Stéphane Courgeon, Journalist:"Hello and welcome to Laval, the main town of the Mayenne region, today I'm taking you to meet a combined company. At the start of 2019, Actual Group formed a strategic alliance with one of its competitors, Leader Group, based in the Paris region. A grouping of two single-ownership companies who were both convinced that although it can be faster to travel alone, you can travel further when together. The new group boasts a total turnover of a billion Euros, but its ambition above all is to become the number one independent player in the staffing market in France. A larger, stronger and more agile group in order to respond to a sector which has become more unstable.
Now I'm going to join Samuel Tual, the director of Actual and the president of the Actual Leader Group, and he's going to tell us what enabled this alliance, the consequences on his organisation and of course, the ambitions of the two directors.
At Actual Leader Group
Hello Samual Tual!"
Samuel Tual, President:"Hello Stéphane!"
SC:Thank you for having us here in one of Actual's 350 agencies. As I understand, at Actual, you formulate your strategy according to ten-year plans. Did you plan for this alliance in your development plan?
ST:Not exactly, to begin with. But, indeed, one of our characteristics is that we have been operating according to long cycles of 10 years ever since our creation in 1991. 91 - 2001, 2001-2011, 2011-2021. And we had planned that by 2021 we wanted to become the number one independent player in our market and, because the market was slowing down, we figured we had to speed up our growth and proceed with this operation".
Strategic alliance or merger?
For two single-ownership businesses we usually talk about mergers and acquisitions, a strategic alliance is quite rare, isn't it? Why did you choose this type of operation?"
ST:"Well it's true that in the past our growth has been though organic growth and external growth, with the opening of around twenty agencies per year and the integration of a certain number of networks.
430 agencies in Europe
Indeed, this is a very very different set-up where it is a marriage between two equals, companies which are the same size who have decided to build a shared project over this period".
SC:"So what actually brings you together you?"
ST:"For this type of operation to succeed there must be certain conditions in place. There is the territorial coverage, the complementarity of both companies, the main one seems obvious to me - a matching of people, the fact that we want to work together, that we appreciate each other, that we are able to respect each other and above all, that we have identified shared values, and a common outlook regarding our activity and our companies, which are culturally compatible."
SC:"Here we are in an Actual agency, not an Actual Leader Group agency. Why have you kept both brands distinct from one another?"
ST:"It very quickly became the best option to go for because as the market was slowing down, we considered that it was very important for this operation to strengthen us.
1.3 billion euros turnover
This was the aim and it was imperative that we remain very concentrated on customer relations and candidate relations.
Accompanying 150,000 temporary workers
We identified a number of very large projects, 300 in fact, and we estimate that throughout this period we had to take our time and be able to develop them one after the other, but the main thing is the commitment of the men and women undertaking the project and who carry out the daily work and we really did not want to destabilise them during this operation. This is why we took our time and kept both networks in parallel to support these customer and candidate relations."
SC:"How has a partner like Credit Mutuel Equity accompanied you in this transformation?"
ST:"Their role has been very important, not to say essential, with a level of discretion: remaining in the background at certain moments, but also being an important presence at times when decisions have to be made. So the first stage was to validate the operation and to understand this approach in order to develop this strategy. The fact that we have a partner who is - I was going to say neutral - certainly interested, but nevertheless not involved in the operational aspects. When there are two directors in talks together, having a third party on the outside, who can give their opinion and confirm our hypotheses, is often very valuable."
SC:"What advice would you give to an entrepreneur who wants to carry out an alliance like you have done with Leader?"
ST:"You need to be very humble in order to start an approach of this kind, which means having some perspective of one's status. Of course you have to ensure that the match is with the right person and in this case, that is why the personality of the directors is really important and at a given time, you need to be capable of seeing that it is all bigger than both of us. In any case the end result is so good that it is definitely worth it."
SC:"We wish you all the best at Actual Leader Group. Thank you very much Samuel Tual".