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Pablo Reich (left) moderating a CEO panel during the Airport Council International Conference

Asper MBA a promise of freedom for Arconas executive vice president

Pablo Reich describes the unique world of airport furniture, builds on a legacy of sustainability

January 16, 2024 — 

Asper MBA alum Pablo Reich [MBA/02] is the executive vice president of Arconas, a Canadian manufacturer and distributor of high-performance furniture for airports and passenger terminals in North America. Reich has built upon the company’s legacy of sustainability, all while growing a successful business in a unique market.

From sculptural seating to space-saving gate counters and even garbage bins, Arconas provides the essentials in airport and terminal furniture, emphasizing design, function and sustainability. The organization has received the prestigious Canada’s Best Managed Companies designation for the past ten years, and in 2023 earned the Jerry Fitzgerald Corporate Award of Excellence from the American Association of Airport Executives.

On freedom and flexibility

When asked what advice he would offer to recent MBA graduates, Reich suggests instead thinking about what they actually want from the degree. For him, it was freedom.

“I always held freedom as a very strong core value. For me, it wasn’t about coming into the office at 10 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.—that’s flexibility.

“It was about the freedom to be creative, to explore, to have the capacity to chart your own course.”

Reich clarifies that flexibility can also be an important goal. He and his wife moved from Buenos Aires to Winnipeg in 1997, and with a young family and a position at Palliser Furniture, Reich sought flexibility and efficiency from his MBA. He completed the degree in twelve months, sponsored by Palliser and supported by mentors and mainstays of the Manitoba business community.

He credits then-owner of Palliser Furniture Art DeFehr and a mentor, Harold Dueck, for encouraging him to pursue his MBA, and he cites Asper professor emeritus John McCallum as an inspiring instructor. After graduating, Reich leveraged the newfound freedom of the MBA, the general management education it provided and the power of mentorship to become a business owner and revive a struggling organization.

“If anyone has that bug of freedom and a desire to do your own thing, make decisions and take chances, then owning a business is an outstanding way to do that.”

An organization in transition

When Reich first got involved with Arconas in 2002, the organization was struggling, and its leader was nearing retirement. On DeFehr’s suggestion, Reich met with the management team. He saw the organization completely—its legacy, its struggles and perhaps most importantly, its potential.

Reich’s role eventually evolved into a partnership with Dan Nussbaum, president of Arconas. Together, they reimagined the organization and narrowed their focus to one unique market: airports.

“We established the four “highs” for our products: high-traffic, high-performance (built to last), high-design and high-sustainability.”

Reich is particularly proud of high-sustainability. “Arconas’ founder was a pioneer in using sustainable materials—one of the core elements of Arconas’ products is cold cure foam, and back in the 70s, they were among the first Canadian companies using that technology. We took that heritage and tried to build upon it.”

A framework for entrepreneurial freedom

Today, Arconas is one of the leading companies of its kind and a thought leader in the aviation sector. Reich is quick to credit his predecessors, mentors, and educators, his partners and his team for the success of the business. As he notes, the cost of opportunity is often dwelling in uncertainty while relying on your knowledge.

“I don’t know anyone who can tell you, ‘I had a master plan for the next 20 years of my business.’ Most decisions are made one step, a month, a day, maybe a year at a time. So, take the shot—the MBA will give you the strong knowledge and the framework to operate your business.”

That framework and that freedom, Reich suggests, can create positive change.

“As a business-owner and an entrepreneur with the MBA, I also have the freedom to choose how I can impact the world outside my business.”

It is perhaps no wonder that Reich now leads a company dedicated to thoughtfully crafting furniture that makes those moments between where you were and where you’re going a little more comfortable.

Learn more about the Asper MBA Program today and sign up for the next information session taking place January 26, 2024.

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