Being imaginative in the middle of a crisis

20 MAY 2020

The transport world has been hit hard by the coronavirus. How can you adapt to this and avoid having to shut down? By disrupting. This is what Anne-Marie Colley, a co-director of Transports Cordier and participant in the emlyon business school Executive MBA, is trying to do.

When containment was announced, several sectors shut down. This was the case with road transport, which has seen a considerable drop in activity. “We had a few lorries off the road,” says Anne-Marie Colley. The co-director of Transports Cordier first put a small section of her staff into partial unemployment before changing her mind. “For 48 hours we examined the different options that came to mind and we decided to put all of our production facility back into operation. This strong option meant that we had to work with our sales team on prospecting work on volumeswith our customers and also in markets further from our core business. At the same time, we set up a committed communication campaign with our staff, both those who were working from home and those on the road, to convey two key messages: Take care of yourselves and your loved ones and “Together we will succeed in keeping our economic model through our individual commitment”.

This is how the Transports Cordier “journal” started: A weekly newsletter recounting the life of confined staff, at home or on the road. “It was the breath of fresh air that our staff were looking for. There were photos of landscapes taken by the drivers and stories of the daily family life of our employees working from home. We were able to stay close to people despite the confinement,” adds Anne-Marie Colley.

This strategy has also enabled the company to bring in new customers and open new lines. “Overall, during this crisis, we more than ever have a disruptive mindset. We are constantly looking at what we could do differently. We are imaginative. And we are carrying out all kinds of analyses to find solutions elsewhere,” explains the director

Such perpetual questioning comes naturally to Anne-Marie Colley and her husband Ludovic. Since taking over the family business in 2007, they have been constantly innovating to grow and improve the profitability of the business. This is how valuation was multiplied by a factor of 6 in 13 years. The company now employs 400 people and has a turnover of €49 million. In addition to bulky road transport, it has also grown in the rail-road combination.

An emlyon business school Executive MBA course

This very complementary pair also draws on the lessons of the Executive MBA to innovate at a time of crisis. Anne-Marie Colley signed up last October to follow this international diploma at emlyon business school. “I had been wanting to start studying again for some time. I wanted to do some soul searching and learn new ways of doing things. Our daily rhythm is intense. We act instinctively and we lack perspective. The EMBA has already allowed me to work on my position and my individual leadership. It opens up a range of possibilities and makes us even more agile,” explains Anne-Marie Colley.

Concrete progress

Better communication with the staff, certain processes improved, digital tools discovered...In a few months, Anne-Marie Colley has appreciated the benefits provided by the EMBA and can clearly see the progress her company has made, particularly in this time of crisis. “We have had two crises in a short time: a cyber attack in November 2019 after which we lost operating data, and now the coronavirus. It’s trying, but this course is helping me a lot to understand these situations,” she adds.

The return to normal is also a challenge. But one that the couple will take up, as always, with verve and enthusiasm. And they are already exploring new avenues of development for Transports Cordier.


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