Explosive growth through operational excellence

ECS Implementing Strategy for Value Creation

How can we implement our corporate strategy as efficiently as possible? And how can we involve the management in this process? Those were the key questions ECS asked when the company contacted Vlerick Business School for a short in-house course. Kurt Verweire, Strategy Professor and author of the recently published book Strategy Implementation, provided the answers. 

ECS European Containers Ltd is an intermodal logistics operator specialised in transport between the United Kingdom and Ireland on the one hand, and the European mainland on the other, using 45-ft containers. The company is headquartered in Zeebrugge, Belgium, where all its activities have been centralised. This well-thought-out strategy significantly increases efficiency and guarantees better monitoring. Moreover, the company has branches in the Netherlands, France, Ireland and Italy - a geographical decentralisation that highlights its local, market-oriented approach.

In order to efficiently implement its current corporate strategy, the company decided to involve the management in the process. In spring, Vlerick Business School organised a short but thorough course providing the necessary support and tools. “The management was very enthusiastic about the proposal to hold a course. The challenge for us was to defend our strategy to them, instead of merely announcing it, to get everyone on the same page”, Pieter Balcaen, CEO of ECS, explains.

Straight to the point

ECS was mainly interested in a more efficient approach to implementing its strategy. “We wanted to be ‘lean’, i.e. to avoid dealing with trivial matters. Vlerick ensured a versatile approach and showed us how to achieve tangible results through various case studies”, Pieter Balcaen explains. The course comprised three one-day sessions, spread across several months, and focused on both theory and practice. Three professors focused on strategy implementation based on their field of expertise: Kurt Verweire for strategy, Dirk Buyens for human resources and Marion Debruyne for marketing. During each session, the attendees were given tasks, which were assessed during the following session. “This approach gave us a much broader view of what strategy can truly do for a company. The management – more than thirty participants – was very satisfied with the insights gained during these training sessions,” Pieter Balcaen continues. What’s more, the course quickly produced concrete results.

Doubling of growth margin

ECS had set various budgets to achieve an 8% growth – not a bad result and seemingly achievable. “Thanks to the tools we were presented with, the operational excellence focus is now so strong we have already achieved an impressive provisional growth of 18%, leaving us stunned. Not in a million years had we expected this!”

Vlerick, a preferred coaching partner

This course was organised as part of iGMO, which counts ECS among its members. iGMO, the impulse centre ‘Growth Management for Medium-sized Enterprises’, was founded by Vlerick as a research, discussion and networking portal focusing on the growth of medium-sized, entrepreneur-managed companies and all aspects of dynamic entrepreneurship.

When asked whether the future holds further collaboration projects with Vlerick, there is no hesitation: “ECS invests in training at all corporate levels. Our managers, team leaders and experts can benefit from a custom Talent Management programme, organised in collaboration with Vlerick. The tangible results we achieve time and time again keep blowing us away.” 

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