It was on the roof of the Canadian Museum of History that Alain Raymond saw the future of his business. It was 1988, and Raymond, a trained tinsmith, had won the contract to install 90 tonnes of copper cladding to one wing of the museum’s new location in Gatineau, Que. “That’s when we really started thinking big,” says the 63-year-old founder and president of Gatineau-based roofing company Toitures Raymond.
Roofing has changed significantly in the 40 years since Raymond started his tiny tinsmith business in Maniwaki, Que. “We’ve seen dozens of entirely new products come onto the market in just the past five years,” he says. To grow from a one-man operation to a 200-employee, $40-million business, Raymond, along with CEO Marco Vaillancourt, made it a mission not just to keep pace with trends and products but also to diversify their services.
“We’re in permanent detective mode,” says Raymond, who has added new divisions dedicated to roof maintenance, wall coverings and specialized contracting over the past decade. The company now offers products for every exterior surface of a building, working on projects ranging from bungalows to shopping centres to flashy Mercedes-Benz dealerships to public buildings like the National Library and Archives of Canada. The company installs slate tiles, gravel roofs, imitation wood cladding and myriad other products on materials from cement panels to ceramic facades. And the firm is expanding beyond Canada’s capital, having acquired a new company in Quebec’s Abitibi region in 2010.
To keep finding new opportunities, Raymond made brainstorming a regular part of the company’s operation. The managers of Groupe Raymond’s five divisions meet every two months to come up with ideas for expansion. And every three years, as part of the “innovation committee,” those managers have to start a whole new division. “We don’t give ourselves any choice in the matter!” says Vaillancourt, who joined the business as a chartered accountant and become CEO in 2012. The company has managed to meet a target of 15% growth in annual sales over the past 10 years. The key, Vaillancourt explains, has been encouraging and improving communication between departments by bringing together division heads, site workers, foremen, estimators and project managers on a regular basis. “Everyone brings ideas to the table about how to improve operations.” The company recently decided to give foremen iPads so they can send photos of projects to managers and clients “in a few seconds.” They added GPSs to trucks so project managers can carefully monitor time spent on each site.
“We have a $40-million dollar company that runs like a $400-million company,” says Raymond. “Because our offer is so diverse, we can deliver complete solutions to our clients. Not everyone in this business can do that.”