Following the example of his father who was a soldier, Steve Hétu joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in 1986 as a reservist and a year later was transferred to the Regular Forces. During his service with the CAF, he held the position of commander of operations’ services for the support group of the 2nd Canadian Division (Province of Quebec). “This was the last position I occupied in the Regular Forces,” said Hétu. “I had the responsibility of managing the garrisons of Montreal, Saint-Jean, Saint-Hubert, Farnham and Valcatier. In this role, he was responsible for different teams who oversaw security, good governance and the coordination of community life in each of these locations.
Hétu explained that the amalgamation of his past military experiences and his role in the management of governmental sites prepared him “to join and lead the excellent team that is the Corporation du Fort St-Jean.”
Steve Hétu was selected as Vanguard’s Game Changer for the October/November 2018 issue. Here is the full interview with him.
What is your role in your organization today?
As General Manager of the Corporation du Fort St-Jean, my role is to direct the company toward the accomplishment of its mission to preserve, restore and operate the site of the Royal Military College of Saint-Jean according to the needs of the Minister of National Defence. As a non-profit organization, we offer, via one singular contract, the entirety of institutional support required by the military whom we serve.
What was your most challenging moment?
The transition from a military career to the leadership of a civilian organization was for me a period of learning, full of challenges, adaptations and opportunities. It is thanks to the President of the Council, Mr. Alain Beauchamp, and the support of the Board of Directors that I overcame the challenge.
What was your “aha!” moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our readers? Tell us that story.
My epiphany came when I had the good fortune of meeting some of the representatives of 20 countries who participated in the International Symposium on the Development of Military Academies held here at the Royal Military College of Saint-Jean, during which several congratulated me on the beauty and condition of the site. As I explained our business model, all were unanimous in their desire to export our model to the international level so that their countries could benefit as well. The same should be done throughout Canada.
What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?
In 2000, the Corporation du Fort St-Jean signed a contract with the Royal Military College for a term of 25 years. Thus, the prime motivation that guides me daily for every decision and all of my actions is centered on the renewal of our contract in 2025. I sincerely believe that our unique business model represents an important opportunity for National Defence. Without increasing the assets of the Canadian Forces, I think that using an alternative service provider such as the Corporation du Fort St-Jean will allow the CAF to utilize their forces to their maximum benefit for deployments in Canada and abroad. The sedentary services of a garrison could be outsourced to a non-profit such as ours whose sole goal is to offer a service. Via our unique Canadian business model, our goal as a non-profit organization is therefore to have an exceptional service offering. In addition to providing institutional support to the Canadian Forces such as security, lodging, maintenance, repairs, renovations, construction, and food and beverage services, we also return more than half a million dollars to the federal government each year as a result of marketing several parts of the site that are not utilized by the College.
What is the best advice you received?
In 1987, just as I completed my training as an infantry officer, the platoon’s second-in-command welcomed me by saying, “Mon lieutenant, have confidence in all that you have learned, supervise as you have been taught and put into action those lessons, and most of all, never forget that I will always be by your side.” Twenty-nine years later, I still recall this advice and used it as I took command of the Corporation du Fort St-Jean.
What is a habit that contributes to your success?
The respect that I show my employees and the passion that drives me every day – I do not have a job, but a pleasure.
What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?
I believe that those who are results-oriented possess a greater disposition toward innovation than those who are bound by procedures. We must learn to say yes and to accept change, to be curious and engaged, and to take calculated risks while having confidence in our team.
How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?
The Corporation du Fort St-Jean is unique in our industry: not only are we the only non-profit organization that supports national defence needs, but our sole goal is to support our troops. We believe in preserving, restoring and operating the site of the Royal Military College Saint-Jean, while enhancing the collaboration between the public and private sectors, such that the profits derived from privately held events are reinvested annually into the site and thus further contribute to the effectiveness of operating a federal military site.
What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?
The biggest impediment to innovation is that the role of Corporation du Fort St-Jean is difficult to understand given our unique nature and the lack of comparable institutions. The very fact of being the sole organization of this type means that decision-makers must make extra efforts to understand our business model, a model that provides multiple services under one organizational umbrella. Supporting the national defence agenda requires constant in-house innovation as well, such as evolving to maintain current environmental and human resource standards and having a detailed purchasing policy in line with the Department of National Defence (DND) rules and regulations.
How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?
Our motto guides our every action. “Servir notre Force” is a play on words in French meaning both to serve our troops and that service is our strength. These three words guide us toward an organizational culture tailored to the military on the one hand and to providing outstanding service to the public on the other, all the while striving for constant self-improvement. Every employee adheres to the motto to ensure that our efforts are always aligning us to innovate and to work together for the benefit our clients, the military students and personnel on the site, and to take care of the site itself. It serves as a communal reminder of the importance of customer service and the care entrusted to us by the DND.
What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next six years?
We are already developing new technologies and fine-tuning our business model to be ready to lead the industry in the coming six years when our contract is set to be renewed with the DND, and to assist with the elaboration of a plan to export our business model to future CAF bases and units. We believe that to each their own strengths: we serve our troops so that they can serve the Canadian people. A model funded by the government, operated by a non-profit and whose profits are reinvested back in the government – that is a winning proposition.
What is your parting piece of advice?
Adhere to intellectual and operational curiosity. I believe that it is important to destroy roadblocks in the face of the unknown or to disrupt comfortable habits in order to consider alternative ways of service delivery.