Entrepreneurs Forever 2015 | Version française

Philippe Marcel

Still having fun developing and building.

There is still something childlike in Philippe Marcel's eyes: a mischievous sparkle, a playful streak. Maybe he has never really played as much as he does now, as a business angel… « The freedom to create and to take entrepreneurial action is vital to me. I exercised that freedom as an entrepreneur within a company, and I still do as an investor. »

When he left EMLYON in 1976, Philippe Marcel, with his Savoie roots, already aimed to combine business with pleasure: he did his military service as a Ski Instructor with French Air force pilots, on outdoor R&R, in the ski resort of Val d’Isère.
Since there was no job going at the ski manufacturers Rossignol – his dream –, he started as head of import service in a frozen food company, where he learned the mechanics of trading. « Indonesian frogs' legs, Cuban lobsters, all really concrete stuff! »

In 1980, he speeded up as Area Manager, then Regional Manager for Ecco, a temporary employment agency based in Lyon, well-known for its managerial practices, considered revolutionary at the time. « I learned how to do things, then to get others to do things: sales development, running a profit centre… I understood that a good manager is someone who imports stress and exports serenity. »

You give your trust, you take your freedom, and you have to merit both of them. The minimum is the freedom to act and to organise oneself. After that, it is being able to decide quickly, without waiting for other people. Freedom with common sense and the spirit of conquest: that's the beginning of the adventure!

It took a seriously good opportunity to get him to leave his mountains: based in Paris, in charge of the region and national accounts, he multiplied the number of agencies by three and the market share by ten. « It was a time of hyper-growth. The President of a competitor group told me later: I wish you had stayed in Lyon! »

He was tempted to go international. And in 1990 he became General Manager of the holding company Interecco, which grouped all the European countries (five) except France. He built his team and opened over 300 agencies in 14 countries. « I was working in English, German, and Spanish, spending 100 nights a year in a hotel, visiting two countries a week: it was intensely stimulating. »

In 1996, Ecco merged with the Swiss company Adia, giving birth to the N°1 worldwide Adecco. Philippe Marcel became General Manager of the French subsidiary - 35% of the group sales and 45% of group profits – and joined the Executive Committee. « The founder of Ecco was totally client centred, and I discovered Anglo-Saxon business logic, and the financialisation of activities. »

In 2001 he surfed from operations to Group functions, administrator of Adecco World, and non-executive President for France. He devoted the time he no longer spent in planes to EMLYON, became President of the Graduate Association for four years, then of the Board of Directors of the School up until 2011.

He left the Adecco track in 2008 for an off-piste trip towards entrepreneurship, in association with his wife Béatrice, who is also an EMLYON graduate. « I went from being an intrapreneur, with huge financial means, to an entrepreneur, with only the financial freedom I got from my stock options. »

What's his investment philosophy? Understand the project, and like the people! « I'm always looking for interesting entrepreneurial adventures, which will allow me to build something wonderful – original, innovative, ingenious – and big. I put my stock of experiences at the disposal of the project initiator to take him farther than he could have possibly imagined. »

For his first operations, he won ... a little, a lot ... and he also lost sometimes. « There are fewer great deals than bad ones … but at the end of the day, my balance sheet is in the black!  », he concluded, with a calm sort of wink which could possibly hint that everything was easy.

EM Lyon: Programme Grande Ecole 1976 / MSc in Management
Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC
Date de parution : 01/06/15