He didn't think he would ever be able to do even 50% of what he has done: find a first job which gave him three months holiday a year, create and develop a company in his favourite field, sell it for a good price, travel around the world whilst transmitting his experience. Yet that is exactly the story of Frédéric Faure. « You have to dream of the impossible. In life, whenever you can feel the thrill of risk, of difficulty, or of rarity, it's extraordinary. But whatever the field, sport or business, you must define your limits and stick to them. »
With a brand new diploma in hand, Frédéric Faure negotiated a contract which was already way off the beaten track, as Sales Manager and Technical Consultant for a manufacturer of mountain equipment, Francital. In 6 years, he managed to triple sales and every year went on an expedition, which then became the subject of conferences and documentaries, often televised. He was so attached to his independence that he refused the new job he was offered, because it was... full-time.
You transmit well if you know how to delegate, that is to say to transmit a skill, then authority.
￼If he delegates well, the entrepreneur is no longer indispensable, and the transmission of ￼the company becomes possible, or even desirable. I had thought about transmitting my company to my children; but I preferred to be able to accompany them towards the realisation of their own projects.
Attracted by the idea of creating his own company, he dreamed of opening the path to adventure trips. As backup, he enrolled on the start-up programme at EMLYON in 1986, where he met his future business partner, Christophe Leservoisier. Together, they clung on tightly to a slope which was steeper than expected. « We launched Atalante without really thinking, and we were in the survival zone for a long time, wondering if it was really worth persisting. » The two founders found a relay in customised tours and incentive trips, thanks to the alumni network. « I'll never forget our first financial year in the black, the day when I was able to pay my parents back, and take them to lunch at Paul Bocuse’s restaurant. »
Little by little, the pioneer Atalante climbed to the top and reached €10 million in sales, by proposing a new travel experience, with adventures on foot, from camel trekking to extreme sport treks.
The company pursued its climb up by organic growth and acquisitions, still in the field of incentive trips, or else in specific niches like Continents insolites, giving them a solid hold on the top end of the market. They wrote the first ethical charter for travellers, which became an Iso standard. « I could never do anything which would damage the earth, or the people. »
In 2010, with sales of €30 million, the Atalante group held peak position in the field of sustainable adventure trips. And Frédéric Faure began studying new topographies. « We had a wonderful team in place, with strong company culture and a highly delegating management style. Time to start thinking about transmission. » The two partners sold Atalante to Géophile, the personal fund of the founder of Décathlon, Michel Leclerc. Christophe Leservoisier decided to stay on track by taking over Cheval d’aventure, Frédéric Faure's decision was to just do what he wanted! Today he shares his time between the two different slopes in his life. On one, the mountain paths of entrepreneurship, which he follows as a consultant, professor, at the EMLYON incubator or for specialised masters programmes, and as a business-angel. « I love to be surprised, to have a project which is useful to society, with a manager with a strong human character. He must know how to create value for others, to be generous with his associates, his clients, his partners, his team. »
On the other side, travelling, alone or with a roped party with his family or friends. « I go where other people don't, high cliffs, high-altitude deserts, inaccessible mountain streams, forgotten cultures...
This alpinist of the slopes of the world of business sure does have a nice balancing act.
EM Lyon: Porgramme Grande Ecole 1978 Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC Date de parution : 12/09/14