Daniel Haug is an American who has been living in France for the last seven years and coworking in Mutinerie for the last two years. He came to France to study Mathematical economics, but in 2009 he changed course and started a GMAT preparation company, vinciaprep.com. Over time, his company has grown from doing just GMAT courses to providing help with the entire MBA application package including CV editing, essay writing, and mock interviews. With his five years of experience of running a company in France we thought it would be interesting to see what he had to say about business in France and here is his response:
1) Cultural differences
One cultural difference that I like is that people in France often escort you all the way to the door on your way out after a business meeting. I’ve started doing the same thing and I believe that people enjoy the little bit of extra attention. A second point that I’ve noticed, and this might be the case everywhere, is that things just work better if they’re done in person. If you’re hesitating between a skype meeting and a face to face meeting, usually the in person meeting will be more successful and if your not sure if your not sure if you should mail the documents or go to the office directly, you should probably go directly to the office (particularly when dealing with governmental organizations).
2) Legal and administrative environment
If you’ve lived in France already you know that the French bureaucracy requires paperwork. Well, running a business in France is no different. You’ll have to get used to doing paperwork, and lots of it. The flip side though is that there are a lot of government programs that can help your company as well. For example, if you want to help individuals in their home you can join a program called “service à la personne”.
If you’re looking to do a big project, France does not seem to be the best place to take off in large part because it’s tougher to get financing from banks and because VC’s and investors are rare and tend to invest less. The amount of equity financing per inhabitant is 10 times smaller in France than in the US ! This means that projects that get several million in the US often struggle to get several hundred thousand in France. However, public financing is stronger in France, but comes with more bureaucracy and is less reactive.
4) Entrepreneurial attitude and advantage
Generally speaking, France is not the most entrepreneurial country. People feel that it’s too risky, and to be honest, being an entrepreneur can be risky. However, the fact that there are fewer entrepreneurs per capita in France than in the US makes it so you don’t have as much competition as well. Furthermore, the french social system reduces financial risks for young entrepreneurs and therefore encourages people to launch their own business.
Many people in the US want to start their own company because they want to be in control of their life. This consideration is less important in France because workers have more rights here. They don’t have to worry as much about being fired because it’s tougher for companies to do. Furthermore, French workers enjoy the more vacation than almost anywhere else in the world which decreases the incentive to undertake your own venture.