Playing on a Bigger Stage – A Branding Firm Expands, Winning Ovations from Partners and Clients

Posted by WABC

by I. Barry Goldberg and Martin Thoma

The Business/The Organization

Thoma Thoma is a branding and marketing consulting firm founded and owned by Martin and Melissa Thoma in Little Rock, Arkansas. The company had spent the past three years restructuring its services and repackaging itself as a "brand growth consultant." As activity began to increase and its new positioning gained traction, the leadership team understood that in order to make the leap to bigger markets and clients, they would have to re-engineer everything from basic beliefs to key processes and organizational accountabilities.

The two principals suffered from what might be termed "entrepreneuritis." Since they had founded and built the company, they knew how to do every job in it--so they did. It was clear to the entire team that the two newly promoted directors would have to mature quickly, establishing and maintaining accountability for their departments, if the principals were to relinquish their habitual hold on details. The principals needed to focus on the big picture if the firm was going to live up to its full market potential.

The Partnership

The principals knew that creating this envisioned change would take sustained effort and unprecedented persistence. Barry Goldberg, executive coach and founder of Entelechy Partners, had recently shared his vision for a year-long coaching process for leadership teams with Thoma Thoma's principals. They all agreed that Barry would coach the group and each individual for a year, integrating concentrated off-site team experiences with bi-weekly individual leadership coaching.

The Challenge

While the Thomas and their team had some ideas about what they wanted to accomplish, the design of both individual and group development plans clarified those challenges. Using The Leadership Circle Cultural ProfileTM, the organizational challenges were the first to be clarified:

  1. Thoma Thoma was such a nice place to work that everyone took it for granted. Even employees indicated that more demanding performance standards would be beneficial.
  2. While the vision was clear and compelling, employees lacked confidence in the company's ability to execute in a purposeful manner.
  3. Employees valued the firm's commitment to work/life balance. However, they also agreed that additional drive would translate into increased productivity and client satisfaction. Those ends could be accomplished without turning Thoma Thoma into the sweatshop stereotypical of the industry.

Each of the four individuals involved in the coaching process also established an individual development plan based on personal strengths and opportunities. Issues common to the group included:

  1. Discomfort with direct communications concerning work standards, deadlines and internal processes.
  2. A desire to apply linear processes to creative development, gaining significant improvements in scale and efficiency.
  3. Significantly differing business perspectives between the creative team and account management.
  4. The need for clear accountability, including the transfer of more responsibility from principals to directors.

The four clients made their own behavioral contributions to each of these group issues. They also had opportunities for individual development. Perhaps the most powerful catalyst for change, however, was their willingness to work together to alter collective patterns of behavior through their individual participation in the program.

The Approach

The Leaders' TrekTM for Thoma Thoma started in April 2005 with a three-day offsite session focused on group coaching. As the team engaged in real work, coaching interventions centered on the first two individual development goals listed above. The team was coached on giving and receiving difficult feedback. Working very specifically with Speech Acts, the group engaged in re-engineering key processes through direct communication and clear agreements.

The major outcome of the "BaseCampTM" experience was that the entire leadership team took responsibility for organizational change. They brought their new, well-practiced skills back to the office, where individual coaching centered on unique development plans for each executive. Creative Director Derek Wacaster explained, "My coaching work focused on building greater confidence and taking larger ownership of my position--things critical to my success. From the very first session, I experienced an internal change that resulted in richer interaction with my teammates and significantly enhanced my contribution to the firm."

By involving the entire leadership team, this coaching format had a major impact not only on individual development, but on specific relationships among the team members as well. Common frameworks for bonding patterns, balance and communications delivered a growing set of tools for dealing with new issues. Common language and newly honed skills allowed the leadership team to become independent and self-sustaining, assimilating new capabilities very quickly. As a result, ever deeper material could be explored in coaching without creating dependency on the coach for sustained behavioral change.

The Value Delivered

The value of the Thoma Thoma team's experience with The Leaders' TrekTM can be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively:

  • Roughly one half of operational duties previously held by principals have been successfully delegated to directors. Work continues in this regard.
  • All key processes have been re-engineered as "scripts," and ownership for each process is vested in a "producer/director" who is accountable for process execution.
  • All employees now understand and embrace the focus on quality work completed on deadline, and exhibit a high appreciation for that value in the work environment. (One employee declined an offer at a competing shop for considerably more money.)
  • Principals are focusing on higher leverage strategic activities, spending much more time and attention on developing relationships with client CEO's.
  • Implementation of new discipline in the firm's sales process has improved its close ratio from roughly 30% to nearly 60%. Thoma Thoma is more focused on pursuing the right opportunities, grooming its referral network and ignoring low-potential pitches.
  • After three months on The Leaders' TrekTM, Thoma Thoma increased its monthly sales target by 70%. From May 2005 through October 2005, it hit the new target five months out of six, missing it by only 10% in September.

Throughout this period of increasing business and financial performance, employees report more energy, greater enthusiasm, higher morale and growing esprit de corps. And Thoma Thoma is still viewed as caring and nurturing--an exceptional place to work.
This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (Spring Issue 2006, Volume 2, Issue 1). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.



I. Barry Goldberg is the founder of Entelechy Partners. His coaching practice focuses on senior leadership teams and high-potential executives. Barry holds a Graduate Certificate in Leadership Coaching from Georgetown University. Read more about Barry in the WABC Coach Directory. Barry can be reached by email at barry.goldberg@entelechypartners.com.






Martin Thoma is a Principal in Thoma Thoma, a brand growth consultancy. Martin is widely published on the subject of branding. He is an English and journalism graduate of the University of Arkansas. Martin can be reached by email at martin@thomathoma.com.

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From Monopoly to Market Leader

Posted by WABC

By Anne Geneviève Girard, PhD and Michel David

The Business/The Organization

The Maison des Futailles ("MDF") was originally the wine-bottling arm of the SAQ, the state-owned liquor monopoly in the province of Quebec. In 1999, the government decided that this operation should be privatized in order to eliminate a perceived conflict of interest with its other wine and liquor suppliers. At that point, the only two remaining smaller private wine bottlers merged into MDF, creating a stronger player to compete with the giant Vincor, a multi-national major liquor and wine distributor.

MDF was facing a difficult situation. On one hand, it had inherited the culture of a government monopoly. It was very product-oriented, but had a low sense of urgency and minimal client focus. On the other hand, it faced a powerful competitor in the marketplace. Its market share was gradually decreasing and cost cutting was the only driver of profitability.

The issue facing MDF: How can a spin-off with a government attitude survive and compete successfully against well-established, aggressive competitors?

The Partnership

Dr. Anne Geneviève Girard provided psychological assessment services to the Liquor Board for several years prior to the spin-off. As a result of her support of a succession-planning exercise at the Liquor Board, she was engaged to assess high-potential candidates and propose internal coaching plans to improve their skills in preparation for promotion to senior management positions.

Mr. Roland Prud'homme, a chemist in charge of a production plant, was one of these candidates. By focusing on improving his self-confidence and leadership skills, he earned numerous promotions. In 2002, Mr. Prud'homme was nominated and confirmed as President and CEO of MDF.

In his new position, it quickly became apparent to Mr. Prud'homme that the company needed a renewed strategy and a consequent realignment of resources in order to arrest its decline and become a winner in the marketplace. Mr. Prud'homme retained Anne Geneviève Girard to coach him and his team.

As she began her work with MDF, Anne Geneviève realized that there were gaps to address in the area of corporate strategy. She therefore called on her colleague, Michel David, a consultant who had developed a unique approach to coaching on strategic issues. The two collaborated to jointly coach MDF's management team in their particular areas of expertise.

The Challenge

At its core, MDF had a strong foundation of expertise in sourcing products worldwide, and the logistics to provide consumers with quality products. What it lacked was competitive spirit. While quite understandable and acceptable in a monopoly, this lack was a dangerous deficit in the open market.

In order to regain market share and build profitability, MDF would have to:

  • Define clear, specific and challenging goals;
  • Segment different markets;
  • Define positioning and competitive strategies;
  • Align organizational resources; and
  • Significantly increase accountability for results.

In summary, the what, the how, and the who all had to be addressed. Incremental thinking, which traditionally led to missed goals and lots of excuses, had to be abandoned in favor of focusing on the target and working backwards. With the end in mind, key steps could be identified and turned into breakthrough projects to be completed under tight schedules.

As Mr. Prud'homme put it, "It is essential to have a formal process, an effective methodology. You then realize that the same system will produce the same results. The gaps appear clearly and the problems become evident. In addition, if you put the right people in the right job, there is no limit to what you can achieve."

The Approach

Building on Dr. Girard's long-term coaching relationship with MDF, a participative team process was implemented. Regular interaction in this workshop-driven process forced many problems to the surface. It became plainly apparent to the President and CEO that not every employee would be able to survive in the new strategy-driven business environment.

The keys were a combination of effective business strategies and employee alignment with those strategies:

  • Top management was assessed in the areas of growth potential and team skills.
  • The current strategy was assessed based on questionnaires (High Performance AssessmentTM) and interviews.
  • Through the coaching process, senior management improved their interpersonal communications, transparency and co-operation skills.
  • By working closely with Mr. Prud'homme and four of his Vice Presidents, a more effective team was created.
  • Two crucial executives (Sales Vice Presidents) who didn't accept the new priorities and expectations of performance, and who failed to move in alignment with strategic objectives, were successfully replaced.
  • A number of senior executive posts were filled with individuals who possessed significant food sector experience, particularly in the area of competition for shelf space.
  • A precise marketing/sales strategy was designed and implemented.

The Value Delivered

In the two-year period following implementation of the coaching program, MDF's market share increased from 30% to 36%, and EBITDA (Earning Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) increased by 18%. MDF became a recognized market leader externally, and functioned with a much stronger team internally.

The final impact: Success breeds success. New investors are coming on board in 2006 to bring added market expertise and take MDF to the next level.

The real value is stated directly by the President and CEO himself:

"Through Dr. Girard's direct coaching, and the coaching of some of her colleagues focusing on specific issues, I can honestly and modestly assert that I have become a good President. I fully and confidently embrace my role. While keeping my people-oriented philosophy, I am now very results-oriented as well, and I am strongly convinced that under my leadership we will attain the results outlined in our strategic plan."

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide  (Summer Issue 2006, Volume 2, Issue 2). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.




Anne Geneviève Girard, PhD, owner of Anne Geneviève Girard et associés Inc., utilizes her eclectic background as a certified psychologist, management consultant and coach to identify talent and develop individuals in their organizations. Learn more about Anne Geneviève in the WABC Coach Directory.  Anne Geneviève can be reached by email at agg@aggirard.com.






Michel David, owner of Michel David Inc.is a strategy consultant. He helps clients develop powerful strategies in their current business throughdifferentiation, focus and discipline and create tomorrow through radical thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship. Michel can be reached by email at mdavid@performancevision.com.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

Diageo Portugal: Reorganization Teamed with Business Coaching Leads to Major Wins

Posted by WABC

by Jane Upton

The Business/The Organization

Diageo Portugal - Distribuidora de Bebidas Lda is the world's leading spirits company. Diageo manufactures and sells brands such as Johnnie Walker, J&B, and Cardhu whiskies, Tanqueray and Gordon's gin, Bailey's Irish Cream, and Captain Morgan rum. In Portugal, the company also sells Logan and Old Parr whiskies and a range of wines.

The Partnership

In conjunction with a major reorganization of Diageo Portugal, Pedro Nogueira was promoted to the position of Commercial Managing Director. He needed to make an impact on the business in a very short time frame, and I was asked by the HR Director Iberia to coach Pedro and his team through the change. My previous experience in the liquor industry and the time I had spent working in Portugal were key considerations in my appointment. My ability to understand both the business and the cultural issues provided a smooth introduction into a company which had no prior experience with business coaches or the business coaching process.

The Challenge

In a European-wide reorganization, the long-standing Managing Director of the Portuguese 'in-market company' (a legal entity reporting into a region) was replaced by Pedro Nogueira. An Iberia hub was created to manage the combined markets of Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands. This reorganization affected both formal reporting lines and the perceived status of the Portuguese team.

The reorganization resulted in some redundancies, with all the anxiety and uncertainty that involuntary and unanticipated job loss brings. The Iberia-wide management approach turned an intensely private and independent culture into one of forced openness. Under the new structure, some managers began to report to executives in Madrid. The reorganization also clearly signaled a change from the previous directive management style, moving to a more open, collaborative approach. Although this change was broadly welcomed, it was accompanied by more uncertainty.

These were the challenges that Diageo faced:

  • Pedro needed to establish himself quickly as a credible leader;
  • Under Pedro's leadership, the newly formed Executive Leadership Team (ELT) had to effectively drive the new organization;
  • The groundwork for a long-term cultural change had to be laid; and
  • The management change offered a once-only opportunity to establish new marketing/commercial strategies, which had to be implemented while simultaneously reaching challenging sales targets.

The Approach

Following his promotion from Marketing Director to Commercial Managing Director, Pedro recognized early on that the breadth and complexity of his role had increased considerably. During our early coaching sessions, what became known as 'Pedro's Virtuous Circle' emerged, which highlighted the four key areas on which Pedro needed to focus:

  • Building effective relationships with his boss and his colleagues on the Iberia Executive Committee (with the exception of Pedro himself, all based in Madrid);
  • Leading and managing his Executive Leadership Team (ELT);
  • Providing leadership for the broader organization in Portugal; and
  • Managing resource allocation.

This Circle provided a quick and easy way to make sure that everything for which Pedro was responsible was covered effectively. When he needed to put more time and effort into a specific area, he did so deliberately, while attending to urgent issues in other areas.

Pedro is highly intelligent, very quick-thinking and analytical. He soon realized, however, that these qualities alone would not bring him success. He also needed to adapt his style to those around him, give others time to think, and pay more attention to the emotional needs and reactions of others than he would have required for himself. His openness and willingness to try new ideas enabled him to progress rapidly.

Only a month into the process, we started working on team-building issues with the ELT. Some team members had previous experience at a senior level, while others were new to executive functions. Some had thrived under the old regime, while others were still bruised from it. We started by focusing on two areas:

  • Understanding the different team members' styles of working, so that each member could value the contributions of each style rather than fighting against it; and
  • Getting the team members to define how they wanted to be perceived as a leadership team, and recognizing and implementing the behaviors required to reinforce that perception.

That short intervention early on was a key factor in establishing a common approach and a coherent way of working together.

Pedro invited me to attend the monthly ELT meetings, during which the high-priority business issues were discussed and decisions made. My support and feedback helped Pedro to design a format for the meetings to render them as productive as possible—including how to balance the need for discussion and debate (a new-found freedom) with the requirement for timely, effective business decisions. Pedro has now incorporated a regular review of team effectiveness into the monthly ELT meeting.

The first big test for the reorganized Diageo Portugal came at the end of 2005. The pressure was on to achieve projected sales, and the customers were playing a waiting game to see if Diageo would persevere in implementing its new marketing/commercial strategies. As Pedro clarified his own role, he learned when to intervene with his team, when to delegate, when to pass instructions from Madrid on to his team and when to deal with them himself. The ELT spontaneously worked as a real, committed team, seeking creative solutions together and transmitting a unified message to the rest of the organization.

I received one of my most satisfying phone calls of the year on the evening of December 30, 2005, when Pedro announced that the company had met its sales target!

The Value Delivered

Pedro has established himself as a credible leader. He is accepted and respected by his colleagues in Portugal, his immediate superior, and the senior management of Diageo alike. Pedro has adapted quickly to the demands of a broader general management role, becoming more flexible in his style and more responsive to the needs of others.

The ELT has learned to work so well together that it is able to present a united front to the rest of the organization. The team members actively strive to overcome differences in personality, experience and functional approach, and value the unique contribution of each individual.

As a whole, the organization in Portugal has survived a significant functional and cultural shift, accomplished with a minimum of disruption and an increase in bottom-line business results.

When I asked Pedro to assess the ROI of our coaching partnership, he replied, "It's extremely difficult to assess the financial impact of coaching because we will never know what would have happened without it. But we'll grow more than 21% in trading profit over last year, and I doubt that the team would have been successful without the work we did with you. More important than the positive contribution in the current year's financial performance is the long-term positive effect that it will have on my performance as a manager."


This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (Fall Issue 2006, Volume 2, Issue 3). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.


Jane Upton, head of Praesta in Spain, coaches senior executives, high-potential managers and senior teams in Spain and Portugal. At present, Jane is a Visiting Executive Fellow, leading courses on coaching at Henley Management College in the UK. Read more about Jane in the WABC Coach Directory. Jane can be reached by email at janeupton1@gmail.com.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.

From Innoventor Engineering = Innovation + Invention

Posted by Stan Herman

by Stan Herman

The Business/The Organization

Company owner Kent Schien founded Innoventor Engineering as a basement start up with only seven engineers. It has now grown to more than 60 engineers with a support staff of 10. Innoventor focuses on inventing and innovating products for an array of industries. Innoventor's strategy of diversifying into military, automotive, energy, and medical markets has served them well in growing their business.

The Partnership

In 2001, Kent began to realize that his company wasn't functioning as well as it could. During an event sponsored by Vistage (TEC) International, an organization which provides a CEO peer advisory board, professional speakers, and business coaching for its members, he met business coach Stan Herman. Kent was seeking a personal growth path that would outpace that of his business. Although coaching was something Kent had never considered, he was intrigued by Stan's thought-provoking questions. Those questions allowed Kent to identify the issues, determine what was at stake and what Kent had done so far, then clarify the ideal outcome and confirm the goals of the coaching process. Options became clearer as Kent and Stan worked together, and their coaching relationship has lasted for more than five years.

The Challenge

Kent had surrounded himself with engineers who were also friends. This presented challenges as the business grew and management demands were shared. Several areas needed attention—engineering excellence, project time lines, and budgets were all slipping. These were the challenges Kent faced:

  1. Kent was an excellent engineer, but an inexperienced manager;
  2. Kent was acting as the technical authority for all engineering problems;
  3. Employee friends were not performing;
  4. Neither Kent nor his executive team had personal development plans;
  5. Hiring practices were focused on technical skill rather than management expertise; and
  6. Kent needed to hire team members who were smarter than he was.

The Approach

Kent's initial coaching sessions focused on a detailed investigation of the precise role that Kent wanted to play in his organization. He completed the DiSC (Dominant, Influencer, Steady, Compliant) and PIAV (Personal Interest, Attitudes and Values) assessments, which increased his awareness of how he works best and what motivates him. How did he want his executives to respond to an increased pace of business decision-making? He knew he wanted them to increase the frequency with which they considered the implications of their decisions (e.g., who will the decision affect, how much time will be involved in its implementation, when should action be taken, etc.). But what did he expect of his management team, and how should the team be held accountable for meeting those expectations? And how should he deal with his feelings regarding his underperforming friends?

Kent and Stan began to explore Kent's vision of the ideal business situation. What does the ideal engineering team, executive team, and customer look like? The coaching conversations helped Kent to identify both an industry mentor and specific issues to bring to his Vistage Peer Advisory Board.

Kent began a formal strategic planning process using Quad Red-VCEO technology. This strategic planning online assessment allowed him to compare Innoventor to today's most successful businesses in 158 best practices areas, revealing the performance gaps between what would be considered excellent performance and what his company was actually doing. This information enabled Kent and his leadership team to address the most critical issues that were impeding his company's performance. Over the last five years, the strategic plan he has developed has served as a compass for his organization. Kent also completed a 360-degree personal assessment, which provided new insights to aid in his personal growth.

In addition, Kent implemented the following action steps:

  1. Defined the CEO's role, both present and future;
  2. Appointed a Chief Engineer;
  3. Hired a Director of Engineering;
  4. Established performance measurements for engineers, and tied those standards to compensation;
  5. Required the executive staff, including the CEO, to implement personal development plans;
  6. Upgraded hiring practices to include personality testing in order to build a more desirable workplace culture;
  7. Replaced underperforming friends;
  8. Recruited and hired a COO;
  9. Increased the frequency and levels of communication; and
  10. Moved underperforming employees to less significant business roles.

Value Delivered

With the establishment of performance expectations, and increased communication around those expectations, the company's engineering costs were reduced by 20%. Revenue grew from $2 to $13 million. A 'can do' culture was created around the newly established company benchmark: "It must be good for the customer, good for the company, and good for the employees." Quarterly Town Hall meetings were instituted as a communications tool for all employees. An 'open book' management style also increased communication opportunities.

To top it all off, competing with more than 100 other candidates, Innoventor was recognized nationally as the Small Business Association subcontractor of the year, receiving the USA Region VII award in 2006. In addition, Innoventor has placed in the St. Louis Top 50 Fastest Growing Companies list for the last four years.

Kent says that he now has a life, and is no longer serving as the resident expert on all engineering issues. As CEO/President of Innoventor Engineering, he says, "Every CEO/owner has strengths and weaknesses that affect the company. Coaching helped me—and will help any leade—to recognize blind spots. Most CEOs are aware of the impact of those traits on their companies. With increased awareness comes an increase in viable options, resulting in the confidence to aggressively pursue execution. A business coach in your corner is an asset every CEO needs!"

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (Spring Issue 2007, Volume 3, Issue 1). Copyright © 2013 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.


Stan Herman, MBA, CEC, President of Stan Herman, Inc., offers business coaching and CEO advisory services. A Chair for Vistage, he focuses on building better leaders by helping them make better decisions for better results. Read more about Stan in the WABC Coach Directory. Stan can be reached by email at Stan@Staninc.com.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.