Entrepreneurs Forever 2014 | Version française

Philippe Eyraud

CEO of Mixel

He runs with passion the smallest French multinational corporation.

Philippe Eyraud likes to introduce himself as being a “bit of a stirrer-upper’’. Even if he’s teasing, two things are true : the company he runs makes industrial agitators for clients all around the world ; and for around 30 years, he has been fighting to defend both entrepreneurship and the international spirit with an unrivalled passion and... a bit of a taste for provocation.

He chose to study a practical discipline, Mechanical Engineering, and continued with an MBA at EMLYON. Whilst doing his military/civil service, he flew off to the Economical Expansion service in Singapore. For 18 months, he sharpened up French industrial corporations who were seeking business opportunities in the area and topped up his allowance by fixing up telephone adaptors for passing French people. « I discovered that the world is wide and multicultural, and I came back home with FRF 90,000 in my pocket. »

Back home, he began smoothing out the export department of Mixel, an engineering company housed in his family’s mechanics company. In 1991, he was 27 when one of Mixel’s partners decided to sell his shares: Philippe bluffed his way into buying 100% of the capital, together with... a 15 year long debt.

I inherited the taste for entrepreneurship, for a job well done, for pugnacity. I try to also transmit the taste for risk-taking and the international spirit. And, as far as the future of the company is concerned, I constantly have plans A, B, C, and D in mind. I really intend to have the best possible hand-over, and to have a second life which will be as adventurous as the first!

Convinced of the potential of the Asian market, he hooked up with the GIFIC (Inter-Union Group of Suppliers for the Chemical Industry). The first trial run with China was not very conclusive, but was enlightening. « Our first lesson, which dates from before 1997: you shouldn’t try and sell to the Chinese by working out of Hong Kong with an agent from Hong Kong! » But it would take more than that for Philippe Eyraud to lose the thread.
In 1996, he wanted to become independent from the family company which housed him, and to convince big corporations to work with Mixel, so he moved into a new building with an ultra-modern plant.

And there he was with 15 years’ worth of debt again, but also a reputation for being a specimen of a new generation of industrialists, globe-trotting and audacious.

But in 2000 everything seized up: a big unpaid order flattened the company to the brink of insolvency. Philippe Eyraud was forced to plane down the number of staff and borrowed money to pay their severance pay. « I learned several things from that episode: to have several banks, to prefer budgeting to tax optimisation - which stops you strengthening the company’s equity - and to be faithful and transparent with your partners. »
For 3 years he polished the books, never losing sight of his ambitions for international development. He was a member of a ministerial delegation; he went out to meet big corporations, and set up a plant in China in 2005, followed by a sales office in Brazil in 2007.

« When you get around, you get on », Philippe Eyraud hammers home his point, and his company today exceeds €10 million in sales, with more than 60% international.

« Free, proud, vindictive » is how he describes his personality! But he is the one who turns the spit at Mixel’s annual barbecue, he is the one who encourages his personnel when they leave to set up their own business, he is the one who makes a commitment with true zeal, no stonewalling, in his mandates as a councillor at the Lyon Chamber of Commerce, or as administrator of the Axelera Competitivity Cluster and as Advisor for Foreign Trade.

« I’m a magic DIY enthusiast », he adds, because he can do it all: welding, plumbing, electronics, etc. And, if you add to that his many other passions: photography, mechanical sports (he owns a Morgan, a Citröen Méhari, 3 motor bikes and 2 quads...), his family clan, and the cooking of Paul Bocuse, we understand that he is a one-man “amazing mixture”!

EM Lyon: MBA 1987
Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC
Date de parution : 12/09/14