Medef helps firms help each other

Medef is a big national business body, but it is at a local level where firms benefit the most

2 February 2011

DORDOGNE estate agent Antony Mair jumped at the chance when he was invited to join the local board of France’s largest union for employers, acting as a bridge between the French organisation and British business-owners.

The Mouvement des Entreprises de France (Medef) represents the interests of business-owners from the very smallest, employing just a handful of people, to those with up to 300 staff.

“Our accountant told us he was stepping down from the board and asked if I’d like to put myself forward for his seat,” Mr Mair said.

“I’ve been on the board for about a year now and it’s been very enlightening. I’m the only British board member in the Dordogne, so I keep an eye out for anything particularly interesting to British businesses.

“Our business is the smallest member in the department, as there are just two of us.”

Medef acts a national lobbying organisation, similar to the UK CBI or Federation of Small Businesses.

Mr Mair said: “When I first joined the board, Medef was busy lobbying the government to get amendments to reforms of the taxe professionnelle. They were successful in getting changes to the law and they do have a lot of influence.”

However, on a local level, it also acts as a union, representing and supporting individual members who are experiencing problems. It provides up-to-date information on changes that will affect businesses, some of which will vary from one area to another. Each department has a board of about 20 members who oversee the running of Medef in their area. They hold regular talks and get-togethers for members and also organise trips to local businesses, so members can benefit from each others’ expertise.

For Mr Mair, it is this opportunity to meet other business leaders that makes joining Medef advantageous.

“I discovered there were far more businesses in the Dordogne than I had ever imagined. I could have joined the estate agents’ body, Fnaim, but I would have only met people in my sector.

“Through Medef, I’ve met people with a logging business, insurance companies, owners of the local bus company and building suppliers, and it has really helped us to integrate into the business community at large and has given us a broader sense of what is going on.”

Medef started out as the Conseil National du Patronat Français. It was set up after the Second World War, when the government wanted an organisation that represented employers in order to ease negotiations between the state and business.

In 1989, the organisation changed its name to Medef and now represents more than 700,000 businesses, more than 90 per cent of which employ fewer than 50 people.

Guillaume Sarkozy, the president’s brother, is currently chief executive of the organisation. Recent Medef activities have included creating a guidebook to help businesses implement equal access legislation (a law designed to make it possible for the disabled to access all business premises) and promoting and supporting the Semaine de l’Industrie, due to take place in March.

As well as a series of departmental events all year round, Medef holds an annual three-day summer conference where members can get together with politicians, entrepreneurs, academics and business leaders to examine and discuss current issues.

Medef also has an international arm, which helps French businesses wishing to expand overseas. See www.medefinternational.fr

A national spokeswoman for the organisation said: “Put simply, we can help businesses to get established and grow. We provide support and advice on relevant changes, offer legal support when needed, put business members in touch with one another, and provide opportunities for members to get together socially in order to network.

“Our members come from a range of businesses of varying sizes and different sectors. All benefit greatly from being part of our organisation.”

The group is keen to attract British business owners, but most of its literature is in French and events and seminars are all in French.

Mr Mair said: “I would say you have to have pretty fluent French to truly benefit from being a member, but it is a good way of finding out what’s going on, especially if there are local or departmental incentives or changes that might help your business.”

To join Medef, contact your local departmental secretary. Details are available at www.medef.com

To find your local representatives, click on the map on the right hand side of the front page. Alternatively, phone Medef ’s Paris office and ask for the telephone number of your local contact: 01 40 55 14 40.

Some information on Medef is available in English at this link: www.tinyurl.com/medefenglish

Business owners in the Dordogne can contact Antony Mair with any queries or questions on local business legislation or for further information on how to access Medef services in the département. Please note that Mr Mair can only help
people who work or intend to start businesses in the Dordogne. Email antonymair@wanadoo.fr

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