When Luc Stang took over as president and CEO of Gin-Cor Industries of Mattawa, he inherited a “well-oiled machine” from his uncle Bob Corriveau.
Though the heavy trucker equipment ‘upfitter’ was widely regarded as an industry leader, Stang was determined to take it to the next level with double-digit sales every year, and a well-motivated and energized workforce.
With a Kaizen-like belief in constantly learning and improving, Stang drew inspiration from business management guru Jim Collins.
He wasn’t satisfied with merely being a good company, but wanted to install a culture where employees are entrepreneurial-minded, take ownership of the work they do, and embrace change.
“Our goal is to be the biggest, but to be really good at what we do.”
Gin-Cor modifies all brands of major name-brand truck chassis in performing custom installations such as installing dump boxes, snow plows, sanders, flatbeds, cranes and decks.
The attachments manufactured by suppliers are shipped up to Mattawa where the final assembly of the finished vehicle takes place. Gin-Cor installs all the necessary controls and components for the end-user.
The company began as a small welding and equipment fabrication shop started by Bob Corriveau and two business partners, Louis and Phillip Gingras in 1978, before expanding into installing dump boxes in 1986.
Through hard work, attention to detail, and relentless customer service, Gingras Corriveau quickly became the number one dealer in Canada and the U.S. for Bibeau dump-bodies.
Stang arrived on the scene in 2002 after 15 years in the chemical industry, buying the company from Corriveau, the current mayor of Papineau-Cameron Township.
Both were looking for a change of pace.
Stang wanted to settle down with his family in a place they had spent many summers. Corriveau was dog-tired after 22 years of building the business.
“We took it to the level we wanted to take it,” said Corriveau. “I enjoyed it tremendously, but I was relieved to walk away.”The company enjoyed a very loyal customer base installing high-end, durable and top-quality products. But like many North American truck outfitters, it was run like a Mom-and-Pop operation.
Most of the knowledge behind the complexities of building customized trucks was inside the heads of the outgoing owners.
“The business could have gone south quite easily with the change in ownership,” said Stang, who began documenting procedures and started cross-training personnel.
More day-to-day decision-making was delegated to experienced staff on the shop floor and Stang has actively solicited their ideas.
“I put things in place to allow others to make decisions and give them some latitude to do that to allow them to learn and grow.”
Stang has some big expectations for Gin-Cor.
He wants his 60-employee firm to eventually be recognized as one of Canada's 50 best managed companies.
Making Gin-Cor a place where people want to come to work and where employee input is respected and valued will mean attracting the best people to fuel the company's future growth plans.
Under the mission statement, 'We build trucks that owners want to own and drivers want to drive,' Stang has also launched a diversification strategy.
For years, Gin-Cor was a seasonal business. Summers were slow. Dump boxes were installed for customers in the spring for the upcoming construction season before activity picked up again in the fall, attaching snow plows to get ready for winter.
Stang is out to find complementary business, such as refurbishment work, to keep its workforce busy year-round, especially in July and August.
“This year we’re having a banner year. We’ve picked up some large contracts in southwestern Ontario for dump trucks.”He attributes that to the decision to establish sales offices in major truck centres like Ottawa, London and Newmarket to be closer to customers and the hub of construction activity.
After inking a four-year deal to build and supply snow plow trucks for the City of Ottawa, Gin-Cor is chasing more municipal work.
The “snow and ice market” is providing them with some national exposure with a Department of National Defence contract for bases across Canada.
Stang said the company was growing at a 30 per cent annual pace until the 2008 market crash. Now it's rebounded to 10 per cent annually.
“We expect to remain in double-digit growth over the next five years.”
Eventually, Stang intends to establish a network of service centres in southern Ontario for maintenance, parts distribution and to handle repairs.
“Being far from our customer base, it's part of our motivation to make sure it's done right the first time and it never has to come back here.”
The plant builds about 300 trucks a year, but with a recently-opened 18,000-square-foot production facility, capacity will ramp up to 600.
Integrating lean manufacturing practices represents a chance to streamline their truck assembly process, but also physically expand with an eye on future growth.
With large sandblasting and paint booths, combined with their in-house hydraulic and welding expertise, Gin-Cor is pursuing some heavy equipment work in the resource industry.
“We're hoping to go after refurbishing work in the mining sector. We think there's a real need for that in the North.”
What Stang has brought to Gin-Cor is a keen understanding of the North American marketplace and their competitors in analyzing partnership opportunities and possible acquisitions.
“I look at things from the perspective of, how do we find synergies to better compete at the regional and national level?”Though often presented with proposals, Stang is always shrewd in weighing all options that make for the best corporate fit. “We only want to align ourselves with the best, those we recognize as the best regionally or globally.”