CEO Dialogue, Linda Hasenfratz – November 2020

On November 25, Linda Hasenfratz joined OG100, with members of her team Chris Merchant (VP, Global Finance) and Elliot Burger (Senior Legal Counsel) for an insightful discussion on Linamar’s formula for success and how the business continues to grow during the challenges of 2020.

Based in Guelph, Ontario, Linamar Corporation is Canada’s second largest automobile parts manufacturer. Linamar manufactures and supplies automotive and industrial markets across the globe with numerous manufacturing centres across North America, Europe, and Asia. Linamar has more than 26,000 employees in 61 manufacturing locations, 8 R&D centers and 25 sales offices in 17 countries. As Chief Executive Officer of Linamar Corporation, Linda Hasenfratz has grown the company from an $800 million enterprise to a $7.6 billion diversified global advanced manufacturing company.


Culture is the key ingredient to Linamar’s business success. It’s imperative to carefully manage the diverse needs of your customers, employees and shareholders. Like a three-legged stool, each leg – customers, employees and shareholders – supports the business equally. To value one “leg” more than another creates imbalance, and the business will not function properly. Also, at the heart of the company lies a strong entrepreneurial spirit that is opportunistic, fast moving and results focused. The importance of new ideas, innovation and the drive to change and improve every day runs across the business, across the globe, and is clearly articulated, understood, demonstrated and rewarded.


In March 2020, the team moved quickly to research how and where the business could find new opportunity and help the community. A responsive, fast acting culture and deep technical bench secured and rapidly launched new contracts to manufacture components for medical devices needed to deal with the pandemic with five different companies. Plants were ready to produce in 10 days on some contracts and were shipping within weeks. At the same time, the team had to manage the effects of the pandemic creating uncertainty across the globe. Linamar managed the crisis by relying on its flexible and innovative culture, workforce and equipment base, while thinking long term and big picture.  Business flexibility should directly correlate to levels of uncertainty in every aspect, from strategy to people to cash or equipment.  By assembling a team with the right resources and experience, they were able to gather the right data, make smart, fast decisions, develop and implement an action plan focused on the health of employees, finances, customers and communities and maintain a solid communications program to inform and reassure all their employees regularly.  When communicating in a crisis it is key to strike the right tone between urgency to act and implement the plan without instilling panic and to provide plenty of data to answer all possible questions.


Think big to address strategy and identify new opportunities, and act small to stay agile and results focused. Linamar’s three businesses – Linamar, SkyJack and MacDon – serve different industries that respond to diverse global trends, but deep interconnections exist between the businesses to drive value and optimization they couldn’t capture independently (e.g. purchasing leverage, sharing talent). To do this, treat your teams like entrepreneurs to give them the space they need to run – and improve – the business and be accountable for its success. Must-have procedures are explained in Linamar’s concise, one-page Global Operating System, but after that, all decisions are up to the plants to run their business in a way to make Linamar the Supplier of Choice, the Employer of Choice and the Investment of Choice for key stakeholders.