Claude Blanc is a seasoned businessman with a record of transforming business organizations, cutting costs and rationalizing to maximize profits. He has held executive positions in sales and operations in large and medium size international corporations, leading teams in excess of 300 people across 30 locations and managing budgets in excess of $1 billion. Seven years ago, Claude started a business development consulting company, CHB Associates. Claude is a licensed coach and a member of the International Coaching Federation and the Professional Business Coach Alliance, which allows him to draw on the experience of dozens of highly regarded coaches across North America.
Interview With Claude Blanc
Question: You stress the importance of achieving clarity. Why is clarity so important and how does a local business owner achieve it?
Clarity is extremely important because if you cannot see where you’re going, how in the world are you going to get there? One of the very first processes I go through with my clients is to figure out, what is their vision? What is their mission? The vision and mission, together with core values, will form the core of the branding message. It also becomes the rudder for the growth of the business. Every time you decide to start a new plan or a new program, you have to examine it at the light of that vision and mission. If your vision and mission are not clear, then you’ve got a real problem.
Question: Over the course of your career, you’ve led multi-million dollar organizations. When you stepped away and started your own business, what was the biggest challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was that, all of the sudden, everything was resting on my shoulders. I literally ate what I killed, which meant I had to go out there and get the business one piece at a time. It was also very much a growth experience, learning what makes people tick, understanding how to meet other people’s needs in an effective manner, understanding that it was no longer about me – that it was never about me – it was always about the needs of the client.
It’s an ongoing experience, something you have to start every morning. I tell my clients that when you start your day and brush your teeth or take a shower, do some mental hygiene as well. Clean your mind and take everything out of your head. Start fresh because you have a spotless future. That’s one thing I tell myself everyday – you have a spotless future. Every day is a new page.
Question: From a marketing standpoint, what is the most common mistake made by local businesses?
The most common mistake is probably thinking that the world out there cares about them. The potential clients out there care only about themselves. It’s only in as much as your business meets the needs of the client that they will pay attention to you. It’s never about you. It’s always about them. That has, of course, a lot of implications. You’ve got to go out there and spend more time listening than talking. You’ve got to go out there and throw out the net, never knowing exactly what kind of catch you’ll reel back in.
Question: Since you launched CHB Associates seven years ago, how has the business climate changed and how has this affected local businesses?
Well, we had a major recession and it has been quite a rollercoaster ride. Everybody has been trying to reduce costs right and left. Of course, you don’t conquer glory by simply reducing costs. You conquer glory by driving your top line. That has been one of the main challenges for small and large businesses alike. Therefore, it’s not only a matter of cutting costs, but it’s a matter of finding opportunity in an environment that’s truly challenging.
While many businesses were going belly up, a number of businesses were also thriving. The key to finding opportunities is focusing on what you can change. Can you have an impact on the overall economy? Well, no, you can’t so you shouldn’t worry about it. But within the parameters that have been given to you, there are always opportunities. The challenge is to focus on how you can impact the environment rather than how the environment can impact you.
Question: Tell me about one of your favorite client success stories.
My very first coaching client is still with me. I had done consulting work before, but consulting and coaching are two very different animals, so I had very little experience. But that person trusted me.
His situation was dire. He was in the video production business and his revenues were woefully insufficient. We agreed to a barter arrangement for the first three months and cash after that. After those first three months, he said, “I can’t afford you but I guess I really can’t afford not to go with you.” So we kept on going.
First, we discovered what was the vision, the sense of mission, the big picture, the core values that this business wanted to embrace. Once we had gone through that, we took a look at his situation that day, both on a personal level and a business level, and designed a plan to get from here to there. After nine months, the client said, “I’m done with you. I think I’ve learned everything I need to learn and I’m going to go on my own.” After a long session that day, he changed his mind and we continued.
His business actually doubled the first year and has continued to grow by double digits in every year since. One of the main reasons for that success was the change in the business owner’s attitude from negative talk to positive visualization. Then, a marketing plan, obviously, was very much needed, sales training, and systems – as the business started growing, making sure all of the systems were in place so that he could hire people to help him get to the next level. At the end of last year, he said he will never do without a business coach for the rest of his career.