Normand Caissie’s life of entrepreneurship started in 1979 when he opened Imperial Sheet Metal Limited in Richibucto, the original firm in what is today known as the Imperial Manufacturing Group of Companies. But the stage for him was set before that, as he inherited the business growth gene from both his father and grandfather.
Normand’s grandfather, Louis, started his own well-drilling and plumbing company in the Richibucto area of New Brunswick in 1939, and Normand’s father, Gerard, launched G. L. Caissie Ltd., a heating and plumbing firm in Richibucto in 1959. That company still operates today, run by Normand’s brother, Rheal.
Normand, a business graduate of Universite de Moncton, had originally worked for the Bank of Montreal and then for Seagram Distilleries, but from day one of his career he recognized the business opportunities in sheet metal and his vision was expansive.
“I realized that the entire Atlantic Canada sheet metal duct business was served from central Canada,” he explained. He recognized a geographic competitive edge and set out with his first four employees to sell customers on the advantages of dealing with a local manufacturer.
Ahead of his time, he also created a professional catalogue that his customers soon preferred over the “memory and product list” sales techniques of his competitors. The catalogue actually yielded the first national account for the firm, a client who is still with him today.
By 1982 the payroll had grown to 40 employees working three shifts. During these formative years, Normand adopted some business principles that continue to serve him well. Working out of Richibucto, considered a somewhat isolated base in the industry, Imperial became extremely self-reliant, with Normand insisting on talented employees who were sufficiently creative to make their own manufacturing equipment when necessary. To this day, IMG takes pride in its engineering, research and development capabilities.
Realizing that sheet metal duct was a commodity sold primarily on price, Normand sought value-added products that not only increased margins, but sold year-round, balancing the somewhat seasonal duct pipe business.
While some companies sold on price or emphasized a higher quality for a higher price, Normand insisted IMG compete on the basis of impeccable customer service as well as price and quality. That philosophy still holds and has allowed the firm to grow an impressive client list.
The quest for value-added products that were compatible with his core business turned Normand into something of an acquisitions specialist. So far he has purchased and assimilated 17 companies into IMG. To further improve margins, he instituted foreign sourcing and manufacturing and began selling and manufacturing in the United States.
The Richibucto businessman, his feet strongly rooted in the entrepreneurial spirit, has systematically built a global enterprise in every sense of the term. But he continues to have a strong loyalty for his home turf and its people, praising the attitude of the people from there as strong and resilient. A large majority of the town’s 1,200 residents are employed with Imperial.
Meanwhile, there is every indication the entrepreneurial spirit of the Caissie family has found root in the next generation. Already, Normand’s son Mario and his daughter Andrée are playing a significant role in the firm.