Expertise Training Centres

A strong personality often stands behind a successful business, and AFI is one of them. The soft-spoken Founder and CEO Marie-Pier St-Hilaire has been entrepreneurial since she got her first paper route at the age of 10, and in 2011 she was chosen as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40. The List honours outstanding achievements of exceptional Canadians who are leaders in their chosen fields and who shape Canada’s future.

Headquartered in Quebec City with a second office in Montreal, AFI stands out in the training industry due to unique approaches to training processes, and unprecedented quality of training centres and strategic consulting services. What started as a traditional training centre, Marie-Pier St-Hilaire, Founder and CEO of AFI, soon wanted to do more for AFI clients. Today, the high-tech sector holds AFI’s knowledge management, change management solutions, groupware services, and IT and office-automation support in the highest regard. The company provides its clients with capable and experienced trainers and consultants who helped build AFI’s comprehensive service offering and who continue to challenge the boundaries of technology to deliver exceptional training solutions.

St-Hilaire told The Canadian Business Journal, “As a training centre, we provide training for the IT industry software producers such as Microsoft, Oracle, and Citrix, providing classes for the users, and helping companies to become more efficient users of the various software products. We also provide IT consulting, knowledge management consulting, and change management consulting services. The IT industry moves fast, and we continuously train IT departments on new products and IT personnel as well. We are a certified training centre for companies that own the IT software market.”

Besides training the IT sector, AFI also offers training and support in other related fields such as project management, process improvement and optimization, and leadership skills development, supporting clients’ employees in their development, and to achieve greater efficiency in their respective fields. “Using training and consulting, AFI’s true focus is on helping companies to get the best out of technologies, processes, and individuals.”

To the question, “How did the company manage to become such a success story?” St-Hilaire said, “Our strategy is really simple — it’s the people. We hire high quality professionals and we hire from diverse backgrounds in our industry, such as software development, knowledge management, HR, gaming, and so on.

This approach helps us to grow fast, as each of these professionals brings their own unique views as to how we could help our clients in new ways. This is how we continue to challenge and change the training industry. We are also unique because besides training, we also offer consulting, which makes our approach really integrated.”

AFI trains the software clients across all verticals of the business operation — IT staff receives training on how to install and maintain the software, users learn how to use it efficiently, and management learns about the upside of the newly installed system, bridging the communication gaps between the technical and the practical. The training sessions can range anywhere between half a day to full, five-day training sessions.

AFI offers the best in the training industry, from sessions and webinars, to social media and virtual classes. “We apply all the new technologies that can help us to provide better experience for the trainees. We also opened virtual web classes to make sure that our clients are able to participate on their own schedule, not necessarily following our training schedules, and we also use mobile platforms to provide more efficient and more integrated training solutions.

While the industry is sticking to the traditional training models, we have won the market by using new platforms and approaches to help our clients’ training needs.”

Following the success of AFI’s training centre, the company opened its own consulting service, assuring that companies use their assets to the limit, providing business advice on key business aspects of knowledge management, change management, collaboration and social businesses, and supporting implementation the right processes, platforms, and solutions that address specific issues.

Offering services to the broadest possible audience and to better serve its clientele, AFI continues to hire bilingual staff, serving both French and English clientele. “While we provide training services in both English and French, currently about 60 per cent of our staff are bilingual, and we’re working to transform our business and become fully bilingual so we can better serve our clients’ needs. Being bilingual is a huge advantage as our local competitors are either French-only or English-only.”

While Quebec and expansion in Canada markets are still the focus for the company, AFI does not rule out expanding in the United States as well as in Europe.

“Our plan is to transform our industry, and we are investing lots of money and time into opening new markets. We currently hold the competitive advantage in the training market, so we are looking into expanding further into Canada.

“We are currently growing at about a 38 per cent annual rate, and we want to continue this trend. Our plan is to continue to grow, but we do not want to become a company of 1,000 employees. We currently have over 100 employees and we want to continue our specialization and become the best in our niche, not to become a one-stop shop. We will continue to focus on our niche, which is training, consulting, high-level consulting, IT, and HR.”