When Yves Vermette first walked into his MCI sales job from his brother's construction business, he was unsure of what the future might hold. "I didn't know how long I'd last that first day," says Vermette. As of January, it's been 25 years.
That kind of staying power is rare these days, but Vermette credits his longevity to his love of the job. "I deal with lots of interesting people. It's a unique industry. Once you get diesel in your veins, it sticks with you."
Vermette was born and raised in St. Anne, Manitoba, a largely French-speaking community of about 1,500 people. Though today based out of the MCI Sales Center in Montreal, he started out in an office at the Winnipeg factory, and in 1996 transferred to Calgary. He came to Montreal in 1999.
His bilingual skills have been a definite plus when it comes to covering his MCI territory, which at times has encompassed all of Canada, new coaches as well as pre-owned. "I've traveled coast to coast and enjoyed every mile of it," says Vermette. "Canada is a gorgeous country. I can drive from St. John, New Brunswick, to Victoria, British Columbia, and if there's a bus company along the way, I've probably been there."
Vermette has seen many changes over the years, from increasingly sophisticated coach technology to the way coaches are sold. "It used to be that the price was the price," he says. "We didn't take trade-ins. Now there's more negotiation. There also used to be a five- or six-month wait to get a coach — all coaches were built to specification, and we didn't keep inventory in stock."
One of the biggest changes he's noticed is the increasing consolidation of operators. "The big keep getting bigger," says Vermette. Nevertheless, he's close to his customers, many of whom have been with him for all or most of his years with MCI.
"Yves is a Manitoba boy," says John Fehr, president of Winnipeg-based Beaver Bus. "We've always had that connection. He's been a good guy to deal with. He always tries to get you what you need in regards to buses. He's knowledgeable, helpful, easy to deal with and very flexible. He tries hard for the customer, and he makes sure we're looked after well."
Brian Gillis, vice president of Ambassatours and president of its vehicle division Absolute Charters, says, "We've been dealing with Yves for the last 20 years or so. We've developed a kind of friendship. He's there to help us when we need it, and he's always been able to work things out for us."
Michel Galland, chief executive officer of Galland Bus, Laval, Quebec, says he appreciates Vermette's ability to be there when he needs him, without ever becoming intrusive. The two enjoy a warm business relationship that includes the occasional golf game, lunch or drink. "I bought my second or third MCI from Yves about 22 years ago and have been working with him ever since," says Galland. "He's earned my respect. He's a good ambassador for MCI. He respects the company and the customer. He's like a friend."
Discussing his own style, Vermette says he tends to "tell it like it is." He does what he can for his customers, but he'll tell them when there's something he can't do as well. "I represent the customer to the factory," says Vermette. "I'm their voice when they're happy or unhappy. I try to make sure everyone is happy."
Vermette may not have known how long he'd stay that first day at MCI, but he knows how long he would like it to go on at MCI. Says Vermette, "I have no plans to retire. I will be here as long as I can."
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