Cofinpar: “Fear is a bad counsellor.”

A crisis must not prevent innovation, looking to the future, or wanting to stay ahead of the competition. Thanks to the resilience of the teams and the digitisation of processes, the 2020 results of the Cofinpar group, active in the automotive and real estate sectors, increased for the 5th year running.

At the end of 2019, the group decided to sell its subsidiary Sogalux and its 5 Mercedes dealerships. This decision had nothing to do with the impending COVID-19 crisis. “Consolidating, or taking your own course, is the current law of the automotive market,” explains Laurent Collin, CEO of Cofinpar. “The resources made available by this operation have enabled us to continue to diversify our activities while strengthening the sustainability of our values.”

To The Point (TTP): This means that Cofinpar escaped the pandemic?

Laurent Collin (LC): “The fall in turnover (around 12%) did not prevent the group’s consolidated results from growing strongly over a one-year period – despite the health crisis, which impacted the sale of new vehicles. We are pleased, especially as all the subsidiaries are concerned. This performance is explained by strict cost management, strong involvement of the teams, and a significant increase in our productivity following the digitisation of our internal processes.”

“The benefits result from the work carried out upstream.”

Laurent Collin, CEO of Cofinpar

TTP: No productivity or performance without employees with a healthy body and mind?

LC: “Exactly. That’s why we talk about human capital and participatory management. Cultivating employee enthusiasm is crucial. Autonomy and empowerment are two concepts that we maintain on a daily basis. Without a relationship of trust, no personal development is possible. This requires an individual assessment every first quarter of the year. The work environment also plays a crucial role that must not be overlooked. Just as it is essential to share our corporate vision, strategy and objectives to improve team performance. Budgeting is another momentum. We take advantage of this to optimise our organisation and set new objectives. Budgets are based on KPIs, our own performance and market trends. Growth targets are never imposed. What is important is that they are understood and endorsed by the management responsible for achieving them.”

TTP: Our study shows that 41.2% of successful companies have maintained their innovation budget.

LC: “That’s certainly one of the conditions for success. In our lines of business, we must remain attentive to innovations and new management tools that enable our employees to focus on their core business, without forgetting to anticipate market trends or the strategies of car manufacturers. That’s why our Sonama dealerships have been exclusively distributing used Volvo vehicles for 3 years – a trend that’s becoming widespread. At Cofinpar, we have chosen to support innovation by diversifying our activities. We have just invested in Apeo (Agronomical Plant Extracts & Essential Oils): a spin-off of Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech ULiège, specialising in the development, certification and marketing of essential oil-based bioherbicides. A 100% natural alternative to glyphosate.”

TTP: Your dual activity requires proximity and tailor-made solutions for your customers. Are these two aspects part of your ‘purpose’?

LC: “The closer we are to the customer, the stronger our position becomes, whether offline or online. Today, we need to maintain our ‘bricks’ while investing in ‘clicks’. The quality of our service (and therefore our success) depends on our ability to effectively optimise these two paradigms. With the health crisis, people are becoming more aware than ever that local trade (physical or not) has value. A value that we support at group level.”

Cofinpar is a family-owned group operating in the real estate and automotive sectors. It has several subsidiaries: Immolux (real estate development), Covalux (car parts distribution), and Sonama (Volvo dealerships). The group diversifies its activities by acquiring minority or majority stakes in companies active in sectors of the future (ageing economy, food tech, health, cybersecurity, soft mobility) where its know-how and managerial experience can create added value.

  • Registered office: Namur

  • Covalux: 14 stores throughout Wallonia, growth prospects in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and in France
  • Sonama: 4 Volvo dealerships (Libramont, Marche-en-Famenne, Arlon, Namur)
  • Immolux: 50 to 100 apartments/year (from Brussels to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg)
  • Employees: 160
  • 2020 consolidated sales: €80 million