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A natural step in the process of a scaleup is to enter into foreign markets. Successful Dutch scaleups including Adyen, Coolblue and more are expanding their presence in the European and global market, one of the aspects being, the ability to understand the local and cultural aspects of each market.
In an exclusive conversation with Silicon Canals – Thomas Herlin, Business Development Accelerator at EIT Digital, France shares his thoughts on the preparations required before meeting with the big corporates and investors in France.
#1 Scaleups should be aware that French business etiquette is casual
A decade ago, people used to be quite formal, but now with the changing time, the business environment is loosening up and becoming more casual than ever before.
Basically, people in France prefer to dress in casual chic. No tie for men, casual but not denim. On the other hands, women can wear lovely and colorful dresses but not very short skirts.
Business meetings are not too formal and decision makers are adopting the habits of millennials. With more digitalization and innovation, even big traditional corporates are changing the way they operate.
#2 Deeptech in France is here!
As per reports by consultancy firm EY, since 2017, France is the second country after UK for HQ implantations in EU, and also the first preference for R&D centers, thanks to €5.5 billion subsidies for R&D activities in France called “Crédit Impôt Recherche.”
At the same time, France also has many top universities and renowned training centers for deep tech engineers like Ecole Polytechnique, Ecole Centrale, Supelec and more.
#3 Something to know about the Parisian quarter
Punctuality is always seen as a gesture of politeness and much appreciated. When meeting important people, you should always strive to be on time. However, there is a common understanding – which refers to a commonly accepted condition that a person in Paris can be late by 15 minutes due to traffic jams. This is the so-called Parisian quarter.
French business people intent to stay on schedule at the meeting. Only in rare occasion a meeting might extend beyond the meeting time. For example, if you as a scaleup have found common interests in a very good conversation with a big company or investor.
#4 French are quite bureaucratic
French are quite bureaucratic and there’s a lot of paperwork involved in all the processes including employee regulations and declarations. Nevertheless, the system is evolving as administrators are now inclined towards becoming more user-focused, which is a good sign. Also, a lot of paperwork is being moved to electronic media. Still, it will take some time for everything like processes to create a company and employ people to go digital.
Things like taxes in France involve a lot of paperwork, as the digitalisation of the taxes processing (declaration, payment) for the companies is still in the development phase. But, the good part is the system works and it’s not a headache to work with.
#5 People shaking hands every morning is normal
One of the cultural aspects in France is that people shake hands when they meet at the office every morning. Females even meet each other with kiss on each cheek. But of course, it differs on the level of proximity and familiarity with each person! TIP: If you’re a scaleup or a “regular” company you can note this point as a general behavior in the French work environment.
#6 Its good to learn some French
How necessary is learning to speak, read and write French for scaleups? Well, it depends on the domain or the activity of the scaleup. If the company works in services or finance, then knowing English might be enough. But, if the company has to deal with more traditional sectors like agriculture or transportation, then to achieve a high level of success, it is advisable to learn some French. People in traditional activities are not very familiar with English. As far as deep tech is concerned, it can be applied to any sector, so knowing French language is an edge for traditional sector and its lesser needed in “open” sector like finance.
#7 Business names and business cards
Sometimes, the French write their second name with full caps. There’s a reason behind it. With French family names, it can be confusing to determine which one is the first and which one is the family name. French people therefore write their family name in full caps to distinguish it from their given name. Tip: when doing business in France, also write your last name in capitals on business cards and social media.
Meanwhile, as far as the business cards are concerned, they have business cards with the French language on one side and English on the other side.
If you do find these tips useful, or have some specific experiences yourself with doing business in France, please drop a comment below. Also, stay tuned to Silicon Canals for more updates in the tech startup world.