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Meet the Member: Elie Cohen, CEO & Co-Founder of Wave Group
June 19, 2019
If you've ever been to an FACC event where Elie Cohen is in attendance, you would immediately recognize his effervescent personality, a character trait that makes him both a delightful conversationalist and a unique professional who is deeply attuned to the needs of his clients. You may know him from his role as Senior Partner- Sales and Marketing North America at CanalChat. In addition to this activity, he is also the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Wave Group. We sat down with him to learn more about his projects, his company's services and his role as an "Urban Sherpa".
FACC: Wave Group is a consulting boutique that offers services in business transformation and business acceleration, marketing strategy and international development, performance and organization improvement, corporate finance and M&A. How would you describe your mission statement and what sets you apart from other boutique firms and the big 4 firms?
EC: At Wave Group we combine an efficient blend of advisory and execution management capabilities. We focus on delivering short sequences of projects. We look for quick wins as part of a carefully planned, long term strategy. We adopt a commando mindset. Our agile approach helps our clients shift quickly from the design phase to operational implementation. We are constantly developing an active community of partners that we leverage in order to bring the best subject matter experts at any stage of the delivery process. Our goal is to keep our clients empowered by constantly leveraging their internal management organization, ensuring client's project ownership and change sustainability.
FACC: You are the CEO and Co-Founder, but also refer to yourself as the “Urban Sherpa”, due to your qualities as an observer, a master in the art of adaptation and someone who reveals opportunities and talents. Can you give us a bit more insight into your background and what makes you passionate about helping others fulfill their potential?
EC: I have a technology background. My entire career was dedicated to growing small organizations into larger groups. I achieved this first as a sales manager, then as a head of business unit, and later on as a country manager and an entrepreneur. I had the opportunity to develop projects in France, in the UK, in Luxembourg, in Belgium, in the US, in Canada and in India. Building bridges between firms that offer a compelling value proposition and customers that have purchasing power has always been very exciting for me. What motivates me the most in business is meeting people, engaging with them, bringing meaningful connections to my extended network, connecting the dots, and creating shared value. I also like to think of myself as a connector, someone who is always thrilled to share and transmit what I learn.
FACC: Can you reveal anything about some of the projects your team is currently undertaking?
EC: The first one is with Canalchat (Canalchat.fr)
Mandate: support the launch of the firm by initiating and accelerating revenue generation with key target institutional US client across all economic sectors.
Key Benefits : Major Master Service Agreements signed and number of projects delivered. Local staff has been hired and one of the key executives relocated in the US to drive the next phase of growth. Active and qualified pipeline of prospect ready for closing. A number of strategic alliances were initiated to ease cross-selling.
Clarify the Value Proposition in order to capture the interest of our target audience. Extract the substance of the one key selling point. Identify samples of target clients to test the message and initiate the sales funnel. Adjust messaging and extend the target list for direct engagement. Management of each phase of the sales cycle to completion and sell-on. Provide guidance, method. Implement KPIs for measuring sales performance.
The second one is an international publicly traded company: $650 million revenue, 4750 employees, managing a portfolio of public transport contracts across US and Canada
Mandate: lead a comprehensive business transformation project to improve the company’s collective capability by strengthening support functions, process efficiency and tools to create more value in order to develop competitive advantages.
Two side benefits / key objectives:
· to optimize costs and productivity, sharing know-how and resources to avoid redundancies.
· and to deeply transform the company culture, designing a new transverse / regional organization, shifting from an ‘independent business units’ type of organization to integrated leadership
Wave Group conducted analysis and diagnostic reviews of seven support functions, HR, finance, rocurement, payroll, marketing and communication, legal mapping the way resources were allocated across business units, identifying weaknesses and centers of excellence, formalizing detailed process and tools mapping and evaluating the quality of service delivered. Based on these thoroughly substantiated diagnostics, Wave Group issued recommendations and actionable short-term improvement plans, as well as long term visions when relevant, designing support function target organizations, articulating principles, detailed organization charts with main accountabilities.
When structural adjustments were proposed, drivers of the new organizational design were:
· to enable growth,
· and enable Managers in the business units to concentrate on core work: split support functions objectives between “core to operations” and “professionalizing more technical services, upgrading skills and efficiency.” Once diagnostic and recommendations were validated, Wave Group took responsibility of implementation phase, implementing and leading project governance and structuring company-wide communication.
With a limited number of consultants supporting the project dynamic - between 1 to 4 consultants over one year, Wave Group’s approach is to favor internal leadership, entrusting senior management to drive the initiative, requesting the contribution of head of support functions to co-engineer the solutions. Wave Group triggered the engagement of Managers to contribute proactively, as Process Improvement targets are better designed by the people who know and it was also leveraged as an opportunity to initiate cross-Business Units team working.
FACC: Wave Group has transacted business in close to 100 countries, how do you manage to be so adaptable? As a cautionary tale, what is one piece of advice you would give to business developers?
EC: Adaptability: Indeed, by combining the individual expertise of each of our partners, we are proud to confirm that our activity is very much colored by international clients. What is a key success factor: swiftly bringing to our clients the understanding of the cultural factors, the local codes for making business and accessing the relevant local business networks and communities.
My advice to Business Developers:
- Start by Clarifying your objectives…. What do you run for?
- Think big and long term from day one….
- Todays efforts will lead to positive outcome at some point of time …
- Action… action... action …
- A good job leads to a new job…
- Look for quick wins … don’t shoot for the stars right off the bat.
- Be extremely available to the schedule of your clients …. always leverage your business community experience …
- If you don’t belong to a community, start there …. > FACC is the place to start ;-)
FACC: You have been a longstanding member and support of the Chamber of Commerce, what do you most appreciate about the unique French-American community in New York?
EC: The FACC brings together a unique blend of French and AMERICAN firms covering all sectors, available for sharing information and open to one another. This happens thanks to an active community management that the FACC team support, with a true understanding and respect of each member’s goals and requirements.
FACC: What is the one thing you can’t stop thinking about that fuels all your business activities?
EC: Being curious, making great encounters. Behind revenue, you have teams composed by a number of individuals... each of them having their own unique trajectory. Business is a pretext to engage with interesting folks!
Interested in connecting with Elie? Log into the FACC Member Directory to send him a message.