At the young age of 24, Maude Verstraete became CEO of Meubles Arboit-Poitras, a family business selling furniture manufactured in Quebec. Here the young entrepreneur relates the challenges she faced during her company’s business transfer.
Meubles Arboit-Poitras is a family business that first saw the light of day in Épiphanie in Lanaudière. Founded by Maude Verstraete’s great grandfather in 1951, the company makes bedroom, dining room and multimedia furniture out of ash and cherry. Everything is created and fabricated in Quebec from high-quality material that is also sourced from within Quebec.
Maude’s father, Benoit, prematurely inherited the business when he was only 21. Although he wasn’t prepared to take over the company at such a young age, it experienced strong growth under his leadership. To avoid making the same mistakes as in the past, the Verstraete family decided to set up a framework for transferring the business to Maude so she would be well equipped to take on her future role.
From science to entrepreneurship
Maude was initially destined for a career in science after earning a degree in medical biology from the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, but her post-university internship as a sales rep was an eye-opening experience and gave her a taste for business. “I became aware that I loved business and it was something I could be good at. My dad’s company needed help and so I decided to answer the call.”
Maude started at the company in 2015 and worked her way up the ladder. In 2016, she started a certificate program in SME entrepreneurship and management. The following year, she enrolled in the Académie de la relève entrepreneuriale CDPQ at Université Laval, which allowed her to take advantage of personalized guidance and faculty expertise two days a month for 10 months, a contributing factor in the success of the Verstraete family’s business transfer. The 10 Academy members were presented with many entrepreneurial challenges in the areas of negotiation, innovation, exporting and business models.
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As Maude and her classmates were just finishing up their studies at the Academy, she stated: “This program allowed me to develop many contacts from a range of different sectors. I really appreciated the independent nature of the program and how accessible the teachers were. A lot of things have been clarified for me.”
A well-prepared transfer
According to the Fondation des familles en affaires, one in three companies are able to successfully transfer business ownership to the next generation. This statistic falls to only 13 percent for business transfers occurring from the second to the third generation of family ownership. In Maude’s case, she is a fourth-generation entrepreneur.
“My father gave me one core value: to lead with heart and be close to your employees. A good entrepreneur has to listen to her team.”
– Maude Verstraete
In order to ensure the business transfer was a success, the Verstraete family were careful not to skip any steps of the process. Maude and her father made sure they both had the same vision for the company. It had been two years since Maude had first started working for the business, and in that time a share-purchasing system had been put in place. An estate freeze was also planned. This financial planning tool offers next-generation shareholders the option of deferring business transfer taxes to the future increase in asset value held by succeeding generations—a practical way of avoiding significant financial liability at the time the business is transferred.
For Maude, who has been CEO since November of 2017, this strategic move is still open to change and nothing is set in stone. “We’re at the start of the process. We’ll probably need to consult with outside professionals who won’t let emotion get in the way and can be completely objective.”
In the meantime, Maude has a lot of ideas for developing the business. Increasing distribution channels, adopting a Web 4.0 business model and revitalizing their skill set are just part of the program the young entrepreneur has in mind for the coming years.
Meubles Arboit-Poitras in Numbers
50: Number of employees
$6 million: Company revenue
150: Number of stores distributing Mobilier Arboit-Poitras furniture
Want to learn more?
Visit Meubles Arboit-Poitras’s website