In sports, a great coach can transform a group of players into a championship team. The same is true in business. A quality business coach can help a company and its employees achieve lasting success, and a winning organization.
Kobe Bogaert knows a thing or two about transforming companies into winning organizations. He is Managing Director at Altus Growth Partners. Altus works with business leaders and their teams to transform how they work together to achieve meaningful breakthroughs in growth, satisfaction and value.
We were thrilled to have Kobe sit down with us to share some insights and talk shop!
Just so our readers can get to know you a little better, please give us a little background on who you are. I was born and raised in Belgium, where I grew up in Leuven, the city that brews Stella Artois. I often joke with people to take that into account when they listen to me as the jury is still out on how the fumes of the brewery affect my reasoning. In other words, you will read the rest of this story at your own risk.
After finishing my bachelor’s in accounting in Belgium, I came to San Diego in 1995 to do my graduate studies at Alliant International University (fka USIU). I came here as I wanted to work and study with Dr. Igor Ansoff, credited for being ‘the father of strategic management.’ I planned to be here for two years and then go back to Belgium. That planning reveals that I had no clue about San Diego, its weather, people, and culture when I arrived.
My wife, Elke, who I met as we both completed our accounting degree, moved to San Diego in 1996. She did her graduate studies in finance, and she now runs her boutique CPA practice. We have been married for 20 years this year, and we have two sons who are thriving, Yoktan, who is 15 and completed his first year in virtual high school, and Kieran, who was lucky enough to have in-person school completing 6th grade.
We reside in Carmel Valley, and we love living and working in San Diego. It is almost perfect, and I say almost, as we are far away from our family. The long-distance is very present to us, especially as our parents are aging. We are very mindful of our relationship with our families, and we have a long annual trip every year. I am there a bit more often as I travel to Belgium four times a year for work, and I feel blessed that I can do that. Well, I haven’t during COVID, obviously, and I am looking forward to picking that back up.
How did you get into business consulting and coaching? When I graduated, I made myself the promise that I would never go into consulting. At that time, what I knew of consulting didn’t attract me. So, early on, I worked in technology companies with my finance and operations background.
My last official position working for another company was as VP of Finance for a VC-backed technology company that didn’t survive the dot-com bust. In that timeframe, the CEO of a former competitor based out of Germany reached out to me. They wanted to establish their operations in the US and wanted to find out if I could help them. My initial thought was that I was applying for my next position. In reality, it turned out to be my first consulting project. I enjoyed that project so much that I decided that this is what I wanted to do. I was amazed at the impact that I could make and the joy that went with it for my clients and myself.
At the time, I was 30 years old, didn’t have any meaningful consulting experience. Yet, I was fully committed to learn and grow on how I could build a business around these principles. So, I engaged with, and surrounded myself with people that I admired, could learn from, and would allow me to experiment with them.
What drives you? Why do you do what you do? As in any career, it took me a while before I found my footing and my peace with my career choice. What illuminated it for me was getting clear about what I care about in my life. For me, it is impacting other people in such a manner that they, in turn, could impact others at a deeper level of awareness. My care is what orients me with whom I build relationships, how I get joy out of what I am doing, both professionally and personally.
I just love making a meaningful impact so that the people I have worked with are paying it forward and doing the same with the people they are working with every day. What I appreciate more than anything else in my line of work is when I am approached by someone who I didn’t directly work with, yet they come and thank me for how they have been impacted by the work I did with their boss or colleague.
I sincerely believe that it is essential to living life to the fullest, and this allows me to do that for myself and those around me. I will frequently ask myself if what I am doing is still taking care of my care, always to orient myself to keep going in a way that feeds me. I can honestly say that I love the work that I do.
Tell us more about Altus Growth Partners. Altus Growth Partners is an organization where everything we do is recognizing that significant accomplishments come from genuine commitments and coordination of leaders, teams, and organizations. As a result, we offer a commitment-based approach to help our clients achieve breakthrough leadership and team results.
We started this journey over 20 years ago, and many know us in San Diego as Strategic Momentum, which has evolved into Altus Growth Partners, a boutique consulting firm where we serve various clients across the US.
We are very deliberate about the clients we take on. We will often spend time with our prospects to map out what they want to accomplish, how that will add value to their business, and establish if we are indeed the best fit to deliver those results with them. We intend to build mutually beneficial relationships and be partners with our clients through their growth journey, as we have found that to be the way to make a meaningful and lasting impact.
Our values are an essential element of how we work. Our values of abundance, joy, legitimacy, and responsibility are present in everything that we do. The power of working with a team aligned with these values is something that excites me every day.
Tell us about working with Primary Funding. How did that come about? I met Jason Severson, now CEO of Primary Funding, more than ten years ago. Back when he became President of Primary Funding, we would have conversations about what he was doing, and I would ask him questions for consideration or shared some of my observations. Those conversations became a bit more frequent as he was facing some significant decisions, where at some point, he asked if we could work together on a more consistent basis.
Working with Jason and his team is an excellent example of what we look for in a client. Jason is a genuine human being, a savvy business person, and humble and open to learn and explore. He has assembled a team with similar leadership traits organized around a core set of values, who love their work and enjoy producing results. The way they come together, challenge, and support each other, is a recipe for future success. I am always humbled and proud that we can contribute to this in a meaningful manner.
What kinds of businesses do you typically work with? Our motto is People. Conversations. Results. We all care about the results that we are producing. However, if we only focus on that, we can keep on making the same mistake over and over again. A typical reaction is to try to overcome this by working harder, which is never a long-lasting strategy. We go back and listen to the conversations the leaders at our client are having and the conversations they are not having in a wide variety of domains such as strategy, finance, leadership, operations, development, and so on. We then look at who the people are that lead these different functions and what they need to shift certain of their conversations to produce the result they want to create.
That means that we work with a diverse set of businesses and industries, as our expertise isn’t to bring more industry knowledge. We believe that you already know 99% of what you need to know. Our focus is to help you identify which value commitments you have to make and what is in the way of making those commitments to achieve your results.
Our ideal client is an organization with leaders who are willing to challenge themselves, have an appetite for learning, recognize that they generate company value by developing their people, and are eager to have different conversations about how they want to accomplish this. We want to be clear on how we are adding value.
Our clients tend to be organizations that have been around for a while, appreciate the power of outside perspective, have leaders who are willing to have different conversations, and are eager to invest in the long-term increase value of their people.
What should someone do if they are interested in learning more about your services? How does the process work? What are the costs involved? Well, as I said in the previous question, we start by having a conversation. The client might not be ready yet, or might be unsure about where they could use help, yet it is those conversations that make you think and try something new.
Our first aim is to start building a relationship. We need to know you, and you need to know us. It is not unusual for me to be in a conversation with a CEO who will ask for a proposal at the end of the conversation. Eight out of ten times, I will decline to send a proposal. Instead, I will promise them to give a document that shares what I heard in our conversation. Our experience is that what is missing in an organization is often more profound than what the client initially thinks is missing. Through this process, we can identify, align and agree on the value that they want to create and different ways that we can accomplish this together. This is a very collaborative process, and therefore a great qualifier as to the type of working relationship we will have when we move forward.
The cost at this time for both parties is the time we invest in the conversation. I know that this is counterintuitive to our western sales culture, yet I have found over the years that we build stronger client relationships that are more beneficial for all involved. It is more important for us to find the right client at the right time, instead of just adding more clients. I’ll never forget that I declined an organization two times before they became one of my favorite clients.
We know that this is time well spent, as we learn about each other, and you also will open up to new insights about your organization. We know we add value through this process, even when we do not end up working together. In a way, it shows to the market what we do, and we have received great referrals from prospects with whom we did not end working for one reason or another.
When it comes to the cost of our services when we start working with the client, that depends on the outcomes we, the client and us, want to achieve and the speed at which we want to achieve them. So, what we will always do is come up with a mutually agreed monthly fee so that we are not counting hours; instead, we are all focused on producing results.
What else would you like our readers to know? Any parting thoughts or advice you’d like to share? I think it is always essential that you live your good life, whatever that is for you. You are the only one that can decide what your good life is and how you want to bring it forward. It is not unusual to meet executives and leaders who are not entirely satisfied with what they are doing. They might be suffering through the work as they think it is expected from them by others. Yet, they do not explore what alternatives they see to align themselves with their good life.
Why do I share this? In my experience, those who pay attention to making sure they are satisfied with who they are and what they do, tend to give more space to the people around them. In turn, this allows them to explore their good life. When you bring together a group of more satisfied, transparent, and forthcoming people, all THAT leads to better conversations and results.
Last but not least, don’t forget to find joy and gratitude every day, both in the work you are doing and outside of that. There is even joy in a bad day, as when it has passed, it presents an opportunity to have a good one, next. So, I sign off with a big smile!