You are here: HomeSuccess StoriesFrom Monopoly to Market Leader: Maison des Futailles (MDF)

From Monopoly to Market Leader: Maison des Futailles (MDF)
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."

About Anne Geneviève Girard
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.
More about Anne Geneviève Girard

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (Summer Issue 2006, Volume 2, Issue 2).


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