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Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)

Hervé Lecesne

2nd chance entrepreneurs in action

 

 

Hervé Lecesne

French restarter

Groupe Nactis - Aralco

FR - 91071 Bondoufle Cedex

The first business

In 1985, Hervé Lecesne started a business specialising in the primary processing and sale of foodstuffs. The company did very well, sales and staff numbers grew, and finally became an internationally active group with three subsidiaries and a staff of 500.

Problems begin to accumulate - the domino effect

But the market was changing and competition got much stiffer. Market prices slumped and small and mid-sized businesses had to pay higher interest rates: interest on the seasonal loans needed to finance fruit stocks soared to 18%. This caused serious trouble for the subsidiary specialising in fruit juices and concentrates. It was put up for sale, but the sale had to be halted following arbitration proceedings. The financial situation went from bad to worse when three major customers went into insolvency and currency fluctuations dented sales figures.

Out-of-court settlement fails

Hervé was still convinced he could limit the damage to the subsidiary and save the rest of the company. "I fought until the last moment", he recalls, "but I failed to call in experts specialising in financial reorganisation and negotiations with banks". Together with his minority shareholders, he devised a restructuring plan to increase capital stock and reschedule debt. Seven banks agreed to the proposal, but when the eighth bank refused, the plan fell through.

The courts come in

"Bankruptcy was an appalling experience, since I had no idea how to run a company in trouble," Lecesne recounts. "Nor did I know much about legal reorganisation proceedings". A representative of the commercial court drew up a debt rescheduling plan but this, too, eventually failed, because suppliers learned of the firm's financial difficulties and refused to go on granting trade credit. The cash-flow crisis came to a head and all rescue attempts came to nothing.

Resurrected from insolvency

"The period leading up to the insolvency statement was one of permanent bustle and hyperactivity. Afterwards, I felt empty and slid into a deep depression", Hervé remembers. He was especially shocked when another friend whose company also had to file for insolvency took his own life. He decided not to give up but to start again from scratch. He was buoyed up when he succeeded in keeping a debt-ridden small company afloat and rescuing it in the face of general disbelief. With the loving support of his wife and family and the help of a few remaining friends, he finally managed his own turnaround as well.

A reorganisation becomes the launching pad for a fresh start

Having invested his energies in reorganising this 12-person company, Lecesne went on to make it the cornerstone of his own second try. The banks had lost faith in the firm and the administrator wanted to close it. Hervé took out a personal loan and his family took on liabilities. He himself gave up a large part of his salary and did not take a single holiday for the first four years. Instead, he was constantly on the move with his sample suitcases.

Their efforts paid off: Hervé's company "Groupe Nactis", reborn in 1996 from the small business he rescued, now employs 150 staff at four production sites and a trade subsidiary.

Lessons learnt: don't hesitate to look for sound advice!

"I have become much more cautious", says Lecesne, "I have learned how important it is to get advice from competent experts at the right time." This is what he does now, especially when it comes to financing, internal organisation and corporate development. When his own business slid into insolvency and his friend committed suicide, Hervé Lecesne made a vow: "If I ever get out of this, I will set up an association that helps entrepreneurs in trouble, so they are not left alone with their problems." He was as good as his word, and since 1999, three years after his restart, the association "RE-CREER" has been coming to the aid of entrepreneurs in difficulties.

Hervé Lecesne's advice to entrepreneurs in financial difficulties:

"My advice is: in a crisis, withdraw from the front row and gain some distance. It is the only way to clear your head and make the really important decisions without being distracted by the pressure of daily cash-flow and management problems. Reorganising a business is not an everyday situation; get the support of experienced consultants, at least for the negotiations with banks and suppliers."

First try

Company founded in: 1985

Business Sector: food industry

Core business: primary processing of foods (fruit juice, fruit juice concentrates, dairy and egg products)

Maximum number of employees: 500

Insolvency: 1994

Fresh start

New start: 1996

Company: Groupe NACTIS

Business sector: food industry

Core business: production and sale of food aromas, particularly for industrial purposes

Number of employees in 2006: 150

 

Alfred Lanfer

Hervé Lecesne

Manuela Mutschler

Cristian Rovira

Friedrich Stummer

Jacqueline Dubernet

Josef Zotter

Michele Zanor

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