President, Imperial Manufacturing Group
In 1979, Normand Caissie started Imperial Sheet Metal Ltd, operating from a 6,400 square-foot sheet metal shop in Richibucto, New Brunswick. He was following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, both of whom operated small businesses in the same Atlantic Canada village. Today, the Imperial Manufacturing Group of Companies is a team of more than 800 people working from six locations across Canada and one in the United States. IMG produces more than 7,000 products for the heating, air conditioning, ventilation and building products industries, of which thirty percent is exported.
Among Mr. Caissie’s many accomplishments, perhaps the most gratifying are awards of recognition from his industry and peers:
- Entrepreneur of the year 1991 from the Economic Council of New Brunswick
- Quality Plus Entrepreneur Award 1992 from the Atlantic Canada Entrepreneurship Awards
- Ernst & Young’s 2002 Entrepreneur Of The Year Award – Manufacturing
- Alumnus of the year 2002 – Université de Moncton
- 2002-2003 CHHMA – Director
- Moncton Airport Commercial Centre (Real Estate Company)- President
Mr. Caissie, a business graduate of the University of Moncton, initially worked for the Bank of Montreal and then for Seagram Distilleries, but he seemed to have sheet metal in his genes. After all, his forebears were in the plumbing and heating businesses and young Normand had grown up around furnaces, pipes and ducts. He saw opportunity in sheet metal and his vision was expansive.
Studying his market, Mr. Caissie realized that the entire Atlantic Canada sheet metal duct business was served from central Canada. He recognized a geographic competitive edge and set out with four employees to sell customers on the advantages of a local manufacturer. In addition to the local source angle, he created a professional catalog that customers preferred over the customary “memory and product lists” used by competitors. The catalog paid off for Caissie by helping to sell his first national account, a company IMG serves to this day. By 1982, the payroll had grown to 40 employees working three shifts.
During these formative years, Caissie adopted a number of business principles that have served him well over the 26-year history of IMG. Working from a somewhat isolated base, Imperial became self- reliant with Caissie 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 the sheet metal duct was a commodity product sold primarily on price, Caissie 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, Caissie insisted IMG compete on the basis of price, quality and impeccable customer service. That philosophy still holds.
The quest for value-added products that were compatible with his core business turned Norm Caissie into something of an acquisitions specialist. So far, he has purchased and assimilated fourteen companies into IMG. To further improve margins, he instituted foreign sourcing and manufacturing and began selling and manufacturing in the United States. Today, IMG is a global enterprise in every sense of the term.
Still, for Normand Caissie, local will always be preferred. “My people are innovative, imaginative and self-reliant,” he observes. “They are the best. It stems from an attitude you develop when you live in a place like this.” He refers to his native Richibucto, still the headquarters of Imperial Manufacturing Group and “work” for 500 of the town’s 1,200 residents.