René Gerard has been the Managing Director at Premier Soin Placement since 2010. He is certainly not impressed by his title, listens to others, is curious, friendly, concerned about the well-being of his employees, and thirsty for knowledge. He does not hesitate to get involved and recruit people more intelligent than him to learn from them.
Discover the atypical but inspiring journey of this man who dreams of revolutionizing the nursing placement sector and making Placement Premier Soin the Uber of health.
René, tell us about your experience before Placement Premier Soin
I have an atypical path. At the age of 19, I was a big box store manager for about 15 years. I also worked as a translator from English to French. Basically, I have a DEC in programming.
In my professional career, I met Martin Legault in 2010. At that time, I was doing translation contracts for Home Depot. He said to me, “René, I’ve started a business in the field of health placement. Would you like to come and have a coffee with me to discuss it? I might need some help.
The following day, we had coffee together. Martin had some IT needs. The next day I started working with him, and it has been 10 years now.
In the beginning, it was Martin, two employees and me. I did all the IT support; I helped make calls here and there. After about a year, I gradually started to lead the team.
How is the working atmosphere at Placement Premier Soin?
The atmosphere is very family-like. I do have an employer-employee relationship, but I’m a very unifying person. Since I was young, I have loved telling stories. We used to talk about our work experiences. I handle the recall list like I handle my children. It’s very, very family-like at Placement Premier Soin.
You have been working at Placement Premier Soin for over 10 years now; what made you want to stay?
I would definitely say the work atmosphere. I felt integrated right away; Martin trusted me completely. He gave me significant projects from the start. The company had a vision that I ultimately agreed with, and I wanted to grow with it. I like to evolve as a human being, learn new things, take on a project I don’t know, and take on new challenges.
I love hiring people who are smarter than me, with skills I don’t have, specialties I don’t know, so that I can learn from them. I’m not afraid to ask questions, to sound crazy.
What do you think are the qualities that enabled you to become Managing Director?
Listening and communication, just like in a relationship. I always try to understand what the other person has to say. Too often, we want to be correct, and so we don’t listen to the other person. I have the ability to adapt to each person; I try to work with each person’s strengths and work on their weaknesses.
What is your leadership style?
I am a participative leader. I like to work with my team, discuss problems and find solutions together. When faced with a situation, I always ask everyone to send me any idea that comes to mind. I don’t hesitate to take calls, emails…; I like participating…
What are the values that guide you daily?
Happiness: I like the people around me to be happy, to have a complete, functional workstation, to feel comfortable. I make sure that there are no silly things that will make them have a bad day. By the way, at Placement Premier Soin, we have an ice cream counter, so if someone is having a bad day, they can help themselves with good ice cream.
Obviously, respect is fundamental to me; it’s the basis of any relationship.
What do you think the employees say about you?
Honestly, I don’t know. But there have been times when employees have said to me, ” René, you are like a father to me; I know that if I have a problem, you will be there to help me. I know that if I ask you a question, you will tell me the truth.”
As I said earlier, the atmosphere is very family-like and I always like people to be comfortable. For example, when there’s a snowstorm, I take my broom and snow my employees’ cars before I leave in the evening, just like I do with my wife and son’s cars in the morning when I leave.
I know I can be impatient sometimes. So, I guess my employees say, “God, he’s cool, but sometimes he’s not patient.”
I imagine that you have learned a lot along the way. If you had to name 3 learnings, what would they be?
I learned that it’s better to be a leader than a boss; that’s how you motivate your team.
You have to be genuinely interested in the people you work with, interested in what is going on in their lives outside of work.
I also realised that you become like the people you interact with. If you’re in a senior management position, you have to interact with people in that position; that’s how you succeed in what you want to do. But be careful, that doesn’t mean you have to stay away from others, as I said earlier, I like to learn from everyone I meet.
Many years ago, I was young, I was on a flight to Chicago. Two rows in front of me was Mark Hamill, the actor who plays Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. By the way, I’m a big Star Wars fan. I was dying to talk to him, but I didn’t dare.
The next day I wrote to him on Twitter saying which flight I saw him on and didn’t want to disturb him. And guess what, he wrote me back! He said, “that day, I was feeling very talkative; you should have come and talked to me. Don’t forget that we miss 100% of the chances we don’t take.”
This sentence will stay with me all my life. I realised that day that I can ask anyone any question. The worst that can happen is that the person says no. But I don’t have to decide for the other person.
I apply this every day at work. For example, on the recall list, sometimes an employee says, “she’s going to say no” and I say, ” No, no, no. Don’t decide for her; ask her. At worst, she will tell you no.”
What is your most outstanding achievement, the one you are most proud of?
I would say our new IT platform. It was developed from scratch. By being present on the scene, listening to people, I was able to identify the different needs, which allowed us to create this customised solution that also integrates our vision. This platform makes the work of our employees much easier and allows for better management of the recall list. I’m really proud of the work done; it’s my baby, in a way.
What are the upcoming projects at Placement Premier Soin?
We have 2 significant projects: expansion into Canada in the next 2 years and improving the IT platform.
Although I think it is excellent, I would like to take this platform to the next level, ahead of any competition. It’s a big investment that will make everyone’s life easier. We want to be the Uber of healthcare: a nurse lets us know where and when she wants to work, and Placement Premier Soin finds the offer that matches her request.
Who inspires you the most?
Dr. Fauci in the US. He is a world authority on HIV/AIDS and other issues. When he speaks, people listen. But despite his status, when he is asked by Masters or Ph.D. students to proofread their dissertations, he always says, “what I liked most about your paper is that no matter how old I am versus how old you are, I can learn something from you.”
What advice would you give to someone considering working at Placement Premier Soin and making a career here?
No matter where a person would like to work, my advice is to listen to themselves. Beyond the salary, the benefits, promises, and so on, the person has to ask themselves if they will feel good if they will be understood, supported, and meet their needs.
On a more personal level René:
What turns you on in life?
Many things turn me on in life: cooking, entertaining friends, watching comedy shows. In fact, I wrote a 15-minute sketch that I tried out in bars, and it worked well. Maybe I’ll do it again one day.
What is your favourite hobby?
Cooking: I could cook for days. I also like to play video games with my son; I’m not as good as he is, but it’s a great time, and it brings us closer together. I’m also an outdoors guy; I like to take long walks in the woods on weekends.
What is your weakness? You must have one.
I have no patience with people who don’t want to help themselves, who don’t try, and who don’t want to get on board.
I heard you’re a big barbecue enthusiast?
For the record, one day, I was in Memphis in the United States. I smelled a strong odour of barbecue, and then I realised there was a barbecue competition nearby. I walked up to a couple of participants running around and asked them if they needed help. They asked me if I knew anything about barbecue, and I replied, “I’m okay, I can manage.”
I ended up spending two full days with them. We didn’t win the competition, but I learned so much about barbecue. At the time, I already knew how to do Texas-style barbecue, but I discovered other ways to do it. It was an enriching experience and made me want to learn more.
What is your favourite recipe?
Maple-smoked salmon. This is the recipe my friends always ask for. It’s very long with the marinade, and it’s hot smoked. Everyone asks for it every time; it’s my winning recipe.
But my personal favourite is smoked salmon with a citrus flavoured beer. I think it’s great, but my friends prefer my maple-smoked salmon recipe.
And finally, René, what are the causes you care about?
I am sensitive to everything that concerns children. I give to different causes: Opération Enfant Soleil, Fondation 24h Tremblant. As soon as a cause touches children, I get involved by donating money or volunteering.
Has René made you want to learn more? Visit the website of Placement Premier Soin.