INTERVIEW WITH THE LEADERS (2 of 2)
After the first part of the interview, I could not put down my tape recorder as the conversation was too lively and interesting! With this second part, I wanted to learn more about the personality and motivations of Pierre and Christian!
Portable Winch travels around the world to participate in different exhibitions and trade shows. What is the best part of these events?
Pierre: Most people think it's a vacation, but we must admit that, physically, these are demanding weeks… and not easy. On the other hand, the “wow” side is our contact with end customers. We witness first-hand their interest in our products. That's really the best part, seeing people’s reaction to the product. In the early days, we would introduce a new product; today, many people know us and are users. They give us feedback, both positive and negative, which is constructive because people push us to go further, to do new things, to improve constantly.
Do you have an unusual story about something that happened at one of these shows?
Pierre: The first big tradeshow we went to was in 2005. Looking back on it, it seems a little funny. We went to Sweden, to the biggest forestry fair in the world, which is held every four years. We arrived there with nothing but a stand, and blue plastic fabric to make a shelter. We created our displays from logs with a power saw. We built everything from scratch, on the spot!
Interviewer: On the spot?
Pierre: Yes, yes! The impression we made was extraordinary: we had people huddled in front of the kiosk to see that! It was really funny because we did it with the means at hand, and from there we recruited a lot of new distributors in Europe. It really was the company’s kick-off.
Christian: You’re talking about funny things…. I created the Portable Winch capsules and since then, I can’t tell you the number of customers who call me by my first name! After so many years, there is a lot of camaraderie at the shows!
Where did you get the greatest show of appreciation, exactly?
Pierre: It's hard to say, but I think it's here in Quebec. People are warm and more demonstrative, too!
Which country did you prefer to visit during trade shows?
Pierre: It’s a country I visited not long ago, but with which we have been doing business for a long time, Japan. I had never taken the time to go. It's really an amazing country. The people are extremely nice. It's a refined place in every way. Of course, all countries are different and enjoyable.
Christian: For my part, I have travelled less than Pierre, but recently, I took advantage of a trip to France to stay longer and spend a few weeks on vacation… it’s a country I love!
Do you have any tips for younger and older entrepreneurs who want to start a business?
Christian: Well, sure, being the younger of the two, I would say "involve a senior!” [laughs] But most of all, it's fun to start a business with someone else. Everything is more pleasant. Complementing one another becomes interesting: it's not a one-man show.
Pierre: For me, it’s the same, but I would add that you have to do your due diligence. Also, I think it's important to have people with whom you can discuss everything involving the company, but that’s not necessarily related only to the company. Being in business has a lot of impact!
Christian: Another thing, I know now that there is no entrepreneur who will refuse to answer the phone when a new entrepreneur calls needing advice. Don’t be shy to pick up the phone! I have met people in big companies and everyone is generous with their time. So if something interests you as a new entrepreneur, pick up the phone, send an e-mail, ask if they know someone. Then the more experienced you get, the more interesting it becomes to share and meet younger people.
Is there an ultimate secret to being a good entrepreneur?
Pierre: There is one: Perseverance. Today, especially in the technology field, it is said that "Failure is not really a failure." People are encouraged to "fail fast," discover as soon as possible, and continue to move forward. If it was easy to be in business, everyone would be. It's not easy, so don’t give up. Then the second [piece of advice] is that it takes a good dose of humility. Because we mislead ourselves, we make mistakes, and we make more mistakes. So you have to be able to see what went wrong, recognize the error, and learn from it.
Trade shows on the old continent or in Quebec?
Pierre: I prefer the old continent!
Christian: I would say that, too!
Christian: Well, I have become quite familiar with Quebec. It's fun to go beyond our borders, too! There are extraordinary people everywhere.
Pierre: What is fun on the old continent is that they have traditions different from ours. I go to a hunting show and people arrive dressed in the costumes of the village where they live. That's what I find really interesting when in Europe, experiencing traditions that are alive! And the beauty of cities, their layouts, and the diversity of what we eat and drink.
Battery winch or gas winch?
For team lunches, rotisserie chicken instead of sandwiches?
Christian: We alternate, but often it ends up being chicken.
Pierre: That's the simplest thing!
Are you more comfortable in front of the camera or behind a computer screen?
Pierre: For me, it’s clear that it’s behind a screen and not in front of the camera! But he [pointing to Christian] is very, very good in front of the camera!
Christian: Very comfortable, yes!
Are you early birds or night owls?
Christian: No question! Early bird!
Pierre: I am the opposite. Maybe not a night owl, but it's easier for me to sleep late than to get up early.
To win, a week in a mountain chalet or a week at an all-inclusive in the south?
Christian: Clearly a chalet in the mountains! That's what I did recently.
Pierre: Not an all-inclusive in the south! No. A not-all-inclusive trip in Asia is much more appealing to me!
Interviewer: With the snow in recent days ... [at the time of writing, winter in Quebec had been tough!]
Christian: I’m all for snow!