French Business Structures

French companies tend towards rigid hierarchy and functionality within which system the PDG (CEO) holds great sway.

The PDG determines – in a singular way – the future direction of the company. This vision is then disseminated down the line for implementation by more junior management. Senior management, therefore, tends towards the directive, rather than the collaborative, as might be found in such countries as the Netherlands or Sweden.

The power often vested in the hands of the PDG obviously adds impetus to a centralist approach, which is already discernible in many other aspects of French life. Below the PDG are found a strict hierarchy of managers, organised along rigidly functional lines of responsibility. ( With all reporting lines leading eventually to the PDG.)

To those from a less hierarchical background, this approach often seems to be eminently well-suited for operations which are performing well and producing results. The weaknesses of the system may only become apparent when problems arise and quick responses are called for. With little buy-in having been sought lower down the line, a sense of personal responsibility could be found lacking.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in France

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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France represents both a challenge and an opportunity from a business perspective. It is a large modern economy with a highly educated workforce, a sophisticated consumer base and a solid industrial base of successful companies spread across a range of industries. France is also a country where protectionist policies have proven very hard to remove and where change comes slowly at the macro level.

Recent political changes might indicate that France has recognised the need for a new vision for the country to help propel it into the future. Indeed, we have recently seen the strange sight of France standing up as a guardian of free trade and globalisation whilst the USA looks to retreat into a more isolationist and protectionist approach – a strange situation from a historical perspective.

It certainly seems that France is at a crossroads and only time will tell which route the country choses to take. In the interim, France remains too big an economy to ignore. If you are not doing business in France at the moment you should probably be looking at entering the market in the near future and this country profile is designed to help you understand the cultural landscape you will find when working with French colleagues or customers.

The French have a distinct and unique approach to many aspects of working life and anybody considering doing business in France would be well advised to research some of the specifics of French business culture before embarking on any commercial activities.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of French business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips