As Slalom Montréal opens its doors, we sat down with general manager Lionel Pimpin to talk about the qualities that make a good leader, his love of endurance sports, and why a bilingual office is an exciting opportunity for Slalom.
You started your career as a consultant and then moved to banking. What brought you back to consulting—and to Slalom?
I’ve always liked the speed, the culture, and the velocity of consulting companies. I went to Seattle to meet the Slalom team and I found amazing people with an amazing culture, a lot of drive, and a fantastic attitude. The opportunity to join the team and open an office in Montréal where I could recruit and grow my own team was just too exciting not to jump on.
What are your favorite Slalom values?
First, do what is right, always. This is important! Never mind the timing, the pressure, or the budget, if you always do what is right for your client, your employees, and your community then you will always receive more than you give.
Second, inspire passion and adventure. This is the signature of my leadership style. I believe that you can achieve the impossible with passion and that adventure is just the icing on the cake.
What other qualities make a good leader?
Leadership is all about innovation, clarity, confidence, trust—and friendship. I put a lot emphasis on creating a team of friends, and transparency is key. I’ve also been privileged enough to work in three continents with many diverse people and I’ve learned that listening skills are important if you want to benefit from the experience and knowledge of others.
What I find the most pleasure in is taking a consultant or manager, or a senior manager, moving them up the ladder with new responsibility and helping them achieve their full potential. Engaging the whole team in a clear vision is also very exciting. A leader is someone who not only mobilizes people but also articulates very clearly where to go.
Slalom can be the best team in this city and become one of the leading consulting and technology partners across the entire region of Québec. We can grow with our clients.
As you think about the next five or ten years in Montréal, what are your goals?
Québec has been growing at a great pace in Canada for the past five to eight years. I want to build up a team to support the leading companies that we have here. To name just a few, there are industry experts in aeronautics, retail, banking, technology, and AI.
I was a client for six years. During my time at the National Bank of Canada I worked on over 50 projects with different consulting companies. I believe that now is the right time to reinvent local consulting. Slalom can be the best team in this city and become one of the leading consulting and technology partners across the entire region of Québec. We can grow with our clients. That excites me.
Montréal will be Slalom’s first French-speaking office. What kind of opportunities do you think that might create for Slalom?
Montréal is unique in the world. It’s really a city with two cultures—North American and European—and with two languages—French and English. You need to be bilingual to succeed here. As we expand in Europe and throughout the world, that deep understanding of different cultures and mixed cultures is unique. The second thing, which is important for Slalom’s growth in Montréal, is the connection to companies and talent in France. I do strongly believe that opening an office in Montréal is a gateway to France.
Tell us about your life outside of work. What are your hobbies?
What’s great about Montréal is that it’s like a natural theme park to play in. I do sports maybe five times a week and I cycle a lot. I’m a big fan of endurance sports. I take part in the longest cross‑country ski marathon in North America every year, the Canadian Ski Marathon. It’s 160 kilometers [100 miles] over two days, and the fun part is that we sleep outside and carry all our stuff.
I completed my first Ironman two years ago. Last year, I qualified for the ITU Multisport World Championship in my class age and I’m proud to be representing Canada in 2020.
Endurance sports are an amazing way to manage your energy level, to stretch yourself further than you could ever imagine, and to better understand yourself and the people around you.
What else do you like to do?
It’s very simple. I obviously love sports. And I’m very curious, so I love reading newspapers. Every day, I read The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The Globe, Le Monde et La Presse. And the rest is family time.
I love cooking, so I cook for the entire family. I love cooking for people I love. Montréal has a very good—this is important to me—culinary history. We have a lot of great food, and you can find some very, very good products. Grocery shopping in markets like Jean Talon or Atwater is something that I really like to do and it’s a great way to connect with the community.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Adding a dog, an English springer spaniel puppy, to the family when my youngest son was only four! Bringing a dog into the house at that time wasn’t the best idea in the world and for a year our life was like a cartoon.
Joking aside, close to brave was moving my entire family to another part of the world, to Canada [from France]. In retrospect it’s a decision that’s paid us back a million times, so it doesn’t feel as brave now. It’s amazing to settle in a new country. Eighteen months in I knew I would stay much longer than the three years we’d originally planned because I liked the culture here, the people, and the pace. My youngest son was born here, and six months ago I had the privilege of being granted Canadian citizenship.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement, by far, is that I met my wife. She was a consultant at Andersen Consulting [now Accenture] in London too. We managed to become adults together and found a family and be really happy living in three different countries together.
And I think the second thing is being able to combine hard work, family life, and sports. Being well-balanced is something I’m proud of.