Jean is an entrepreneur who specializes in people-based businesses. He has two decades of experience in management consulting and IT, and most recently led international operations across 42 countries for Mercer’s Digital Solutions division, a fast growing area within the multinational management consulting firm. Among his founding credits is everBe, one of the first Workday and Servicenow consulting firms in Europe focused on digital transformation for HR and Finance, which he sold to Mercer.
Why are you so passionate about helping people based businesses?
People have always been the essence of what makes a company unique. Within service businesses, people represent 100% of the soul, the DNA and the execution. When it comes to bringing a company’s vision and mission to life, it all comes down to how people form a diversified and complementary group to apply their expertise, drive innovation, and obsess together about client satisfaction.
You founded everBe, a France-based business transformation consultancy that was ranked by Inc. as one of the fastest growing businesses in Europe before being acquired by Mercer. What advice would you give to founders on scaling a services business in Europe?
Like Asia, Europe is made up of many diverse countries and cultures that happen to share a continent, yet I’ve observed many companies mistakenly treat Europe like one big country. Companies need to plan country by country when expanding into Europe, making sure their leadership and go-to-market strategy is deeply aligned with the country’s culture, ecosystem and competitive landscape. Hire local people who understand the local culture and take the time upfront to do it right. Otherwise you run the risk of appearing culturally tone deaf, which is hard to recover from later.
What are some common mistakes that companies make in their international expansion plans?
I often see organizations try to expand internationally when they’re not truly prepared to operate across different countries. They may not have the processes, systems, governance, operations, or level of investment needed to run effectively across geographic borders. Culturally, they don’t operate as one team where needed, don’t hire local leaders who reflect their employees, and don’t decide upfront what can be managed by country vs. from the center. Also, leaders need to realize achieving a critical mass and commercial presence in a new country doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and investment.