By Nathalie Cartier and Antoine Raimbert
For the 35-year anniversary of Cartier et Lelarge, our president Antoine Raimbert and cofounder Nathalie Cartier sat down together to look back on our history, discuss our values and envision our future.
Nathalie: When I think back to 35 years ago, I remember dreaming of founding my own translation firm, mostly because I wanted to have more control over my work and be free from the constraints of working for a multinational company. So, it was a search for independence that gave rise to this business, along with a strong desire to contribute to the quality of the French language at a time when Quebec was in full transformation.
And what about you, Antoine? How would you describe your journey to becoming president of Cartier et Lelarge—your motivations, your aspirations?
Antoine: Becoming president was an extension of an idea—a line of thinking that started out in my mind and in Simon [Hébert]’s, and that took shape over many years: how to secure the future of the company. We loved how flexible and professional our workplace was, and we didn’t want to see it bought up by a larger entity. We said to ourselves, someone has to step up—why not us? And gradually, we did. As you know, we have always been more like co-presidents; I was just the one who sort of snuck in there and snatched the title!
I would say that my decisions have always been guided by human values. My motivation came from the love of my work and the desire to build a career in a field that had meaning to me. Yes, I was an entrepreneur, but fundamentally, I wanted to do my work as part of a team and to have a certain amount of freedom.
Thirty-five years is quite long-lived for a small business! How did you do it? Thirty-five years ago, did you ever think that Cartier et Lelarge would last this long?
Nathalie: No, I had no idea that Cartier et Lelarge would grow so much and last so long, that’s for sure! In the first few years, we quickly became a company of about 15 people, and for a long time, we hovered around 20. Being in the Monkland house, back when we all went into the office every day, we were somewhat forced to limit the size of our staff and rely on freelancers to manage our overflow.
The fact that we are still here, 35 years later, really speaks to the collective efforts of our whole team in maintaining such a high level of quality that our clients keep coming back to us and recommending us to other businesses. We’ve also put a lot of work into answering calls for tenders, which has also contributed to our success.
But the fact that there are now more than 30 of us here is really thanks to the “new” partners and others who have taken charge of business development. You set out to achieve this growth, and you did all this work of expanding our clientele and increasing the amount of work we’re able to take on. Our marketing is so much more active and purposeful than it used to be, and the results speak for themselves. That’s what has enabled us to build the wonderfully motivated, competent team we have today.
Antoine: What are the values that have guided you the most through your career as an entrepreneur?
Nathalie: I would say that my decisions have always been guided by human values. My motivation came from the love of my work and the desire to build a career in a field that had meaning to me. Work-life balance, for everyone, was also very important. Yes, I was an entrepreneur, but fundamentally, I wanted to do my work as part of a team and to have a certain amount of freedom. I take huge pride in having created, with Elise Lelarge, the other cofounder, a workplace that welcomes employees and helps them grow, of having hosted and trained dozens of interns, of having supported the creation of the English sector and of having managed to secure the firm’s succession—no small task—by coming to this agreement with you and Simon, and later, Judy Murphy, which has been both exciting and fruitful.
Right now, we are 35 years old and 35 employees strong. I bet there will be more than 40 of us celebrating 40 years! But as always, we’re aiming for sustainable growth—we still want to have our weekends off and go see a movie once in a while! It’s good to love your work, but even better to love your work-life balance.
Now if I could ask you, Antoine, what values guide you today—I have the distinct impression that they are similar to mine, which has allowed us to keep things consistent over the years, but I am sure there are others. What would they be?
Antoine: Yes, I also believe in human values, as you said: respect for the individual, diversity, the richness of difference and the ability to always communicate, even at difficult moments. In fact, communication is fundamental to my choice to be in translation, and it motivates me to this day. Despite new technology and despite more and more people being multilingual, there’s still a risk of getting lost in translation. So, we have to keep translating—and translating well. I also believe in principles like integrity and equity, which guide me in all the day-to-day decisions that I make.
Nathalie: What do you see for the future of Cartier et Lelarge, Antoine? Are you already thinking about how to eventually pass the torch? Is growth still on the agenda?
Antoine: With the amount that we have grown in the last two years, which has led to us getting ahead by a year on our sales goals, at this time we need to consolidate our gains and take a moment to breathe. But we do want to continue expanding organically. Right now, we are 35 years old and 35 employees strong. I bet there will be more than 40 of us celebrating 40 years! But as always, we’re aiming for sustainable growth—we still want to have our weekends off and go see a movie once in a while! It’s good to love your work, but even better to love your work-life balance. And we are working on many other fronts: connection and engagement within the team, hybrid work and our options in terms of office space, data security, marketing and social media, recruitment, training, MT [machine translation]… and yes, passing the torch. Just saying it makes me feel old! But even though it’s a bit early, it is important to start thinking about succession planning.
Stay true to your values. Put people first as you build up the firm, and keep that confidence and vision that we know you for! You can never overdo it with communication, so make sure that you’re keeping your channels wide open within the team, that opinions are being expressed and that ideas are flowing in every direction.
Nathalie, speaking from experience, what advice do you have for me, as a leader, today?
Nathalie: Stay true to your values. Put people first as you build up the firm, and keep that confidence and vision that we know you for! You can never overdo it with communication, so make sure that you’re keeping your channels wide open within the team, that opinions are being expressed and that ideas are flowing in every direction.
Antoine: Thank you for that invaluable advice! And once again, congratulations on 35 years—long live Cartier et Lelarge!