Apr 30, 2017

Ilan and JasonBy Line Goyette

Together they have re-imagined and introduced to international markets a company founded by their father in the basement of the family home. Their father Raymond had started the business buying and selling electric components for industrial heating.

In 1975, seeing an opening in this market, Raymond purchased a building and under the name of Wattco began manufacturing his own components. After Raymond’s retirement in 2011, his sons Ilan and Jason again expanded the scope of the family business, now offering custom heating solutions for any industry with efficiency and services they need.

Jason joined his father in the family business straight from university in 1997 with a degree in business and economics. He had worked for Wattco during the school holidays and found it natural to join the company when he graduated. “With my father I learned all the old-school notions of customer service — how to talk to customers, maintain relationships, and other important aspects, all in French even though I had always lived and studied in English. “We were doing business in Quebec, so I should be conducting business in French.”

As the company grew, Jason would tell his brother about the immense pleasure he felt in growing the business, and urge Ilan to join him. In 2002, Ilan finally decided to come on board. With a degree in finance, he had already been working for large construction companies.

“Ilan has really filled a gap that we had in the company,” says Jason. “I now have my childhood accomplice to share my ideas with and talk about marketing. His expertise has helped the company grow quickly and expand its market.”

In 2011, when Raymond retired, the two brothers bought the family business and changed the vision for the company. “My father had established limits that he didn't go beyond,” says Ilan. “He had grown his business within those boundaries and was satisfied with the results. We decided to expand our customer base because, going forward, the business model we inherited from the 1970s was no longer suited to new technologies.”

“The oil industry was booming, and we saw it as a great opportunity,” says Jason. “Oil companies around the world needed devices tailored to heating liquids and gases in their refineries. Companies in the United States, Mexico and China were already offering these products, but the market was looking for high quality, custom equipment, delivered quickly. We introduced an engineering department, then an on-site welding shop, and offered tailor-made solutions. The on-site welding is important because it allows us to ensure a high quality product and timely delivery. We’re now producing our own control panels. Since we make commitments to our internet customers, we have to be able to meet these commitments, and controlling the supply chain allows us to do that.”

For both brothers, clean energy is an essential corporate value. Jason says they’re not prepared to leave a carbon footprint from either their processes or their solutions. “We want to encourage customers to use our product because it's a clean product that uses electricity. We're going into polluted areas and proposing clean solutions.”

Ilan continues the theme: “We have a mature product, it’s not like an electronic gadget, but every industry is going through change and today they need clean products. We have invested in manufacturing and automation, and are working with engineering firms that help us access their networks.”

They speak only about the fun they have working together to develop products that meet their values, but they still have some challenges. “The nicest thing is to work together and open up our market, but our challenge is to put in place a team that shares our vision. We couldn’t work with a team that didn't feel as involved in every project, that doesn’t share our passion. This sounds like a cliché; people have already heard other managers talk about these things, but they realize that Wattco is a true home, and employees stay with us. We give them an opportunity to improve, to participate in various processes throughout the chain of design, engineering, assembly, shipping, and installation on customer sites.”

The two brothers seem to get along so well, and I ask them if it was always this way. They say they’ve always had complementary strengths and that Ilan has always been the brains behind the operation and Jason, he talks a lot. I continue, asking if they have personal lives. The surprised look on their faces speak volumes about the hours they spend at work, but both say outside working hours, during unscripted time, they spend a lot of it with their families. Ilan has three daughters and Jason a boy and a girl.

Line Goyette is Managing Editor of EIN;