The 2010/03/29 at 12:55
A father forced to flee post-War Italy, difficult living conditions in France, the unhoped for challenge of setting up a business in 1965… Stéphane Salini speaks movingly of the origins of his Group which has become a model SME in the commercial property sector. He now co-directs the company alongside his brother, Philippe.
Over the last four decades, the Salini company has gradually grown, withstanding successive crises and surviving globalisation and ferocious competition. “Family business status is an advantage in many ways. But as we have grown, certain obstacles have appeared and have become progressively more of a handicap, to the point where the directors have had to change tack,” explains Salini.
Originally focused on the construction of industrial buildings, the company has extended its activities to property development, architecture, investment and services. It has a staff of 90 and brings together several areas of competence including technical maintenance and environmental rehabilitation. From 1990 on, and in line with its development policy, Salini created a “turnkey” division that integrates its clients’ needs and adopts an overall approach to property services. It is the beginning of a major diversification strategy.
In 2004, Salini Services was founded with the aim of offering a comprehensive range of technical services: servicing and maintenance, security, hygiene and cleaning, and technical, financial and environmental audits. Just ten years ago, the Group’s turnover was 2 million euros a year. It reached 19 million in 2006, 40 million in 2009 and will perhaps exceed 50 million in 2010.
What’s more, the environmental rehabilitation of property, Salini’s new spearhead, is an activity which seems to have a rosy future ahead of it. “If we have succeeded in changing in recent years and in diversifying our activities in our sector, it is precisely because we are a family structure whose long-term strategy is not hampered by immediate profitability objectives. If we had to please shareholders and outside financial partners, the company would no longer exist!” says Stéphane Salini.
The Group establishes five-year Business Plans. “The periods of crisis, difficult as they may be, do not cause us to alter our plans. If we can operate in this way, it’s only thanks to our status,” he continues. Rapid decision-making is another of the company’s strong points. Its executive committee is made up of five people. “Meeting could not be simpler. In just a few minutes, we validate the most important decisions,” says Salini.
A difficult transition
“We currently have a turnover of some 50 million euros and hope to increase this to 200 million in the longer term. This is when the situation becomes more complicated.” To achieve this result, the financial partners tend to look for a player who could take over the company or make a major investment. “In France, people do not have a lot of faith that family companies of a certain size can make it on their own. If 20% of our capital was held by one of the big banks, our ambitions would have greater credibility,” he laments.
Has the Group now come to the end of a process? The company wants to become international and seize new opportunities abroad. Stéphane Salini notes that “the fact that we are a family structure is a hindrance in this type of situation.” The presence of a big national bank tied into the structure would naturally be of great assistance in foreign development. Unfortunately, Salini does not have any networks which could bring other players into the capital. The company could look for support by itself, amongst chambers of commerce and other structures.
“Proceeding in this way and growing organically abroad would take far too long. We have therefore chosen to favour external growth. Associating ourselves with a company that already knows its local market and culture is a valuable advantage,” says Salini. Already in contact with an Italian client for a future project, the company hopes to benefit from this opportunity to enter Italy definitively. Morocco is also one of its priorities. Salini is looking for local partners there. In order to present its offer in the field of the environmental rehabilitation of buildings quickly, the Group has acquired a company specialising in property diagnoses. “There comes a time when, without renouncing past strategies and the values that have forged the history of the company, we have to evolve in order to continue to grow,” concludes Stéphane Salini.