Jean Dujardin

French Entrepreneurs Can’t Afford To Fail

Jean DujardinI missed the morning routine today, lunch with old collegues took precedence, and by an amusing coincidence, the tête à tête became tête à tête à tête à tête.

The four of us ate in a crowded terrace in the 8th. Smoking permitted, of course. The lunch brought back fond memories, and I can’t help reflecting privately each time I see them. I say ‘privately’ because anyone who has spent time around the table with the French will know what it’s like getting a word in edgewise. It’s a type of tennis that I don’t play well, but the mix of qualities, vision and competence around the table made for a great match.

The French aren’t all public service employees working 35 hr weeks and taking 12 week vacations. Atleast this caricature doesn’t fit these particular Parisians who have invested years of their energy building a profitable, competitive company. Hiring an American didn’t hurt, but that’s another story… They’re personally invested for several reasons, but one important (though hard to admit) one, is that they won’t easily find a home elsewhere. I can’t speak to their intentions, they’ve each profited well and in their own manner, but sharing (or listening to) a political discussion with these business owners under no illusion about the current French President, and his particular policy decisions, makes me wonder if France is a ticking time bomb.

Read: Ireland -> Greece -> Spain -> Italy -> France??

Read: PSA

Growth without competition, populist doublespeak, and stifling employment policies  (particularly for entreprenurial ones) is an obvious recipe for disaster. My companions were able to measure exactly the cost for each employee, the enterprise in general, it’s hiring strategy, and even make fun predictions about post-vacation strikes.

Parisians tend to see the world as if Paris IS France, much like New Yorkers see NY as if it IS the US. Both are mistaken, but for a Parisian business owner, the mistake is easier to justify. Ironically French politicians make the same mistake in reverse. The world looks very different outside of Paris, entrepreneurs are few and far between and votes are easy to come by when you attack success and by extension, profit. It’s like attacking Parisians, and in the end that won’t be good for business.

Growth? Where will Growth come with lightly veiled attacks on success and profit. I wonder. But it’s always been like that…

As an aside but relevant to my random thoughts this evening, The Economist ran a story last week about the time it takes for business bankruptcies to clear the courts. France’s was the worst, taking 10 years. Imagine. That’s five lifetimes for an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs need to fail, but not French entrepreneurs, they can’t afford to. And it’s not going to get easier.

I had a great lunch.