Workforce Profiles look at the people behind Workforce WindsorEssex’s In-Demand Jobs. Each week, we talk to a different professional for an inside look into their work.
Atlas Tube, the largest structural steel tube manufacturer in North America, is located in Harrow, Ontario. Part of their sales team is George Rabideau.
George has been with Atlas Tube for almost thirteen years and is currently the Canadian Sales Manager. He spearheads Canadian efforts to sell steel tubing that is used in non-residential construction, piling, agricultural equipment, renewable energy, and OEM applications. He’s enthusiastic about his work and the company; “We have the best people and state of the art equipment. We’re #1 for a reason.”
We met with George in the Atlas Tube offices and mill in Harrow. After chatting, we took a tour of the family-owned facility. For more information on Corporate Sales Managers in Windsor-Essex, take a look at the Career Profile.
What does an average day look like for you?
There really is no average day.
I split my time between this office at the mill, my home office, and then the rest of the time I’m on the road. I’m probably on the road 50–60% of the time.
Every day is different, which is one of the good things about the job. There is not a lot of repetitiveness. Sometimes, it’s dealing with problems and putting out fires, but I also get involved in larger quotes and manage our overall pricing strategy. My main focus is working with our team to advance relationships with our customers.
How did you get started?
I started at Atlas in February of 2005, so I’ve been working here for almost thirteen years. I started as an inside sales rep, a critical role as the primary point of contact for a group of our customers. That position involved building relationships with our customers over the phone, taking and entering orders, and following up on any customer concerns. It was an excellent opportunity for a new graduate to learn and become immersed in the business.
I did that until October of 2007 when I moved into an outside sales role. At that point I was given a territory, made calls on customers, quoted on various opportunities, developed new relationships and strengthened existing ones. I was able to grow our business in a different capacity.
I accepted the Canadian Sales Manager position in October of 2016. We have a small sales team that I oversee and I travel a lot to see our customers. It’s all about connecting at that next level with some of our accounts and also directing our sales group in terms of long term strategy, pushing for collaboration with other internal departments, and implementing bigger picture initiatives.
What was your education like?
I graduated with a marketing diploma from St. Clair College. I connected with the HR Manager at Atlas and got into the company that way. This is really the only place I’ve worked at since graduating.
St. Clair gave me a good transferable skill set to go into this role or any sales role. My experience at the college was definitely applicable because you do a lot of hands-on work. You’re doing sales presentations and learning how to develop those interpersonal skills that are essential when you come into the environment that I’m in.
There was a lot of training at Atlas in terms of learning the system that we work on and learning the products. I’ve had the opportunity to grow in my career since I’ve been here and I’ve learned new things all along the way. Its constantly changing, so you have to be open to that.
Atlas is also a promoter of employees continuing their education. In 2012 I completed a bachelor’s degree program at Davenport University with assistance from Atlas’ tuition reimbursement program. It was always a goal of mine to earn a degree and it’s great to work for a company that supports that.
What advice would you give to people starting out in sales?
Don’t get discouraged. You have to deal with a lot of rejection but when you get a nice order, it feels great. You have to focus on the wins and learn from the loses.
That feeling of getting a big order never gets old for me. Especially, when you’ve worked on a quote for a while. You can re-quote, gather info, then re-quote again. We’ve worked on quotes for six months to a year in some cases.
Seeing a building and thinking, “I got that order.”, it’s pretty awesome. The Freedom Tower in New York; that was one of our jobs.
When you look at sales, there are a lot of different avenues you could go down. At Atlas we don’t do a ton of cold calling. A lot of what we do is relationship-based selling, so repeat business that we’ve done with the same accounts for years. I like that a lot of my customers have become friends of mine because I’ve dealt with them for so long.
We can’t lose sight of the value in personal interactions. You will always get more information from a customer by picking up a phone and talking to them.
How do you deal with the work-life balance of travelling so often?
I love being on the road and interacting with our customers but the time away can be tough. It’s probably one of the biggest challenges. When I started at Atlas I was young, single, and didn’t have kids, but in the last seven years I’ve gotten married and had a family. You need to find a balance to it. My wife works at Atlas so she’s probably more understanding than most and our kids have never known any different, they just know that sometimes Dad is going to be gone for work for a few days.
Our company understands that balance and is respectful of people’s time, but we all have smart phones and are connected, that whole dynamic has changed. It’s not like I work a regular 8:00 to 5:00 and my work day is done. I get calls and emails all the time, we are constantly communicating with each other. My weekends are for family time and that’s when I try hard to disconnect from work. There’s a little give and take to it.
I expect a lot from my team and they are always available when I need them to be. They work fairly independent but I know how busy they are and they always get things done in a timely manner. I feel like the generation that’s entering the workforce right now has expectations that companies will be open to people working reduced hours, flex time, or working from home. You will see that shift a lot.
Do you see yourself in this job long-term?
Being the leader in our industry, it could be easy for us to sit on our laurels. We have a lot of competitors that would love to knock us off the sandcastle and we need to work that much harder to defend our position and continue to grow. Right now we have a major customer service initiative happening where we are dissecting our business and trying to figure out how we can improve our customer service across all areas of the company. It’s really neat to be part of that. We also have projects around warehouse automation, AI data analytics, and ecommerce. All cutting edge technological advancements in our industry that will help us stay on top.
Atlas is a great company to work for and the employees are treated very well. There are a lot of long term employees and there is a reason for that. As mentioned, we have a tuition reimbursement program. We also have a great pension plan and a full benefits package. Our ownership is very engaged in the business and is constantly looking for ways to improve and grow. As an employee, it’s great to know that we aren’t going anywhere and I always feel like I have the tools to do my job.
When I started here, Atlas was one company with two locations. Now we have six locations plus five other sister divisions that all make complimentary products. With this comes opportunity. It’s hard to say what the future has in store for me but I certainly hope it’s within our organization. I welcome change and see it as a way for me to develop new skills and become more valuable to the company.
I’ve had really good opportunities with Atlas and I can’t see myself going anywhere else.