A Man of Honor
CPIA's Industry Leader, Jean Mongeon, believes in many of the values that define great men: honor, integrity and determination. He put those all to good use launching and building Jet Moulding Compounds Inc.
May 1, 2003 by Sarah Foster
Add humility to the list of Jean Mongeon’s virtues. The recipient of this year’s Industry Leader award from the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) says, “I am very surprised and I’m humbled by this recognition.”
Mongeon, president and CEO of custom compounder Jet Moulding Compounds Inc. (Ajax, ON), launched his company in 1979. Jet manufactures thermoset molding products, including both sheet and bulk molding compounds.
At that point, he had 25 years of experience in the molding business, having worked his way up to general foreman, plastics, at Somerville-Belkin Industries Ltd. in Scarborough, ON. When Somerville-Belkin took on a different direction, Mongeon struck out on his own.
“Knowing what I know today, I probably wouldn’t have done it. We were taking on giant competition. However, I was stubborn enough to do it, and stuck by it “
With grit and determination, the company grew from 6 employees in 1979 to 120 by 1991. Jet diversified its product lines to include automotive acoustic insulation sold to OEMs. Jet also pioneered the first textile-covered underhood sound deadener which was enthusiastically received by the automotive industry and health and safety organizations.
“Our greatest challenge during Jet’s growth phase was keeping the bank manager happy!” recalls Mongeon. “We started without a lot of capital, so we needed them behind us when we needed to expand.”
And expand they did. In 1994, the three operating divisions (two in Canada, one in the U.S.) amalgamated into Jet Composites Inc. Jet Composites was a QS9000 registered company and won GM Supplier of the Year and the Chrysler Pentastar Awards.
BALANCING BUSINESS AND FAMILY
Through all of this, Mongeon kept his family close beside him. “My wife’s been my secretary, bookkeeper, pretty much everything.” Mongeon’s daughter, Jannette Mongeon, is now vice-president of operations for Jet. Jannette says separating their business life and personal life is a discipline. “The business is our lifestyle; it’s our life. People think that is a negative thing, but I don’t. I think it’s positive. Yes, we make business decisions over the dinner table, but it allows us to work together.”
Jannette isn’t surprised by this latest recognition. Mongeon’s management ideals and his company’s success have been recognized numerous times over recent years.
“I am absolutely thrilled that Jean is receiving this recognition,” says Jannette. “I know that he will be very humble about it, but he has provided tremendous service in all his years. One great quality about him is that he always has time for everyone”
However, Mongeon attributes Jet’s success to the hard working employees. “It’s lots of hard work, and long hours, but having family behind you and involved in the business is really what helps make it successful,” he says. “Hiring great people that consider and treat the business as their own, and acquiring great employees is the real secret.”
REFOCUSING AFTER GROWTH
By 1996, another U.S. manufacturing facility was added to the operation and Jet was supplying 75% of the North American automotive acoustic insulation business.
That year, Mongeon sold his holdings, Jet Composites Inc. and all of its subsidiaries, except the Moulding Compounds operation.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” explains Jannette. “We just had two very diverse product lines. The compounding side was not a first tier OEM business, and all our resources were being applied to the other side, so when Jean received an offer, he took it.”
At that time, Jet Moulding Compounds Ltd. was operating at approximately $1 million in sales, 100% from the automotive sector. Over the past six years the product line has diversified and automotive sales currently stand at 60% of Jet’s total sales of $17 million.
“We recognized there was a bigger market to be had than what we had obtained,” says Jannette.
The name has been changed to Jet Moulding Compounds Inc., and the company became registered to the ISO 9001 quality standard and ISO 14001 environmental management standard in 1998.
Jannette says the customer is an integral part of Jet’s business, and that is what helps distinguish Jet from its competitors. “We’re a custom company, so we build our business to suit our customers, we formulate to their requirements and the products are approved by the customer. We’re a fully rounded, integrated service provider.”
After 50 years in the plastics business, Mongeon remains active as both president and CEO of Jet, and also provides technical consulting. His extensive knowledge of fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) compounding, molding, tooling and equipment design, coupled with his entrepreneurial spirit and business integrity have contributed to his ongoing success.
“Right now we’re in a new facility, it’s about three and a half years old, we have a large amount of capital and market share, and we want to use that to invest and develop new products,” says Jannette.
Jet’s facility in Ajax covers more than 46,000 sq. ft. It houses a dedicated R&D department; a laboratory and testing facility; state-of-the-art automated compounding; and significantly increased bulk resin storage, metering and handling systems.
BUSINESS FIRST, INDUSTRY SECOND
Mongeon feels there’s still much room for improvement in the Canadian plastics industry. “The research and development industry needs a lot of help, and there are problems in the industry with quality.”
Although Jet has been a long-time member of the CPIA, Mongeon admits they haven’t been as involved as they should be. “My daughter is more involved now. I do feel it’s important, and we’re doing more, but sometimes you have to take care of your business first.”
Approaching 25 years at the helm of his company, Mongeon says the grooming of his successor is almost complete, and he may be able to take a permanent vacation.
“I’ve been taking more and more time away and have been letting Jannette take over more, because she’s capable.
“But I don’t know if I’m ready to retire. I’ve had a lot of fun and it’s hard to leave.”
He leaves Jannette quite a leagacy.
“Jean is an honorable man who conducts his personal life and his business consistent with his values,” she says, “and that’s important when you compare him with some of the other leaders of companies that are out there. A lot of his business deals are still done on a handshake. He always follows through on his word.”CPL
Sarah Foster is a journalism student at Humber College, Toronto.