Following one's instincts in a "conservative" sector | Optima Aero

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Following one’s instincts in a “conservative” sector

Stéphane Champagne, La Presse

Toby Gauld, PDG d’Optima Aéro, ne s’en cache pas : il aimerait que son entreprise devienne un « Google de l’aéronautique ». Pour y parvenir, il mise sur un nouveau modèle d’affaires et vient de cofonder une entreprise de produits écoresponsables. Il termine également la construction, à Belœil, d’un nouveau siège social de 8 millions de dollars avec des serres sur le toit.


The 45-year-old entrepreneur wants to change an industry he considers “very conservative. With his ideal of “creating attractive spaces and living conditions for employees” alone, Toby Gauld stands out from the crowd.


On the roof of the new headquarters of the SME, which specializes in helicopter reconditioning, Mr. Gauld had two greenhouses installed. The first will be used for market gardening. Harvests will be given to employees and will provide a restaurant in Belœil. The second greenhouse, a tropical one, will serve as a rest room for employees and for growing exotic fruit trees.


I want to prove that it is possible to do things differently,” explains the businessman. Our greenhouses will serve as an international business card. I want to create a vibe around our company. »


The ecoresponsible turn

At its beginnings 10 years ago, Optima Aero serviced and reconditioned old helicopter engines. Today, the SME with 11 employees buys entire helicopters and, with the help of subcontractors, refurbishes them. The company, which has revenues of $15 million, does business around the world.


Handling worn parts requires the use of large quantities of degreasers and deoxidizers. Here again, Toby Gauld, who has worked for General Motors, Pratt & Whitney and Peugeot-Citroën, among others, chose to do things differently.


He joined forces with the couple Émile Arseneault and Nicole Michaud, who invented eco-friendly degreasers and deoxidizers. The new trio of associates recently founded Limz, whose products must soon be approved by Transport Canada.


“Our products replace sulphuric and hydrochloric acid, among others. We can put our hand in it safely.”

-Toby Gauld, CEO of Optima Aero


It can be used in many applications with ferrous and non-ferrous materials,” he adds. The use of these products goes beyond the aerospace sector. The possibilities are endless. »


Creating a balance of opportunities

Optima Aero also innovates in its business model. For example, the customer who lacks liquidity has the possibility to become a partner of the SME.


We want to create a balance of opportunities,” says the entrepreneur, who holds a master’s degree in industrial engineering. If a customer needs maintenance but doesn’t have the money, we’ll do the work and get paid according to hours flown. »


Of course, Mr. Gauld hasn’t lost sight of the company’s primary mission, which is to extend the economic life cycle of helicopters. We’ve been buying bigger assemblies since this year,” he says. It gives us economies of scale. Overall, it’s more cost-effective. While continuing to work with subcontractors, we want to increase our in-house operations. »

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