When it was created in 1989, this SME was focused on the furniture industry, but quickly evolved towards the building maintenance industry, becoming the market leader in France for materials that protect against water infiltration, dirt, and graffiti. Guard Industrie specializes in the productionand research of water-repellent, oil-repellent, anti-graffiti and ecological cleaning products for walls, floors and facades.
EMLYON Business School interviewed Barnabé Wayser:
"In the export business, you have to be convinced that you have the best products in the world yet remain humble when dealing with clients."
An accomplished sportsman (in combat sports and football), Barnabé Wayser was more interested in sports marketing during his studies at EMLYON. But he also loved travelling, so his dad, who must have understood him well, created an export development post for him in 2006 in the company he was then managing, Guard Industrie. When it was created in 1989, this SME was focused on the furniture industry, but quickly evolved towards the building maintenance industry, becoming the market leader in France for materials that protect against water infiltration, dirt, and graffiti. Guard Industrie specializes in the production of, and research into water-repellent, oil-repellent, anti-graffiti and ecological cleaning products for walls, floors and facades. "What we call 'cosmetics' for buildings!" adds Barnabé Wayser.
Eight years later, he became the young CEO of a business that has numerous subsidiaries across the world (the most recent setting up in Beijing in 2008 and St. Petersburg in 2010) and which has succeeded in winning contracts as interesting as they are varied, including the Olympic Park and Tienanmen Square in Beijing, China, the Multimedia Library in Montpellier, and the Confluence Museum in Lyon... During his three years in the post, the company has seen rapid development, a feat the 31-year old boss is proud of.
What convinced you to leave sports marketing behind in order to join your father's company?
B.W: Definitely the opportunity to develop the export side of the company! Guard Industrie has created 40 subsidiaries across 50 countries since 2006. In 2000, the business began exporting its products to neighboring countries: Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. In 2003, distribution contracts were signed with several countries and the first subsidiary of Guard Industrie was created: Guard Industry UK Ltd. Based in Oxford, it manages the commercialization of products within the United Kingdom.
In 2007 the company made a big leap forward with the creation of its first 'joint venture' in Hong Kong, Guard Industrie Asia Pacific Ltd, followed by another in Italy. In 2008 we also opened an office in China, Guard Bao te Jia.
Our research center in Toulouse and the high levels of investment we've made in R&D have allowed us to keep innovating constantly, particularly with regards to ecological cleaning products. In fact, we hold a number of patents and with 40 people and 9 million Euros of sales revenue our group has become a multinational SME!
What do you enjoy about the being a company manager?
B.W: It's a job that is both full of constraints but also satisfaction! I work with very high-performing teams but I am also working for myself. Project development, constant product innovation, attracting and holding onto new clients, these are fascinating and very enjoyable aspects of the job. In addition, in this business sector we feel that we are doing something useful. It is a shame that in France we don't treat SMEs very fairly and even run them down... I would like to say to EMLYON students: there's more to life than consultancy in companies and big groups....You can also really thrive and get creative, working for industrial or innovative SMEs!
In your opinion, what qualities does a director of an SME need in order to succeed in the international marketplace?
B.W: They shouldn't be afraid of looking abroad. It might seem like stating the obvious but many managers of SMEs don't feel they are strong enough and are too timid. You need to have some nerve and know how to use the support that's available out there. For example, we used the Quai d'Orsay business trips in China, the economic development services of embassies, the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, etc. There are a number of aids dedicated to SMEs, even though it's a shame that they are spread too thinly and only concentrated on sectors that some would like to develop.
French businesses often have excellent products which are well capable of standing up to foreign competition. But you must plan your entry into the market carefully. Empathy is an essential quality because you have to be able to put yourself in the shoes of your foreign contacts, to understand the local market, the culture, and the mentality of the countries you are getting to know. In fact, you have to be convinced that you have the best products in the world yet remain humble when dealing with clients.
And when you enjoy discovering the world like I do, and feel at home in many places, you realize that you have a really great job.