Entrepreneurship from Mother to Daughter: Groupe Germain Hospitalité
A Women in Leadership Event
Richter’s Women in Leadership program was created to promote the advancement of women to positions of senior leadership within the firm. This original initiative includes a series of events featuring prominent businesswomen, leaders whose experiences can be particularly beneficial to our guests. With “Female Entrepreneurship” as its theme, our most recent event featured exclusive interviews with Christiane Germain, co-founder and co-president of Groupe Germain Hospitalité, and her daughter Marie Pier Germain, director of operations at Alt Hotel Montréal. These two entrepreneurs are now at the helm of a booming hotel business. Groupe Germain Hospitalité was founded in 1988 and includes the Le Germain and Alt hotels in Québec City, Montréal, Brossard (QC), Toronto, Calgary and Halifax, a list that will soon grow to include Winnipeg and Ottawa, too. The 700-strong Germain team welcomes over 325,000 guests every year.
“I won’t be working for someone else for very long…”
Christiane and her daughter Marie Pier share a passion to deliver a refined, elegant and flawless client service – it is the cornerstone of their business. How is this achieved?
“Being an entrepreneur,” explains Christiane, “is a way of life. You cannot enter into this profession if you’re counting your hours.” Her passion was ignited at a very young age, when the budding entrepreneur learned as she watched her parents run several restaurants in Québec City. Her desire to follow in their footsteps led her to manage several restaurants and nightclubs of her own. She then decided to enter the business world right away, rather than stay in school. “It came naturally,” she explains. “I wasn’t interested in studying and my parents didn’t insist on it. […] I started working, I had bosses. I remember saying to myself at a young age, ‘I won’t be working for someone else for very long.’” A few years later, while on a trip to New York City, Christiane Germain began the next chapter in her life: the hotel industry beckoned and she embarked on a new life adventure, one that has lasted for nearly 30 years now, and one in which she engages with the same energy to this day.
It was during this whirlwind of creating and growing a new business that her daughter, Marie Pier, was born. She would inherit her mother’s passion, joining Groupe Germain Hospitalité in 2006. “From a very young age, this was the only model I ever had,” recalls Marie Pier. “But it didn’t stop me from studying mechanical engineering to broaden my horizons.”
“Balance in life is not achieved in 24 hours”
Starting your own business can be scary. But, according to Christiane, this fear must be overcome, as well as the tendency – a female tendency, in her opinion – to want to do everything perfectly. “The idea of perfection,” she says, “doesn’t work in business; at one point you just have to let go and jump in.” Marie Pier remembers these years, when as a child, her hectic schedule left her somewhat out of sync with her friends, though it all seemed normal to her. “When I was 32, running around like a madwoman trying to care of my four-year-old daughter… there were some difficult times for the two of us,” adds Christiane. “But life is not always easy. […] Balance in life is not achieved in 24 hours.”
“We don’t automatically change hats on the weekend”
While there are many family-run businesses in Quebec, there’s no guarantee that things will go smoothly when family members work together. Now, nearly 30 years after founding Groupe Germain Hospitalité, things are going well for the Germain family. How do they keep the magic alive? “Communication has always been very open between my daughter and me,” explains Christiane. “This doesn’t just include talking… sometimes you have to ‘tell it like it is.’”
Also, while the role of the founder is essential in the early stages of a business, this changes over time. “You have to know when to accept it, and when to hand over the reins,” Christiane points out. She is very comfortable passing down some of her operational responsibilities, but still maintains her key role as a visionary.
Quality client service: opportunities to innovate are everywhere
“The client is at the heart of everything we do,” says Marie Pier, with conviction. She is as good at overseeing the construction of multiple establishments throughout the country as she is at positioning Groupe Germain Hospitalité on social media. She has an innate sense of good customer service. And when new employees join the Groupe, micromanagement is not an option. “We place a strong emphasis on our employees’ authenticity. They need to feel natural,” she specifies.
From the outset it had been decided that the company’s administrative operations would be centralized and based in Québec City. No individual hotel would have an administrative office, allowing general managers to remain on the floor at all times and in constant contact with hotel guests. It gives them the opportunity to keep a close eye on their clients’ needs and to provide the most personalized service possible. It is a structure that sparks innovation within the company. “Opportunities for innovation are everywhere,” says Christiane.
Innovating, changing and evolving… that is exactly what Groupe Germain Hospitalité does on a daily basis – and always with the same undeniable passion and energy.
By Jasmine Laurent, réd. a.
Photo credit : Groupe Germain Hospitalité