Presentation of the National Order of Merit

SPEECH BY ALAIN TAIEB, Chairman of the Mobilitas Group Delivered on 8 November 2010

Alain Taieb National Order of Merit

Mister Ministers, Dear Michel and Bruno

Deputies,

Madam Ambassadors, Ambassadors

Counsellor to the President of the Republic

Prefect of the Hauts de Seine,

General Officers and Representatives of the Armed Forces

President of the Union for the Removal Industry,

Representatives of MEDEF, CGPME, ASMEP-ETI, CNCCEF

Dear colleagues, acquaintances and friends

My very dear family

Today is not an ordinary day for me.

I would like to start by thanking each of you most sincerely for being here with us today. I know, from experience, how busy you all are. I recognise the true value of the friendship, even attachment that you are showing me.

I would like to thank you in particular, dear Michel, for accepting to be my mentor for this distinction as well as the great kindness of your words of praise. I feel particularly honoured. Your presence brings to this ceremony your exceptional expertise of the African continent that we are all very fond of. Your role as great servant of the State continues today as you guide the important captains of our Industry, of our foreign trade, also for the benefit of the African continent, where you, like me, were born.


This National Order of Merit medal dedicates the result of almost more than 30 years of work and entrepreneurial adventure. However, nothing would have been possible had my parents not founded in 1974 the small family owned business AGS; had they not conveyed their moral values and their passion for work. It is with great emotion and gratitude that I dedicate to them the honour that is bestowed on our family today.

(...)

But it is the entire Mobilitas group with its subsidiaries across the globe that is being honoured. Without our almost three thousand employees in France, Europe, Asia and across the African continent nothing could have been done. I seize this opportunity to publicly pay my respects to them and to tell them that this distinction also belongs to them. I would like to thank Paul Massardier, Pierre Nascimento, Christophe Mordelet, Bruno Moussey, Emmanuel Leguen whose loyalty and dedication are without equal (as so many other who I would have liked to mention as well) their expertise, their talent and their love for their country.

Nonetheless considering this tribute by the French government to solely be the recognition of past accomplishments would be limiting. It is rather an encouragement to go even further in the direction already embarked upon.

I shall now present my vision for the future of my group as well as my commitment as a patriotic entrepreneur to a sustainable economic fabric and committed foreign trade.

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The current economic crisis could lead to a “wait and see” attitude, but not for companies, not for entrepreneurs, who are the “hyper actives” of the economy. Do you know how hyperactivity is treated by the medical profession? With, paradoxically, a molecule that is a psycho stimulant.
This is the true illness of entrepreneurs and the only drug that brings relief: constant activity. Project, dreams and ambition, ideas, conquests and never ending movement!
So I sooth my hyperactivity in the reactor of entrepreneurial ambitions of my group on the one hand and my passion for my country's economy on the other.

My professional ambition will follow these two main directions.

A) The first trend will be the further development of the record management activity of our group, through our subsidiary Archiv System.

This will be accomplished through the construction of several “Super Centres” (several tens of thousands of m2). The first of these will be built in Luigny (near Chartres) with the support of the General Council of Eure et Loir of which several members are here tonight. This ultramodern centre will benefit my company but will equally contribute to the development of the region and to the creation of employment locally (30 new jobs anticipated by the end of the construction phase).

Of course the Hautes de Seine department, head quarter of our activities will continue to benefit from the direct and indirect creation of employment opportunities due to our constant development ventures in France and abroad.

B) The second direction is to go and find growth where it is. Mobilitas will continue to pursue and even intensify its international development.

Two areas are preferred:

  •  Asia and Middle East
  •  Africa

Already present in 23 cities in Asia under the brand AGS Four Winds following the buyout of the American Four Winds, our group will further extend its presence. As early as 2011 we will open in Japan and will double the number of branches in China from 5 to 10. In January of the same year we will start our operations in the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

As far as Africa is concerned, I believe in this continent which is still highly underrated. I have therefore launched an ambitious two phased plan, called “Africa 2015”.

Phase one consists of covering the entire continent. Already present in 44 out of 54 countries, we will proceed with the openings in the 10 remaining countries in the coming years.

There is a sharp contrast between countries like Somalia and Eritrea where we are struggling to recruit our future branch managers  and the Seychelles or Mauritius where we are battling to sift through the 10 000 CV received… by the way, application are closed. We will then be one of the few groups, French and also an SME, to offer our services 100% on the African continent, the continent of the 21st century.

The second part of our action will focus on transforming our AGS network, specialists in international removals, into multi-skilled service centres.

We will add the following to our initial services:

a) relocation services under the Executive Relocations brand (immigration procedures, house search, school search and enrolment, intercultural orientation etc.) 

 
b) record management and document storage for both the private and public sectors (physical and digital management) under the leading brand Archiv System.
A brand that will draw its strength from its success in France.

I called this project “Africa 2015” when in fact it is a project of a French group for the next two decades. This project is preparing the field for our family’s third generation in the business, reinforcing even more, if needed, Mobilitas’ SME heritage, closely held by our friend Yvon Gattaz, Chairman of ASMEP-ETI, (aiming at gathering together under one umbrella the 4600 SME of France).

***

My ambition as an entrepreneurial activist and socially responsible citizen

 
Given our social consciousness we were the first removals company in the world to adhere to the Global Compact of the United Nations.

For the entire international project, our ambition is, like in the past, to conduct responsible and balanced development and to create hundreds of jobs throughout the African continent. We will also organise vast training programmes for the new services, sectors with huge potential for the future.
We are happy and proud to confirm it here in the presence of the Ambassadors present tonight.

There is no sustainable development without taking the environment in which we evolve into account. This applies at the same time to human, social, cultural and ecological aspects.
It is the fair sharing of wealth between our country, France, and the countries in which we invest.

South Africa is a good example. Following the purchase of the South African leader in the relocation and removals sector we have developed additional projects that created 130 extra jobs and allowed us to cover all 15 countries of Southern Africa (SADC community).

This also allowed us to post three VIE and 3 expatriate senior managers in Cape Town and 6 VIE and 8 French expatriate senior Managers in the SADC region (Southern Africa).
20 positions that would never have been created without this philosophy or approach of the development of French foreign trade.

I will take this opportunity to thank my friend, Laurent Padoux, here with us today, head of the French Trade Commission in Pretoria for Southern Africa. Laurent is a big, very big, servant of the State, one of those who made me appreciate again the role of the public sector. Laurent is doing excellent work for French companies. He contributes to spreading much needed competence and warmth to entrepreneurs who are being subjected more and more frequently to competitors supported by states.
Thank you Laurent.
May the State continue to provide us with warmth and support and we, entrepreneurs of France in Africa, will have to do the rest.

Further I would like to use this opportunity to send my regards to the French Advisors for Foreign Trade in South Africa (CCEF) to which I belong and who are a solid team dedicated to France as defined by our Minister for Foreign Trade, Mrs. Idrac.

In addition to these basic values, I would like to discuss a belief that is close to my heart.

That of the urgent need for economic solidarity between French companies.

It is interesting to observe the behaviour of our competitors whether it is in the international market or on our own territory. Solidarity between our Anglo-Saxon friends can no longer be questioned. Italians also favour their domestic networks. In China, the State itself co-ordinates actions between companies. The most convincing argument is that of the German “Mittelstand” that groups together 10 000 German SME (twice as many as there are in France). Big holdings and SME “hunt together in packs” on the international markets. This German economic solidarity is one of the main explanations for the strength of German companies in the export market. This is one of the main reasons why German SME are growing and reinforcing the strong and stable foundations of the German economy.

Let us learn from these lessons!

Economic solidarity is integral to civic values but also, and even more so, responds to a pragmatic analysis of our economic interests. This is not the State’s domain of action but belongs totally to us entrepreneurs.
This is why I have joined, like many others, the active structures that contribute to this vast project “the International French Team”.

I first joined the MEDEF International and its team of permanent staff and entrepreneurs.

I also joined the National Council of French Foreign Trade Advisors, CNCCEF, its sections, its staff, its senior management or volunteers.
Within this national council I am part of the efficient and congenial team of Jean-Marc de Bournonville in the Africa section of the CCE and we are achieving great things here, especially with the Grand Prix VIE for the continent.
I am involved (together with many other CCE) in the National Support Committee for International expansion of SME as well as the larger project aiming to double the number of VIE worldwide (specifically through sponsorship and support mechanisms which aim to assist French SMEs to venture onto the international market).

I am also an administrator of the council of French investors in Africa. A passionate, involved and admirable institution.


Lastly, should our UNIRE list be elected in a few weeks time at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Paris, I shall offer my experience to my colleagues and SMEs alike in our department to encourage the greatest number of them to expand their export activities.

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I think it is my sincere investment and the achievements of my group on the international arena that lead Mrs Idrac, our Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, to propose me for a nomination as bearer of the National Order of Merit. I respectfully thank her for this honour and assure her that my future actions will be even more determined than the ones for which I am being recognised today.


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Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope that you will forgive me for having been a little long. I would like to thank you yet again for your kind presence here tonight and for sharing a few moments of reflection on the ever increasing importance of our commitment to the “fields of foreign trade” and the major issues that are at stake for us, our companies, our economy, our Country and consequently for our children.