Coaching services

“Having a great idea and being first out the blocks no longer translate into success”

When it comes to running a family business, there are right and wrong ways to go about it. That’s where a family consultant comes in, designing a “family council” that’s essential to the success of any family enterprise.

Madeleine Blanchard, Chief Coaching Architect, Co-founder of Blanchard coaching services at The Ken Blanchard companies, opens up about the ins and outs of running a successful family business, including why nepotism is encouraged, why books are now an archaic way to reach consumers, and why the future belongs to the next generation— forcing herself to also get in front of the camera.

The Ken Blanchard Companies, with offices all over the world, offers management training unlike any other, having taught over 150,000 people annually for the past 40 years. Blanchard is the provider of choice for Fortune 500 companies, SMBs, governments, and educational and non-profit institutions. The One-Minute Manager, does it ring a bell? Ken Blanchard’s award-winning book has had a significant impact on the world of business and leadership, but most notably on The Ken Blanchard Companies.

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Being first doesn’t make you the winner

Madeleine began her work with a relentless drive for excellence, certain that the only way to achieve true success was to leap ahead of the competition; first out with an original idea equals a fruitful outcome. Instead, she discovered there is no reward for being first if you haven’t the backing to push it forwards.

I thought being first translates into success. I was wrong

She explains that if you hurry to release a product before it’s ready, competitors with bigger resources can quickly overtake your modest business and poach all of your potential revenue. You’re left in the dust, looking for the next gig, since you know you can’t take on the industry heavy hitters who’ve taken your idea and already put it through the works. 

But that’s not all, Madeleine speaks about the depth to which they had to dig for educating the customer base, a world away from what she originally expected.

“I thought everyone saw what I saw. Our core concept was to democratize coaching”.

“It seems like every week a whole new company comes online with the slogan ‘we’re democratizing coaching,’ as if this were an original concept. In fact, back in 1999, we had the very first business plan that included that idea.

It’s impossible to put a figure on originality

Unfortunately, not all of their prospective clients at the time had the necessary bandwidth to run the software they had developed.

‘So, we went for it! Out of the blocks first, without having all the facts, and therefore made some mistakes.”

Turbulence: years of chaos and pivots

Coaching.com was founded by Madeleine and her business partner Scott Blanchard in 1999 (now sold and under different management. At that point, they were just ‘getting their legs under them’ gaining momentum and on the cusp of closing a major client, Worldcom, which was often mentioned in the same breath as Enron, when 9/11 struck.

9/11 impacted the business world in a myriad of ways

We thought we were going to lose the whole thing and so then we were acquired by the Ken Blanchard companies, because they didn’t offer coaching at all.” 

Getting through the haze of uncertainty that followed 9/11 and the dot-com bubble crash, whilst keeping the company afloat, was no easy task, but Madeline was up to the challenge.

Never again in a million years, I hope…

In 2008, Madeleine and her husband/business partner launched a project, teaming up with another company to develop an asynchronous LCMS (a system for managing content and learning materials inside organizations). 

Madeleine ignored certain warning signs and spent roughly $4 million of her own money and the money of The Ken Blanchard Companies on a venture that ultimately failed.

“It’s a family owned business, so that rather expensive mishap was also the family’s money.It was the most excruciating experience with the most valuable lesson.”

I walked around for two years beating myself up over this. And I’d like to think I’ll never do it again

The red flags were there, and in retrospect, I wish I had said, ‘I’m out.'” 

At the time, Madeleine lacked confidence in her own ability to make sound decisions. Instead, thinking that it was an excellent concept, as people she respected were going along with it and so it must be right.

I didn’t want, I didn’t want to be that person, running around saying the sky is falling, the sky is falling – (a quote from the ever famous Chicken little film)

“I didn’t trust myself, but I wish I had”.

The One Minute Manager Architect

Madeleine’s father-in-law, Ken Blanchard, the king of the entire company, started the company around his really brilliant ideas, writing a book that became very called The One-Minute Manager. 

“The younger generations don’t read. But people need to read his book, because ultimately he is a charismatic genius.”

Ken is a charismatic genius

Now doing all they can to alter that inability to connect to consumers through books, finding another way to connect. But Ken’s vision must stay firmly in the business ethos, even as it evolves as Madeline tells how people are drawn to their company because of the ideas and thought leadership it produces.

How to know you’ve made it? Can’t rain on my parade

When people begin suing you, you know you’ve made it

“Some people, maybe former business associates, will try to pull you down a peg or two, but only when they know you have the resources to defend yourself.”

The price of success is having to deal with the perpetual feeling of opposition from those who are jealous of your success but unable to achieve it themselves

“They try to undermine your success, just because they haven’t come up to your ranks. It’s the cost of success.”

Family Run Business: You have to know what’s out of bounds

“We may spend a lot of time together at work, but we also take a lot of vacations together, so that should tell you something about how much we like each other outside of work.” 

Madeleine referred to John Eldridge, the family business consultant hired early on by The Ken Blanchard Companies, as an absolute genius, and she was probably correct. 

John facilitated the formation of a framework known as the “Family Council,” which has allowed them to collaborate effectively. Madeleine explains that they meet with a facilitator once a quarter and put in a lot of time and effort to create an agenda for the meeting. Among the topics covered are teamwork, CO ownership, behavior, and expectations.

We actually practice Nepotism… Why not?

What’s really interesting now is that we have generation 3, in the company, and she’s crushing it

“In a family business, communication has to come first, because you can’t suppress things and over step a lot of moments.” 

“That isn’t to say that communication isn’t exhausting at times. It is. But it’s also critical to our success.”

We are often accused of nepotism. Which is true. We practice nepotism

Madeleine tells how people often mention how The Blanchard Companies practise Nepotism, but doesn’t see what’s the problem with it. Family and friends of current employees are also considered for employment, provided that they possess the necessary skills and are willing to conform to the company’s norms and values. 

“Our culture isn’t for everyone.”

Make room for the new blood coming through!

Madeleine, a seasoned business leader, admits that she wasn’t born with a smartphone in hand and TikTok at her fingertips. But she’s fascinated by the way the younger generation uses social media to connect with customers. As an advocate for trying new things, she embodies the spirit of innovation that drives Ken Blanchard’s companies.

The young people are the future, they have always been the future

However, I believe that the real success of any company will come from a combination of the wisdom of those over the age of 60, the experience of those in their forties, and the innovative spirit of today’s youth.

“I’ve been writing this blog, an advice column, for six years. One blog a week, 50 weeks a year. It’s an outlet for me. And it’s really fun. I mean, what’s more fun than giving advice, right?”

While Madeleine enjoys writing her blog, she understands that the times are changing, and people’s reading habits have shifted. To adapt, she’s enlisted the help of younger employees to brainstorm creative and engaging ways to deliver information.

After all, what’s more fun than sharing advice in a way that captures people’s attention?

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