Recognition Review April 2011 : Page 50
Retailer Proﬁ le A History of Service Régimbal Promotions Ltd. BY K. SCHIPPER STATS Régimbal Promotions, Ottawa, On., Canada (two locations) President/Owner(s): Luc Régimbal, presi-dent; Stéphane Giroux, vice president Phone: 613.746.0983; 613.834.0949 Web site: www.regimballtd.ca E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Specialty: Awards and promotions Biggest-Selling Product: Corporate awards Philosophy: Great service plus great product equals great business. Five-year business goal: Open other shops and keep on growing our produc-tion capabilities with new equipment. What ARA has done for us: ARA member-ship helps us keep learning new ideas. Greatest success: Helping out the com-munity as much as we can. (New) Business Tip: Give a great service with a great product and clients will keep on coming, even after 85 years. s Luc Régimbal’s grandfather, Horace, at his original location. t first glance, Luc Régimbal’s feet are firmly planted in Canada’s capi-tal city, Ottawa. Régimbal, along with co-owner and business partner Stéphane Giroux of Régimbal Promotions Ltd., has helmed the company that bears his name for the past 19 years. In reality, Régimbal’s aspirations extend beyond Ottawa. Just as he is comfortable speaking both French and English in Canada’s bilingual society, he is equally at home working the diverse markets of youth sports trophies and high-end corporate awards—two of the numerous prod-uct lines his company offers. As the third generation of family members working the company, Régimbal understands the history of service that has kept Régimbal Promotions in business for nearly 85 years. He also remains focused on the future; he hopes some of his children, and perhaps grandchildren, will continue to love and grow the business. A Behind the Curtain Régimbal Promotions dates back to 1926, when Régimbal’s grandfather, Horace, opened a business specializing in jewelry and watch repair in the back room of a barber shop in downtown Ottawa. In the 1930s, the company relocated to its current location near the downtown area. “Back then when people had a family business, the front of the building housed the business and a drape separated the business from the living room, which was in the back,” says Régimbal. “The office I have now was 50 April 2011 Say you saw it in Recognition Review
At first glance, Luc Régimbal’s feet are firmly planted in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. Régimbal, along with co-owner and business partner Stéphane Giroux of Régimbal Promotions Ltd., has helmed the company that bears his name for the past 19 years. In reality, Régimbal’s aspirations extend beyond Ottawa.
Just as he is comfortable speaking both French and English in Canada’s bilingual society, he is equally at home working the diverse markets of youth sports trophies and high-end corporate awards—two of the numerous product lines his company offers.
As the third generation of family members working the company, Régimbal understands the history of service that has kept Régimbal Promotions in business for nearly 85 years. He also remains focused on the future; he hopes some of his children, and perhaps grandchildren, will continue to love and grow the business.
Behind the Curtain
Régimbal Promotions dates back to 1926, when Régimbal’s grandfather, Horace, opened a business specializing in jewelry and watch repair in the back room of a barber shop in downtown Ottawa. In the 1930s, the company relocated to its current location near the downtown area.
“Back then when people had a family business, the front of the building housed the business and a drape separated the business from the living room, which was in the back,” says Régimbal. “The office I have now was The kitchen back then. There were stairs going up to the bedrooms.”
A business expansion added jewelry, and then Horace and his wife, Jeanne, added trophies. “We were one of the first companies in Ottawa that got into trophies,” says their grandson. “There was nobody else to fill the demand.” Besides selling jewelry and trophies, the Régimbals were raising a family behind the curtain, and over time all of their children worked the business.
When the senior Régimbals retired, they left their business in the hands of their daughter, Therese Breton, and her husband, Marcel.Luc Régimbal’s father, Jean, retained an interest in the business, as well.
Régimbal recalls fond memories of the shop dating back to his early childhood. Jean Régimbal’s Monday- Friday job entailed heading the renovations department of a local hospital, but he would work in the family business on Saturdays during busy times of the year.
“It was our treat to come out with Dad to work,” Régimbal recalls.“That day we knew we’d always go out and eat at a restaurant. My dad never worked here full time, and for probably 10 or 15 years he didn’t come in here to work at all.”
After high school, Régimbal went to work for his father. By that time, Jean Régimbal had retired from his job at the hospital and was doing private remodeling. Régimbal vividly remembers the day his uncle came to their work site and told his father the two of them needed to go out to lunch.
“When he came back, I asked, ‘Is Uncle wanting to sell the business?’ and my father said yes,” Régimbal says. “That’s when I started to try to see if I could buy it.” At the time, Regimbal was a self-described “22-year-old with no business sense and not a penny in my pocket.”
But Régimbal didn’t want to see the business go to anyone outside his family. He wanted to be his own boss, and the thought of a third-generation business became appealing.
The transition from the second to third generation of Régimbals was not easy. “I went to the bank three times before they decided to say, ‘yes,’ with three different plans on how to finance the business,” Régimbal says. An important part of the transition of ownership was the inclusion of Stéphane Giroux, a high school friend.
“We are 50-50 and have been since the beginning,” says Régimbal. “I always say that if my first wife had been like Stéphane, we’d still be married. After 19 years, we’re still getting along and we’ve never had any huge arguments.”
The main reason for their success, Régimbal believes, is the two men complement each other. Not only is his partner the quiet sort, but he manages the production side of the operation. Régimbal’s emphasis is on the administrative side of the business, from taking care of clients to marketing.
While the two men might have been young and inexperienced when they took over the business in 1992, they weren’t content to rest on its laurels. Within 6 months they added promotional items to their product offerings.
“We wanted to generate more business,” says Régimbal. “We found promotions would be a good line to get into, and the company was already offering things like T-shirts.
We wanted to get into the more elaborate stuff.” The two men can trace much of their subsequent growth to this simple decision. Problems came along with subcontracting work, however.
“More and more, the timeframe for delivering a job is the most important thing for clients,” he says. “We were sending jobs off to Montreal or to Toronto, and then the company wouldn’t ship it back to us on time or the truck would break down on the way. We got tired of dealing with that kind of stress.”
In 1992, Régimbal Promotions was using two computers for its engraving work. When the new partners took over the operation, logos were still being done with a pantagraph.
“We had a New Hermes, so we bought a module to engrave logos,” Régimbal says. “Then we bought a Newing-Hall that made it much easier to convert logos. Then, we bought a second Newing-Hall machine to engrave pewter mugs and so forth. We’ve always tried to keep up with the new technology coming out.”
In the late 1990s, the shop added a 50-watt laser engraver.By then, the partners were doing sandblasting and screen printing on hard surfaces. The latter, Régimbal explains, was due to his reluctance to get into sublimation.
“We used to do screen printing on aluminum plates for logos and things like that,” he explains. “We finally got into sublimation about 5 years ago. I still prefer screen printing, but it’s much easier to do sublimation.”
The company also offers embroidery, a process Régimbal Promotions added about 4 years ago. This decision was all about serving its customers. “We always had to wait for someone else to do embroidery, and we’d sometimes lose jobs because we couldn’t deliver on time,” says Luc Regimbal. “We decided that for the amount of embroidery we were doing, it was worth our while to get into it.”
The partners invested in a six-head machine, and that addition has been such a success they have been able to use the machine to do wholesale work on the side.
A Little Flexibility
The embroidery machine also presented the advantage of not taking up too much floor space—a concern that has intensified as the company expands.
The original location’s 800 square feet now is devoted to office space and a showroom. Eleven years ago, the firm moved its production to a commercial condominium in the east Ottawa neighborhood of Orleans—the same neighborhood in which the partners grew up.
“I started by renting wall space from a friend who let me put in a little display of trophies and promotions,” says Régimbal. “We tried it for a year and it worked surprisingly well, considering we only put an ad in the Yellow Pages.We saw that it was worth our while, so now we have two locations.”
The Orleans space has 2,100 square feet on two floors, but the partners find they need more space. A pad printer purchased at a forced sale can’t be put into production because of lack of space, and their desire to add T-shirt printing can’t go forward until they have room for the printer and dryer.
“We wanted to buy our next-door neighbor’s place when it came up for sale recently, but the bank wouldn’t help us out at the time,” says Régimbal.
Despite space constraints, the company maintains a large stock of acrylic and glass awards and trophy parts.If a customer is willing to be a little flexible, it is possible for Régimbal Promotions to create and deliver 100 trophies in 24 hours.
The business partners take advantage of a governmentsupported nonprofit program called Bank Development of Canada (BDC), which helps them evaluate their business with an eye on what should come next. BDC helped them obtain three loans for acquisitions of new equipment and its two buildings.
“BDC is keen on helping businesses prosper,” Régimbal says. “They have a consultation division on how to grow your business and take it to the next level.”
The near-term goals for Régimbal Promotions include upgrading the company’s website, adding more e-commerce, and adding some full-time salespeople to call on clients. The company employs three retired part-time outside salespeople. Other employees include a bookkeeper and a full-time staff of five.
With almost 85 years of business under its belt, Régimbal says a history of satisfied clients remains the company’s best advertisement. Some clients initially did business with his aunt and uncle.
Régimbal observes that having a French surname on the door doesn’t hurt business; after all, the province of Quebec is right across the Ottawa River. “We get a lot of business from the Quebec side of the river,” he says. “We’re keen on keeping the French first for our French customers, and probably 60% of our business comes from French clients.”
Language aside, he stresses that quality and customer service are what keep clients coming through the door. “We have 100% control over the quality we give our corporate customers, and we do whatever it takes to make them happy,” he says. “If they need same-day delivery, we can certainly do that.”
Régimbal turned 40 in 2010, and he has a legacy to consider.“The fourth generation is just around the corner,” he says.“My oldest son has been working with us for about 3 years now. He’s in college, he’s taking business administration, and he has some interest in the business. He’s also seen me at work, and I think he’s going to be better than I am.”
His three younger children are not ready to commit to occupations, but, given family history, Régimbal is considering adding more locations. “It would be very nice if we could see fourth and then fifth generations in this business,” he concludes. “It’s rare, but hopefully we’ll have family continuity for a long time.”
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