Discovery of a hub.brussels service that is still not well known enough despite its efficiency and meeting with a former banker who uses his experience to support Brussels entrepreneurs.
Who hasn't felt a little stress on the way to a bank meeting? The institution remains impressive, and the stakes are often crucial, whether you want to get your company out of a bad situation or give it the means to take on a new dimension. The vocabulary is often complicated and the results sometimes disappointing, even distressing.
Confidential, free and neutral
But all is not lost, far from it! For almost four years now, hub.brussels has been offering Brussels entrepreneurs the services of a Credit Mediator, a specialist in the field, a neutral and impartial third party whose intervention is free of charge and above all confidential. "It is difficult enough for an entrepreneur in a delicate position to come and unpack their problems to a stranger," explains Fabrice Dury, the mediator. They must be certain that their approach will remain confidential. "The mediator is also someone who takes a thorough but benevolent look at the files submitted to them and is determined to help entrepreneurs find a solution to their problem.
Fabrice Dury has the perfect profile for this mission. Certainly unusual within the administration, but perfect for playing this role that is still not well known. After starting a teaching career in geography, history and social sciences for social reasons, he quickly changed direction and entered the banking world. He spent around 20 years working in various commercial functions with the self-employed and SMEs, large companies and finally hospitals, universities and other important structures in Brussels and in the whole of Wallonia as a result of his interest in the business world. At the same time, he obtained a Master's in Management at UCL and completed a two-year training course in Saint-Louis to obtain the title of certified mediator in civil, commercial and social matters. "Although at hub, I offer voluntary mediation", he insists. This means that the banks are under no obligation to respond to my requests and are free to make their own decisions. So I am clearly a facilitator." A facilitator whose usefulness and effectiveness are no longer in question.
Thoroughness and benevolence
He stresses, "To the too many entrepreneurs who say they are not interested in this subject, I say that if they are not interested in finance, finance will be interested in them, and then they will be dead!" And he goes into more detail about his role, "I help all Brussels companies that have been rejected, had their situation changed or had any other unfavourable decision taken by their bank to rectify the situation. I work 90% 'hands-off'. That means I try to make entrepreneurs independent and able to manage on their own with their banker. I meet them and talk with them, I listen to them explain the project they want to finance or the problem they have with their bank, I examine the figures they bring me and I make a financial analysis of the situation. Banks often do not clearly explain the reasons for their refusal when they are supposed to. I show them why their approach failed, what did not hold water or what needs to be changed in the presentation, why and how to negotiate with their bank and how to argue and present counterproposals. I also develop 'Plan Bs' by including products that the public is not familiar with. Many entrepreneurs hold all the cards, but don't know how to present them."
So it is more a question of restructuring demand and coaching the entrepreneur, in which Fabrice Dury uses all the resources of his previous professional experiences, "I define myself as a credit coach," he confides. My role is to support the entrepreneur to help them understand their files, understand what they can ask for and how to negotiate. I include an educational approach in my work but I also use the knowledge acquired during my career in banking to structure the requests of the entrepreneurs who confide in me." This experience is also very useful in 10% of the cases submitted to him, so he can intervene directly with the banks when they have made decisions that are clearly disproportionate to the company's situation.
In any case, Fabrice Dury takes his role to heart, as he confides with a smile, "When a case I have dealt with concludes positively, when what I have said and the strategy I have put in place with the entrepreneur have hit the mark, I am delighted!"
And if nothing works out
Unfortunately, despite all the goodwill, skill and professionalism of Fabrice Dury, sometimes a case turns out to be hopeless. The mediator insists that he never lets anyone down, systematically calls everyone back and devotes the necessary time to each case. Sometimes a simple phone call is enough, sometimes a detailed analysis of the file, a long reflection and several meetings are necessary, whatever it takes. "I've built up a very diverse professional network over the course of my career," he says. So I always redirect these entrepreneurs to structures better able to help and protect them: the CED (Centre for Enterprises in Difficulty), the assistance set up by the region as part of the PRJ/mediation, of course, the Brussels Business Court with its company mediators, etc."
Why not you?
Since the end of the health crisis, Fabrice Dury has been taking on about one case per week, for companies of one to 50 people in all sectors, with eight to ten large cases per year. But he could handle more. "Fortunately, my colleagues at hub.brussels are becoming increasingly familiar with the nature of my work," he says.
However, the initiative must come from the entrepreneur. I never contact anyone spontaneously or on a recommendation. This is one of the principles of commitment theory. In any case, everyone is welcome as soon as they feel the need and anyone can contact me without fear as soon as they have a problem with the bank!"
Unfortunately, too many entrepreneurs are in denial, have difficulty understanding their own figures, misjudge the extent of the issues at stake and turn to the mediator when the situation has already deteriorated considerably. This is why Fabrice Dury has a simple piece of advice for them, "Transparency, transparency and anticipation! When you feel that the situation is getting tense, you should talk directly to your bank or seek help." To help the entrepreneur with this introspection, the mediator suggests answering three simple questions:
- Who (am I)?
- What (do I want to do or need to solve)?
- How (equity, investment loans, leasing, etc.)
And, of course, he is waiting for a call from those who feel doubts or difficulties. They will be in good hands.
Transparency, transparency and anticipation! When you feel that the situation is getting tense for your company, you should talk directly to your bank or seek help."
Fabrice Dury, mediator at hub.brussels