Let me introduce myself
"I am a graduate of a master's degree from Sup de Co Reims (NEOMA), at the end of which I volunteered to train as a reserve officer at Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan. Then, I followed a training in CAP Bakery in apprenticeship within the C.F.A of Versailles and I obtained a CAP Pastry in free candidate. I don't think I did any reconversion, I just pushed my studies before doing what I really wanted."
WITH ALL THIS KNOWLEDGE ACQUIRED, WHICH PROFESSION DID YOU FINALLY CHOOSE?
I worked in Paris as a baker and tourier for two years before being recruited to the United States to develop a French bakery in Washington DC. I was replacing a business school friend whose father worked at Grands Moulins de Paris. Grands Moulins de Paris contacted me several times with more and more specific questions about the flour market in the USA, before offering me to join the group to launch the activity on the American territory four years ago.
WHAT ARE YOUR MISSIONS IN THE USA ?
My initial mission was to launch Grands Moulins de Paris' business in the United States, from scratch! First, I had to find an importer, select a first range of products adapted to the American market, bring in the first container, identify distributors and get them to list our products, prospect for end users, give demonstrations and put them in touch with distributors. Grands Moulins de Paris is very well known in France, much less so here. So we have to do a lot of visibility work: meet as many people and structures as possible, and always keep an eye on online forums and social networks.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL WORKDAY/WEEK LOOK LIKE?
In the morning, I deal with emergencies and maximize my exchanges with France. In the afternoon, I am dedicated to American contacts until quite late since I have a 3-hour time difference with the West Coast. I travel about three days every two to three weeks, mostly by plane. To sum up, I do a little bit of everything: I am the link between prospects, customers, distributors and importers, but I am also in contact with the Grands Moulins de Paris head office via the marketing and communication department, the quality department and the back office, all of whom do a lot of work. And I also do demonstrations in bakeries at night or during the day!
WHAT ABOUT YOUR WORKING CONDITIONS? DOES IT CHANGE A LOT FROM FRANCE ?
I have a local contract, I have the American package. So obviously, I'm not quite up to French standards regarding working conditions. That's the game. My job requires a lot of autonomy and personal rigor. I have a 6-hour time difference with France, so my interactions with support services are limited. You also have to stay on course psychologically. For example, I didn't have any visitors during the pandemic episode and I only see my family once a year. The territory is very vast, there are three time zones. To give you an idea: France is the same size as the state of Texas and I have a 6-hour flight between Washington DC (where I live) and Los Angeles. It is therefore necessary to optimize travel. The cultural aspect is also extremely difficult to grasp. I've been living in the US for seven years and our cultures are very different. For the bakery, and for everything else. Mastering the culture and the language means mastering your relationships with your contacts and guiding your business. Copying and pasting from France to the US is not an option.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CLIENTS BASED ON?
What I like at the moment is this versatility. I am learning a lot in all areas. For a few months now, I feel that we have really shifted gears, the work and the latitude given are paying off. I have the impression that I have put together a lot of puzzle pieces over the last four years and that they are now fitting together one after the other. Unlike our French competitors, we are the only ones to have a physical presence in the US. My customer relationship is based on meeting people to begin with. I'm in the same time zone, so I can be reactive, we can exchange naturally. I can understand the projects, the expectations, the support we can provide. Many French people also settle in the United States. In these cases, the relationship starts very early, even before their arrival on American soil. I get a lot of questions about where to settle, language barriers, recruitment, work visas, equipment, and sometimes I even help clients with their personal problems (banking, children's schooling...). So obviously, the relationship is pretty good in the long run. We sell more than flour, we sell service and proximity. With the Americans, we're more about demonstrations, help with setting up production, with a more educational aspect about flour and milling. The relationship is quite warm.
DO YOU PREFER TO BE IN THE FIELD OR IN THE OFFICE?
I love being in the field because it helps me understand the market, understand the culture, meet people and make the difference with our competitors. But I need to sit back and take stock of all this, step back, analyze and respond to the requests of my contacts.