She left the Caisse in full pandemic to start a business

Start a business, it is to make a leap into the void. It is even more staggering when one starts on the eve of a pandemic of sars coronavirus. Manon Hamel can testify to that.

Last February, she left her position of vice-president, business Development and Initiatives, Québec, and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) to become an associate at Excell Transportation, a transportation company school adapted from Saint-Basile-le-Grand, in Montérégie, which was founded by her husband, Marc Boucher, 16 years ago. A carefully considered decision.

“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. After a 25 year career in finance, I told myself that it was time to put into practice the advice that I gave to the officers. “

Barely a month later, Quebec was put ” on pause “, which resulted in the closure of schools.

“This was not the best time to finally decide to launch it, recognizes it, but who could have foreseen such a situation. All I had to do was to raise my sleeves. ”

Crisis management

She who had come to support her husband to give a new impulse to the company had to switch to the mode of crisis management.

“I can tell you that everything that I learned alongside of Michael Sabia [ex-CEO], Charles Émond [current CEO] and the managers of the Fund has been put to use,” says Manon Hamel, who has also worked at GE Capital and BDC.

She put her hundred employees, mostly drivers, in the heart of each of its decisions.

“I opted to maintain the employment relationship and reaffirm our corporate values. I bet on them, even though nearly three-quarters of our drivers have 60 years and more. To this day, 90 % of employees have confirmed their return to work, a very high rate. ”

In the area of school transport is adapted, Excell Transmission band to share in regards to working conditions.

“It does not deal with sub-contractors as drivers,” explains Manon Hamel. They are hiring and they are provided with the vehicle. Our fleet consists of 125 sedan school. So we take care of maintenance and repairs, gasoline, insurance. This allows us to maintain the excellence of the service and to ensure the safety of children. “

The management of the workforce, it is the main challenge for the industry, according to Manon Hamel.

“There is a high turnover rate in our industry. As this is a part-time job, there are a lot of retirees among our employees. In addition, it is a work that is not for everyone.

“Our clientele is comprised of children who suffer from an illness, a disability or a conduct disorder. They have special needs. During the trip, they may scream, cry or even self-injury. It must be able to deal with these situations. They are also children who need a routine. The relationship of trust with the driver is essential. We need to offer good conditions to avoid renewing the staff every six months. “

Technology to the rescue

It is also an industry where a technology shift is required.

“The development of an application that would optimize the communications between the customer, the school and the carrier. Currently, if a child does not go to school, his parents should communicate with the school board, who calls us. You must then route the information to the driver. Everything could be done online and in real-time. ”

Jump with two feet into the management of the operations of an SME, even in the midst of a pandemic, it is the best decision she could take, writes Manon Hamel, who has managed with its management team, the return to work of employees following the reopening of schools.

“Passing a business to a higher level, I know that I am capable of doing it. We are a company that thinks of itself as a great, it is what distinguishes us. “

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