Robert Bernard: Redefining Success

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All 20 locations of Robert Bernard stores are managed and operated by the third generation of the Bernard family. Photo Robert Bernard

This Quebec tire retailer has never lost sight of what really makes a business successful.

If you were to mention the name “Robert Bernard” to anyone who lives in the South Shore region of Quebec, just outside of Montreal, chances are they would know exactly which tire retailer you’re talking about.

The Robert Bernard brand has been a mainstay in the area since 1950. What was once just a small single-bay garage with a gas station in St-Paul D’Abbotsford, Quebec, has blossomed into 20 retail locations, a bustling distribution centre, and over 520 happy employees.

Currently managed and operated by the third generation of the Bernard family, Robert Bernard’s current corporate offices sit atop the original gas station location. “We’re on the second story of the original building,” says Patrick Labrecque, Executive VP, Robert Bernard.

Back in 1950, Robert Bernard sold two things: tires and gasoline. Today, they do it all: from mechanical services to tires (PLT, TBR and OTR), windshield repair, accessory sales, rubber tracks and more.

Secret to success

Steve Bernard, President of Robert Bernard says that his company is focused on providing great service. Photo Robert Bernard

While keeping any business alive for 74 years can be considered a success, what the Bernard family managed to do since 1950 is worth celebrating as a true Canadian success story.

This family-run business has thrived over the decades. Despite numerous recessions and a global pandemic, the Bernard family has managed to turn a small one-bay garage and gasoline station into a retail empire. While that in itself is impressive, how they did it is even more impressive.

“It may sound a bit weird,” admits Steve Bernard, President of Robert Bernard, and grandson of the founder, “but we don’t focus on making money. Instead, we’re more focused on providing great service—both with our customers and with our employees. And we believe that if we can do that successfully, then the money will follow.”

Bernard believes that treating his employees well is the key to long-term success. “Our tagline for our stores translates to ‘It’s the experience,’ in English,” he adds. “So, we are focused on the experience our customers have when they deal with us, and we believe that our employees are our most important customers.”

No magic formula

Patrick Labrecque, Executive VP of Robert Bernard says that some of his employees have been with the company for more than 35 years. Photo Robert Bernard

Labrecque insists that employers don’t need a “magic formula” to help them figure out how to treat their employees. “We focus on listening to our employees, and making adjustments accordingly,” he explains.

Another key ingredient is the potential for growth. “Every employee in our company has the capacity to grow with us,” Labrecque adds. “Some of our employees were hired on to install tires, and now they manage an entire department.”

As an employer, Labrecque adds, it’s important to compare the way you treat your staff and the opportunities you offer your employees with what they could get if they were to work somewhere else. That’s the only way to keep good employees from leaving.

The strategy seems to be working well, and employee turnover is very low. “We do have some people who come and go,” Labrecque adds, “but that’s mostly due to the seasonality of our business. If you take that out of the equation, only a small percentage of our staff leaves to pursue other opportunities. We have a long list of employees who have been with us for over 25 years. We even have a couple who have been with the company longer than 35 years.”

Future growth

Having grown significantly over the past 74 years, Robert Bernard is poised for even more ambitious growth plans in the future. “We definitely want to see the business grow,” Labrecque says. “The previous two generations of our family grew the business for us, and we want to do the same for our children and grandchildren. We want them to inherit an even larger and more successful company than we have now.”

Located south of Montreal, Robert Bernard could expand into nearby parts of Ontario. However, according to Steve Bernard, the immediate future is about expanding into other parts of Quebec. “There are so many opportunities for us to explore here at home before we start thinking about the English markets,” he says. “For now, we have plans for Quebec. We have time to think about other markets in the future.”


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