Earlier this year, AEC was named one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies of 2022. Canada’s Best Managed Companies recognizes the best-in-class of Canadian-owned companies who exhibit innovative business practices, strategic leadership, and a clear focus on putting their people and culture at the forefront, among other qualities. We sat down with our CEO, Andrew Pilsworth, to find out his secrets for creating a winning company culture and how that culture has lead to AEC’s continued growth and success.
AEC has been named one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies! What does this win mean for you personally and for AEC as a company?
This is incredibly exciting for all of us. Winning this exclusive award was in every way a team effort. As CEO I am incredibly honored to accept this award on behalf of the team, but it truly belongs to all of us. At AEC, we are committed to making an impact and embracing change, while we develop scalable mobility solutions for our clients around the globe. This past year has been another difficult one for our industry, so receiving this award is a testament to just how well our team overcame the obstacles, continued expanding AEC both internally and externally, all while staying true to who we are as a company.
What do you think has contributed most to AEC’s success – is there a recipe for success?
For me, the secret to success has always been simple: it all starts and ends with your personal values. In business, that means being authentic and sticking to your principles, no matter the cost. When I first started AEC 26 years ago, I made sure to build a great and talented team who believes in the same values. It’s our values of kindness, adaptability, growth, leadership, professionalism, and reliability that guide us in our passion to find better ways, and that have been fueling our constant growth and success.
AEC has grown tremendously since its beginnings in 1996: you now have seven offices and facilities worldwide with over 200 employees! How do you see AEC continuing to grow in the future?
It’s really exciting to see how far we’ve come and how much AEC has grown since 1996. I always knew we would become a “global automotive” company, however, it is how we continued to adapt and pivot that is amazing: from import and logistics to fleet to homologation solutions, parts and accessories and a broad range of services. The automotive industry is constantly evolving, and coupled with changing market trends and outside factors, we have been quick to recognize the competitive gaps or opportunities that are a biproduct of a very structured industry.
One area we are of course really interested in is EVs. Obviously as we begin to use more and more electric vehicles, there is room for us not only in that field, but in developing EV-friendly infrastructure as well. And not just for cars – what about trains, trucks, even flight? Two of our AEC values are growth and adaptability, and those clearly stand out here. I really believe we have nothing stopping us from branching out to different regions, industries, and fields of business.
What life lessons have you carried over into your business?
One of the most important lessons I have learned in my life is: be true to yourself. This means not just in your personal life, but at work, too. Quite a few people have challenged me over the years, saying that you can’t run a business based on personal values. But I completely disagree.
I first started AEC with a few hundred dollars. In my opinion, lack of capital is just an excuse not to start a business. You need to identify the opportunity, act on it, and not give up until you have a solution; just as I did when I started the company. Is there some luck involved? Of course, but it is determination that takes an idea, a little luck, and builds it into something great. I wanted a company based on this passion of finding better ways, where better never stops. A company that would not only achieve great things, but that I would be proud of. And that meant adhering to the values that I hold dear in my personal life: kindness, growth, adaptability, professionalism, reliability, and leadership.
Along the way, I could have cut corners, made the quick dollar, refused to change with the times or learn new skills, and made decisions based on impulse rather than thinking them carefully through. But I would have been compromising my values, and in the long run, that would have hurt not only me, but the company and its reputation. Sure, I may have missed out on a few opportunities, but this win is proof that you can get success the right way without compromising on your personal beliefs and values!
Clearly, you’re doing something right with your management style. What type of work environment do you foster at AEC that has made it so successful?
Many people hear the word leadership and seem to think of a single person, but you can’t be a leader if you have no one to lead, and you certainly can’t lead a company on your own and without trust. So, clearly one of the best things about AEC is our team!
Everyone plays an important role, and everyone has to work together. When things get rough and difficult, we still are respectful, hear each other out, and remember that we are all working towards the same goal, united in our passion to find better ways for our customers.
Just like with a car, all the parts have to work together for the thing to get moving – a steering wheel won’t cut it. Focusing on finding the right team, sharing the same vision and goals, translating them into every team’s daily operations, and supporting each other every day – these are key elements of our company culture, and the basis of our success.
What are your goals for AEC in the future (short- and long-term)?
- Staying authentic in everything we do, fueling our passion to find better ways, and constantly living our values
- Growing our team in every way, not just literally in number of people but also in terms of professional and personal development
- Expanding our business and partnerships around the world…
What advice would you give other young entrepreneurs or companies just starting out?
Be authentic, treat your customers as you would your friends, and stay true to your values. Also, if you ever find yourself standing in a room with a hundred businesspeople and you wonder to yourself: I’m different, I’m not sure I belong here? Don’t second guess yourself. This is the confirmation that you see something that everyone in the room doesn’t. Go for it!
Learn more about AEC’s win and what it takes to become one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies in our press release.