The right time to transmit? Specialists in family businesses emphasize that many have, in any case, taken the plunge in the midst of the health crisis. Jean-Christophe and Frédéric Rousseau took over from their father, Jean-Marie, at the end of December 2020, at the head of the Cooperage Rousseau (11 million euros in turnover), near Dijon, to speed up the robotization that has become essential.
A fortnight ago, it was Arnaud Clochard who became general manager of the Vendée mechanical group Fideip (50 million euros in sales), completing a project launched by his father at the start of the pandemic.
And at the Rousseau polyester silos manufacturer (12 million euros in turnover), in Fenioux (Charente-Maritime), the daughter Claire Cheval, thirty-one years old, will take the helm in a few days. The crisis has plunged activity by 10%, but has not called into question an approach initiated two years ago. “With my husband, we wondered if it was the right time to resume, but my father deserved to retire”, explains the future leader.
Quest for meaning
“Among my clients, this pandemic has accelerated the passage of witnesses to the younger generation”, testifies Sébastien Matykowski, former founding manager of Capival, specializing in the valuation of family businesses. Accelerated transition to digital, new ways of working, including teleworking, more urgent robotization of processes… these new imperatives created by the health crisis are more easily understood by the young guard.
“This crisis has highlighted the urgency of digital transformation and the search for meaning, elements that speak more to the new generation”, also analyzes Caroline Mathieu, general delegate of the Family business network (FBN).
And then, this unprecedented crisis will also have exhausted, exhausted even leaders in their sixties, to the maneuver for so many years. “This period is a tiring time for those who have worked all their lives, it is the ordeal too much that pushes them to pass the baton”, says Nicolas Evin, founder of Infocession.
Lower valuations, cheaper transmission
There is another strong argument, that of doing a good deal by transmitting now. The economic storm that companies have been experiencing for the past year makes the price of transmission cheaper. “With the sudden drop in turnover and profitability in certain sectors such as hotels, restaurants and aeronautics, the valuation of the company is falling and, mechanically, the amount of inheritance tax as well”, explains Johan Gaulin, associate lawyer at EY, responsible for family businesses.
“The company has regained the value of three years ago, and therefore the transmission is cheaper than it could have been”, confirms Claire Cheval. This phenomenon is combined with the Dutreil pact, which has made it easier, since 2019, to benefit from the 75% reduction in transfer taxes. “Managers have a window of opportunity to initiate the process, and I have a lot of clients who take advantage of the period to move forward on their transmission project”, assures Johan Gaulin.
Passing on a healthy business
But, conversely, other leaders decide not to pass on a weakened box, like this Parisian manager at the head of two gourmet restaurants in Paris, who will ultimately sell rather than pass on an indebted business to his children. “Transmitting an accumulation of debts in addition to the duties involved in running a business is not terrible”, slips Alain Tordjman, director of studies of the BPCE group, who points to the low level of transmission of family businesses in France, barely 12%, where it reaches 65% in Germany and 76% in Italy.
Finally, some choose another strategy, that of appealing, for the time of the crisis, to a senior executive from outside, while waiting for the children to be ready or the box to be put back on track. “Before, we preferred to have a child who messes up rather than bringing in an external manager, this is no longer the case”, slips Johan Gaulin. A good thing. According to a PwC study published in March, family businesses that have opted for this route recorded growth of 7% between 2015 and 2019, compared to 4.9% for the others.
In this difficult period, entrepreneurs and managers of VSEs and SMEs need support more than ever. The Les Echos Entrepreneurs site is making its contribution by offering free information and testimonials for the next few weeks.
>>> To stay informed of entrepreneurs and startups news,
remember to subscribe to our daily newsletter
and / or the weekly newsletter Goodbye to the crisis!