Lise Bernier is not only the mother of Marc and Philippe Latreille, but also their mentor. The family work together to diversify the activities of their company, AMB, and ensure it has a prosperous future.
For many years, Lise Bernier and her spouse, Jacques Latreille, shared ownership of AMB with other shareholders before buying back the company, which specializes in modular building solutions, in 2016. Since then, they have been the sole owners of this SME that employs around 50 people, through good times and bad.
But they have had some help. The couple’s sons, Marc Latreille, 26, and Philippe Latreille, 23, both work full-time at the company and have been involved in various capacities since they were of legal working age. This fall, both brothers and their mother took part in the third edition of the Parcours intrapreneurial, which enabled them to develop new niches that could be exploited by their company.
These parents and their children, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs respectively, work together to ensure the longevity of a company that has been around since the 1960s.
Devenir entrepreneur: What new markets would AMB like to explore?
Philippe Latreille: At the moment, most of AMB’s contracts have been won through a bidding process. We have a big presence in the leasing of temporary modular solutions to schools, school commissions and public organizations. That’s great, but I don’t see us evolving in this niche indefinitely. When our parents asked us whether we would be interested in taking AMB over, I personally hesitated for exactly this reason.
After talking about it, we all agreed that there are some great business opportunities in the prefab market. My and my brother’s mission is to identify opportunities. We can develop projects and bring them to fruition working within a mature business. That is really the best part about intrapreneurship—we have access to this incredible lever. That’s what finally convinced me to get started. I have access to an army of experts ready to answer all my questions!
Lise Bernier: Their first idea was to develop modular solutions that could be added to the roofs of existing buildings. They quickly realized they could aim even higher than that, since AMB really has no competition in terms of permanent extensions in Montreal or elsewhere. Instead of having to endure long, expensive and invasive construction, our clients could take advantage of our prefabricated structures that make their lives a lot easier.
DE: What intrapreneurial challenges have you faced so far?
LB: You would think it would be difficult to distinguish between what is business related and what is purely a family concern, but that hasn’t happened. On the contrary, everyone takes care of their own work as if they were an employee. As a minor example of the change in our relationship: From the moment he began working full-time at the company, Marc started calling us by our first names instead of “Mom” and “Dad.” Our pet names for them also quickly went out the window!
Still, you have to put up barriers in order to stake out what our relationships are, since things can sometimes get radically honest. We tell them the straight story without embellishing anything. It’s both an advantage and a disadvantage.
PL: Working for your parents comes with some pressure. You know that you’re gambling with their retirement every day. Let’s just say you don’t want to make too many mistakes, despite the fact that it was their decision to involve us. Also, you don’t want to give the impression that you’re just the bosses’ sons. You have to prove yourself and show that you’re valuable.
DE: What have you learnt from this intrapreneurial experience?
LB: AMB is heading in new directions thanks to Marc and Philippe. We’re diversifying the company’s activities like never before. We’re not just waiting for contracts anymore, but instead going after opportunities and creating our own work. This enables us to work at full capacity all year long.
PL: I did a lot of case studies while I was in school. That was what gave me a lot of ideas. Now I am living a case study every day. It’s really stimulating to be able to generate growth projects so early in your career. I have more responsibility than I have ever had anywhere else.
This is also the first time my parents have truly acted as entrepreneurs, now that the business is 100 percent theirs and they can do what they like without having to justify anything to anyone. I can tell that stimulates them. I like seeing them feel energized and inspired. It motivates me.
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