Five tips to get your business set up and running in France

By Valérie Aston on 9 December 2016 · Viewed 4535 times · Questions

You have decided to start a business in France to generate some income? Here are my five tips to help you get your business set up and running in France.

1. Give yourself time to work on starting a business in France

Many expats move to France to enjoy the lifestyle and spend more time with their family. Even though you may have decided to dedicate more time to your spouse, your children or your hobbies, you have to dedicate some time to yourself and your business project, or your business in France may only stay a dream.

So decide how much time you are going to dedicate to your French business idea every week and stick to it. Is it half a day, two days per week, whenever the kids are at school? The main thing is to schedule regular time if you want to progress.

When working as a business advisor for BGE, I used to book my appointments with future entrepreneurs every two weeks. This way the entrepreneur had enough time to work on the tasks we set up, without getting demotivated or lost in the overall project. I found out that most business projects could be handled within three to six months.

Six months when the business idea was in the initial stages (simple idea, no plans) to three months for people who already had done some thinking and background work (working on products and prices, basic market information, researching suppliers or looking for a business location).

2. Share your business project with your family and friends

Many entrepreneurs do not like to talk about their business project to their friends and family, as they are worried that their idea could be copied or that they may not be taken seriously. Unfortunately by doing so, they are also cutting themselves from potential support. Your family will be directly impacted by your business project, as you may be less available and may also earn less income on the short term.

Discuss with your spouse/partner what will be the impact on the household and what is the minimum income that you need to bring in, in order to cover for the household expenses. Do you need to give yourself a timeframe or deadline by which you will have to move onto something else (for instance one year with no income, three years with a minimum income generated by the business of x euros)?

Your friends can also provide some useful support and encouragement. You don't have to give the full details of your business project if you fear potential competition. Talking about your business project also gives you a chance to practice you business pitch. Your friends are likely to share with you some useful business contacts, such as an english speaking notaire, accountant, bank manager or a local business advisor. These will come very handy, as they will also provide you with business insight (market trends, competition, business services).

3. Work on your business plan and financial plan

Even though you may plan to self finance your business in France, I strongly recommend to write a simple business plan. A five page document will be enough, provided you include :

  1. An analysis of your market trends
  2. A presentation of your products or services - including price list, margin, suppliers, content description for services
  3. An analysis of your competitors
  4. Your strategy to target your market
  5. A marketing plan

I will be writing a short guide to help you work on your business plan for your businesses in France in 2017. Once you have completed your business plan, concentrate on the figures and try to assess your business needs by drawing:

  1. An investment plan called plan de financement. Assess how much money you need to start your business: equipment, stock, marketing, cashflow. If you have no idea of prices for these items, ask for quotes from potential suppliers. This will save you time in the future, once you are ready to launch the business. It is always daunting to put some figures together, as you may get worried over how much money you need to invest. However, if you wish to succeed, you will have to invest in your business. A major mistake done by some entrepreneurs is to under finance their business. Once you have done this investment plan, you will have to think about how you will finance your business: savings, family loan, bank loan, crowdfunding.  
  2. A provisional plan called previsionnel. Try to assess the yearly expenses you will have in order to run your business: rent, electricity, phone, accountant, insurance, petrol, travelling, marketing services, books and training, minimum income you to draw from the business, etc. Then based on your products and services presentation make a projection of your expected turnover. Does this projected turnover cover for your expenses and/or business bank loan reimbursement? Can you reduce some expenses? Can you improve your margin? Can you increase your sales.

Once you have done this background work, make an appointment with an accountant comptable. Most French accountants draw provisional plans for their potential new customers. If you have already worked on this, they will give you some useful advice and may quickly calculate your social charges and income tax.

Some accoutants may charge for this service (up to 400 euros), if you don't chose them for your business. Most accountants will still give you a tax simulation orally and advise you on the best legal structure for your business. You can also book a call with me to go through your business plan and financial plan.

4. Start networking, don't stay isolated

It can be quite lonely to work from home on your business project all day long. So get out and meet other entrepreneurs or future entrepreneurs, both French and English speaking.

Some of the most active business networks for French entrepreneurs are l'Apéro des Entrepreneurs (informal monthy meeting in a bar in most big cities), Business Network International (BNI more and more groups are being created across France, but with an expensive yearly membership), Pionnières (a network for women entrepreneurs), Réseau Entreprendre, and finally most Chambre de Commerce also have an entrepreneur club.

For entrepreneurs networks for english speakers check with your local community (including jelly meetings) or why not set your own up!

5. Use professional help to work on your French business

Moving to a new country, settling down and on top of this creating anew business might be a bit overwhelming. My advice is to get some professional to help you to move forward faster. Getting some positive comments and constructive feedback will help you rethink your business project.

Work on the four tips I have given to you, but also ensure that you enlist some professional help. My priority three business contacts are an accountant compable, bank manager conseiller bancaire professionnel and a lawyer avocat or notaire if you have some legal contracts.

You can also book a call with me to talk through your business project in France (see the helpline servies). An hour's call will enable us to cover a broad range of subjects such as business plan, financial plan, legal structure, health cover, social and income tax. From January 2017 I will be providing a coaching service for people wanting to start a business in France.

Valerie Lemiere: Start Business in France

About the author: Valérie Aston

I've been helping people who want to start or already have a small business set up in France since 2009. After graduating from a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, I worked as a senior marketing consultant in the UK and France for various International companies. I worked as a conseillère en création d'entreprises (senior business advisor) for BGE here in France and run this independent business on a daily basis.