While entrepreneurs have never been so overwhelmed, the business coaching firm Miller & De Cnijf helps them improve their performance, not by working more but sometimes by working less.
How to reconcile a very high level of performance with a better quality of life for its leader? It is to this thorny question that Isabelle Miller and Nathalie De Cnijf intend to answer, who launched their business coaching activity a year ago. The idea was born from their 30 years of corporate experience. “The bosses may kill themselves with the task, it does not mean that the results are affected,” they say. Or: “It is not because an entrepreneur has technical skills that he runs his business effectively”.
How to reconcile a very high level of performance with a better quality of life for its leader? It is to this thorny question that Isabelle Miller and Nathalie De Cnijf intend to answer, who launched their business coaching activity a year ago. The idea was born from their 30 years of corporate experience. “The bosses may kill themselves with the task, it does not mean that the results are affected,” they say. Or: “It is not because an entrepreneur has technical skills that he runs his business effectively”. According to them, if a company is better structured and better organized, it can sometimes triple its turnover in just one year. But to achieve this goal, the boss needs more time. “By dint of being overwhelmed by daily life and chaining 70-hour weeks, it is almost impossible for a leader to assume his role as captain of a ship or to develop a long-term strategic vision; it is all the more terrible that he is the only one who can do it”, underlines Isabelle Miller. “Many companies have also been forced to review their way of operating, the typical example being that of teleworking, further explain the two coaches. Until then, many leaders considered it impossible within their teams. , the situation proved the opposite. There was therefore a real awareness of the fact that change was not only possible but that it was profitable. The crisis also prompted some to question the meaning of their life and the too great place left to the professional.” But how to modify the trajectory? This is where our two ladies come in, based on an American method invented by ActionCoach. Created 27 years ago and today the world leader in corporate business (1,500 franchised coaches, 3,600 strategies for 18,000 clients per week), ActionCoach has developed a methodology of collective or individual programs that range from consulting to training through coaching. Having proven itself in fifty countries, the method convinced Nathalie De Cnijf and Isabelle Miller to buy the franchise for French-speaking Belgium. Because on this side of the linguistic border, and contrary to Flanders, no service of this type existed yet. Concretely, the method plans to start with a screening, or health check of the entire structure of the company, via a questionnaire containing 30 key elements, for example profit margins, marketing strategy, time devoted to each activity, etc. . Then, the short, medium and long-term objectives are evaluated with the manager: does he wish, for example, to sell, transmit, multiply or franchise his business? According to the founders, these elements constitute “the big difference” with traditional consultancy. Everything is done in perfect intelligence with the boss. So no ready-made solution… but no specific answer either: for the coaching firm, it’s more of a holistic approach that aims for a global change in the way the company and its manager operate. to find a miracle solution. “The manager knows his problems. And often, but unconsciously, he also knows the solutions. Our role is to make him aware of them and then help him implement them in his mode of operation”, explain the two coaches. According to their experience, the challenge already begins with the ability of the boss to go beyond his habits, the famous “I’ve always done it this way and I don’t see why I would do otherwise”. It is precisely at this stage that the expertise of Miller & De Cnijf proves necessary. His role? Ask the right questions, activate the leader’s reflection, before switching to “solution” mode and setting the steps to achieve it. Appointments at regular intervals are planned (weekly or twice a month). For each stage, four intermediate objectives are determined and must be achieved before being able to move on to the next stage. The exercise requires an average of three hours of preparation for the leader. And when it comes to more technical issues (legal, IT or taxation, for example), Miller & De Cnijf calls on its network of external experts. Last difference, and not least, the method is long-term: “Minimum one year, maximum five years, specify the two coaches. It all depends on the objective of the leader and what he undertook before s ‘to us. Usually we’re talking about five years if the goal is to run the business 100% without him.” Because releasing the boss from operations to improve the company’s results is not the only offer offered by Miller & De Cnijf. The duo also works with leaders wishing to take a sabbatical, or even simply devote more time to their private lives. For some, it’s about golf, for others taking care of a sick spouse or better monitoring the children’s schooling. In any event, whether it is a matter of gaining height to scrutinize market opportunities or taking care of oneself or one’s family, the challenge remains the same: that the absence of the manager does not weigh down the business viability. Miller & De Cnijf is only intended for owner-managers who have been running their business for at least five years. “Because you need a step back to truly identify a profession, its needs and target its market”. No external CEO either: the target is resolutely that of companies wishing to be part of the long term, which will not necessarily be the career plan of an external hired to achieve a specific result. Question size or sector of activity on the other hand, all companies are concerned, even if SMEs currently constitute more than 80% of the clientele. However, the coaches distinguish problems that are more specific to SMEs and VSEs. “Typically, concerning the latter, it is often at the level of the foundations and the very structure of the company that must be tackled. We then work on the vision, on the pricing of services as well as on the management of teams. It can also be the question of how to grow without going too fast, or how to develop without failing. According to our estimates, 90% of Belgian VSEs are potentially affected by these types of difficulties.” Regarding SMEs, Miller & De Cnijf believes that in general, the foundations are good but it is at the level of staff turnover and the resulting drop in productivity that we have to work. For the firm, the non-optimal management of human resources is a problem found in 60% of Belgian SMEs. On the other hand, SMEs and VSEs combined, the coaching firm explains that it is particularly consulted by family businesses who are wondering about their future: sale or transmission? In either case, the business must be sustainable. Another difficulty specific to family businesses: interpersonal relationships. “Within families, the professional and private spheres have always been intertwined. The dialogue about the future of society is not easy. Not to mention the difficulty for some to accept that the new generation wants to do things differently. We often find that even if the transmission was chosen for a long time, in fact the children were never really involved in the business.” In less than a year, the firm Miller & De Cnijf already claims around thirty clients in French-speaking Belgium. But impossible to have names: confidentiality is queen and everything goes by word of mouth. Isabelle Miller and Nathalie De Cnijf however share – anonymously – an example: that of a family business with a turnover of 100 million euros for which they were consulted by the father, who had founded the company and wanted the sale. “His son not only had the necessary skills but also the desire to take over the business, say the two coaches. But he dared not say it! We are proud of having succeeded in bringing the generations together and their aspirations. Today, we support them in the transmission process.”. This help is all the more precious given that, according to our coaches, 65% of transfers today do not go as smoothly as possible, with some companies being so mired in family dramas that they have only one option left: sell… and often badly. In France, some ActionCoach franchisees claim an improvement of more than 300 times the income of their customers. In Brussels, however, we prefer to speak of “objectives achieved” and not of figures, as the demands can be so different. Impossible to quantify “an improvement in the quality of life”, attest our coaches. In the future, Miller & De Cnijf will work to strengthen its team, while aiming to develop a network of franchisees in Wallonia within three years. but for the moment, the duo says they are above all proud “to contribute to the economic recovery and the leaders’ exit from the crisis”.