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Manon Goudreault
President of the agency dada

One-on-One with Manon Goudreault

November 9, 2022 - One-on-One

We sat down with Manon Goudreault, president of the agency dada, Prix des femmes d’affaires du Québec RFAQ laureate in the category “Entrepreneure d’impact – Moyenne entreprise” and president of the board of directors of the Association des agences de communication créative du Québec (A2C). Meet an ambitious woman with a truly atypical career path who not scared of confounding expectations with her own special mix of love, purpose… and a dash of crazy!

1- What does being an impact entrepreneur mean to you? 

For a long time now, I feel like we’ve viewed entrepreneurs as people focussed on profit, and anything related to social value was relegated to either non-profits or government agencies. For me, being an impact entrepreneur is to be driven by the desire to make a real difference and to do this for the right reasons. These days, the discussion is about EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) and ESG (environment, social and governance). They could easily be just buzzwords, but we decided to include these elements into our client recommendations as well as our own practices at dada.

If we are truly centred, all our business decisions, internally and externally, will align with our raison d’être: to let brands shine by bringing the employee experience and the client experience together through creative partnerships. And we do it with both love and purpose. Maybe it seems crazy to talk about bringing love into business, but right now clients want us to build their brand experiences with this unique value, because they feel the need for it.

2- If you had to describe your career path in two words, which two would you choose and why?

The first one I’d choose would be “crazy”. Here’s why: When I was 21, I was the director of marketing communications for government affairs at the Agence métropolitaine de transport. I was chosen to do an internship at the AMT when I finished school, then a few months later, the director of communications, marketing and government affairs left on sick leave. They had confidence in me and I was appointed interim director at the age of 21. A few months later, the board of directors voted on a resolution to officially appoint me, and I worked there for almost seven years.

When I was 28, when I announced that I would be leaving the AMT, Saputo was looking for a vice-president of communications and I was chosen for the position. Then, at 32, I founded dada—in an industry where you could count the number of female business owners and agency presidents on one hand. It was a man’s world. So, I say “crazy” because, looking back, I can’t believe everything I did. It’s definitely not your typical career path and I was lucky to be able to move up quickly. I had to be kind of crazy to think it could work!

The next word? “Dream”. When I was little, my friends used their pocket money to buy candies. I went to Bouclair to buy yarn. I created my own company called Bracelet Manon Goudreault Inc. when I was in primary school. I event bought invoicing books with carbon paper so that I could make copies, and I sold bracelets to order.

After that, I started two other companies with a small group of young entrepreneurs: a company that made first-aid kits called Sain et sauf, then a candle-making company called Luminescence. In 1994, I was interviewed during the young entrepreneurs tradeshow at Complexe Desjardins. The journalist was jotting down our comments and I told him—at the ripe old age of 18—that business women and female entrepreneurs could do anything!

Today, I own the company I’ve always dreamed of. And that’s why I say “crazy” because there is a part of my professional path that is completely crazy and completely atypical. But I also say “dream” because the dream that I had cherished forever became a reality.

3- What have you learned the most about yourself since starting dada?

One thing instantly pops into my head: when I left Saputo after 10 years in the corporate world, I started a journey with the Maison des Leaders to become a better human. That’s when I realized that I had automatically thought a leader could never be vulnerable.  A leader had to be strong, it was all about performance. I thought showing emotion was weakness. But after finishing this workshop, I allowed myself feel things and I exposed a more vulnerable side to myself.  

In my opinion, it’s one way to build trust because it elicits the same kind of behaviour from the people around you. If company leaders allow themselves to be vulnerable, then the people around them can be too. That said, leaders still have to control what can be shared with their teams. They can’t fall apart either. And then, when I met Andréanne Poitras through La tête chercheuse, I realized how important it was to have a leader buddy. She’s a partner that I can share everything with, that I can lean on. 

I also realized how important it was to celebrate whenever possible—and not just victories. I watched a video by Simon Sinek where he talks about the “reverse bucket list”. When you have a bucket list, you want to cross off everything that’s on the list. But when you look at the list, all you see is the stuff that you haven’t done. I think that what I’ve learned about myself over the past few years at dada is that it’s important to do the opposite: celebrate all the times when you’ve achieved something and not simply focus on what you haven’t accomplished. To celebrate even when you lose.

We lost out on a huge pitch a few years ago that we had worked really hard on. But we went out all the same and bought a bottle of champagne as big as our victory bottle would have been. Because I understand now that it’s healthy to do this, for others, for us and for me, as a leader, to celebrate our accomplishments too, even if we don’t win.

The last thing that I learned is that I am a positive person. Even if I have pebbles in my shoes, I’ll stand tall and I’ll keep on walking, because there will always be pebbles bugging you when you are an entrepreneur. I’ve learned to shake them out, and to surround myself with good people to get where I want to go. With the community that we’ve built I know that we can walk together, and that we always find solutions.

4- La tête chercheuse celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and you have been part of our history. Tell me about your unique story and the impact we had on it.

I spent half my career on the client side at the AMT, then at Saputo, where I learned about big companies, corporate communications and employer branding. I got the position at Saputo thanks to La tête chercheuse because you believed in a young woman with potential even if her profile didn’t correspond exactly to the one the client was seeking. When I left Saputo, as luck would have it, I had a discussion with La tête chercheuse that totally reignited the entrepreneurial spark in me. It made me remember that I had always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur and it gave me the opportunity to meet the people at the agency Les Évadés. I met with them, then I landed the job of director of strategic planning and development. Thanks to my agency experience, I knew what it was like to be on the other side, and I met some truly exceptional human beings along the way: Charles Gagnon, Benoît Lach, Alain Cloutier, Hans Laroche, Claude Riopelle, Mylène Tremblay. It gave me faith in agencies because they are people with good hearts. I learned from them; then after, I realized that I could branch out on my own and I created dada.

Then, when I thought that I needed a right-hand person, I consulted La tête chercheuse. I trusted my intuition, this little je ne sais quoi that the team possessed. They told me, “We’re going to introduce you to someone. She doesn’t have the profile you’re seeking at all because she has her own business, but we know you need to meet her because you two will hit it off.”

Someone once told me, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. The preparation was all the hard work I put in over the past several years. La tête chercheuse handed me an opportunity. Preparation without opportunity doesn’t amount to much. It didn’t give me the amazing partnership that I have Andréanne, nor did it give me dada. You helped me realize my heartfelt dream, and find an amazing partner for my company, an impact culture that I never would have had if you hadn’t crossed my path.

5- What is your daily inspiration and what and nourishes your professional happiness?

The meetings that have led me to this point in my life now. The more people you inspire, the more you are inspired. I have met so many interesting people along the way, meetings that became work dates and changed my way of thinking.

It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning, it’s what brings me joy. I have the impression that in my line of work, in the human that I’ve become, I can inspire people and be inspired by all the connections I make every single day.  

6- What do you hope to achieve and leave as your legacy in the next 25 years?

I think that at dada, like in the communications and marketing industry, we have the mic, the cameras and the words to change so many things in society. We have the power to shift the conversation on so many subjects.

I want our industry to be a source of light for society, because dada is a part of it. I want our brands to be more human. At dada, we developed our methodology to unite experiences: we bring together the client experience and the employee experience.

For a brand to be successful, you have to be able to bring people together people around a project and inspire them. It’s an inside job, it comes from the heart. I want our industry to change what people are saying. I want dada to have a real impact on the consumer and the employee experience. And when we talk about love and relevance, I really want people to think about dada because that kind of association is hugely powerful. If the one thing that I do is succeed in creating connections, then that’s another check in the box for me. So many clients have told us, “We want to work with you because we feel this love of yours.” And that is the best gift ever because, normally, we never, ever associate business with love.

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