Out of interest, are any of you networking with French business owners, or are most of your customers english speakers?
99.9% of my customers are French. It’s the demographics, stupid! 64 million French people, 250,000 Brits … there’s no contest.
My local Federation d’Acteurs Ecomonique has started to modernise its approach by introducing Chéqué Fidelitié and a town website. Unfortunately this may be a little late as many of the previous members have abandonned the group due to a perception of self-interest from the committee members.
These organisations are useful in animating a town centre to the benefit of all commerces but when they become stagnant and partisan they are just an additional expense that can be shed easily. I hope from the death throes of my local federation a more vibrant organisation will emerge. If not, its passing will not be mourned.
In answer to the “English speakers” part of the question. I have no English speaking suppliers and around 5% of my customers are English speakers. The rest have to learn a new language that I have evolved that involves French words in some sort of random order - repeated at varying speeds with subtle changes in pronunciation until I recognise a glimmer of understanding on my targets face.
@Joanna and @Suzanne
I agree that the Franco Britannique Chambre de Commerce has been very disappointing. In fact, the Dordogne branch cost a company I do marketing for (and 2 similar companies) a great deal of money in legal fees - and wasted time - with a spurious enquiry that ended up at the Banque de France.
The Normandy branch seems only interested in big corporations and there was nothing for the SME/TPE along the same lines as Business Link, so I set up Normandy Networking. Primarily anglophones, but we do have one or 2 French people come along. @Valerie - we hope to see you at one of our events some time!!
We have several networks - our clients are mainly French for our gite and chambre d’hote business. We have started a network of local accommodation providers to pass around enquiries - we can have a large gite but we get asked for smaller accommodation. We also run creative courses with art tutors from the UK so they are mainly English (though we have had a few English speaking French) Finnish, Belgium and Americans. For the Tour d’France we have a group of Canadians. We are starting wine tours in the autumn so are visiting vineyards in Madiran and Jurancon arranging visits and are marketing to the UK, USA and Australia and New Zealand. We are also offering my design and marketing services and have had a very positive response from the producers. My wife has a network for her English lessons. There are very few British in our area (they are in the Gers, darling) but an increasing number of Dutch and Belgiums. We have been here for six years and have found that the locals are only too willing to do business - on enquiring about a menu for our courses visitors, our local restaurant immediately offered a discount.
As my website is aimed at English speakers, I have so far concentrated on the Expat businesses around me. I would love to network with the French businesses, but have to admit that my French is just not good enough. Something I am working on, but it is not going to happen overnight!
Our other business is property management, and we do use both French and British artisans. I believe it is important to build good relationships with a number of businesses in the area so that we can provide a good service to our clients. Language is still a problem however!!
As we wear two hats, the property management / gardening is mainly English speakers, with a few French people that have tracked us down or live in the village (it is always worth fitting in with locals they don’t bite). We do use French contractors, but we do not find them through any associtions or networks, just pick up the phone book, or head off to their office. The garden centre on the other hand has mainly French customers. We have not really targeted English customers apart from having a stall at a market held at the local English shop. But we do welcome all people we even had a Dutch customer recently. As for suppliers, we have all French suppliers (apart from the odd shopping trip while in the UK) that we have found from web searches or word of mouth. I think in these modern times some assoctiations, networks etc. are not really required, in our case we can find everthing we need via Google and we are surrounded by artisans.
Hello - I have been running a film and video production company in the UK for 19 years (www.jayvideo.com) and am now offering those services to British and French companies. I became the first British member of the Dordogne Entrepreneur Club a few weeks ago and have gone to most of their events - it’s been the best thing I’ve done; the worst has been the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce- very disappointing! The local Chambers of Commerce in Bergerac and Perigueux have been good though and a french advertising agency is designing my website. I am targeting french businesses who would like to have more english-speaking clients or who would like to export to any country - and english businesses who are looking for any nationality of customer. The more contact I have with people the more they’re interested - I never really enjoyed networking much in the UK but here it’s great!!
I had a phone call today from a French chambre d’hotes owner in the Gers today who I friended on FB and she has recommended our B&B to one of her clients. We are meeting up after the season so we can view each others businesses. Also had a “French” teacher who teaches French to English people contact me through FB and we are going to work together in the near future also. We use French artisans, as well as English for our property management business (as long as they are registered and insured) Networking is a wonderful thing and does not cost anything, just time!
I have to admit , that I am spending most of my time dealing with English speaking expats. Something I hope to change in the future. I shall have to look in to what my local Chamber of commerce is offering.
Good ideas Valerie, thanks