Being an entrepreneur sometimes means putting yourself aside and putting the interests of the company at the center of decisions. Peter Simmons says, “My dad always told me ‘You have a choice in life, is family the business or is it the family business? “
After 182 years and five generations of entrepreneurs, Mr. Simons has continued the family recipe by betting above all on La Maison Simons, and the appointment of Bernard LeBlanc as President and CEO on Tuesday.
However, this is the first time in its history that the retailer has found itself with a president without Simmons’ name on its lead, and that decision was made even if the hour of early retirement did not come for him. -President.
“I am 57 years old. I train four times a week precisely to avoid early retirement,” Mr. Simmons said with a touch of humour, acknowledging that this decision was not made without emotion.
“Honestly, it was a matter of timing. There, the business is good. […] What frightened me the most was doing the same as the others waiting so long. People who don’t think about the company, they think about their needs. I didn’t want to fall into that trap.”
The entrepreneur will remain in the enterprise as a principal dealer, will mainly focus on developing “fashion assortment and brand influence”, and will continue to sit on the family council. His brother Richard will also remain with the company.
The Simons family will continue to be the retailer’s controlling shareholder. This change has been approved by other financial partners, such as Investissement Québec and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.
Mr. Simmons has been thinking for several months about passing the torch, while the company is now showing growth and good financial health and wants to further develop it.
“The organization is talking a certain way. There, it was the time, and she said to me, ‘Be brave.’ You can’t ask people during COVID-19 to be brave, to face change and to be flexible, and when it’s your turn, you will hesitate,” said Mr. Simmons, claiming that he did not feel pressure from his partners to leave his position.
The new president and CEO is no stranger to La Maison Simons. As of Tuesday, Mr. LeBlanc held the position of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the company. His job will be to follow up on the development of the stores and the website.
“Essentially, we’re continuing the path with the business priorities we’ve set in recent months,” he says, not ruling out the possibility of opening new stores, like in Toronto or on the Halifax side.
Mr Simons is pleased to have been able to complete his digital transformation in recent months, despite challenges related to the pandemic. La Maison Simons can now rely on its $200 million distribution center in Quebec.
In 2018, Quebec granted a loan of $81 million for this project, Fonds immobilier de Solidarité FTQ invested $20 million, Caisse, $27 million, and Investissement Québec, $17 million.
Over the past two years, Mr. Simons has never hidden his fear of losing his job. In the spring of 2020, all scenarios were on its table, in particular, restructuring or adding investors. He had to borrow $30 million from BDC Capital to help the company.
Although he is no longer president of La Maison Simons, a position he has held for 26 years, Mr. Simons is closing the door to the idea of making a leap in politics next fall.
Maison Simons was founded in 1840 by John Simons. The brand has 15 stores in Canada and nearly 3,000 employees. A 16And the The branch will open its doors at the Fairview Point Clear Center in May.
Prime Minister Francois Legault praised Mr. Simmons’ work on Tuesday.
“It is a page of history that is turning. […] He’s still a shareholder, and that’s what matters.”
– in collaboration with Marc-André Gagnon
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