First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Fabrice Michon: My large family (I have 4 children) is doing well, fortunately. My kids don’t brush their teeth, are reluctant to take a shower, but they wear a mask all the time; it’s very surprising!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Cultures Connection.
Fabrice Michon: I started my career in the agro-industry as an export manager. I also worked for the European institutions and for a consulting firm, but I always wanted to be self-employed. It’s for this reason mainly that I became a freelance translator in 2004. Unable to cope with the many clients I had, I created a translation agency in 2013. Cultures Connection is today present in the United States, in France, and Argentina.
How does Cultures Connection innovate?
Fabrice Michon: Our main asset is the increased use of the latest technologies and their rapid integration into our organization. In recent years it has been cloud computing; today, it is artificial intelligence applied to translation.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Fabrice Michon: The first 2 months were difficult, especially since we lost an important market a few days before the start of the lockdown in France. However, we kept a stable level of activity until August, although it did not allow us to be profitable. To help with our finances, we took out a bank loan to get through this difficult period and ensure a sufficient liquidity level. At the same time, we continued our commercial efforts, including participation in numerous tenders. Since September, the strategy has paid off, and we have been exceeding our 2019 business levels and have won several contracts, including one with a major Russian group.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Fabrice Michon: Yes, taking on more debt when activity is low when there is no visibility is, financially speaking, a gamble and a difficult decision. You have to believe in your organization, what you are doing, and especially in the future.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Cultures Connection in the future?
Fabrice Michon: I do more sports, especially tennis. It’s amazing how much tension it helps me release. I also try to have a balanced life when it comes to diet, the number of working hours, or social life, for example. Regarding the future of the company, so far, this project has been realized without investors. We are now looking for an investor as we want to expand internationally through external growth and need to fund future acquisitions.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Fabrice Michon: Cultures Connection operates in a very competitive sector, with many competitors of all sizes and located in many countries. However, it is a sector that is undergoing a strong concentration; in the long run, there should be fewer and fewer players. So today, we have to develop through external growth, in other words, by buying out competitors to achieve the critical size we need to compete with larger players in the industry.
Your final thoughts?
Fabrice Michon: It is well-known that every crisis is an opportunity. People often mention the financial aspect. I believe that it is also an opportunity to measure our ability to manage our emotions, find innovative solutions, and keep our teams motivated. Faced with the crisis, we unveil ourselves, with all our limits, and we have to be able to surpass ourselves to overcome it. I believe that entrepreneurs emerge from this crisis stronger.