Loyalty Tastes Very Good!
I first met Jean Marcotte 15 years ago when he became Rideau’s bank manager while working for RBC Financial Group. Jean was in his late twenties and came from the beautifulSaguenay region of Quebec.
At the end of the 90’s Jean left RBC and joined a relatively new venture capital firm called Fondaction here in Montreal. Fondaction was different from your typical VC. They were not interested in flipping companies for short term gain. Their mandate was to invest in high growth companies that were socially responsible and to help them create real, lasting long term value.
Jean and I occasionally met for lunch after he left RBC and discussed the possibility of him investing in Rideau. We didn’t really need any outside money but at the time we were looking for investors in an online venture we had created. This company was called Yellowbox.com (everything was shipped in bright yellow boxes). The objective of the company was to help American not-for-profits raise money for their causes by creating online gift stores that their constituencies could purchase from with a portion of the proceeds going back to the cause.
So Jean decided to invest in Yellowbox.com. It was the first investment he made at Fondaction. By the time Jean got around to making the investment, the company was experiencing some difficulties. Fondaction could have backed out of the transaction if they wanted and I will never forget what Jean said to me as he pushed Fondaction’ s sizable cheque across the table… “Peter, we know Yellowbox.com is not going exactly as you planned… but we have faith in you and know you will make it right”.
Sadly, I was not able to “make it right” and within six months we closed the company. But Jean’s words and faith mattered a great deal to me and my Rideau partners. About six months later, even though we did not really need the money, we invited Fondaction to become an equal shareholder in Rideau and for Jean to represent them on our Board of Directors. There were five equal partners at the time… my sister Rosanne, two brothers Robby and Stephen, my best friend from school Cam Ferguson and me. Fondaction became the sixth partner.
Over the years, Jean and Fondaction helped finance the honorable exits of my brother Robby, sister Rosanne and best friend Cam. When Jean joined our Board we employed about 30 people… today, we number almost 275 and have grown almost 1,000%. We have a thriving, profitable, global business.
These things would never have happened without the support of Jean and his colleagues at Fondaction, more specifically Rejean Watier the head of investments and Leopold Beaulieu the President of Fondaction. They have been an all-season investors… there in both good times and bad. They have been true and loyal partners.
I am proud to call Jean my partner. My brother and I include him on every major decision we make. Jean and I don’t always see eye to eye but then again, the same holds true with my brother Stephen. The only difference being that I know when I am getting on slippery ground with Jean… when he folds his arms, I’m pushing the limits. If he tilts his head, I’m in major trouble!
Jean is also a loyal friend. Jean loves the outdoors and is an avid fly fisherman. Several years ago, Jean proudly came into my office with a fish he caught on one of his trips. I thanked him and put it into the fridge and promptly forgot about the darn thing until someone cleaned out the fridge several weeks later and demanded to know what idiot left a badly decomposing fish in the fridge!
Jean never let me live this down.
But as with any loyal friend, he did forgive me. Last year, Jean put a big basket of Saguenay’s famous blueberries on my desk. However, before he said they were mine, he took a step back, folded his arms and asked if I was going to forget them in the fridge too. Only after I assured him I would not, did he unfold his arms break into a big smile and say “bon appétit”!
Now that’s the type of loyalty that tastes very good!