In nearly 19 years of existence, Aki Sushi has weathered more than one storm. The latest, the pandemic, has tested the business model of the company, which comes out of it almost unscathed. Several factors explain its ability to rebound, according to the founding president.

“Our alliance with Metro, where we are opening restaurant counters, allows us to open several points of sale with almost immediate profitability. I also take care of importing products that are not found in Quebec, such as seaweed sheets. Directly managing my supply without depending on third parties has meant that I have never run out of stock,” says Claude Guay.

It has also been responsible for the distribution of its products for three years, in order to have greater autonomy as well as control over quality and delivery times. “All import products come in containers to Vancouver. It’s transported to our warehouses in Montreal. From there, all inventories are maintained. We can see everything we have in real time. »

Like Claude Guay, the 88 finalists of the Les Mercuriades competition knew how to make the right decisions in uncertain times. “Both SMEs and large companies in the 2023 crop are at the forefront. Coming out of the pandemic, they are also very resilient. These entrepreneurs have managed to use the pandemic as a springboard to success,” said Amadou Dieng, Senior Director, Corporate Events and Les Mercuriades Contests, at the Federation of Quebec Chambers of Commerce.

The latter notes that behind these companies are men and women visionary enough to propel their business beyond expectations. “A lot of companies today shine outside of Quebec. »

This is particularly the case for Women in Governance, whose mission is to support women in their career advancement and their ambitions to sit on boards of directors.

Several flagships from here and elsewhere, such as Pfizer, Fedex, Couche-Tard and Desjardins, have been certified since 2017.

For Amadou Dieng, the ecosystem between industries, training and labor makes Quebec competitive on a global scale. “Innovation is also at the heart of the development of our manufacturers,” he adds.

Laurent Simon insists on the essential nature of innovation, all sectors combined. “One of the big challenges is to create a culture of innovation, to engage as many people as possible around it, to really invest in it because it’s essential for development and survival,” says the full professor and director of the department of entrepreneurship and innovation at HEC Montréal, adding that this issue is greater for SMEs than for large companies.

Aki Sushi has invested heavily in automation. Server robots have started to appear in restaurants to support employees. The company, which has 130 branches, has also installed machines for spreading rice on seaweed sheets and others for cutting sushi.

Women in Governance is also reviewing its practices. The small team of 15 employees ensures that they are aware of the changing realities and needs of the market on diversity and inclusion issues. She does a lot of research and studies on the expectations of employees and employers. Twice a year, it organizes forums to discuss best practices.

“We’re betting on technology too. The Parity Certification platform will get its third major update. Companies will be able to analyze their results and see our recommendations. I think it’s essential that the tool be state of the art,” says Caroline Codsi.

The 2017 winner of the Germaine-Gibara Mercury for Leadership also notes that in addition to being authentic and transparent, today’s leaders must be ready to question themselves.

The Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec will announce the winners of the Les Mercuriades competition during the gala evening to be held at the Palais des congrès de Montréal on May 23. Aki Sushi and Women in Governance are both finalists in the Successful Business Strategy category.