in 10, 15 or 20 years? You need to have a clear vision of the future of the company."


Armed with such a vision, Étienne believes he was able to make better choices, as he could rely on a solid base for his judgment. He mentions that he pulled out at the last minute of acquisition procedures begun in 2013, specifically because he noticed that the companies targeted were not well aligned with the needs of Distech Controls, a decision that he absolutely does not regret.


Mr. Veilleux believes that this approach is just as important for savers: "You need to set a personal objective, develop a global vision of what you want to do in life, both on a financial and also a personal level."


Aligning the distant and near future

After painting a picture of your dreams, Étienne says you need to break down this major project into shorter periods and associate them with more specific objectives and actions. "You need a three-to-five-year horizon, then a one-year, three-month, one-month horizon," he explains. "You can even set weekly objectives for yourself!"


He adds that to achieve your goals, you need to combine judgment with discipline and realism.


Still, for him, good judgment remains the key. Asked about who he looks to as good examples of business judgement, Étienne Veilleux mentions Charles Sirois, Warren Buffett and Guy Laliberté and concludes "those who are successful show sound judgment, whereas those who lack judgement aren't successful!"


The rich path to success of this Quebec entrepreneur is a wonderful example of how this principle can be nurtured… and pay off.

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