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Every successful business owner has his or her own recipe for success. For Ginette Sédillot, the formula is simple.

“Every customer has different needs. We talk to our customers, and we do what they ask us.”


March 2, 2011
By Stefanie Wallace

Topics

Every successful business owner has his or her own recipe for success. For Ginette Sédillot, the formula is simple.

CRS-March11-CM-1 
Raymond Tremblay and Ginette Sédillot, co-owners of Chapiteau Montreal, say listening to customers and meeting their needs has made their business successful.


 

“Every customer has different needs. We talk to our customers, and we do what they ask us. We really take the time to ask a lot of questions and listen to our customers’ needs,” Sédillot says. “It can take several meetings; we will suggest products and try to maintain the customer’s budget, and that is what makes us successful.”

Sédillot and her husband, Raymond Tremblay, co-own Chapiteau Montreal Inc., a party rental business in St-Mathieu de la Prairie, Que., near Montreal’s South Shore area, and judging by the amount of growth the business has seen over the past 11 years, this straightforward mission statement has worked well for them.

When Chapiteau Montreal was formed in 2000, the business was stocked with 18 tents, 40 tables and 200 chairs. Sédillot estimates their supplies were rented for approximately 50 events during that first year.

Eleven years later, the company rents supplies for weddings, baptisms, corporate functions and private barbecues. Its inventory includes 140 tents in varying sizes, more than 600 tables, including round, rectangular, banquet and bistro styles, and some 5,000 chairs, from folding chairs to patio chairs – and that’s not all.

“Every year we change a bit. We started out only with tents, then tables and chairs, and now we have dishes, table linens, chair covers and more,” Sédillot says.

The business’s array of table linens and chair covers includes round or rectangular tablecloths. Complete table settings are also available, including cutlery, white plates, wine and champagne glasses, and wine buckets. Candles, LED lights, stages, floor platforms, red carpets and other décor items are also available to rent. The chocolate fountain is a customer favourite.

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A sampling of items available to rent at Chapiteau Montreal, including
chair covers, centrepieces and place settings.


 

Warner Shelter Systems Inc. in Calgary supplies the company’s tents, which range in size: the smallest measuring 10 feet by 10 feet and the largest measuring 90 feet by 750 feet. “We try to encourage Canadian products,” Sédillot says, “But if other Canadian companies can’t supply what we need, we turn to companies in the United States.” A number of options are available, including tents with bay windows, opaque walls, window openings, fire extinguishers and emergency exit signs.

These gradual changes in inventory have brought big business to the company. Sédillot estimates the business now provides party rental goods for approximately 400 events per year, serving customers across Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa.

“When we started, we only had a Ford F250 pickup truck with a 33-foot trailer, and a small Econoline van,” Sédillot says.

Of course, one pickup truck and one van aren’t sufficient means of transportation anymore, so their fleet of vehicles has expanded as well. “Now we have a fleet of two trucks with 53-foot trailers, two pickup trucks, three trucks with boxes and two Econoline vans to help with deliveries.”

One aspect of Chapiteau Montreal that has stayed the same since its inception is the company’s headquarters. The family’s home currently plays host to the company’s office and warehouse, but this will change in the spring.

“We’ve been growing too fast and we’re running out of room,” Sédillot says with a laugh. “We have bought another building to make a bigger showroom and office, and we are looking forward to having more room.”

Its new home will be a 4,400-square-foot building located in an industrial park in the South Shore of Montreal, “a good, central location to continue serving our customers. We have a big area to cover and we are in the centre of it all, so we hope there will be lots of business opportunities,” Sédillot says. An 800-square-foot office will provide more room for Sédillot and the rest of the staff to meet with clients in person, and a 3,600-square-foot warehouse will house their supplies. Sédillot estimates the company will be settling into its new headquarters in April – just in time to prepare for its busy party season from May to October.

One of the goals Sédillot hopes to achieve through this new building is to increase the number of events the company caters to during the slower winter months. “Changing locations will hopefully bring more business,” Sédillot says. “We are hoping to gain more business from October to May, which is usually our dead season. We are going to try to expand and do more private house parties and larger business Christmas parties in ballrooms and banquet halls, and market our business, and expand in tables, chairs, linens and accessories,” she says.

This won’t take the focus away from their hectic summer season, though. Chapiteau Montreal is staffed by 10 full-time regular employees, but during the busy months of June, July and August, up to 20 employees can be found in the office and warehouse. With this busy season comes many challenges, and regardless of how many parties the company has served and how many years of experience Sédillot and Tremblay have in the party rental industry, Sédillot says big events are always tests of their resourcefulness.

“We do a lot of work so that the event will be a success, and we take the time to ask the customer a lot of questions about the installation of the tent and equipment because we want to take care of them,” she says. But there are many things most people forget about when it comes to hosting a party: “Sometimes, they don’t think about things like portable toilets. If you’re in the field and there’s no washroom, it can be a challenge!”

Sédillot recalls a particular challenge that wasn’t anticipated from the get-go. A customer wanted a wooden floor installed for an event. “They told us the ground was level, but when we got there, the ground was not level. We had to work fast and bring in equipment to lift and level the ground. There are always ways to fix those problems, and that’s why we have to ask a lot of questions from the beginning.”

Although Sédillot and her husband, Raymond Tremblay, don’t have any immediate plans to slow down, they do hope their children, who are already active in the company, will eventually take over the business. Sons Sylvain, 27, and Sebastien, 23, help their father with the installation and delivery side of the business, while daughter Julie, 20, helps her mother in the office, answering phones, creating quotes and preparing orders. “We have worked hard to build this business and I hope they will continue to do so,” Sédillot says.

In the meantime, they will continue doing exactly what has worked for them all along and aspire to meet the needs of their customers for many more years. “It is a small business, but we have a lot of tasks. Listening to the customer has worked for us and it is always good to be busy.


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