Quebec-based professional services

Interview with Talsom president Olivier Laquinte, spokesperson and active member of the Regroupement des firmes de services professionnels indépendantes (RFSPI)

Why did Quebec’s professional services firms decide to join forces? What triggered this initiative?
The Regroupement grew out of a desire to give professional services firms a longer lease on life. Our mission is to encourage entrepreneurship in the field of professional services and to ensure that there will be people willing and able to take over our firms when the time comes to pass the torch.

Through discussions among ourselves and between us and other stakeholders, we also realized that in Quebec today our industry is not reaching its full potential, and that we could turn things around.

Our firms have the capacity to help businesses in other industries boost their performance. The word on everyone’s lips is ‘innovation’; and in addition to helping businesses develop new products and services, our firms contribute to fostering efficiency and bringing innovations to market.

Some business leaders think of our firms as a necessary evil, while others view us as veritable growth engines. It is this latter role that we want to showcase and promote. We’re confident of our contribution!

What kinds of businesses belong to the Regroupement? What are the criteria for admission?
We run the gamut from digital transformation to engineering to recruitment; we represent firms from every segment of our industry. This is what’s distinctive about the Regroupement, and it is one of our great strengths. To become a member, a firm must meet three conditions:

  • It must have at least 10 employees;
  • 51% of its shares must be held by local interests; and
  • It cannot answer to a foreign head office.

You head up a company whose reach extends beyond Quebec’s borders. How do you reconcile the emphasis on buying local services with your ability to consult with organizations elsewhere in Canada, in the United States and all over the world?
I think they go hand in hand. By promoting local services, we strengthen Quebec’s economy and build stronger businesses. The aim of the Regroupement is not to keep Quebec-based firms from doing business with foreign companies; our objective is to assist one another in developing our respective skills, which will allow local businesses to export their know-how and put local talent on the map.

Not only is competition good, it is also healthy. It makes us stretch our capacities and develop new skills.

Working together gives us the power to create a strong, vibrant economy: an economy of go-getters.

Leaving aside the human tragedy of the pandemic, the current crisis offers many opportunities for service firms. Our clients have realized that they can move forward with their plans without face-to-face interaction. This new reality will open the door to remote competitors in the coming weeks and months. So we have to act quickly and seize these new opportunities as they arise. Each of the firms in our organization must identify what it does best and in which market segment, wherever that may be in the world. Being “good enough” will no longer be enough, and we can’t ask businesses to choose us just because we’re local – we have got to be the best!

What are the main arguments for doing business with Quebec-based professional services firms?
It’s up to us to make the case, not our clients. We must foster a spirit of cooperation and partnership. We have to start looking at firms based in Singapore, France and the US as our competitors. We must be inspiring and ambitious.

Our clients are entrepreneurs like us. We must show them that we understand their business reality better than anyone, and that, like them, we want to help our businesses conquer the world.

I would add that we must expect more from one another. No entrepreneur wants to be a charity case. We all want to be chosen because our clients see us as the best. So give us a chance to improve on what we do through direct and honest feedback.

How did the government and public contracting authorities react to this undertaking?
We made a great deal of progress during the last year, but a lot of work remains to be done. Our current objective is to have our field recognized in the coming years as strategically important.

What reaction are you hoping for from local businesses, large and small?We want them to share our ambitions – for us, for them and for Quebec as a whole.

Why did you choose the new name “Services professionnels d’ici” (Quebec-based professional services)?
When we launched this initiative, the aim of our name was simply to make governments aware of our sector’s situation. Today, given the enthusiastic response we have received from many of our stakeholders, we thought it was important to simplify our corporate name and to adopt a friendlier, simpler and more engaging brand name. We want to thank BrandBourg for steering us in the right direction in developing our new name and signature. Actually, it was when I read BrandBourg’s article on “Brand names: initials, acronyms and abbreviations” that I realized what a challenge it was!

Olivier Laquinte, President and Founder of Talsom

“BrandBourg, one of the members of our group, is a great example of how a local business can help us reach further and aim higher.”

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