Written on 30 September 2013.
A study** focusing on medium-sized firms shows that although all kinds of companies may be cutting jobs, medium-sized companies create more jobs, and they create them more quickly (between 2009 and 2013 they created 80 000 jobs and big corporations cut 60 000).
For this reason, then, the Institut Montaigne, in collaboration with Asmep-ETI, created a task force, in which EDHEC Business School took part, on family firms. This joint effort led to the publication of a report titled Vive le long terme ! Les entreprises familiales au service de la croissance et de l’emploi (Up with the long-term: Family firms for growth and employment); the report stresses the importance of creating a favourable environment for the growth of family firms. It likewise stresses the importance of strengthening business, government and research by making ten proposals involving the passing on of family firms, financing and governance.
To celebrate the publication of this report, a roundtable was organised on 25 September. Participating were:
• Jean-Christophe Fromantin, MP from the Hauts-de-Seine, mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine
• Bruno Grandjean, chairman of the board of Redex
• Françoise Holder, board member of Holder
• Thierry Mandon, MP from the Essonne
• Benoit Arnaud, director of the EDHEC Family Business Center
The roundtable, kicked off by Philippe d’Ornano, president of Asmep-ETI, CEO of Sisley and member of the EDHEC Family Business Centre, began with a presentation of a study of medium-sized firms in France; it looked at their defining features. One of the most noteworthy features is their dynamism, even in times of crisis: this dynamism, in large part the result of strong local bases and a greater capacity to invest, is all the more surprising, especially when one keeps in mind the costs generated when a new generation takes on a family business and the unfavourable fiscal environment.
“A medium-sized company is built over 20, 30, 40 years,” says Benoit Arnaud, “it has to be passed on for it to last, and yet we see that in France now only 15 percent of medium-sized companies are passed on, as opposed to 40 percent in Italy, for example.”
This long-term perspective is nonetheless a defining trait of family firms. Françoise Holder, member of the board and co-founder of Holder, notes that, “thinking for the long-term means making short- and medium-term sacrifices to make money later and leave a heritage for your children.’ A long-term vision also implies a particular relationship with employees; the company has a memory, as it were, phases it has gone through that enable it to respond to changes, favourable or not, over time. It’s the point stressed by Bruno Grandjean, grandson of the founder of Redex: “When I make a decision, I think about my grandfather,”he said.’
And yet passing a firm on to the next generation may run up against one obstacle after another, largely as a result of a complex bureaucracy whose concerns are in many ways unconnected to business realities.
The talks by MPs Jean-Christophe Fromantin and Thierry Mandon acknowledged this complexity and called for a project on business taxation: ‘There should be a culture of collaboration in bills, in reforms’, says Thierry Mandon, MP from the Essonne.
This roundtable clearly illustrated the divide between government bureaucracies and business realities and provided yet another opportunity to bring together a diverse array of economic stakeholders.
More about the EDHEC Family Business Center
* L’entreprise familiale, un modèle durable, PwC study, 2012