DSMA Québec: 100 transactions signed from the heart

Ten years ago, the Quebec team could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Today, based in the old port of Montreal, 13 members vigorously dedicated to French-speaking customers facilitate the intricate machinery involved in M&A transactions. With sales, finance, marketing, legal and operational expertise to name but a few, the team covers the full range of needs that such a business deal requires and contributes to the enduring success of mergers and acquisitions in the beautiful province of Quebec. Our team is committed to your success.

AutoCap started out in 2014, under the leadership of Maxime and Normand Théorêt, thus sketching the first outlines of DSMA’s upcoming Quebec team. A pioneering M&A professional services company doing business strictly in Quebec, AutoCap was built through the special relationship between a father and son, within a passionate and already established family in the automotive industry. Normand, with 35 years’ experience in a major Montreal automotive group, and Maxime, with his experience in due diligence, accounting and mergers & acquisitions, had a forward-thinking vision of a company with values centered on authenticity, trust, and a tailored approach for each client. A holistic strategy with an intrinsic family flavour, based on local know-how and expertise, where human relations, integrity and fairness were the watchwords, leaving no room for pretense.

It was in this welcoming environment, and convinced by Normand and Maxime’s genuine benevolence, that François McDonald, already a well-known figure in the industry, joined them. François already had an excellent network of contacts, built up over the years thanks to his mastery of the market and his reliability. “I matched Max and Normand in every way, and joining their project seemed like a no-brainer. They wanted me to bring new perspectives to the company,” explains François.

The first turning point came in 2015, when AutoCap merged with Dealer Solutions – also a family-fueled company – to become Dealer Solutions Mergers and Acquisitions, now well-known by its acronym DSMA. This perfect union was established to respond and adapt to the fluctuating activities of the mergers and acquisitions sector: Canadian – and even American – groups were shaking up the traditional market landscape by showing increasing interest in Quebec opportunities. For instance, AutoCanada, which acquired its first branch of the Mazda banner with the purchase of Planète Mazda in 2017, thus became the first public company to buy a dealership. Partner in charge of this agreement, which marked a turning point in the industry’s transactional exchanges, François McDonald, remained true to his fundamental principles, the inflexible pillars behind the unshakeable trust of his customers. DSMA Quebec’s exemplary professionalism, exceptional market knowledge and fair yet realistic ambitions not only continued to prove their effectiveness but have also helped set a record in the Quebec M&A sector. The team’s strength also layed in their reputation with Quebec dealers: widely recognized, they enjoyed maintaining close relationships with their customers, working methodically through a rigorous process and presenting proposals based on studied and analyzed values – a non-intrusive approach, which to date has paid off, helping the firm unlock its success meter.

The team’s first transaction, that of Mazda Val-David in 2016, whose new buyer – a former Kia dealer – was looking for another dealership in the Laurentians, marked the beginning of a series of successes and launched the propensity for loyalty which is typical of DSMA customers. Highly satisfied with François’ services, the buyer would call on the firm again to sell the dealership in 2021, adding to the long list of customers entrusting the company. With time, word of mouth, individual recommendations and numerous testimonials gradually led to DSMA’s undisputed reputation.

DSMA’s second decisive and strategic turning point came in mid-2017 with the arrival of Manon Messier, who would work alongside François. Preceded by an unrivalled reputation for customer service, with a background in the banking industry and equipped with an extensive network of contacts, Manon’s introduction enabled DSMA to broaden its field of vision and push the boundaries of its ambitions in Quebec. As the daughter of a former dealer, she already knew the issues and workings of the automotive industry inside out and was keen to help owners overcome difficult times and achieve the best for their future. Manon considers it an immense privilege to accompany individuals at key, intimate moments in their lives. For her, every transaction is a unique experience, going far beyond the purely professional. She recalls one mandate in particular, which she certainly describes as her greatest success: that of Groupe Audi Porsche Québec, for which she orchestrated the sale. This contract, a true symbol of Canadian diversity, was concluded in a bilingual context, crossing the borders of Ontario and Quebec. The buyer, an English-speaking native of Ontario, even chose to settle in Quebec to carry out his newly acquired dealerships and took the initiative to learn French and fully integrate into Quebec culture. Manon believes she witnessed those famous “key moments” in life, which initially motivated her involvement in the M&A sector.

One success follows another, but the challenges remain throughout the years and the transactions. As Maxime Théorêt points out: “Despite its impressive track record, DSMA has not been spared by the challenges that every company faces in its early days. The most difficult task was to make a name for ourselves: the company, the scope of our services, our means of proceeding, to name only a few. But it wasn’t long before DSMA was able to partner with the CCAQ (Corporation des concessionnaires automobiles du Québec) and establish itself in the province, supporting and actively participating in the Quebec dealer community. COVID-19 has also had a considerable impact on the industry, profoundly reshaping the car dealership landscape and forcing DSMA to reorganize and adapt to demand.”

As for Manon Messier, she points out the importance of staying focused on the goal of the transaction. Satisfaction across the board remains her top priority, and the goal of getting the best for both buyer and seller parties adds to the complexity of a successful deal. Subject to the vagaries of relationships, her personal commitment can also be undermined. ‘’My biggest disappointment was trusting someone who didn’t deserve it,” she explains. ‘’I put my heart into every transaction, at the risk of disappointment. However, I wouldn’t be where I am today without that quality, and I’m convinced that without it, my customers wouldn’t have followed me all the way.”

At the beginning of 2024, DSMA’s Quebec team signed its hundredth transaction with the sale of Windsor Garage, becoming the first M&A firm in the province to reach this memorable milestone. These hundred deals are distinguished by a strictly rigorous implementation process, by the quality of the buyers and sellers involved, as well as by the close ties DSMA has developed with certain brands – GM in particular, to name but one – and by all the steps involved in bringing the transactions to a successful conclusion. DSMA’s successes would not be possible without the specialized skills of each individual and their ambitious and well-thought-out initiatives, based on an excellent understanding of the market and the assurance of carefully considered assessments and decisions.
In its ten-year track, DSMA has witnessed numerous evolutions, unexpected turns, and sometimes even small swerves. One thing remains unchanged: dealerships will never be accessible to the general public. As for the profile of salespeople, it has evolved. Single-dealership owners are gradually withdrawing, while groups are becoming commonplace, adopting expansion strategies throughout Quebec. Groups from outside Quebec remain the exception, however, due to the language barrier and both cultural and political differences. DSMA has also had the good fortune to be both witness to and player in the growing presence of women in the automotive sector. The firm also boasts some symbolic figures: Manon Messier was the second woman in Canada to hold the position of Automotive Account Manager for Scotiabank in 2010, and Mélissa Samatas was the first female member of Honda Québec’s Advertising Council, and the first female Chair of Honda’s Dealer Council in Canada. Today, DSMA Québec is predominantly female, with 8 women among its 13-member team.

Gracielle, who comes from the banking world in Montreal, brings experience and a network, two essential elements of a partner’s job, as well as an in-depth knowledge of the complex structures that can be encountered. Mélissa, a former DSMA client who is now a full-fledged member of the team, offers the perspective of a former DSMA Québec dealer and a detailed understanding of the personal issues involved in a transaction.

Despite a well-stocked toolbox, the firm has no intention of resting on its laurels. Gracielle Sills and Mélissa Samatas joined the team within a few months of each other and are already ready to take over for François and Manon in due course.
The aim is to remain number one in the market, maintain a strong presence in the Quebec dealer network, and preserve the reputation for reliability that the company has built up over the years. QUOTUS™, an innovative platform created by Maxime Théorêt and dedicated to financial planning and analysis, will also support DSMA’s efforts and help it maintain the accuracy of its valuations, its credibility, and its unquestionable level of quality.

A trusted name in the automotive and M&A industries, the team is driven by success, authenticity, and the rightness of its proposals. Each transaction is a personal challenge, taken to heart and treated with the utmost care and respect. Every buyer and seller, whether alone or in a group, French or English-speaking, is a highly valued customer, listened to and treated with the attention they deserve.

Because at DSMA Québec, every transaction is signed from the heart.

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