Words: MASONRY Magazine
Photos: Julie Rainville
Editor’s Note: We had the opportunity to chat with Julie Rainville of FRACO for this month’s special edition of GEN NXT. Julie is the Co-President at FRACO in Canada, her and her sister run the company. She grew up in the masonry industry as her father was a mason contractor and was immersed in the industry. We would like to thank Julie for taking the time to talk with us and JAGClamp for sponsoring this series.
Masonry Magazine: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got started in this industry?
Julie Rainville: My father was a mason, so I was born into the masonry world. As a kid, he was managing his company from home, and I grew up surrounded by bricklayers, workers, and customers. But as I grew up, I had other interests and I never thought of working in the construction business. I studied sociology in college because my dream was to work in the Communications field. I finished my master’s degree and I was just about to work in my field of study when my dad came to see me.
At that time he was a mason and was working at FRACO in the mast climbing business, he sat down with me and he said, “Julie, you know your sister is already working in the company, I know that’s not what you were planning to do, but I just wanted to make sure that you will have no regrets in the future if we build something nice.” He didn’t want me to feel like I was never given the support and opportunity to work with them. So, being the type of person that never wants to miss an opportunity, and he presented it very well that I couldn’t refuse. I said, “Well, ok, I think I should try it just to make sure that’s not what I want to do.”
I started as a receptionist, then I worked in accounts receivable, and then I worked with the lawyers for our different work in the USA, handling contracts and things like that. There was nothing that really caught my attention. Then one day, my sister sat down with me and asked if there was one thing that I would really like to try. I said product management. Product management is something that really interested me. There was a position open in our Montreal market for our rental business and I did product management and fell totally in love with it.
I think I was made to deal with the customers, to manage and build relationships, to make sure they have what they wanted, to manage the contract with them and to manage the installation crew. As soon as I got into the field, I loved my job. That’s basically how it started, I really liked it because it was not so far off from what I did study but we are doing business in many countries.
M.M.: Tell us more about your dad. Did you go on jobs with him?
J.R.: In my dad’s family, there are seven brothers.
Five of them are masons, and three of them have their own masonry company. We’re a masonry family. So, my father joined a company as a laborer, and then he became a bricklayer. He was good at what he was doing so one day he went to see his brother they decided to become partners and start their own company. Their company was well recognized in Montreal for restoration, so they were specialized in that field, restoring old monuments. They even went to Europe to learn techniques on how to make the stone look older and things like that.
My mother left home when I was nine years old and my dad raised us, three kids, by himself, so I went with him on jobsites. I remember sitting on a pallet of bricks and watching my dad working, laying brick on Saturdays. He owned his masonry company until about 10 years ago, he finally sold everything he had related to masonry and it’s hard, his passion will always be stone and brickwork.
I remember one summer when I was 17 years old, I did labor work for his company and it was so tough. I prepared the mortar, and carried the brick and the block. I am strong physically, but this was the toughest thing I’d done. It’s really hard work, and he talks to me about the mast climbing and the ways to make workers more efficient but avoiding back pain. I understand him so well and he means it from his heart because he saw so many of his workers not being able to work at 50 because of back pain.
M.M.: Nice. You mentioned that you wanted to product manager, can you tell us more about your current role?
J.R.: Yes, right now I’m co-president of FRACO with my sister. It’s quite uncommon to work as Co-Presidents in this type of model, basically I take care of everything related to the marketing, sales, product innovation, product development, and strategy. Emmanuelle takes care of HR, the production plan, and finances. Of course when it’s time to deal with more strategic stuff we sit together. We make the plans together. We are very complementary in our work and our profile.
M.M.: How is it working with your family? As you said, you are co-presidents, how do you work together harmoniously?
J.R.: Well, I would say that we work remarkably well together. My father is still in the business, he’s not managing it anymore, he’s stepped back and is now taking care of our New York operations because it is growing very fast right now. Communication flows easily between us, we have the same values, we are very complementary and can discuss anything. We can discuss business, and if our feelings get hurt in the process or there’s something someone says that we find difficult or whatever we’re able to talk about it openly. It’s a very peaceful and positive relationship we have.
I think that that extends to the rest of the people as well because FRACO is a company of 200 people and there’s really a family atmosphere inside of the company that’s very special in a positive way. I’ve seen so many people working with family and getting into fights or feeling that it is unfair that one is working harder than the other, and things like that. I guess it’s because of the way we were raised, but we never had a bad feeling about anything like that, it’s very positive.
“There are still some challenges and as an entrepreneur, it’s a great position because you have the possibility of being part of the change.”
M.M.: Awesome. How long have you been working with your family?
J.R.: I’ve been working at FRACO since 2003. So it’s been 16 years. Something like that!
M.M.: How do you feel about continuing on with your family business?
J.R.: We’re very proud to continue what my father built with his wife and we are very proud to be continuing it and of course we are bringing our own color into the company but it’s very important to keep this business a family business. We have a third generation that is growing right now, we have family in their 20s as well that are ready to step in and we hope they will have as much fun as we have. It’s also very important to pass on our values to the people we are working with.
M.M.: What do you see yourself doing in the next 5 or 10 years?
J.R.: Oh, very easy! Having fun and growing the business, working with people, developing new products and new projects, and new partnerships. I like to develop and see who can be the next partner, creating and seeing. For instance, right now we have a very interesting project with a mason, I’m knocking on wood it’s progressing, and I think it’s going to be something amazing for the masonry industry.
We are always looking to continue to innovate and to expand but in the meantime, we need to be able to take care of the things we have at the same time as expanding because it’s very demanding for the team you know like growing and we want to have the right resources at the right places to make it happen.
M.M.: What keeps you interested in this industry?
J.R.: It’s amazing to me. We’re contributing to building the world. All the innovation, all the construction that is going on. Every time I work in a big city and I pass in front of buildings that we are working on, where companies are using our product for work, I’m so proud! You can see what you’re contributing to, so this is one thing that really catches my interest. The other thing is how proud people are to work for the company, I have been working with the same team for 16 years, and we knew each other in our 30s. Now they’re going into their 50s and their kids are coming to work.
They are so into FRACO, we feel that we are passionate about what we’re doing and it’s such a privilege to work around people that take pride in our work. At the end, we decide the type of atmosphere that people will work in. It’s such a pleasure to carry those relationships through time, to help people grow in their work, and to expand. Those are the two biggest things that keep me interested and make me love my job very much, and I want to continue to do that.
M.M.: Tell us a little bit about your Strategic Partnership with the MCAA.
J.R.: The MCAA is a major association in the industry. We want to be involved more and more. It’s mostly my dad who was involved up to now. But I’m glad we have Corinne Dutil, Brand Ambassador at FRACO, who can really be involved as well and be there. It brings a lot of strength when you are a part of a bigger group that is stronger to face the next challenge.
M.M.: Can you tell us a little bit more about the challenges that you see in the industry?
J.R.: On my side, there are two challenges that I see right now, one is the lack of labor, which is a big challenge for the whole country. For Canada and
for the US, the younger generation doesn’t want to do as much physical work, in addition to not having enough workers. One of the other challenges that industry is facing right now is there is a lot of other materials that people can use to build with, which are sometimes less expensive but not so durable.
M.M.: Have you had any experience working with the younger generation?
J.R.: On my side, we have had a great experience so far with the younger generation, they are just different. They want to be involved right away, they have to see the purpose of what they do, they don’t do a job just to do a job. I think that it’s our obligation as companies to be clearer on where we want to bring people in and what our mission is because when they start a project it will matter to them, it’s amazing. The other challenge, which is to me if you look at it another way it is not so much a challenge, we should see what it brings as well but they need a lot of liberty, freedom.
It’s kind of different from the previous generation. Even on jobsites I see the difference because 15 years ago when I was managing crews, the guys wanted to make as much an hour as they could. It’s tough for us to manage because we need to change the way we think about things, but at the same time it’s going to bring other things that we don’t see right away but that may be good for it. They are much more mobile, what I mean by mobile is if they work in one place, they don’t necessarily see that they will stay there for their whole life, they will try different things, they are much freer in their mind.
M.M.: Tell us your experiences of being a woman in this industry?
J.R.: I think that it’s become easier and easier as a woman in the industry. When I started as product manager about 15 years ago, it was not an easy job to be a woman and managing jobsites. The tough part was not with our own employees, it was more with customers, some could be rude, I had a customer one time that physically hurt me by shaking my hand so firmly that I started to cry. I would go to events such as golf tournaments when the guys were drunk, they would say inappropriate things.
So, you build your own team, you choose your people, and you build something incredible, but it was not always easy. There are still some challenges and as an entrepreneur, it’s a great position because you have the possibility of being part of the change. What I mean is you can put values in place for people who work for your company and they have no choice but to follow those values.
You can stop by and meet or say hi to Julie at the FRACO booth C3431 at World of Concrete.