Portrait of an executive
He started his first business when he was only 16 years old. Business development, client relations, management, accounting: he learned everything on his own, making sure he did things right. And he clearly succeeded. He is the portrait of an innovative man, capable of thinking outside the box.
As an only child, Célestin Ferland had a happy childhood in a family on the south shore of Quebec City that could be described as completely normal: his mother was a teacher and his father a truck driver. Célestin was exposed to entrepreneurship at a young age because his grandfather owned a school transport company and a snowmobile business, while his father was a truck driver and owner of a small snow removal business. He has followed in their footsteps. While in high school, he started selling computer equipment, determined to make a go of it. “I didn’t make a dime,” he admits candidly, “but I sure learned a lot!”
Once in CEGEP, he founded another company, this time offering programming services. Then he and his partner, Jean-Sébastien Parent, set up what is now Classe Affaires.
Célestin Ferland and Jean-Sébastien Parent when the company started in 2005.
Competitive advantage through innovation
The people who work with Célestin Ferland recognize in him an ability to innovate and think outside the box. These two qualities have certainly contributed to him becoming the man he is today and he continues to live by them. He enjoys meeting clients, visiting their facilities, discussing their business goals and helping them define what they want their IT environment to look like. Being immersed in the reality of a company and understanding its business helps him imagine innovative solutions that meet the needs and contribute to the growth of the organization.
He works proactively to come up with solutions in response to his clients’ potential difficulties. The idea is not to create a need, but rather to provide insight,” he explains. “Sometimes the client doesn’t know that they don’t know: you have to make them aware, for example, that their processes could be improved for greater efficiency, and then make proposals.” And he patiently manages to make his clients aware of emerging issues and to help them understand what he is trying to accomplish for the good of their company.
Classe Affaires: serving entrepreneurs
After 18 years in business, Classe Affaires is well positioned in its market, and Célestin is delighted. The organization stands out for its service offering and the importance it places on client relations. Rather than targeting government contracts that rely on a tendering process, Classe Affaires offers its business and technology expertise to companies. “I have a lot of admiration for entrepreneurs,” he says. “And it’s fun to contribute to their success, to see their business grow.”
According to Célestin, the market has not reached maturity yet. Everyone has their niche and there’s room for everyone. In some ways, IT has become simpler over the years,” he acknowledges. “But it has become much more complex in other ways. There’s no shortage of work.” Célestin and his team advise clients in their business decisions, optimize their processes and develop collaborative strategies. They then develop effective solutions using IT.
A promising future
“And 20 years from now? Classe Affaires will maintain its business positioning by always placing information technology at the service of business, and not the other way around,” Célestin concludes confidently.
For his part, he would like to sit on boards of directors to expand his knowledge, give his opinion, and share his expertise. On a personal level, he will certainly continue to make beer, which keeps him busy in his spare time. “I’m very involved in the beer business,” he says. “From Pale Ale to Stout, there’s a whole world to explore.” Just like in IT.