Need to Start a Business in France? 4 Key Suggestions for American Entrepreneurs


For a lot of Americans, the prospect of France is a romantic one, with hugely popular movies and TV series like Amelie, Chocolat and Emily in Paris cementing France’s fame for glamour, charm and indulgence. But while the appeal of France’s lifestyle and culture is undeniable, the country also offers something that’s less well-known – a swath of business opportunities able to be seized by internationally-minded American entrepreneurs.

With an estimated 4,500 American companies already operating in France, it’s clear that the country is a sexy prospect to American business people, and there may be the potential for nice success in La République française. Nevertheless, if you wish to start a business in France (or expand there) as a US citizen, it all the time pays to know as much as possible beforehand so as to plan thoroughly, avoid common pitfalls and provides what you are promoting the most effective probability of thriving.

photo credit: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

Why France?

Because the third-largest economy in Europe (and seventh on the planet), there may be a protracted list of explanation why France is so appealing to business people, a few of which include:

  • France is a vibrant and diverse nation that boasts a talented workforce, a big consumer population and access to the world’s largest trading bloc through its membership of the European Union.
  • It’s also welcoming and business-friendly, with the French government offering financial incentives to each latest and established businesses and investing heavily in research and development.
  • France has a strategically useful location buttressed by a highly developed transport infrastructure, greatly contributing to ease of travel and transit each inside and out of doors of the country. London, for instance, might be reached in under 2 and a half hours by Eurostar from Paris.
  • France isn’t only large when it comes to its economy – by surface area, France is the most important country in Europe and is made up of thirteen regions that every one represent unique opportunities for entrepreneurs. It also borders eight countries and has a Channel, Atlantic and Mediterranean coast.
  • A global centre of business, the Paris region enjoys global status as a serious business hub, and is the primary region in Europe for hosting the world’s top 500 corporate headquarters.

Five Suggestions For Starting Your Business in France

One: Be prepared to navigate bureaucracy 

For foreign company founders from outside the EU, the EEA or Switzerland, there are predictably some i’s to dot and t’s to cross when establishing an organization in France, and the method can take a while. That being said, nonetheless, France is welcoming enough to entrepreneurs that you might find there are fewer hoops to leap through than you first expect, and there are lots of resources you may access to ease the method.

Anyone can establish a business in France by taking steps comparable to registering a business address and opening a checking account within the country, but should you would love to maneuver to France to embark in your latest enterprise it’s best to apply for a long-stay visa often called the “Entrepreneur/Self-Employed” (VLS-TS) temporary residence permit.

Eligibility is set via aspects comparable to your ability to offer evidence that you just can be engaging in an economically viable activity during your stay, and when it has been approved, the visa authorises residence for 12 months. During this time, you might be allowed to live in France and interact within the business activity that you’ve got outlined in your application.

This can involve a visit to the French consulate, of which there are ten across major cities within the USA. Once established, you’ll have to register your French business in keeping with the right category of your enterprise. It’s also vital to remember that France has particular regulations across various business sectors and employment practices, and that corporate banks in France require minimum capital investments.

Learning a second language

Two: Start learning the language

With a population that has originated in every corner of the globe, multilingualism shouldn’t be unusual within the USA – one in five US adults speak a language apart from English at home, (of which Spanish is essentially the most common). But while the USA has no official language, it’s fair to say that English is the de-facto, and most particularly within the business world.

It’s also the case that English is essentially the most widely understood language within the EU, and a big proportion of Europeans speak English as their second language (with a powerful 25% in a position to hold a conversation in two additional languages to their mother tongue). What’s more, 39% of French people report they can speak English, and plenty of ex-pats move to the country without with the ability to speak French.

Despite this, it might be unsuitable to assume you could easily default to English and thrive while running a business in France. The population of France primarily speaks French in each personal and skilled contexts, and the French people have considerable language pride.

English is perhaps widely spoken in business circles, but demonstrating your willingness to learn and use French phrases of greeting can be greatly appreciated, and it’s best to keep in mind that proficiency in English shouldn’t be a given. Over time, many ex-pats discover that shaping up their French language skills is essential to making the most of every little thing the country has to supply.

You must also account for the undeniable fact that French is the one accepted language for official documents and contracts, and as 61% of French people don’t speak English, you will want a plan for smoothing over language incompatibilities in what you are promoting operations.

Three: Consider your latest audience

In lots of vital ways, France shouldn’t be vastly different from the US, but it surely continues to be vital to not underestimate cultural differences when establishing or expanding a business here. While definitely smaller than the US, it’s also vital to do not forget that France is removed from small by European standards, and just like the differences between US states, there is critical regional variability across the country.

Whether it’s something easy comparable to the greater prevalence of smoking amongst French adults (around 33% versus 12% within the US) and the shortage of a widespread tipping culture, or more complex subtleties in language, politics and history, there are lots of things that could be surprising about France as an American. For this reason we might suggest searching for the recommendation of those that know the country well in lots of points of what you are promoting to grasp how it might land with a French customer base.

There are also differences in laws and regulations which can affect what you are promoting, so it’s all the time value doing thorough research as you draw up your French marketing strategy to discover and account for aspects which can not apply within the USA.

Business workshop

4: Understand France’s working culture

American working culture is moderately set other than its European friends, with US residents generally working longer hours, having less vacation time, and eating lunch (in the event that they don’t skip it) at their desks. It also isn’t unusual for people to take calls and answer emails outside of labor hours, and employers are likely to have more flexibility in terms of hiring and firing.

The French, however, are likely to have a more leisurely pace of life which is facilitated by each government-mandated staff’ protections and the expectations of their working population at every point of the pay scale. This will take some adjustment when running a business and is something you’ll have to plan around – however the upside is, if you’ve got chosen to live in France, you’ll get to enjoy this slower pace of life too!

Some things to consider regarding French working culture are:

  • The French will take their lunch break away from their desk, so unless you organise a selected lunch trip, this can be a bad time for calls, meetings and emails (should you need a direct response).
  • They don’t only have significantly more holiday entitlement than Americans normally enjoy, they really take it (whereas the common US worker who receives paid vacation only actually takes 54% of the allotted time each year.) This is generally most evident in July and August, when business slows down considerably, and as many employees will book more time without work around public holidays, it pays to plan around these times of yr.
  • Since 2017, managers and employees of firms with greater than 50 staff haven’t been required to reply emails outside working hours, and employees in smaller firms are more likely to follow suit.
  • French corporate operations are, for essentially the most part, very hierarchical. When doing business with one other company, take the time to grasp the chain of command to make sure you are talking to the appropriate people so as to get results.
  • Hiring in France is an expensive proposition. Employers must account for top individual taxes when determining worker wages and the slate of employment advantages they’re expected to offer. While these costs are high, nonetheless, people doing business in France are likely to be repaid with a talented and secure workforce.
  • Networking is usually key to success within the French business world, with personal recommendations often meaning greater than accolades and titles. Forging business relationships in France might be tougher than in America (although the collaborative nature of American business may offer you a ready-made advantage), but they have an inclination to last for a very long time, making them well well worth the effort.

There may be a world of opportunity to be discovered by American entrepreneurs who make the leap and begin a business in France, and with proper research, a comprehensive marketing strategy, and that famous American work ethic, success à la française might be well inside your grasp.

This post was written by Katya Puyraud, an organization formation expert at EuroStart Entreprises, who help entrepreneurs start a business in France and take the headache out of opening an organization abroad.


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