Expat Entrepreneur in Paris: Michelle Goldberger

Expat Entrepreneur in Paris: Michelle Goldberger

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In this new series of Expatica interview, expat entrepreneur Michelle Goldberger shares her likes and dislikes about setting up her training & consulting company in networking business in Paris.

Name: Michelle Goldberger
City of residence:
Name of company: The Smartworking Company® (http://www.smartworking.fr)
Date of company launch: 2007

Can you give us a brief description of your business?
The Smartworking Company® is an innovative training & consulting company in networking. We offer BtoB Services in networking training & workshops, corporate network & networking event management, and expat & accompanying partner networking services. Things have been going really well, we’ve been working with several multinationals for over a year now and we have just started working with the women’s internal corporate network, MixCity, at BNP Paribas in France and the Gulf countries.

What do you like about doing business in France?
As all over the world, multinational companies in France are waking up and taking note of the importance of diversity. I appreciate that French companies are finally addressing and making headway regarding the subject of women in the workplace and are committing to this question.

What do you find most frustrating about doing business in France?

Definitely the concept of time!  Sometimes it can take months for a company to make a decision and sign off on a budget, project, etc..

What hurdles did you encounter when setting up?

Before starting The Smartworking Company®, I had a solid network which provided me with a lot of support, so I can’t really say that I experienced any hurdles.

How has the economic crisis affected your business?
As the current economic situation is unstable, many people are leaving their jobs or want to change jobs. So it is now, more than ever, important to have good networking skills. As we do networking training, we’re working with managers in multinationals and SME’s who are looking to change positions internally or externally or are leaving the corporate world in order to start a business.

I think that while the crisis has made for a difficult job market, it has, at the same time, provided a wakeup call for many people. For example, as we work with outplacement agencies, we have several clients who were given the opportunity to leave their company to start a business and have never looked back!

The crisis has also affected the expat market,  a good number of expats are getting sent home from their positions abroad, so we’ve had many assignments working with repatriated French managers and their accompanying spouses, helping them to get a network of contacts set up, ensuring that their return goes smoothly on all levels.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs setting up business in France?

It’s essential to have a good network, so you should get to know your clients, providers, partners, suppliers, etc. ahead of time. You need to figure out where you can find them and then how you’ll communicate once you get there!

How does running a business in France compare to running a business in other countries that you have lived in?
My first startup was in Moscow in the 90’s, which was a period where there wasn’t any entrepreneurial “infrastructure” put into place yet, so while it was an amazing time to be an entrepreneur in Russia, it was also a bit of a roller coaster ride!

In comparison to my first experience, I definitely appreciate the structure and assistance that France provides for entrepreneurs. For example, thanks to my network, I had the good fortune of meeting a representative from Paris Pionnières, an incubator for women entrepreneurs, subsidised by the City of Paris (entry is based on application, business plan presentation, and interview process.)

Would you like to add anything?

While starting a successful business is a serious time and financial investment, it is also a real adventure, so get ready for a fun, but bumpy ride!

In this new series of Expatica interviews, we invite expat entrepreneurs to share their experiences of setting up and running their businesses in France. If you too would like to share your perspective about starting a business, send an email with 'Please send me an Expat Entrepreneur in France questionnaire' in the subject line to editorFR@expatica.com.


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