There’s a new general manager in charge of the Rainy River District Regional Abattoir and Rainy River Meats, and he’s hoping his years of business experience and acumen will help to expand their offerings while bringing down prices for producers and consumers.
John Bujold was hired earlier this year to be the new general manager for both locations, which are both part of the Abattoir as an incorporated business. Bujold hails from the area, being one of the Bujold triplets, and has spent more than 30 years in corporate commercial sales and management.
“I spent 35 years in heavy industry, specifically in the industrial chemistries, but I’ve worked in sales and management for years,” Bujold said.
“I’ve worked in research, development, product development, new technology launching, marketing and just about everything. Tons of jobs. It was a very, very satisfying career. The company I worked for is called Solenis, I’m going to give them a plug because they were rated one of the best companies to work for in North America for last year and the year before. I think it’s a five and a half billion dollar a year company. It’s a big company.”
Bujold said that all of the work he had done for his former company has prepared him for his newest role as the general manager for the abattoir and Rainy River Meats, particularly because he not only has roots in the area, but those roots lie squarely in the agricultural industry.
“My brother is a farmer and we grew up in the farming community,” he said.
“My uncle Fritz was a butcher at Greenside’s store, and my other uncle owned John Deere, so I’m very much part of the community. I didn’t stay, but we were raised in it, we breathed it”
However, the last role Bujold had at his former company was as the commercial excellence, best practice and standards manager, which saw him working across the continent for Solenis. It was this role, he said, that informs the plans he has for both the abattoir and its customer facing business side.
“That job entailed coming into businesses that were owned by us or our company… and doing a forensic analysis on it from an accounting standpoint, from a performance standpoint, from a manpower standpoint, from a business acumen standpoint, from a branding standpoint,” Bujold explained.
“The goal was to deliver a consistent and uniform experience that the customer was satisfied with and wanted to repeat. It gives you confidence in your purchase, it gives you a commitment or dedication, a customer relationship. How this applies to Rainy River Meats and the abattoir is this is a volunteer organization. They were brought into effect in 2016, so it’s been nine years, to provide a resource to the local farming community to allow them to humanely dispatch their animals in a way that met all the environmental and food and safety criteria, and it allowed them to keep the dollar they spent and sell to their neighbours rather than having to go to Manitoba or elsewhere.”
Bujold said the goal of the abattoir was also to help reduce the costs surrounding sending animals elsewhere for processing, taking away the cost of long-haul transportation and other related expenses. Thus the money that’s spent here in the district has the knock on effect of supporting other businesses, creating a net-positive for the entire district’s economy.
While cattle and other livestock producers have had a challenging few years, Bujold said his goal is to make sure the abattoir and any current and future partners are benefitting from the relationship as much as possible, for the betterment of all involved.
“My vision, personally, is that I would like to see every business that works with us – thats’s Sunrise Meats or KB Ranch, or our own Rainy River Meats – I’d like to see them all full, because that benefits the farmers,” he said.
“As a non-profit, the percent gross profit margin isn’t critical other than to meet our costs and expenses and allows us to have a budget that we can modernize. We can’t do that right now because we don’t have a business manager. We have two good store managers. We have Ashley Stromness at Rainy River Meats, who has been there for a few years and is doing a great job, and we have a very young manager at the abattoir, Bradley Teeple. Right now we’re stabilizing everything, we’re making sure the architecture is in place, we’re making sure all of the business structure is there.”
Along with shoring up the various aspects of the businesses, including training procedures for current and future staff, revamping their website and social media presence, Bujold says the whole idea is to make the organization sustainable, not only from the point of view of eventually succeeding employees in all of the roles across the organization as time goes on, but also from a purely financial point of view. Bujold says he wants to see the abattoir operating at peak capacity in order to ensure enough money is being made to cover all of the essential costs, and in turn drive down the overall costs for local farmers.
“Right now we do one processing day a week, that’s four days a month, of animals going through,” he said.
“That’s not a lot, and we help supply Rainy River Meats, Sunrise Meats and one or two other locations. We have to get enough profit to keep the building open year round, heated, cooled, lights, gas, sewer, taxes, insurance, off of four days a month… This is my message to the public: if we can get more animals through the abattoir, then I can reduce my costs because I only have to set a profit margin that keeps the place open and allows us a certain amount of freedom to put in point of sale computers, buy a new laptop for the store.”
Going forward, Bujold said he’s excited for some of the changes that have already occurred within the organization, and that there will be plenty more to be shared in the coming weeks and months as changes and new initiatives take effect. Bujold says he also wants to work closely with other local producers and even other organizations like the 4-H Club and Lions Clubs.
“We’re coming around some corners and challenges we’ve had, we solved some big ones this week, which is great, my kudos to Ashley for coming up with some solutions,” Bujold said.
“We’re still looking for ways what we can help with mitigating cost if we can, but that’s my message to the farmers, we have to have through-put to reduce our costs. We can’t without it because I still have to pay salaries. If I have two kill days and we can process that at the processing centres, I can drop my cost what it takes to slaughter, on a bunch of things, because I only need enough to keep the doors open. I don’t consider any of these people competitors, they’re co-workers, co-companies, alliances that we have to build and strengthen to continue to process and keep the capacity there. I can’t drop the cost until I get more meat through there, but if they can get more product through us then we can relieve some of those cost pictures.”