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Home > NEWS > An Interview with Germain Lamonde: Founder and Chairman of EXFO

An Interview with Germain Lamonde: Founder and Chairman of EXFO

2019-07-07    Cfol

7/8/2019, Germain Lamonde, founder and Executive Chairman of EXFO Inc. (NASDAQ: EXFO, TSX: EXF), the communications network test,  monitoring and analytics experts, represented Canada at  EY  World Entrepreneur Of The YearTM competition. event in Monaco a month ago. In the mouth of Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume, "Mr. Lamonde is a successful entrepreneur  and contributor to our modern economy. As early as the 1980s, he was a visionary, able to see the full potential of fiber optics,” It is our honor to have an opportunity to make an interview with Mr. Lamonde at this time. We respect him not only because his EXFO is a leading company today, but also his great contributions towards our industry and our society. As he said in the press release :“Money isn’t typically the primary driver for successful entrepreneurs,” says Mr. Lamonde. “It’s the jobs we create that always make me proudest at the end of each year.” 

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Here is our questions and his answers. Many thanks  Miss Anne Douville from EXFO for her great help on this interview  

How do you have the ieda to found EXFO and what is the business target for EXFO when you set up this company?

GL:
The idea of founding EXFO was a combination of being a master's degree student in optics and working in the area of lasers. I knew from the beginning that there was a huge long-term potential for fiber optics. I chose to go into the testing market as a niche where I felt we could really have a massive impact. I determined very quickly that objective of the business was to become the market leader within that segment.

Do you think you have achieved the target after more than 30 years?

GL:
We reached the goal of becoming world number one in fiber optic testing many years ago. We now have in the range of 40% of the world market share in optical fiber optic testing, and we've accomplished this due to relentless, groundbreaking, disruptive innovations that we've brought to the global marketplace. Thanks to the ambitious goal to go around the world with these technologies, it was clear to me that EXFO was to be a global organization from the get-go.

How do you define a great company? Do you think EXFO is or will be a great company?


GL:
For me a great company is an organization where everybody has the interests of the company strongly at heart, bringing every day not only their talent and energy, but also their commitment to make it greater every day. Jokingly we're not going to say making America great again or making EXFO great again, we've always been great and we're staying great. Just kidding.

So basically, for me, to be successful, an organization has to think outside the box. We've had a very strong commitment to out-of-the-box thinking and disruptive innovation from the get-go. We've maintained this philosophy, this brand personality if you will, from the very beginning. As a result EXFO became known and respected around the world for the massive innovations it brought to the fiber optic industry. This is what the EXFO brand really stands for.


In last 34 years, what is the biggest challenge EXFO had experienced?

GL:

We've experienced the challenge of going through the 2001 telecom fiber optic communication nuclear winter, or massive implosion. The whole industry was massively disrupted seeing thousands of companies going bankrupt. At EXFO we had to make very tough choices during this challenging era. We were able to come out of it stronger and clearly much faster than any one of our top competitors at the time thanks again to counting on innovation. When we faced this very challenging time, my objective was to make all the right decisions as quickly as possible so that we could strengthen our advantage long term. Coming out faster than our competitors was an opportunity to get stronger and rebound to gain market share.

What is the most important decision you made for EXFO?

GL:
I will say investing in our people. And it was natural to do so, because the team has EXFO in their veins.  
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So the biggest decision was to really trust. Trusting people is the only way to go. You can trust people once, twice, and if they fail consecutively eventually you've got to make decisions. I believe everybody wants to do well and we've got to give them a chance to succeed.


Instruments maybe one of the most difficult business areas. It is often a niche market but needs advanced technology. How do you describe the future of EXFO? Do you have examples to learn from, like HP or Tektronix?
 


GL:
The test and measurement market requires a variety of technologies to face the ever-increasing complexity of the networks. So we have to remain at the forefront of all the key developments, be involved in all the standardization bodies, help educate the industry while making contributions to help the standards to be ratified with the angle of making the networks capable of being tested properly.

What I learned early on from the likes of HP or Tektronix is that to succeed globally in the test segment an organization has to be trustworthy.

Customers have to trust the readings of the instruments, the reliability of the instruments, and the decisions that will be based on what the instruments say about the nature of the network and its performance. In my experience, companies that are built with excellence at heart, with the will to innovate, think outside the box and always bring superior solutions, is the only way to succeed within this niche market.

In your minds, what is the key competitive advantage for EXFO?

GL:
The key advantage for EXFO is really its reputation to be the industry
s most innovative company, creating a brand that is extremely strong. Combined with our global reach, with customers in 120 countries, being the key provider to 95 of the largest 100 telecom operators is a good testimony of that. Over the years EXFO has become not only a trusted supplier, but it has earned the reputation of being "the trusted advisor" amongst the largest telecom operators and these companies ask EXFO for the best strategy when it comes to building the next generation of the highest quality networks in the most effective fashion. So EXFO is a symbol of innovation to build better networks faster than any other options available.


During 1990s, there once were several fiber optics companies in Quebec, but today only EXFO survives and succeeds, How do you comment on this phenomonon?


GL:
EXFO not only has survived but basically shines on the global market thanks to its focus on excellence from all angles. That means going from product innovation, quality, support and therefore customer satisfaction. This is the holy grail of EXFO.

How do you think of the role of French Quebec origin for EXFO? Are there any negtitive effects for EXFo's development in last 30 years?
  What do you think that EXFo brings to Quebec society?


GL:
Canada has two official languages, English and French. The origin of EXFO being in the province of Quebec, i.e. more largely French speaking did not have an immaterial impact. Since EXFO's foundation back in 1985, it was obvious that we had to be global and therefore using the languages of the customers wherever we operate.

With operation within about 20 countries around the globe, and customers in 120 countries, we speak every day in excess of 50 different languages with customers from around the globe.