Episode 17 : How do you know when to go for it?



Frédéric Noël is owner and president of the industrial equipment company CON-V-AIR. Qualified engineer, Fred had always been interested in entrepreneurship even though it’s not the clearest path in this field. See how he made his way up to his goal from his first job as an employee in an engineering firm to buying his company at only 30 years old.

Fred’s Growth Story Book Title: 

“Great doubts”

Because… I never know when I make decisions. I have doubts, but they’re great. It makes us progress. You don’t know what is going to happen but you know you’re strong enough to make it good. 

What you’ll learn:

  • Frédéric chose to study engineering instead of computer programming to follow his brother’s path and please his father for whom having a profession and title was very important.
  • Fred was attracted by entrepreneurship because as a kid his father would tell him that people who had money and could buy the things were either doctors, lawyers or entrepreneurs.
  • As soon as he started working at a company, Fred was looking to buy some shares and get involved on the business side.
  • When he was first working at CON-V-AIR but not yet able to buy the company, Fred decided to leave the job market for a while to do an MBA where he met his wife.

Notable quotes:

  • “Knowing where you want to go makes it simpler to identify the right opportunities when they present themselves.” – Fred on how seeing clearly the goal is key for him to make a move. And that if he can see that, well then he’ll be able to figure out the way to get there.
  • He was very nervous. He was more comfortable seeing me at a big company. Which doesn’t even exists anymore! – Fred about his father’s reaction when he announced him he was leaving Nortel and buying his shares of CON-V-AIR.
  • I wasn’t experienced. I didn’t have power. I thought I was clever and bright, but I didn’t have value for these other guys. They can’t be sure I’ll bring value. – About starting his business at 30 years old by partnering with people that were much more experienced than him.
  • Without my contract not allowing me to leave, maybe I would have left, and not have everything I have today. It was difficult at the time, but it was necessary. – Reflecting on how his partners’ agreement, which at first felt very difficult, but he now uses the same for his own employees, because it was really best for the long run.

Show notes: 

01:45 – David invites the listeners to suggest potential guests for the podcast – particularly women entrepreneurs – by emailing him their contact info at guest@proforce.ca

02:25 – Frédéric Noël is an engineer and is owner and president of the industrial equipment company CON-V-AIR.

07:30 – CON-V-AIR has one plant in St-Hubert on the south shore of Montreal which is their main location, and another plant, CAMFAB, which they acquired a few years back.

09:10 – Frederic was born in Quebec City. His father was working for the government of Quebec and his mother was a nurse.

16:25 – Frederic studied mechanical engineer at University Laval.

30:10 – Frederic did a master’s degree in air pollution control.

30:25 – Fred moved to Montreal in 1995 to work with the company that sponsored his master’s.

38:50 – Fred decides to enroll in an MBA at HEC Montreal to take a step back from CON-V-AIR which he cannot buy yet and also broaden his Montreal network.

39:40 – Frederic worked for Siemens, Nortel.

01:07:40 – Frederic used loans from BDC to buy his brothers shared. He also used loans from Banque Nationale.