In this series, our collaborator Carolyne Brown meets the Local Talents—flagship stores in the heart of Mail Champlain. These interviews are all about sharing, sincerity, and proximity. We invite you to enter their world and discover who they are.
Let’s meet Pierre Lapointe, President and Chief Executive Officer at Mayrand Food Service Group.
I studied food science at Laval University. I first worked in the government for Agriculture Canada. Then, for 11 years, I worked in food production for several large-scale companies. I finally decided to go into business because I still had that entrepreneurial drive and I wanted to accomplish greater things. I ended up in maple syrup production. So there was always food production around me. In 2019, I joined the Mayrand Food Service Group.
How was Mayrand Food Service Group born?
The company was founded a long time long ago, 114 years ago, by a family of enthusiasts (the Mayrand family) who at the time had various supermarkets and grocery stores, mainly in Montreal. In 1996, Mr. Le Rossignol bought Mayrand.
What makes your brand stand out?
Our offer is truly unique. Nobody else offers what we do, in terms of segments, customer base, and service. Our offer is much broader. We have all types of kitchen equipment, packaging, and sizes that you can’t find in the big chains. We carry over 10,000 different products to meet a vast demand.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face in your career as an entrepreneur?
I’ve been through a lot of challenges, but getting through the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the big ones. We had to keep our troops motivated and try to redefine ourselves. We lost 70% of our distribution sales volumes at the beginning of the pandemic. There were two sides to the pandemic. First, there were many losses. However, demand was so high that we were unable to meet it. I remember that sometimes we closed at 6 p.m., but there were still customers until 8 p.m. It was quite a challenge to get through the pandemic. It was the adaptability of our teams that made the difference. It’s good to see restaurants reopen; people are smiling again.
What is the biggest lesson that business ownership has taught you?
I learn something new every day. I started managing people in 1980 and since then, management styles have evolved, it’s completely different now. What strikes me most is this evolution. I’m surprised to see how generations and cultures have changed and our way of doing things has followed suit. We listen to what our employees have to say and what they need. It’s a learning process, we have to adapt accordingly. I would even say that the younger generations have better mindsets than we do, because work used to be highly glorified and now employees are better valued. We have people of all ages and origins. Now people think about who they want to work for, for which reasons, and for which clients.
What keeps you passionate about your field?
I think I fell into it when I was young, like Obelix fell in the magic potion! When I’m doing something, I do it with passion. I have various interests, but when I get into something I’m passionate about, even at my age, I still have that same spark in the morning. I don’t even have an alarm clock. I wake up on my own and I look forward to coming to work in the morning, to be able to achieve something with the team and do it together. What motivates me is our team, because we are going to win together. I always say that when things go wrong, it’s my fault and when things go right, it’s because of everyone. I went into business because I am passionate. Everything I’ve done, I have done with passion - and I think that’s why I’ve had so much fun in life and still do.
What advice would you give to a future entrepreneur?
Being surrounded with the right people is the first thing. Having a great idea is not everything. You have to be very persistent, that’s one of the first qualities of an entrepreneur. Not everything happens quickly, it can take a while. As an entrepreneur, you have that passion inside you and that’s your biggest threat, because your patience can kill that passion. So, always believe in your dream and then surround yourself with good people who will support you. If your idea is unique and sets you apart, you have a great chance of succeeding, especially if the market demand is there.
What do people remember about your company?
We offer a highly personal service; our people are accessible. Our employees are really committed and passionate. Today, as I spent two hours in the store, I asked a customer why she liked coming to Mayrand’s and she said that the range of produce we carry cannot be found elsewhere. We offer exotic fruits and vegetables. I think customers come for our product offer, our service, and because they feel that they are in a professional setting.
What is your best-kept secret?
Visiting us feels like going on a treasure hunt. People who are not used to visiting us are amazed at the variety of products we carry, and they come back because they always enjoy their experience. It’s a unique business model to experience. Our best kept secret is what the future holds, because we have a lot of plans.
We want to continue to grow, to make ourselves better known and to continue to serve the people across Quebec.