I am part of a misunderstood generation; I have seen my parents and grandparents worrying frankly of what will happen to the workforce when my generation represent the majority of the payroll. We spoke of young people as cowards, indecisive, immature, without determination, without attachment and without respect for authority.
I’m from Generation Y.
Def. Generation Y : Generation Y includes those born between early 1980 and mid 1990. Other equivalent terms exist, including Millennials or diminutives as GenY and Yers.
Yet, what I see around me is very different. I see young people who are passionate about what they do. I see incredible strength of character, a great ambition and a desire to get involved that is equal to or surpasses all the other generations.
Not convinced? Let me share with you an example. Last week I went to Longueuil to meet with Frederik Laberge, 23, of Groupe Laberge and his team. I chatted with his father, Pierre, earlier that week and he told me jokingly, “You’ll see with Fred for the interview. Anyway, he’s the boss now.” I smiled. In fact, it is quite true. I spent the day with Fred, watching him answer the phone every 5 minutes, manage forty employees with great respect and troubleshoot a dozen clients. So I can reassure you as to the future of the towing industry, it is in good hands.
A little history…
Laberge Group was founded in 1963 by Laurent Laberge, the grandfather of Frederik. At this time, Laurent was operating a gas station with a mechanic shop and a towing division.
In 1980, Pierre Laberge joined the family business to take care of the towing division. One of two son of Pierre, Frederik, developed an early interest in the company and the industry in general. He joined the company in 2010, becoming the third generation at the family business.
Today, Groupe Laberge is strong with 50 years of experience in the towing industry and enjoys a solid reputation in their area.
The Laberge Family
When you enter Groupe Laberge, you immediately feel the family atmosphere. But it’s not just the atmosphere, you can see it in the relationships between people, in the way they speak to each other, in the general attitude. Why is it so striking? Because Groupe Laberge is more than a family business, it is a family. I watched Pierre and Fred talk to their employees, and it was as if they had known each other forever.
“We’re a big family here; for me the guys are all my uncles or my little brothers. For Pierre, they are all his children. ”
And it is not only in the attitude, Laberge joined the action to the word and makes themselves very present for their employees, willing to listen, willing to help.
F: “We try to take the guys once a month, come together for a dinner and brief on how it is going, see if there are problems, doubts, suggestions …”
For me, that’s a family, knowing that you always have someone to count on, someone who pays attention to you, to who your well-being is important. And from what I understand, Pierre and Fred excels in their householder role.
They also attach great important to the work / family balance:
“We try to be accommodating, to facilitate work / family balance, grant day off when they ask. For us it’s important that the guys have free time with their wives and children.”
Image and reputation
I do not know if you know the Laberge, but if so, you may have noticed that they do not quite match the image type the public has of a tower. Always well dressed, Pierre and Frederik have understood the importance of the first impression:
F: “The image we project is really important to us; it’s the first contact you have with the customer. You especially do not want to do a job and they say at the end that it was the first and last time he (they?) calls you because your driver was wearing the same clothes for three days, smells bad and had a disgusting truck. ”
He continues, “All our guys are dressed at their first day here; shirt, cap, winter follows … Not all companies do it, but for us it’s important.”
A promising succession
“I have made a lot of trips in Ontario with my father when I was little. At 13 I worked as a dispatch and I was doing cleaning in the yard on the weekends. As soon as I got my license, I started doing towing. ”
Frederik is now running the towing division of Groupe Laberge.
I asked him if he had trouble being taken seriously in the industry because of his young age:
“Here it’s not really a problem; most guys are accustomed to working with me. My approach is quite friendly with the staff too, it facilitates exchanges. With customers, at the beginning, it was more difficult; it is certain that they always want to do business with the president, the one who can make the decision. But over time, by getting to know me, they understood who I was and my age does not matter today. What’s important is the relation you have with the customer. “
Towards a third generation …
As I mentioned earlier in this article, Pierre is leaving more and more responsabilities to his son in the business. Ok, now that Fred’s not listening, what do you think of his work?
“Fred did a job that clearly surpasses my expectations. I go on holiday two months, I have no worries, no stress. I know that all is going well. When you create a relationship of trust, a sense of belonging and respect with your staff, your business will roll; that’s the secret! ”
I asked him at what age Frederik became interested in the company and industry?
“Probably in the womb! (Laughs) He had always loved it! Fred was a very sociable child also, so he liked the contact with people. ”
I also asked him if he was worried about the future of the industry. He replied, “Yes, I am worried about the future; but I work on it everyday. I invest in the next generation. I coach Fred every day for him to be the best manager possible. I see myself as a kind of professor at the university of life. “
The Laberge difference
What is also amazing at Groupe Laberge is that father and son have exactly the same vision of the company and its future. Without consulting each other, when I asked them the greatest strength of Groupe Laberge, both told me, « Our service. » Fred explained, « We’re renowned for that! It’s with the service that we forged our reputation for 50 years. We provide quick and quality service. When we give a response time to the customer, we respect it.”
“You don’t know how to write? You’ve never touched a towing before? Okay. If you’re willing to learn, we will formed you from zero, Laberge way. ”
I asked Fred what he was looking for in a candidate; He said they always try to find these qualities in their drivers: punctuality, resourcefulness, and above all, someone who likes challenges.
To match the company’s service quality criteria, the candidate must obviously be courteous and approachable.
So they found the perfect match with Alexandre Landry.
I went with him to Longueuil to pick up a small Hino. Frankly, I am always pleasantly surprised of the interesting discussions I have with people of the industry. It was not different with Alex; the guy is friendly, motivated, effective and has an amazing attitude. Have I already talked about the importance of attitude? For Alex it’s all natural. Oh and I didn’t even talk about how clean his truck was, I was embarrassed to go with my shoes…
Skills in public relations are not given to everyone; I studied 4 years in communications and many of my colleagues just… didn’t have it. Alex has it, power 10! I had the chance to observe him before, during and after the towing. His way of putting the customer at ease, naturally converse while he picks up his truck, to be interested in him … There. There’s the additional touch that makes the particularity of Groupe Laberge service.
We talked about Gen Y as disinterested and dispassionate young, well Alex is one of them too, and I can assure you that this is definitely not the impression he leaves.
(A little hello to the customer who probably still thinks I’m a reporter from the news channel. (Yes, Alex is a joker too.))
Beyond the clash of generations
Laberge towing has a team of eclectic people; every age, every kind:
“The guys here are all very different; you must learn to bring out the strengths of each and manage the quality and defaults of each.”
I ask Alex his thoughts on the ”Clash of generations»:
“Sometimes it’s hard with employees who have been here a long time, we don’t work the same way, and we don’t communicate in the same way either. It can create friction between the guys; You arrive at a scene of an accident, and you really don’t have the same idea on how to handle the situation. But over time, we find ways to work together. ”
This reconciliation there, it’s very important.
It is clear that from one generation to another, there are changes that makes the collaboration complicated. The succession is certainly significant of changes, but also of new ideas and new talents to exploit. If experienced employees have the knowledge, they need to have an open attitude in order for the generations to coexist, and draw all the positive out of it. Pierre assures me that his veterans are very open and motivated to help:
“Our older employees want to show young people, they love it! If the youth has a positive attitude and is ready to learn, he will learn more here in one month that he would have in two years elsewhere. ”
Where the generation gap becomes problematic is when people are not open to the help and support of others:
“A guy who comes here and thinks he knows everything, it’s not going to work. I am 52 years old and I’m still learning something every day, so don’t tell me that the kid of 20 years has nothing to learn. ”
That’s wisdom and intelligence; understanding that we can not know everything, but that we can always learn.
What’s nice with the industry is that no matter what kind of person you are, in the end, everyone is united by the same passion.
“We all get up every morning hoping to have a couple of truck recoveries to do! ” Frederik said.
I asked him, « Even with all your responsibilities, do you still do towing? »
“Certainly ! » He quickly answered. « I do it because I like it. Often I like to get on a recovery and have to wonder how are we going to bring that truck back to the office? ”
Pierre makes a satisfied smile when I told him about the way Fred was working. “Working with my son on a accident scene is extraordinary. » Pierre proudly said. « Fred has it all; I always tell my employees that they must analyzed and think a recovery. it’s better to take time at the beginning, than to stop in the middle because we realize that it does not work. ”
And you Mr. Laberge, do you still do towing?
“Yes, always! I’m passionate about towing, so I’ll always love that. I also do not like for customers to wait, so if guys need, I do not hesitate to get my hands dirty. “
It’s not the first time we talk about it, several players in the towing industry do not see the job as a job but as a lifestyle. I asked Fred his opinion on the matter. “I would say it becomes a lifestyle because the job is so demanding and engaging, that it has no choice but to become one. My heavy-duty guys are often wake up on weekends, at night … A tug has no hours. ”
He continues: “For me it’s not really a job, it’s more like… an activity! I’m happy to get up in the morning to go to work. ” Excellent attitude M.Laberge Junior!
We talked about his relationship with the other companies in our industry. “What is fun with the industry is the collaboration between companies; we stay in touch, we take tricks from others … I like the chemistry! Since Serge (Landry) brought the Wreckmaster program back, it has forged many links between the companies. This chemistry there, we see, it in the mutual aid the different companies provide. Often I go back home with a service car. If I come across a company that is hooking up, no matter which it is, I will stop to protect. The life of all operators is important, not just the one of my guys, they all have families they want to get back to at the end of their shift. “
Training and support
I asked Pierre and Fred if they attached great importance to training at Groupe Laberge. « Yes it’s really important! » Freid continued, « Even if the guy has 10 years of experience, when we hire him, he’s gonna be trained by one of our guys from 3 days to 2 weeks to assess their skills and see how we can help them evolve and improve. We want to train our guys our way too; how you tie your chains, how you lay the truck on a block of wood … and all of our heavy-duty guys have their Wreckmaster certification.»
Frederik also insists that he is always there for his team. “The guys know I’m always there for them; if they are unsure about something, I’ll advise. If they don’t have the tools needed to do the job, I’ll go help. “
Groupe Laberge x NRCFAMILY
Laberge’s fleet of 40 vehicles is essentially composed of NRC equipment. Marcel remembers selling equipment to Laurent, father of Pierre, then to him and now to Fred! So NRC and Laberge is a long love story. I asked Fred why did they remain loyal to us after so many years. “The service, the quality of the equipments and the proximity of the place. As long as the product is good and the service is there, I do not see a reason to go somewhere else.,” he told me.
So we will work hard to keep you with us, maybe even the fourth generation? (No pressure there Fred;))
I also asked him his best memory with the NRC Industries. Fred recalled, “My first show in Florida! I was still young and Norbert let us tried the rotator. It was crazy!”
And in 10 years?
So finally, what can we wish for you in the future? Where do you see your business in 10 years?
Fred answered, “Evolving with a controlled growth. Maybe diversify our offering, always maintaining what makes us strong; our service.”
Wise words, especially coming from a 23 year old!
Pierre abounds in the same direction, “I hope above all to have a financially healthy company and one that continues to move forward. Maybe bigger, diversify, who knows! ”
Me anyway, I know that you will be successful regardless of the path you will take.