Aldo Bensadoun Gives MMR Master Class, Imparting Lessons of Love, Integrity, and Respect

Aldo BensadounLast month, the Master of Management in Retailing (MMR) students, along with other students and business/retail professionals, had the absolute pleasure of attending a Master Class led by Aldo Bensadoun himself - ‘Crafted with Love’. Bensadoun, affectionately known as Mr. B, walked us through his life journey, shared insights into the ever-shifting retail industry, and bestowed some excellent advice to the future leaders of the industry. Bensadoun believes in giving back to the community in ways that inspire future leaders who share the values that guide ALDO - Love, Respect, and Integrity.

The Master Class began with Bensadoun setting the scene that led to his entrepreneurial desire to change the world. After completing his studies at McGill University, he began working as an analyst at a chemical company. Although he learned a lot during his time there, he also faced one of his biggest disappointments: despite all his hard work and achievements, he didn’t get what he had been promised in return. Simply put, the values of this company did not align with his own; and thus, his vision to create his own company, led by the purpose of creating a journey of love and belonging, was born. Bensadoun wanted to make the world a better place, and to do it surrounded by people who understand this goal, guided by the principles of love, respect, and integrity. These guiding principles later became the values of ALDO:

  1. Love
    Demonstrating compassion for ourselves and others, while being passionate about what we do.
  2. Respect
    Adopting a sincere attitude that embraces diversity and encourages equality.
  3. Integrity
    Being honest and having principles.

ALDO’s philosophy from 1972 is the same one that guides the business today: “To reach our full potential and help others by sharing what we want to do.” 50 years later, the company still stands by this and hopes to make the world a better place.

In the 1980’s, ALDO was growing at a tremendous rate and as the company gained popularity, it began to expand further in Canada, enter the US market, and make its international debut, opening its first store in Israel. Given the time period, this international expansion proved to be a challenge, as many of the technological tools we have today did not exist. However, the company prevailed, and their efforts paid off, as the store proved to be a successful investment and a catalyst for future international endeavours.

Not only did ALDO use this international expansion to grow; they also engaged in the development of various banners such as Spring and Global in order to target different customers. Each banner store offers customers a different in-store experience, ambience, and price range.

With regards to corporate social responsibility, ALDO goes above and beyond. From both a manufacturing and product perspective, ALDO tries to be as environmentally responsible as possible. ALDO partners with manufacturers who share their same values, and uses recycled, eco-friendly materials wherever possible. In the last four or five years, there have been incredible strides made in the synthetic leather that ALDO uses for its products. All of this has led ALDO to become one of the first companies in the world to be certified carbon neutral. According to Bensadoun:

"With ALDO, we try to continuously evolve. We have to look at what customers want, and we have to evolve with them. Every day there is an evolution."

From a philanthropic perspective, ALDO has created and funded several initiatives ranging from their campaign to raise awareness and funds to fight AIDS, to giving back to communities by collecting garbage and planting trees. ALDO sets an example for others to follow, guided by the idea of sharing, giving back, and of course their values of love, respect, and integrity.

Throughout his years working in the industry, Bensadoun realized that success in the industry requires a diverse skill set spanning different disciplines such as data, computer science, neurology, and sociology - all to understand how the customer behaves from different lenses. The Bensadoun School of Retail Management integrates such different disciplines to better understand the retail space.

Mid-way through the Master Class, Andrew Vieira, Vice President of ALDO Shoes Design and Products Development, joined Bensadoun on stage to share some insights from his time at ALDO and the product development process. Vieira, who has been with ALDO for over 20 years, claims that coming up with designs for the shoes is the easiest part—the hard part is picking the right ones to go to market. Extensive research on customer and fashion trends is conducted and then analyzed to gain insights. On average, approximately 1000-2000 shoe designs are created depending on the trends researched. Funnily enough, the Sabot, the very first style Bensadoun sold in 1972, is beginning to regain popularity.

To wrap up his master class, Bensadoun shared some advice that he has learned throughout his many years of leading ALDO through the ups and downs. From making hard business decisions about which suppliers to partner with, to navigating and reorganizing the company during the pandemic, Bensadoun believes you need to go back to your roots - to your values. All the tough calls and decisions made were made with the original ALDO values of love, respect, and integrity in mind. One last piece of advice that we feel really sums up Bensadoun, and his story is:

“Always dream of what you can do and achieve, don't let it get you down, and keep dreaming. The best way to make profits is not to look at the profit - it's to do what you love, do it well, and the profits will come.”

– Aldo Bensadoun

We are so honoured and privileged to have had the opportunity to hear Aldo Bensadoun speak, to tell us his story and share some insights and advice. It was truly a remarkable experience.

Article written by: Camille Rémond and Madison Laxer

Master of Management in Retailing (MMR)

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Bensadoun School of Retail Management (BSRM)

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The MMR program has been made possible thanks to generous donations from Aldo Bensadoun, and is offered in partnership with the Bensadoun School of Retail Management.

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