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Frederico Panetta is the CEO of Gould Industries.Provided

In 2015, when Frederico Panetta acquired Gould Industries Ltd., an industrial and manufacturing company in Montréal, he had a vision – to create a caring, creative workplace culture where employees would be part of future change and growth, not simply clocking in and out of the warehouse every day.

“The first step was to offer more flexibility and autonomy to our employees, which meant no more mandatory 40-hour work weeks and more leadership opportunities for everyone,” says CEO Panetta. “Then I created an environment where people would be excited to work.” With the goal to make Gould a landmark in the rough Montréal North neighbourhood where he grew up, Panetta partnered with an artist collective to repaint all the factory walls, creating the largest art mural in Canada.

With entrepreneurial experience in music production and product development, Panetta had a unique challenge in taking the helm at Gould, but one he fully embraced. “I’ve always been fascinated by how a product gets made and how it gets to customers,” he says. “Here, I’m taking a traditional business with a traditional product and making it fun and creative.”

Panetta is also proud that Gould recycles more than 25 million kilograms of plastic annually. “Plastics get a lot of negative marketing, but it’s one of the best things around – you can recycle it and manufacture something else, giving it a second and third life and helping the environment,” says Panetta. “This is a strength of our business.”

Another strength is its people, most of whom are younger than 35 and immigrants hailing from such countries as Algeria, Haiti, Colombia, Morocco, India and Mexico. “We’re a French-speaking province, so we get a lot of French-speaking immigrants from around the world,” says Panetta, who has sponsored several of them.

To help retain employees, Panetta introduced a retirement-savings program, health insurance and postsecondary scholarships, and he coaches employees on how to apply for a mortgage or a car loan. “We cater to each employee’s financial situation,” he says. “We have high school kids who started with summer jobs on the assembly line who are now in management positions and driving nice cars.”

To unite such a diverse work force, employees play soccer, shoot hoops or ride go-karts – all activities requiring teamwork and team spirit. “I’ve played soccer, and I’m not sporty!” says business relations specialist Stephanie Charlebois. “You never get bored here.”

Charlebois joined Gould in 2020, having previously worked in plastic recycling. “There wasn’t a job posting. I just called Frederico, who I knew from my past experience, and let him know I was interested, and he created my role,” she says. “I figured he was going somewhere, and I wanted to be part of that.”

Growth is organic, based on informal mentorship and collaboration. “We take into account the strengths of each person and work together on projects that lead to the next opportunity,” says Charlebois. “The culture of the company is that we all want to be helping each other out, at all levels – this way, you can achieve things you never expected.”

Charlebois considers Panetta a mentor, and she mentors a small team herself. “I imagine one protégé will surpass me in 10 years, but that’s the goal,” she says. “Sharing knowledge and experience, and bouncing ideas off each other, helps create a collaborative environment.”

For Charlebois, the best part of working at Gould is the people. “It’s like a second family – we’re happy to see each other every day,” she says. “As much as we believe in building careers, we can help employees build their lives as well.”

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Advertising feature produced by Canada’s Top 100 Employers, a division of Mediacorp Canada Inc. The Globe and Mail’s editorial department was not involved.

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