New president of CCI France, Alain Di Crescenzo therefore takes the head of a national network of 121 Chambers of commerce and industry. The pratron, very anchored in Toulouse where the software editor IGE + XAO that he manages is based, knows the international market well, his market being global. He draws up for “Les Echos” the situation of companies, after two years of health crisis and at the time of a conflict which is reshuffling the cards of the world economy.
More than a month after the start of hostilities, how do you judge the impact of the Ukrainian conflict on SMEs?
It is important. According to a flash study that our regional CCIs carried out between 25 and 28 March, nearly 90% are worried about the fallout from the Ukrainian crisis on their companies. The impacts are of several orders. Exporters in Russia and Ukraine, who sell planes, luxury goods, agri-foodstuffs or tools, are obviously the first affected. But the impact is moderate, since Russia represents only 1% of French exports.
That’s not where it hurts. Companies that import gas, titanium, ores, fertilizers, agricultural products, are much more numerous to be penalized due in particular to the rise in prices or the shortage of raw materials. This is the case of this Breton chip manufacturer who saw her sunflower oil bought in Russia drop from 990 to 2,800 euros per ton. Or even this glassmaker from Normandy who sees the price of electricity triple and that of gas multiply by six.
Are you worried about other longer-term effects?
It is too early to size them, but we can fear other cascading impacts. Thus, Germany, which is the second supplier of Russia, will be affected, but it is also the first customer of France. When Germany coughs it is a disaster for our companies. Another element to take into account is the reaction of households and businesses in France. Will they continue to consume and invest? And finally, what about our many companies located there.
France is the largest employer in Russia, with 160,000 employees in 12,000 companies. However, it will be increasingly difficult to stay put, with social tensions, risks on goods, financial risks. An SME has no right to complexity. When it gets complicated, it’s better to leave. And then you have tourism. The Nice Côte d’Azur CCI has estimated that Russian customers represent 8% of international customers. The repercussions will be very negative on real estate, consumption in certain mountain resorts as well.
You have received a mission letter from Bercy designating the CCIs as the main interlocutors for companies in the face of the Ukrainian conflict. What are you going to do exactly?
Since March 22, we have been on the front line to identify requests from companies and direct them to the right person, either to the State to find out about aid, or to the Chambers of Trade or Agriculture. The CCIs are leaders in this system. We have 121 dedicated advisers. Leaders can go to our portal, access an interactive map and find the right number or email address. In fifteen days, we recorded 15,000 visits to the platform.
The issues are diverse: one boss wants to bring into play a clause in his contract in the event of a supply problem, another wants to know if he can recover advances on order, or how to accommodate his Ukrainian employees. In fact, the Covid and Ukraine allow us to show, to those who still doubt it, our role which is to support businesses locally.
You were elected in January at the head of CCI France, what are your priorities?
We need to make our action better known, and be more focused on what I call our customers who, moreover, will now be able to rate our services. I also want to continue the pooling of teams and create an internal academy to better train our 16,000 employees in the challenges of the digital, environmental and social transition of companies.
We are a service box that informs, advises and acts to provide the best local support for business development. We must act as a consulting firm. Our strategic plan is currently being drawn up and will be voted on in September.
What is the long-term impact of the Covid crisis on businesses?
The Covid prism has taught us a lot, especially on the issue of management. Before the health crisis, it was the company that recruited. Today, it is almost the employee who recruits the company. Employees want to give meaning to their work, a sharing of values.
The other essential demand from employees is telework. If you don’t offer your employees telework days a week, they’re not interested. Employers must therefore be able to offer remote work and also to assume it to create a bond, a team spirit while training them. Teleworking has had a direct impact on middle management, many managers have to make themselves more available according to each other’s rhythms. The CCIs are mobilized to support them with their training centres.
Do you think that telework will have an effect on the territories?
It’s a great opportunity for the development of territories and it’s not just telework, it’s the profound change of mentality with the pandemic. There is this desire for the countryside, I have seen many Parisians leave. It’s a great opportunity to repopulate rural areas, to relocate employees but also businesses such as restaurateurs that we advise so that they settle in the right place.
Is small business doomed by digitization?
The health crisis has served as an accelerator for the digitization of small businesses. The CCIs have helped launch local platforms to enable local artisans and traders to sell their products on the Internet, such as Enbasdemarue.fr in Isère. In 2021, we succeeded in raising digital awareness in 100,000 companies. Our objective is the hybridization of businesses to meet local needs and also have a territorial extension of customers.
The devices exist, now we need people to deploy them and go to the shops to explain to merchants how to create a home page, develop an omnichannel strategy. This is where I want to position the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, to go the last mile.