France

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DOING BUSINESS IN FRANCE

As the 5th largest economy in the world and boasting world-class organisations in the fields of banking and finance and aeronautics and technology doing business in France should not be dismissed. Intellectual property rights, contracts and property rights all enjoy strong regulation and protection while the corruption of officials is minimal.

In short, it is understandable why the stable nature of the French business climate comprising of an educated workforce, sophisticated consumer base and a strong foundation of successful companies spread across a variety of industries with government policies not generally interfering in foreign investment, has attracted investors from across the globe.

When doing business in France it is important to be aware that the French Government has played a pivotal role in shaping French businesses since the Second World War. Interestingly, these interventionist policies have been largely accepted by mainstream businesses who have worked-hand in-hand with senior civil servants in the ministries. French protectionist policies have proven a challenge to remove and, although the French Government has partially or fully privatised several large companies, a strong administrative presence is still felt in the power, defence, public transport and financial sectors.

Other large-scale obstacles to bear in mind when doing business in France is the fact the nation has a high unemployment rate of around 10% of the work-age population. Rigid and complex labour laws are partially responsible for limiting employment growth. The country also has the burden of high levels of public debt and national budget deficits.

A noticeable characteristic that seeps into both French business negotiations and business practices is the value placed upon high levels of educational attainment and intellectual dexterity. The viewing of academic excellence as a prized commodity stems from the prestigious French education system which pushes bright students through elite schools known as Grandes Ecoles. Instilling competitiveness in pupils from an early age can mean adults do not work effectively in teams within the workplace. Education being so esteemed results in a love of logic, well-prepared meetings and research delivered in an articulate and eloquent manner (or in a grammatically correct, rigorously checked written format) often being the keys to winning the respect of important French decision-makers.

The World Business Culture website can provide any professional looking to do business in France with the background knowledge and actionable advice they need to succeed in the French market and help them navigate French business culture.

OVERVIEW

France represents both a challenge and an opportunity from a business perspective. It is a large modern economy with a highly educated workforce, a sophisticated consumer base and a solid industrial base of successful companies spread across a range of industries. France is also a country where protectionist policies have proven very hard to remove and where change comes slowly at the macro level.

Recent political changes might indicate that France has recognised the need for a new vision for the country to help propel it into the future. Indeed, we have recently seen the strange sight of France standing up as a guardian of free trade and globalisation whilst the USA looks to retreat into a more isolationist and protectionist approach – a strange situation from a historical perspective.

It certainly seems that France is at a crossroads and only time will tell which route the country choses to take. In the interim, France remains too big an economy to ignore. If you are not doing business in France at the moment you should probably be looking at entering the market in the near future and this country profile is designed to help you understand the cultural landscape you will find when working with French colleagues or customers.

The French have a distinct and unique approach to many aspects of working life and anybody considering doing business in France would be well advised to research some of the specifics of French business culture before embarking on any commercial activities.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of French business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips