Published Thursday May 19th, 2011 in the Telegraph Journal. Photo: Cindy Wilson/Telegraph-Journal
Dave Veale interviews Styve Dumouchel, President, Lorneville Mechanical Contractors Ltd. (LMC) as part of the Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders.
Styve Dumouchel can look back and see, very clearly, the critical steps taken to grow his company from 50 to 500 employees.
Dumouchel officially joined Lorneville Mechanical Contractors Ltd. (LMC), a Saint John-based company founded by his uncle and father in 1977, 17 years ago and became president in 2000. Lorneville Mechanical Contractors Ltd. president Styve Dumouchel has worked for the company since he was 14.
LMC is an Atlantic Canadian contracting firm that specializes in energy projects. Its website describes the company as a “professional, experienced mechanical service and engineering company specializing in construction, maintenance, installation and fabrication of industrial equipment.”
When they took over ownership in 1999 Styve, along with his business partner and brother Martin Dumouchel, recognized that LMC had an opportunity for significant growth if they were strategic in how they accessed the larger construction market and expanded beyond their core business. The addition of Carl Tremblay, who became a partner in 2001, helped accelerate LMC’s growth with his knowledge in hydro and gas turbines.
Given the success Styve and his partners had with growing the company, I was curious about how Styve got started in the business and learned the ropes at LMC.
A: When you are in a family business you kind of grow up with it. I don’t know if it was really a choice or a destiny but when I started working for the company I was 14 years old. My dad was always a firm believer in starting us at the very beginning so my first project was cleaning washrooms for construction workers. It humbles you when you have to clean washrooms for 150 construction workers.
Q: What did your father and uncle instill in you as a leader at LMC?
A: Definitely a strong work ethic. I can’t get past the work ethic that they had. They were very independent and strong willed – they were preachers of quality and doing work perfectly the first time. They never did anything halfway. Probably one of our biggest goals is to keep that work ethic alive and strong at LMC.
Q: I believe you’re describing the qualities that LMC’s culture was built on. Is it challenging to keep this culture intact today?
A: One of the biggest challenges as you grow is to maintain that culture within your organization. It takes a lot of work. You need to hire the right people, constantly interact with your people and keep involved out in the field so they can see what is expected. The most difficult thing in maintaining our culture is that it can actually be an impediment to growth because we tend to be very conservative as to who we hire and who we end up keeping with us.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the key to LMC’s success?
A: We are in the energy sector, heavy industry, but what I keep telling employees is that we are a service company. The key is being responsive to your customers’ needs. Listen to them and be honest and open about each project.
Q: LMC has had some substantial growth in the last few years. What do you attribute this growth to?
A: We’ve capitalized on meeting the demands of our clients. We’ve learned that this requires having the confidence of your client to give you the chance initially, and then being ambitious enough to take on their demand and be able to deliver.
Q: Did you find there were advantages to growing a business in New Brunswick?
A: New Brunswick has been a great nurturing environment to build our company. We probably wouldn’t be going after large projects in Newfoundland had we been a company founded in Toronto or Montreal. We’ve been given these opportunities because of the relationships that we have developed. People know each other, friendships are developed in a very professional way and there are good corporate ethics here that provide a healthy environment to grow a company.
Q: What’s your biggest challenge now?
A: The biggest challenge – I have to look five years ahead now. I used to look at projects that were coming up next month, now I have to leave that to others and concentrate on what we are going to do in five years from now. I’m constantly asking, “What are the leading projects? What relationships do we need? Who do we need to meet? How do we get on that bidders’ list?”
Q: It sounds like you really enjoy the professional learning and growth that has occurred as LMC has grown.
A: That is my biggest joy. I am a restless soul. I feel like I’m happiest when I’m on the next level of learning – on the edge of something exciting.
Q: What has been your biggest learning to date?
A: The biggest thing I have learned is that in order to evolve you need to always hire people smarter than you.
Q: You mentioned having two strong business partners, What have you learned from working with them?
A: We are a very dynamic group and we are very equal in our opinions. We also love to argue in the tradition of the French-Canadian way. It’s a healthy environment – Martin and Carl always hold me to task and help ground me in my decisions. We can have very heated discussions and still walk away and be friends. We have complementary strengths, which helps us make good decisions for our business.
Q: How would you finish the following sentence? ‘A leader’s job is to…
A: Set direction.
Q: What is the most important piece of advice you have for other leaders and business owners?
A: Failure to act is a decision. Indecision can be just as bad as making the wrong decision.
Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. He can be reached by email at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com. Don’t miss any of Dave’s interviews with leaders…sign up to get blog updates by email on the right column ==>