PwC Canada | Groupe Marcelle: the story of a beautiful family business

In 1949, Montrealer Victor Cape wanted to expand its chain of five pharmacies. He acquires the Canadian distribution rights of a Chicago-based cosmetics brand, Marcelle. His son Michael takes the company to new heights, developing innovative brands and dealing with major retailers. Today, a third generation manages this Quebec flagship, which brings together the Watier, Marcelle, Annabelle and CW Beggs & Sons brands and employs 350 people.

Interview between David Cape, President of Groupe Marcelle and Honorary President of the 2022 Succession Medalists competition, and Christine Pouliot, Partner, Transactions and Managing Director of Sales, Acquisition and Corporate Finance at PwC Canada.

Posted at 8:30 am.

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Christine Pouliot — PwC Canada
How did you get into the family business?

David Cape – Marcelle Group
When I graduated from Princeton University in 1987, I preferred to forge my own path first. I developed software for the American trucking industry that was very successful. So I sold that company and worked at Microsoft. It was a very big environment for me and I missed the entrepreneurial side of an SME. After seven years, satisfied with what he had accomplished, he was ready to join Groupe Marcelle as Executive Vice President.

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How did the transfer of management take place?

A.D
My father and I never formalized a succession plan, but the transfer of knowledge came naturally. During the ten years that followed my return, I took on more and more responsibilities until my father said to me, “I believe you are ready to become president now. He then assumed leadership of the board of directors and adopted the role of mentor and advisor. He still works in the office every day and enjoys seeing how the company continues to grow.

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How have your business challenges evolved?

A.D
My father used to say that the challenges of today are much greater than those of his time. Everything moves very fast and competition is fierce. We compete against very agile international and independent brands. We must not only develop products of excellence, but also strong brands that correspond to the values ​​of our customers. Not so long ago, no one would have thought of creating vegan, gluten-free and eco-responsible beauty products.

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What are your biggest prides since your arrival?

A.D
Transforming our business to compete globally. We are among the 5 largest cosmetics manufacturers in the country, alongside four multinationals. We don’t have privileges just because we are a local company, we have to stand out on the same level as them.

Six years ago, our acquisition of the Lise Watier brand with the support of Caisse de depot et placement du Québec was a huge blow. This allowed us to double our sales and headcount, as well as bringing back to the province a brand that was dear to Quebecers when it was owned by a group of Toronto investors.

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How are you preparing for the eventual transfer of management to your children?

A.D
It is a privilege to work alongside not only my father, but also two of my children. They climb the ladder to understand the organization from the inside and grow up surrounded by their peers as equals. I encourage them to do things through official channels, without me intervening.

Theodore Cape – Marcelle Group
I like the fact that my father encourages us to learn on our own. While studying in the United States, I heard many classmates say that a leadership position awaited them, but their parents told them what to do. That’s not the case here – my brother and I work on the floor like everyone else and develop our own perspective.

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What advice can you give entrepreneurs on both sides of a transfer?

A.D
Embrace your own leadership style, it’s part of your identity. So when you walk away, accept that the next generation will do things differently. There shouldn’t be four hands on the steering wheel.

As the company grows, it becomes essential to have a strong team, clear processes and well-defined values ​​so that people understand how and why to make decisions. You cannot be everywhere at once. If you insist on participating in every choice and every encounter, you stunt growth.

Time makes things right. Even when things are going fast, keep taking it one step at a time. You cannot complete ten tasks at once; focus on the three most important and then work through your list once they are resolved.

Ensuring business succession is more than a job. She is to be entrusted with a precious gift as well as the responsibility to guide her forward.

15and edition of the Emerging Medalists contest

Since 2006, this annual meeting has highlighted Quebec companies that have brilliantly made a transfer to family succession, employees or investors. The award ceremony for the winners of the contest will be held on June 8th.


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