Buy your boss

Your boss is getting older. He is thinking of withdrawing from business. His children do not want to follow in his footsteps. His closest managers either. Selling to a stranger does not really interest him.

The ultimate solution: put the key under the door.

Workers, this is the chance to save your livelihood!

And become your own boss.

In 2014, the thirty employees of the Librairie Pantoute in Quebec City did so.

Through an innovative business formula, they acquired 53% of the shares of the company founded in 1972 by Denis Lebrun and Maryvonne Le Port.

The Librarian Pantoute now belongs to a management company created by Victoria Levesque and Marie-Eve Pichette – two employees who had been approached by Denis Lebrun and Claire Taillon owners to buy their business – and a co-operative Shareholders.

“We are living proof that the takeover of a company by its employees is possible,” says Paul-Albert Plouffe, bookseller and secretary-treasurer of the employee cooperative.

“We are not yet quite business people, but we are learning to become one,” added Stéphane Picher, president of the employee co-op and director of the Saint-Joseph branch.

In the company of Victoria Levesque, now owner (with Marie-Eve ​​Pichette) and administrative director of the Librairie Pantoute, MM. Plouffe and Picher reported earlier this week on the history of the ownership of commerce by its employees during an activity organized by the Quebec Enterprise Transfer Center (CTEQ).

Not a sinecure

Long. Difficult. Complicated.

These are the three words used by Stephane Picher to summarize the process leading up to the transaction.

In the first place, few booksellers pretended to be women or businessmen, although some of them had expertise in purchasing or promotion.

They were also forced to accept a wage cut. He had to pay his share.

“Is it necessary to recall that we operate in an environment in which the wages paid to workers are relatively low.”

And there were lots of questions for which answers were late.

How much will it cost us?

How long will it take to repay the loan?

How much will we be in the adventure?

Working with partners such as the law firm of Bernier, Beaudry, the Coop Relève Group and the Quebec-Appalaches Regional Development Co-operative, the workers drafted a business plan that attracted a CSN investment fund – Filaction – which ultimately financed the transaction.

“Without the help of our employees, we would not have bought the shares of Denis Lebrun,” says Stéphane Picher, pointing out that the rate of membership of the workers was more than 90%.

“The announcement of the acquisition was a great pride for all of us,” says Paul-Albert Plouffe.

The public, too, appreciated that the Librairie Pantoute survives and remains in the hands of independent booksellers. “We received a good deal of sympathy from the general public. We have seen an increase in sales from the start, “notes Stephane Picher.

Make the difference

And how is it, at the Librairie Pantoute, since the employees are the first masters on board? “It’s positive. We feel that people are motivated. They want to get involved. We also discover unsuspected talents among some of our comrades, “says Victoria Levesque.

“We saw some colleagues reborn,” adds Stephane Picher. “Even if we do not necessarily apply the concepts of participatory management, many feel that they can make a difference in a business model like ours.”

Thinking about your employees
“On the part of an owner of a business, it takes a certain open-mindedness to think that its employees are able to buy it.”

In everyday life, Vincent Lecorne is a matchmaker. He is head of the Quebec Enterprise Transfer Center (CTEQ), a sort of dating agency for entrepreneurs who want to sell their company and potential buyers.

“Over the past two years, we have raised 1500 face-to-face meetings between sellers and buyers.”

For him, the acquisition of the bookstore Pantoute by its employees is a case too rare in Quebec.

A leader who wants to sell his company will first think of his children. Then to his faithful managers. Then to strangers.

And, perhaps, to his employees.

The CTEQ is promoting a new program whose objective is to encourage the collective recovery of companies in the context of the lack of entrepreneurial succession by granting financial support in the amount of $ 1 million for four years.

In Quebec, cooperatives and mutuals have grown in the financial services and insurance, agri-food, housing and funeral services sectors.

The formula of worker shareholder cooperatives is not popular.

It’s not about money, says Vincent Lecorne. “The financial challenge exists in all transfer cases. A financial package is always complex. ”

It is simply the absence of a reflex on the part of the entrepreneurs. “The owner must consider, from the outset, the option of selling his business to his employees and not just when all other doors have closed.”

Studies by the Ministry of Economy, Science and Innovation show that 60,000 entrepreneurs will retire in the next decade. Of these, 38,000 would have no relief.

In its index listing owners and buyers, CTEQ holds the names of 4,000 potential buyers.


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