Linda Hasenfratz, 54
CEO, Linamar Corp.
Location: Guelph, Ontario
Education: B.S., chemistry, and Executive MBA, University of Western Ontario
What drew you to the auto industry? I decided I didn’t want to turn my back on something my father had created from nothing and wanted to be a part of this business he had built. I’ve never looked back.
First automotive job: My first job at Linamar [in 1990] was machine operator. I ran a machine on the shop floor for a couple of months, those months being July and August, notably. So it was a good experience that taught me a lot about how tough it is to do that job, and I developed a strong respect for people who are doing that all year round.
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Big break: I had a great opportunity to see our business from a lot of different perspectives by virtue of this training program that my father and I decided that I would embark on. So I started out on the shop floor, but from there I went into engineering and then quality control, production control, accounting, estimating.
What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? A pandemic definitely was not in any of my MBA books about things to handle. It has been obviously very challenging, not just in terms of the financial performance of the business. Of course, I already experienced a very tough financial and economic situation in 2008-2009 when we had the financial crisis. But this situation was that plus much more.
You’ve been in the industry 30 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? The one that we’re living through right now in terms of technology evolution in the industry as we move towards electrification and all the different forms that might take. I think there’s actually never been a more exciting time in the auto industry than right now because there is so much change happening.
What do you struggle with? I think at Linamar, culturally, we are inclined to act quickly, which is great. Where that becomes a bit of an Achilles’ heel is in more strategic decision-making and M&A kind of activity, where you don’t want to move quickly. I’ve definitely learned some lessons there, jumping too quickly into maybe a joint venture or an expansion that should have been thought through more. I try and look at decision-making in the context of the consequence of that decision. So if the consequence of the decision is this week, then take seconds to make the decision. But if the consequence could be months or years, then you should think for a lot longer about that decision and get more facts.
Describe your leadership style. Different disciplines and diversity in your team bring you a point of view that may be different than your own. I think it’s really important that we listen to those differing opinions when we’re making decisions in order to make better, more balanced decisions. So I would say it is definitely an inclusive, team-focused leadership style.
How do you bring your best self to work? I think that you bring your best self to work by being good to yourself. I start every day with a great workout. I think it’s a great way to invigorate your day and clear your head and give you the energy and passion that you need to get in there and get your day started.
Tell us about your family. We have four children. They range in age from 20 to 24. So, obviously it was a fairly productive few years there. I like to say high production is in my blood, so I basically had another child every year and a half or so. So there were some pretty crazy years in there. They’re all fantastic young adults, and I’m really proud of each and every one of them.
What’s your favorite weekend activity? I love to cook, so we would often have friends over for dinner and spend a great evening together with great food.
— John Irwin