New organizational and managerial challenges in export

Round table “New organizational and managerial challenges in export”


  • Leaderia:
    • Aurélien VÉTAULT (Consultant – Head of Processing, Distribution, Consumption)
    • Louis-Simon FAURE (Founder and Associate Consultant)
  • Facilitator: Emmanuel GRUFFAT (Former Business Unit and Commercial Director at Nestlé Waters)
  • Participants:
    • Irina PRYADKINA: HRD at Hana Group
    • Sophie NEY: Ex-HRD at Mademoiselle Desserts
    • Mathieu JACQUET: Export Director at Cafés Richard
    • Emmanuelle BRUN: International Business Unit Director at Valrhona
    • Hadrien JAUNY: Former Group Sales Director France & Export at Mazet Confiseur
    • Stéphane LEMOINE: International Sales Director at Labeyrie Fine Foods
    • Bertrand AGAESSE: Ex-Commercial Director EMEA at Savencia
    • Sandrine LANSON: Former Export Director at EPIKURE Group

The context and export activity in figures

With a turnover of 70 billion euros in 2021 (+12.5% ​​vs 2020), agricultural and agri-food products represent the 3rd item of trade surplus in our country with 8 million euros.

In 2021, as in 2020, France remains the 6th largest exporter of agricultural and agrifood products in the world with a market share (PDM) of 4.5%, or 3.4% of France’s GDP*.

International development therefore remains a sure source of profitable and sustainable growth for our businesses and offers many economic, social and cultural opportunities for nations, companies and individuals.

Nevertheless, export faces many new challenges that challenge the resilience and sustainability of this growth model:

  • New needs and expectations of customers and consumers in different countries of the world
  • Evolution of the mix of geographies according to geopolitical events
  • Reduction of the carbon footprint of export activities
  • Support for investments in our brands and innovation
  • Developments and rapid regulatory changes
  • Pressure on the supply chain with inflation and supply disruptions


We have decided to take a look at the new challenges around people, teams and our organizations which have been, by showing adaptability and resilience, and will remain key elements of successful international development.

*Source : Les performances à l’export des filières agricoles et agroalimentaires françaises – Rapport du 19 mai 2022

New Organizational Models Emerging

Our stakeholders are unanimous on the fact that a successful export organization is established at the service of an international development strategy as well as according to the economic maturity of the geographical area and the commercial potential. Indeed, before talking about centralized vs decentralized organization, the question of purely export strategy (based on a sales organization and opportunities outside France) or international (with brand development, central staffing for management strategy and local teams, offices and top managers) must be asked.

What level of seniority is needed in a successful export organization?

First of all, it would seem that the strategic decisions related to a choice of route to the market (new distributor or new office) must be taken by senior employees for their expertise, their experience and the long-term relationships that it is possible to build by having a high level of discussion with the leader of the distributor. The VIE (Volontariat International en Entreprises = juniors under 29 on the date of the start of the mission) seems more appropriate to support the induction or the launch of a project, a brand or a distributor, and make the (fundamental) link between the local and France.

Seniority also depends on the maturity of the market

Indeed, on the one hand, in a not very mature market, the recruitment of seniors can prove to be judicious for their knowledge of the business, the category, and their assessment of the distributor’s ability to support progress on the target market and the development of a relationship of trust. Also, if the VIEs remain a breeding ground for talent for our companies and represent a tremendous opportunity to open up to the international scene and to the local culture of a country on an individual scale, in this case the establishment the conditions for their success are key to avoiding failures, commercial failures and development delays. Thus, if their ability to adapt to the country and the typology of clients, their commitment and their English (with the local accent!) are beyond doubt, the quality of their training, their supervision and their support are fundamental. to become the strong arm of distributors. Some organizations offer the supervision of the VIE by a central senior in the Regional Directorates, for example.

On the other hand, in a more mature market, some organizations take the decision to recentralize the leadership team in France for faster strategic decisions, particularly in crisis management as we have known, with also an integration of support functions and trades (Supply Chain type). The more junior expatriates and local contracts are then kept locally to cover the development of the zones.

In addition, the balance of French and local expatriates in the expatriation areas seems to hold the bar to guarantee more diversity and adaptability to meet business and human challenges. Integrating premises into the headquarters and support functions of our Franco-French companies based in France and wishing to set up outside our borders is also a preferred solution for establishing a solid development strategy. On a specific market it is sometimes more appropriate to recruit a local person rather than a French person in VIE.

Finally, building a community and developing products and brands around the world is a tedious job that must be based on an export strategy and a significant investment in human resources from the start. As a result of the Covid, some companies have decided to wipe the slate clean and quickly lay off their teams, even if it means starting from scratch and then rebuilding everything.

Nevertheless, men have a key role and recruitment takes time, especially in little-known areas, with knowledge and experience of the culture of the country and the category. Maintaining the organization in place to foresee a rapid restart therefore seems judicious, even if it means reducing marketing investments and other costs, for example.

In times of crisis, ensuring organizational sustainability and talent retention is critical to ensure a rapid return to growth in key markets. People are key elements in the investment mix of brands.

Best practices to develop the performance and motivation of our international teams

A key factor in the performance and motivation of the teams, in France and abroad, post-covid is the ability of our companies to make sense (in the export activity, in particular attacked on the carbon footprint + a solid employer brand ) and to strengthen the sense of belonging of individuals to avoid departures and retain talent.

As such, it is particularly possible to create a system of tutoring – mentoring between seniors and juniors, in connection with the first part of this report, for a sharing of strategy, perception of roles and contributions. everyone and thus guarantee good cohesion within the teams. The quality of communication between local and central, between top and bottom is fundamental in the dimension of meaning, contribution and commitment.

From the moment of recruitment, in the business lines and HR functions, it is necessary to adopt a posture of diversity and to share a score card to recruit employees in line with the expectations and culture of the company and who create consensus as to their skills and their ability to achieve the objectives set.

Particular attention must be paid to the integration of newcomers, with the proposal of an astonishment report and steering indicators to department managers, to quickly assess the ability of the newcomer and the company to collaborate in the long term and achieve the objectives set.

During the life of the project, the implementation of a talent review system anywhere in the world, for all the key positions in the organization, with the CODIR, is also a guarantee of success, development and talent retention. Individuals are then objectified on their progress and heard on their future needs, which makes it possible to release additional resources not budgeted for the current financial year.

Digital has also changed the relationship between stakeholders over the past two years and brought great progress. The videoconferencing tool allows you to get out of the structured framework of interviews, to introduce yourself via a short, simple and fairly free video, and leads you to think about recruitment from a different angle. Working remotely with these tools has also established greater equality between the centralized teams and the support teams, has made it possible to improve the quality of meeting conduct/management and to point out the shortcomings of middle management, which sometimes needs a coaching support to properly manage remote teams.

If they represent a saving of time and money, digital tools do not always replace a physical presence. The trip, which is often very expensive, is perceived by the international community as a sign of recognition and important, even essential commitment in certain areas of the world (Emirates for example).

In terms of best practices, there is no truth, but the role of Human Resources is necessary to support managers in developing their open-mindedness and understanding the motivations of their teams to invest and make efforts for their business and their business.

Corporate culture and values ​​are important in bringing highly geographically dispersed and self-sustaining subsidiaries into the right governance model.

The skills and profiles to meet the challenges of tomorrow

In the international agri-food export sector, the job market represents 1.3 million jobs, or 5% of jobs in France in 2018.

In a strong context of internationalization of work, one of the key skills to guarantee our international development, in addition to business skills, is language and intercultural knowledge of human and business relations. We do not sell or create relationships in the same way all over the world, you have to immerse yourself in the culture of the countries.

This finding shows the importance of adaptability and emotional intelligence in order to face all situations and to understand each country as a different and unique entity, relying on locals who have perfect knowledge of culture, customs and how to create and maintain relationships.

Organization and recruitment decisions serve a strategy, a vision of business development and is not copied and pasted all over the world. Managers and HR must also think about the skills that would facilitate bridges between the different categories and different countries. The recruitment strategy can also be reviewed according to the profiles that present themselves to the company.

Another important point for the individual as well as for the organization in its talent retention is to think about the post-expatriation stage: How will I create the conditions for a return to France for my employee and make sure to keep in my workforce and skills?

On the business/category side, our speakers share that a balance must be found between category expertise and international business expertise. The expertise of the category is however necessary to promote its knowledge, to be an ambassador of its business and to advocate its main levers.

We recently found that when the external environment changes, leading to volatility in raw material costs and consumption patterns, people’s commitment, entrepreneurship and motivation remain the most powerful key success factors. for our work organizations.

Finally, it would be interesting, with a common goal, to think about an interconnectivity of companies on specific categories: if a person based in Panama no longer has the expected prospects for developing his career, and he does not wish to evolve at Headquarters for example, in a given company but wants to stay in the country, why not share its local experience and knowledge with another French company?

And you, how do you plan to meet your export challenges of tomorrow?

Les enjeux organisationnels et managériaux à l'export

With this statement, I wish to highlight the quality of Leaderia’s support, starting with the time allotted to understanding our need and DNA, and the relevance of the questions asked during the briefing meeting [...]

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