The universe of the consultant
Project Consultant Anne Binard: “I really wanted this project. I knew that I would learn and contribute a lot.”
With over 30 years of experience in the space sector, the company Space Applications Services appeals to the imagination. When our Business Manager Dimitri Hunin (T&S Brussels) was contacted for a temporary mission in business controlling, he immediately thought of project consultant Anne Binard. She was junior, but she had the right capacities and drive. The Administration Department Manager (ADM) Ms. Françoise Glinne met Anne, and felt a good connection.
Today Space Applications Services (also called SpaceApps) employs about 90 people, in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. They also have a subsidiary in the United States, close to the NASA office. At SpaceApps, there are mainly engineers with a high level of expertise. They are specialized in different domains: training of (future) astronauts, software development, space future technologies, robotics and the first European commercial product called ICE cubes, the latter gives to specific types of companies or even schools the opportunity to take their experiment to the International Space Station (ISS).
“The Administration Department supports the engineers. We are a team of 8 people, occupied with HR, Finance, Project Controlling and general daily administration”, says Françoise Glinne, who has been working at SpaceApps for over 25 years. Last year, she contacted TriFinance, when one of her colleagues assigned to Project Controlling decided to leave the company.
“For a relatively small company, in a specific and complex niche, it is difficult to find the right people”, explains Françoise. “An acquaintance told me about her positive collaboration with TriFinance and especially with Dimitri. I contacted him and then it went fast. I appreciated this efficiency. Dimitri introduced us to Anne and I immediately felt the good connection. Normally Anne would stay 6 months, but eventually she stayed 1 year.”
Dimitri: “As a business manager, it’s a beautiful recognition if a new customer finds you through your network. When I was contacted, I was instantly enthusiastic about the sector. I arrived here like a kid in a candy store. (Laughs) During our first meeting, Françoise and I discussed and defined her needs and expectations. This meeting is also important to create a relationship of trust and to get to know the company culture. Not only technical competences are important, there also has to be a connection with the organisation.”
Dimitri: “We have a double promise: furthering our consultants and meeting our clients’ needs.”
“At SpaceApps, we were talking about a profile of a business controller with about 10 years of experience”, explains Dimitri. “During our meeting, I wanted to broaden the possibilities by not only looking at that specific profile, but to look for an ensemble of certain competences. If you purely look at the profile, you will say that 1 year of experience is not enough for this type of project with this kind of stakeholders. But at TriFinance, our responsibility is twofold. On the one hand, we promise our consultants that we offer them the opportunity to develop themselves through different finance positions. On the other hand, we promise our clients to be able to meet their needs.”
For this mission, Dimitri thought of Anne. He knew of the very positive feedback about her previous project. With only one year of experience, Anne was theoretically too junior for the position at SpaceApps. However, Dimitri saw the connection with her competences on analysis and synthesis.
“The fact that this would be an experience in controlling, sounded appealing to me”, says Anne. “And of course, the sector is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I had a good feeling when I met Françoise, although I knew that I was below expectations for this function. But that didn’t scare me, I really wanted this project. I knew that I would learn and contribute a lot, as SpaceApps is also a small company with a strong growth.”
Anne: “As a junior, it was enriching to get responsibility, both for my hard and soft skills.”
The scope of the mission was Project Controlling, assisting Project Managers in the budget management of about 50 projects. At that moment, they were also working on a new project reporting tool. “It was one of my big challenges here”, says Anne. On the one hand, I discovered all those different aspects of controlling. On the other hand, I was partly responsible for the further development of the new tool and I was the point of contact for the external developer. It was enriching to get this responsibility, both for my hard and my soft skills.”
Françoise: “In the same period, we had an internal audit from the European Commission, which was also a beautiful experience for Anne. Together we analyzed everything and I noticed that Anne was really eager to learn further and motivated to do her best. Moreover, everything happened without conflicts, always with mutual respect and transparent communication.”
Dimitri: “Between the two of you ànd together with TriFinance, because this is also important. In the consultancy field, we want to give our commitment about the initial duration of a project. Afterwards, the consultant can determine his or her own career path, never neglecting our clients' needs. We always informed Françoise well in advance about the extension of Anne’s project. Each time we talked with Anne about her feelings and how she wanted to develop. Eventually, her mission at SpaceApps lasted one full year.”
Françoise: “I understand and respect this way of working, this is something we knew from the beginning. However, I would like to add that Anne would have learned many more new things if she had decided to stay with us longer. (Laughs) It takes about 4 to 5 months before you get to know the business and its content, then it takes some time to feel at ease and to come up with your own ideas. That is perfectly normal, especially in a sophisticated and demanding environment such as SpaceApps.”
Dimitri: “That is the hard part of my job. Often consultants tell us that they want challenging - but short term - missions. And that is not always compatible, because it takes time to understand the business and the expectations, to create trust and to do your job properly. Only after a few months, you will see the real return on investment, especially in complex projects.”
Anne: “As a consultant, I think that the ‘phase of discovery’ doesn’t give a lot of satisfaction. It is the period when I feel depending on someone else and cannot work autonomously. Only afterwards, you really understand how the job has to be performed and thus how much you can contribute to the company.”
Dimitri: “Everything depends on the nature of the project. If it is sophisticated, it takes longer to understand the business. But we also have purely operational projects - a necessary passage to understand how bookkeeping functions. Then it happens that you want to evolve to a next mission after a few months.”
Françoise: “I loved the relationship of mutual trust and transparency with Anne. Eventually she is the real spokesperson of TriFinance.”
After one year of Space Applications, Anne decided to take on new challenges in another direction. She switched to CFO Services, another BCB (Blue Chip Boutique) within TriFinance. “During my previous project, I did process improvement. I wanted to discover controlling, so the mission at SpaceApps came at the perfect moment. Still there was a small voice inside of me, saying that I wanted to do process management. It was hard to make the decision, as I realised that I could learn much more at SpaceApps. That is the dilemma of a consultant. Leaving a client after one year...it feels like leaving a permanent job.”
Françoise: “Moreover, at SpaceApps you have an easy going atmosphere. Everyone speaks to each other and to Anne about her decision to stop this project. She was highly appreciated, even by the difficult ones. (Laughs) Having said this, I clearly respect her choice.”
Dimitri: “It often happens that a client asks one of our consultants to stay - this means you have done a good job. In fact, it is the best recognition you can get. Our role is to offer challenging perspectives to our people to avoid this.” (Laughs)
Françoise: “I remember very well the moment I noticed our tight bond. One day, Anne said: ‘Here WE are going to lose money’. That gave me a warm feeling, and this is good for TriFinance too. It means that the consultant is professionally well integrated.”
Anne: “If you don’t commit yourself for 100%, I find it difficult to make the right decisions or to make good proposals.”
Françoise: “I enjoyed the enormous progress of Anne and the fact that I could assist her with my personal and professional skills. I loved the relationship of mutual trust, friendship and transparency with TriFinance and especially with Anne - eventually she is the real spokesperson of TriFinance.”