Can an EMBA Help an Entrepreneur? |

Can an EMBA Help an Entrepreneur?

By Dawn Bournand

Updated June 2, 2015 Updated June 2, 2015

From the time it was first conceived in 1943 by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Executive MBA has traditionally been a degree offered by large corporations to their top executives. Times have changed though and, especially over the last decade, the background of the typical EMBA participant is no longer reserved for corporate climbers. Doctors, lawyers, NGO professionals, creatives and entrepreneurs often make up today’s EMBA cohorts alongside more traditional demographics. The causes for this are varied, but it noteworthy that these diverse professionals are increasingly taking their future into their own hands.

This was certainly the case for Pascal Lépine, McGill-HEC Montréal EMBA class of 2012 alumnus. Lépine has something of track record for taking his future into his own hands; in his early twenties, he founded Atypic ( which has since evolved into Quebec’s first consulting firm in strategy, communication, management and fundraising for organizations in the plural sector. In 2007, Lépine also founded the International Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (IGLCC), where he held the positions of president and general secretary until 2011. In this role, he developed international initiatives aimed to promote diversity in the business world, organized large-scale international events and advised boards of large companies such as IBM, ING, Accor, KPMG and British Telecom. Lépine also sits on the board of several businesses, social and cultural organizations, including the La Fondation Centre de santé et de services sociaux Jeanne-Manc.

An EMBA for an entrepreneur

With such a solid background as an entrepreneur and a prospering business, why did Lépine embark on an EMBA? “When I first learnt about the McGill-HEC Montréal program I had already been a self-taught manager for over 10 years,” says Lépine. “What appealed to me about the program was its innovative approach to management: the emphasis on collective learning (inspired by Professor Henry Mintzberg) versus the more traditional approach.”

Lépine decided he was ready to head back to the classroom to solidify his own learning. “I do believe that we can learn as much with our peers as we can from a professor. I was eager to hear what other senior executives were doing and what tools and strategies different corporations were applying. This form of knowledge sharing was a decisive factor for me.” Equally important for Lépine, as an entrepreneur, was the fact that he could apply the valuable knowledge he gained in the classroom directly to his own business. “I was enticed by the fact that the program is delivered in a practical fashion; I was going to be able to use my own company as my case study and apply the new knowledge as I gained it. Therefore I would be able to measure the effectiveness of what I learnt on the go.”

Enhanced consulting

It is not just the positive aspects the program has brought him personally that has most impressed Lépine though, he has also appreciated the benefits for those around him as well. “Firstly, it really brought a new breadth to my team. I involved many of my employees in activities related to the program. We exchanged ideas and reflected together on new things I was learning. We all learned a lot from each other and some of them decided to pursue continuing education themselves.

“As I am in the consulting business, my clients benefit largely from the knowledge I acquired throughout the program. Many organizations today are facing complex challenges and the solutions are not easy to find. The more holistic understanding that I now have about organizations helps me to provide even more comprehensive consulting solutions to my clients.”

Lépine’s consulting firm, Atypic aims to optimize the impact of not-for-profit and charitable organizations through the implementation of an approach based on creativity, social innovation and collaboration. Atypic has already provided consulting services to a large number of noteworthy organizations such as LEUCAN, the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, TechnoCompétences, The Fondation Montréal Inc., Ruelle de l'Avenir and the Institut québécois de planification financière (IQPF).  Through the knowledge he acquired during his Executive MBA studies, Lépine has also been able to expand the reach of Atypic, and the company now owns the online job board, which matches candidates committed to making a difference in their society to equally committed companies.

The best time for an EMBA

With so much coming from his McGill-HEC Montréal EMBA experience, does Lépine believe there is a perfect time for an entrepreneur to pursue the degree? “There isn’t a right or a wrong time to do an Executive MBA,” Lépine reflects. “To tell you the truth, I had never imagined myself doing an Executive MBA. I literally woke up one day thinking I was ready to challenge what I had learnt about management since the foundation of my company. After some research, an Executive MBA seemed the only valid option. Two weeks later I was accepted into the McGill-HEC Montréal program!

“I think that each person knows when the time feels right. But don’t wait for the perfect timing. There is always something going on at work or at home. There is always a good reason to postpone pursuing an EMBA. If one waits for the perfect timing, one will probably end up never doing it.

“In my opinion, there is only one precondition: be ready to question yourself and the way you manage. If you think you already know-it-all, an Executive MBA will be a waste of your time, and of the other participants’! When we go through such a program, it deeply changes the way we perceive ourselves, our colleagues, our companies, and even the idea of management itself. One needs to be ready to see his paradigms challenged and shaken. Most of the time, it is really uncomfortable. But it is totally worth it at the end.”


This article was originally published in November 2014 . It was last updated in June 2015

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Written by

Dawn Z Bournand is associate director of the Executive MBA department at QS and handles editorial content for the department which includes serving as editor-in-chief of the QS TopExecutive Guide. Along with two of her QS colleagues, she recently wrote the book, QS TopExecutive Passport - Your essential document for entry into the world of Executive MBAs.  One of her favorite parts of the job is serving as an MBA/EMBA expert on webinars and panels, at conferences and in the media.


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