Paul Bronfman and Paul Potvin share tips on expanding and growing your business
3. Put your employees first
“The employee comes first and then the customers. If you have happy, motivated, incentivized employees, then the customers will follow suit,” says Bronfman. “So we treat our employees like gold because they are the gold of the company.”
Bronfman advocates talking to employees and asking them: "What concerns do you have? Tell me what's on your mind? What’s bothering you? What do you suggest is going to make this transaction and this transition easier for you and ultimately the client?”
“We operate this company in a very open style, transparent management way. It’s a very, great feeling to have openness and transparency and that’s the way we’ve approached Parallel. And with Paul Potvin’s style, instead of everyone worrying about losing their jobs, they’re all excited that Parallel is becoming part of Whites LES.”
4. Champion the entrepreneurial spirit
As in the case of Whites’ acquisition of Parallel Rentals, founders and principals Andrew and Linda McLean will continue in their leadership roles with the company, which will remain at its existing location, conveniently located just a ten minute drive from Whites Vancouver.
“One of the key things about the Whites LES and Whites Parallel acquisitions is to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of the original owners. You want to have that entrepreneurial spirit and you want to have financial incentives as well so that they do still feel like owners,” says Bronfman.
"We very much have financial incentives in place such as profit sharing. You can see Paul Potvin hasn't lost any of his zest or any of the great skills that he’s had from when he built LES.”
According to Potvin, his role in the company has changed dramatically."I’m still a little bit involved with the day to day stuff but Paul wants me to look at the bigger picture. People tell me, ‘Since you sold your business, you must be stepping back, working half days' When in fact, I’ve been working twice as much and I still run the business. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t own the business anymore.”
5. Use a soft-handed approach
Bronfman and Potvin recommend a soft-handed approach that respects the company position and values.
“When I contacted my lawyer and told him that I have been approached to sell and I wanted him to help me broker the deal, he told me that for the next year, in terms of how long it’s going to get ink to paper, I will have two full time jobs: one is running my business and the other is selling my business,” says Potvin.
According to Potvin: “Most people think, ‘Hey, we’re just going to sit down and then maybe have a bit of back and forth,’ like buying a car where in the end you go get the vehicle, exchange money and that’s it,”
"That’s not how it works because it’s extremely complicated and everyone wants to protect their best interest. And no truer words were spoken than what my lawyer told me, which I told the owners of Parallel. At the time I don’t think they understood but I guess I can say that to other people as well who are considering selling their business. It’s quite the endeavour.”
Bronfman agrees with Potvin. “You put it right, managing your business and selling your business are two full time jobs. It was a tough emotional experience for Andrew and Linda McLean of Parallel because the business is their baby, so we tried to make it as easy and gentle-handed as we could. We don’t come in with our guns blazing. That’s not the way we are.”
6. Shared values
According to Bronfman and Potvin, business growth needs to start with finding a company that shares your business principles and personal values.
“In our niche side of the business, anybody can go out and buy the equipment. You just have to have a lot of money,” says Potvin. “You can buy tables and chairs and all that, but what you need is the right people, attitude and service.”
Bronfman notes that it was a logical, easy decision to acquire Parallel." We bought out two very great operators, Andrew and Linda McLean, who also decided that it may be time to move their company into the next phase of growth."
And of his relationship to Potvin, Bronfman comments: "Paul and I started with very similar business and personal values. From day one, we weren't trying to change each other. The more we got to talk about how we operate the business, we both realized how very similar we were in terms of our styles and how we approach to employees and clients.
"So it’s worked out. Usually when you plan something out on paper, it doesn't work out as planned, but in this case, one plus one has really made three. It’s very synergistic.”