Canadian Rental Service

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Already 30 years of success

From humble beginnings to a reputation as one of the fastest growing rental entities in Canada, Group Lou-Tec, based in Quebec, celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2009.


January 15, 2009
By Martine Frigon

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Group Lou-Tec was established in 1979 and is still growing

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Jean-Marc Dallaire (left) is the joint owner of the rental centre Équipements Supérieurs Inc., located in Levis, Que., which was inaugurated a year and a half ago in a new building along Highway 20.  Claude A. Larocque, the Lou-Tec CEO (right) has big expansion projects for Lou-Tec in the province of Quebec, but also elsewhere in Canada. Photo by Martine Frigon.


 

From humble beginnings to a reputation as one of the fastest growing rental entities in Canada, Group Lou-Tec, based in Quebec, celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2009.

The group now has 63 business locations operated by 42 owners who rent tools, equipment and heavy machinery for commercial, industrial and residential construction and renovation projects.

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All of this began in 1979, in the home basement of one of eight tradesmen who one day decided to organize themselves in order to acquire a greater capacity to purchase equipment and share their marketing expenses. They included, Claude Lauzon from Terrebonne, who was the first president of the group and held that position for 10 years, Jean Boucher from St-Antoine des Laurentides, Jean Légaré from Pierrefonds, Cameron Paquet from Chateauguay, Yves R. Bergeron, from Laval (Chomedey), Jacques Quesnel from Ahuntsic (Montréal), Jean Chartrand from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and Eddy Williams from St-Eustache. With a firm plan in place they launched a company structure in which each member is a shareholder. They even elected a Board of Directors; whose members would have a renewable mandate every two years.

At this time as well, the brand name Lou-Tec was found and used. The coming together of this group of eight proved to be a success because 10 years later, the number of rental centres that included themselves as part of the Lou-Tec group totalled 40!

One of the banner’s founders, Eddy Williams, still runs his rental company with his son Jay and his daughters Lynn and Nancy in St-Eustache. He remembers the time when he participated in the founding of Lou-Tec. “Wealready knew each other because we were members of the association and also good friends. One day, we started talking about trying to find a means to counter the American chain stores that started opening in Quebec,” he says.

During the first year, the founders held a meeting once a week. “We wanted to set a structure that would suit us well. To do so, we visited co-operatives, franchises, and other associations in order to learn how they operate.

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The team of the latest Lou-Tec rental centre, located in downtown Quebec City. From left to right : Stéphane Fortin, Hélène St-Gelais, Michel Pouliot, Joanne Careau, Rudy Duquet and Rémi Martineau.
Photo by Martine Frigon.


 
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The latest rental centre located in Quebec City is built with containers that come from the port of Quebec. There is a niche that the owners intend to develop as they target the commercial and industrial construction industry.
Photo by Martine Frigon.


 

He also remembers the first major achievement carried out by the group. “It was to invest in an advertising campaign of $100,000 at Télé-Métropole, one of the francophone television stations located in Montreal, which was a very large amount of money in 1979! This was the first investment we made. I still remember the signing of this contract!”

There are three separate banners under the brand name Lou-Tec. The first one comes under the principal brand name and represents rental centres that offer equipment for consumers who work on home projects during the weekend as well as for professional contractors working on commercial contracts. There is also Lou-Tec Industrial, which specializes in larger equipment for large projects, and stocks heavy equipment. It allows the rental centres to offer this equipment as needed by customers without obligation to buy since the high cost of such equipment might very well prohibit an outright purchase.  Finally, there is Lou-Tec en fête, which offers equipment for parties and special events.

The industrial and commercial division intends to expand to be more extensive in the future. “For five years, we have focused on this market segment. This is a sector which has a large potential for growth for our rental centres,” says Claude A. Larocque, Lou-Tec president and chief executive officer.

Each member has a story to tell
The joint owner of the rental company Équipements Supérieurs Inc., located in Levis and inaugurated a year and a half ago in a brand new building along Highway 20, is Jean-Marc Dallaire. His customers include commercial and industrial giants such as the Ultramar refinery of Saint-Romuald. Before becoming owner, this 34-year-old mining engineer began his career in Abitibi, and worked many years as project manager in the construction industry.

“I read an advertisement in the Montreal’s based newspaper Les Affaires, in which an investor was planning to open a rental centre in Levis.  I thought that it would be interesting work. As a mining engineer, I had worked mostly in remote regions and because of my family; I wanted to move to an urban centre. I met Lou-Tec’s people, and I noticed that we were on the same wavelength. I decided then to be associated with Luc Bourassa, who already operated under the Lou-Tec banner, another rental centre called Location d’outils Budget Inc. located in Quebec City, and so I launched my business,” he explains.

The background of Jean-Marc Dallaire proved to be most useful in his new position. “I knew the other side of the coin; I knew what a project manager needs. He wants quality service and professional people with whom to deal,” he says.

He explains that, thanks to his experience as a mining engineer and project manager, he was able to secure a major contract with a mine located in northern Quebec. “The project manager rented external and interior hydraulic platforms, compressors and welding machines. I am sure I obtained the contract because, as we chatted together, he and I discovered that we were both mining engineers. I am certain that it was a point in my favour because he was then confident that I understood his needs,” adds Dallaire.

In addition to the commercial and industrial sectors, preventive maintenance of the customers’ equipment became an increasingly important niche for the Levis Lou-Tec’s joint owner. Therefore, emphasis was placed on hiring qualified employees. “I am very proud of my mechanics. They are qualified and also have a professional and courteous attitude towards our customers. They are always clean and polite, and they do not show “the little shop cliché!” he proudly declares.

The latest rental centre under the banner Lou-Tec is located in the downtown area of Quebec City, which opened in September 2008. Location LOU-TIL PLUS Inc. is under the joint ownership of Michel Pouliot, his wife Joanne Careau, Alphonse Bélanger, and Denis Dupuis. Daily management is directed by the Pouliot-Careau couple. Michel Pouliot supervises market development and his spouse is responsible for the accounting. Coming from the trucking industry, they once owned Transport Sélect, which they sold to Trans-Force Group.

Having completed 30 years in the transportation sector, they decided to take on a new challenge. “Our sons did not want to work in this sector. Since, we had no opportunity to pass our business on, we decided to sell the company,” says Pouliot. The couple then joined Alphonse Desjardins and Denis Dupuis, who owned several companies including the St. Lawrence Stevedoring Company Ltd., a well-known trans-shipment and terminal operations in many ports throughout Canada.

Why did they choose Lou-Tec? “At the beginning, we wanted to open without a banner. When we talked with some people and told them that we wanted to open an independent rental centre, they spontaneously suggested Lou-Tec. We discovered that this company is very well known and we were convinced that it was this banner that we must choose!” says Joanne Careau. “The fact that it is a concession instead of a franchise attracted us. We also liked that it is much more flexible,” says Michel Pouliot. “In addition Alphonse Desjardins and Denis Dupuis, the two other shareholders of our rental centre, operate companies throughout Canada and this enables us to provide these companies with equipment for use in Québec. They are our important customers!” he adds.

The couple (Pouliot-Careau) can also count on their oldest son, Louis-Samuel, who is completing his studies as a certified management accountant while working for companies that belong to the other associates. Their other son, Marc-Antoine, is a hockey player in the National Hockey League, playing for the Edmonton Oilers!  Another sign of a close co-operation is that the rental centre is built with containers which come from the port of Quebec. “It is a concept of my brother Pierre,” says Joanne. “It is the only one of its kind within the Lou-Tec banner! The idea is a practical one because we can move our installation quickly as needed!” she adds.

There is a niche that the Pouliot-Careau couple intends to develop. “There exists great potential in the commercial and industrial construction industry. Because this equipment is recycled, it is ecologically sound. Simple and solid, we offer a multitude of possibilities,” concludes Joanne.

Challenges and coming expansions
Since March 2007, Claude A. Larocque has been Lou-Tec’s CEO. Larocque has an extensive background in market development, and has experience in the petrochemical industry. He worked 19 years for Petro-Canada before he embraced an international career at Chevron Texaco. His management in Lou-Tec has initiated centralized invoicing, a system which allows a contractor who deals with several rental centres, to receive one monthly invoice that include all the transactions.

“This centralized invoicing facilitates accounting for our big contractors. Instead of receiving invoices from several different locations, all transactions will appear on the same statement of account,” explains Larocque. Recently, another practical work tool has been launched — the centralized inventory. The rental centres will have access to all the equipment available in the network of the Lou-Tec banner. This enables the company to more efficiently list equipment available and to carry out a faster computerized search for their customers.

“To me, standardization like the centralized invoicing and the centralized inventory are essential criteria to offer a complete service. In addition, programs aimed towards achieving operating excellence were launched in 2008 along with operating manuals to help our members to excel in equipment maintenance, customer service, merchandising their store and to market their services. This program, called LOU-TexCellence, has prompted a President’s Award gala , where the best performers are honoured once a year,” he says.

In addition to the above initiatives, an emphasis is also placed on expansion projects. “For the two last years, eight new rental centres have been launched, located at Saint-Julie, on Maisonneuve Street in downtown Montreal, in Jonquière, Trois-Rivières, Bécancour, La Malbaie, Quebec City, and Levis. Moreover, expansion projects in the Ottawa region and in the Maritimes are planned for the near future. “The brand name of Ren-Tec is already registered, and a market development director was hired especially for this purpose,” adds Larocque.

But the biggest advantage for Lou-Tec, according to him, is that it gives members the opportunity to utilize tremendous resources to successfully operate and market their rental companies while maintaining their entrepreneurial spirit. “All of our members are primarily entrepreneurs. This is a great quality because they are not passive and they do not wait for directives from the banner if and when they want to develop a market,” he says. “However, instead, they have their own ideas and they make a point of relaying their comments and suggestions to management with respect to decisions made by management! This may be seen as a challenge, but how much more interesting to work with people who are proactive! The challenge now is to capitalize on the entrepreneurship of our members whilst provide them with vertically integrated services.” ■