Advocacy for Long-Term Builders

To remain itself, to offer a future to its children and grandchildren, France certainly needs growth. But it needs long-term growth, creating sustainable jobs and more respectful of environmental and social balances. By Fanny Letier, is co-founder of Geneo (*).

It's back to school, the finance bill is being prepared, and everyone is already commenting on the growth forecasts. 1.7% for 2019 instead of 1.9% according to the latest estimates of the Ministry of Finance. Should public and private decisions be modified according to the latest figure published, such as a listed company that would adjust its share plans according to the evolution of the stock market price?

What if we gave back (a little more!) space to the taking of a step back and in the long term? What if we asked ourselves what we are building, together, over time? To remain itself, to offer a future to its children and grandchildren, France certainly needs growth. But it needs long-term growth, creating sustainable jobs and more respectful of environmental and social balances.

This long-term spirit is the hallmark of the Building Leaders. Often discreet, rooted in their territories, with a spirit of conquest, they are the treasure of our economy. Driven by a dream, a mission, endowed with a foolproof mind, they want to found powerful, innovative, international groups and do not hesitate to project themselves over several generations, even several centuries.

337,000 new jobs created

Their recipes? An extraordinary motivation, nourished by the sense of their action; a solid, healthy governance to avoid isolation and encourage strategic retreat; roots, family, territorial, which allow them to keep their feet on the ground; committed teams, proud to participate in the adventure and to bear a brand; and innovation, allowed by this state of mind where there are no failures but experiences, because risk is a condition for success.

The impact of these Builders is already significant, and too much ignored. With 337,000 job creations between 2009 and 2015, mid-cap companies (ETIs) have made it possible to offset job losses by large groups. Their subject is not to sell their business, but to find ways to make it grow, even more and faster, and thus contribute to the dynamism of their ecosystems and territories.

The imprint of the great builders

French economic history has been marked by great builders, until recently: Jean-Charles Decaux, Patrick Daher, Norbert Dentressangle, Alain Mérieux, Jean-Claude Bourrelier, Jean Luc Petithuguenin... The list is long but less known than that of the CAC40 bosses. By daring to take risks, by taking their entire ecosystem along the path of their vision, they have built empires that are part of the French heritage. They are the active principles of our economy.

The new generation of builders exists: at the head of SMEs, ETIs, in family succession plans, a few hundred leaders take over or prepare for it.

But what about the others? How many remain stuck at 49 employees, how many resist an opening of capital, how many suspend their action at the next finance law... And in reality behind this, how many managers feel too alone to take the necessary risks to activate the growth levers? We can revive growth if we support the vocation of the Builders and encourage the system to produce more by releasing energies through trust and collective action.

The Builders and their challenges have not been sufficiently identified. We need to better distinguish between patrimonial, patient and productive capitalism, which is the strength of a regional economic fabric, on the one hand, and financial and short-termism capitalism, on the other. The recycling of profits into investment and growth could be further encouraged, as well as the transfer of companies to new generations.

On the funder side, Builders need long-term relationships. Their local regional banker can play this role to a certain extent. But to accelerate growth and strengthen risk-taking, to take initiatives and turn without waiting for hypothetical reforms or a return to better fortune, long-term investors are essential.

Private equity must be transformed to move the lines between finance and business. The investment act must be a commitment to break the loneliness of the manager, to bring him confidence, advice and strategic distance. To achieve this, funds with a limited lifespan must give way to long-term investors, evergreen, who are the strength of our northern European neighbours.

As long as growth remains an abstract and overcommented statistical indicator in the media, we are condemned to feverishness and a form of impotence. The growth of our country is only the sum of the courage, determination and great dreams of the French builders. Those born with big dreams are required to do everything possible to achieve them. And the rest of the system has to put the stars within their reach.



Fanny Letier is co-founder of Geneo, entrepreneurial capital. She is also the author of "How to double the size of your company. Growth booklet for SME-ETI managers".

Source : The Tribune

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