It was his own experience as an immigrant to Canada and a desire to help other students succeed that convinced Shouyi Ma to take the top job at Hanson Canada, a public-private education provider catering largely to international students.
“Canada has one of the best education systems in the English-speaking world; it embraces diversity and welcomes immigrants,” says Ma, the President and Chief Executive Officer at Hanson Canada since 2014.
Ma and his wife moved to Toronto from China in 2003, seeking a new country in which to expand their education and build their careers. Ma obtained his MBA from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and then earned his chartered professional accountant (CPA) designation.
Ma says his education, combined with his management experience at large Canadian retailers such as Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall in Canada, prepared him to run Hanson Canada. The company needed a refresh and to be put on a new growth path, Ma says.
Hanson Canada provides secondary, post-secondary and English-language language programs across three campuses in the Greater Toronto Area. It has been accredited as a high school by the Ontario Ministry of Education since 2001, with the authority to grant credits toward Ontario Secondary School diplomas.
In 2005, it struck a licensing agreement with Cambrian College of Applied Arts and Technology in Sudbury, Ont., to form Cambrian at Hanson, which delivers a selection of Cambrianʼs programs exclusively to international students at Hansonʼs campuses. The company also has a campus that provides training programs in New Westminster, B.C.
Cambrian at Hanson graduates can take advantage of Canada’s Post-Graduate Work Permit program, allowing students who have graduated from eligible designated learning institutions to obtain an open work permit to gain valuable Canadian work experience. This is an important part of any international’s graduates’ journey, and one that Hanson is proud to be a part of.
“Hanson is poised for major growth in this sector of public-private education delivery,” Ma says, adding that his organization aims to be at the forefront of the public-private education model through its various programs and initiatives.
Over the past five years, Ma says Hanson Canada’s revenues have increased 500 per cent, while its student population has grown 400 per cent to more than 2,300 and its staff has tripled to more than 160 educators and administrators.
Ma says Hanson Canada is capitalizing on Canada’s status as a top destination for international students who comes from a wide range of countries such as China, India, South Korea, Brazil, Vietnam and Eastern Europe. The company is also starting to see enrolment from Latin America and Japan in its language and post-secondary programs.
Hanson aims to create an educational culture where people want to both study and teach. “We keep working hard and stay focused, and the numbers speak for themselves,” Ma says, adding Hanson Canada’s goal is to “to become the top international education provider in Canada and hopefully globally.”
His advice to other leaders and entrepreneurs seeking to expand their organizations is to find good people to help run it.
“Finding good leaders and good talent is difficult,” Ma says. “Build that core team. That’s the most important piece of advice. It’s not the skill set or the experience that matters. If you build a team that can work well with each other, that’s half of the success.”
He also recommends ensuring the entire team stays focused on their value proposition, which in Hanson Canada’s case is helping students prepare for their future careers. “We see ourselves as part of the solution to their life plans in Canada,” Ma says
Lastly, he urges leaders to persevere, especially during challenging times. “Be patient and grind it out. There’s no easy way,” Ma says. “It takes a lot of hard work. It will pay off.”
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.