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Managing Director of a subsidiary in France

His role. His responsibilities. His duties. His recruitment.
Regardless of the size of the firm, the Managing Director of a German subsidiary in France is a multifaceted responsibility. This manager must be sales-oriented, have relational and organizational skills, charisma and personal authority. He must be a master strategist to set the marketing and sales policy of the subsidiary and be able to communicate with the parent company in Germany. He must as well be a good businessman in order to serve the interests of the company he is responsible for. He is not the French equivalent of a “Gebietsverkaufsleiter” as it is often said in Germany. He is not responsible for a new “Land” but the Manager of a country whose language, customs, culture and market differ. He has other, more eclectic responsibilities. His working conditions and salary package must take it into account.

The Managing Director acts as an ambassador. He represents the German parent company in front of the French authorities, clients, customers and users, and is its spokesman. He does his best to defend the interests of the group and reports activities and events taking place in the French market. He must have a trustful relationship with the mother company.

In accordance with the parent company, he sets the marketing and sales strategy of the subsidiary and its implementation. He is the first salesman of the company. The first clients or the most important ones will be at the centre of his attention. He will meet them frequently and share a special relationship with them. He is the driving force of the sales team and that of the head office as well. The management style differs between those countries: in France, he must have authority to manage his coworkers, establishing team work at the same time.

He must be cost conscious and a careful manager, experienced in the financial management of a business unit. The parent company generally having its margin “ex works”, the aim of a subsidiary is not necessarily to make profits but to balance the books. It depends on the financial policy and the interests of the Group. He is also responsible for reporting to the German parent company.

Relations with the parent company must be managed with practical, constructive and professional methods. German and French people are near but different. Differences in culture, customs, habits, languages, prejudice, history may be an explanation. Reason must prevail as it often happened in the framework of the Elysée Treaty between the French and German leaders. Mutual understanding, communication, tolerance, acceptation of the differences between the markets must be a model for further thoughts. Relational or emotional problems must be forgotten in order to understand the relevance of the other managing culture and respect the “business background” for an appropriate communication and to create operational solutions.

The recruitment of a Managing Director in France is not a trivial matter. It must be at the centre of attention. Training, experience, management and communication skills, authenticity, honesty are criteria to be considered and studied thoroughly. The applicant’s personality will be, at the end, the decisive criterion, without however relying too much on “personal feeling” – not so reliable after all.


Gilles BOQUIEN
Translated from french by Killian REQUENA