Laurent Hénault is President and CEO of W4 – editor of BPM solutions, having been VP Sales at Hyrerion Solutions.
Making a business grow is a challenge on which Laurent Hénault gives us his vision.
What are the key factors of a successful start-up?
Two starting points for the winning company:
- An innovative idea with a team to take ownership of the idea and carry it out.
- An executive committee (if the company has one) which
- Sharing the same vision, it seems trivial, but it is far from always the case
- Hiring employees ready to experience the adventure and all driven by the same motivation.
The team must share the desire to excel. This is what I call « the desire to want to delight the customer« . Employee motivation should deploy to the client, which is the reason to live of the company.
How to build a winning team?
A winning team is of a variable size. This is a team that changes, evolves, even if the core of the team remains the one of the departure. We must never forget to enrich this core. Often in start-ups, we say « we’ll get there by ourselves. » A new employee brings a different expertise, new ideas, a complementary network, which are all elements that help the business.
If there is no strict rule, we can nevertheless distinguish milestones in the life of a business:
- 0 to 1 m € in turnover, the team is the one of the founders, welded around the project
- Somewhere between 1 and 10 m € turnover, proximity between management and employees tend to fade. It is then necessary to structure internal communication. The exchange over coffee is not enough. That is the true sign of the change in size of the company.
- Beyond € 10m, the company enters a new dimension, often international.
In the particular case of an acquisition, the major point is to manage cultural diversity. This can only be done if there is adhesion of the two leaders, each finding its place in the new structure. In our company the experience of each officer naturally complement each other. This is the factor that has contributed the most to the success of the merger between W4 and Lyria.
Hiring highly qualified and motivated employees is a guarantee of success.
And the affective and self-realization aspects are paramount in a start-up. The team is a little « fusional ».
This raises the question « hiring a senior isn’t it likely to change the equilibrium? ». My experience has shown that it is worthy to take the risk. The opportunity offered by the addition of a new experienced profile far outweighs the risks. And if there is a casting error, do not hesitate to stop the experiment.
And investor relations?
For me there are two phases:
- The seduction phase.
- Limit the number of investors.
- Each investor has his point of view, from his own experience, constraints etc. … Put all investors agree about an important strategic choice remains complex. It takes a lot of energy!
- Prefer an investor who wants to participate to the business, as opposed to an investor « takes the cash »
Roles are clear: the operational actions are the role of the CEO. We expect investors to bring their outside look, provide several relations that will advance the business and make it grow.
- The management phase of the relationship with the investor : the key to success is to install confidence:
- Quality of forecasts. Say what you do and do what they say. Be predictable.
- Do not hesitate to say very quickly that we were wrong.
Once the base of trust is installed, the relationship is based mainly on quarterly reporting meetings, with a few phone calls to inform over water interesting events.
Investors must have confidence in the fact that the manager will informed them of all events, positive or negative.
What is your opinion regarding State aid? How much effort to spend in it?
It’s simple, all you need to activate the aid STATE:
- CIR first (in French Crédit Impôt Recherche)
- JEI (in French Jeune Entreprise Innovante) status (lower costs)
- OSEO financing (advance refundable)
- The international with COFACE (insurance)
It is true that it takes time … but it must be done.
There are also European projects that are very attractive to SMEs. These are subsidies. This is nirvana!
To conclude – which powerful ideas to grow?
Entrepreneurship = An IDEA + BELIEVING in it, accompanied by a high capacity for work.
GROWING = a STRATEGY to be developed and continually review, reassessed, with great humility. Maintain a kind of « active pessimism » to question constantly.
It is a state of mind.