Portraits  •  Members

“Despite the challenges, entrepreneurs and international companies will continue to choose the UK” – in conversation with Bénédicte Mermet

We sat down with Bénédicte Mermet, Managing Director at Frenger International, to discuss her professional career in the UK, her top tips for success, and what lies ahead for Franco-British business in 2023

Thanks for chatting to us, Bénédicte. Frenger has been a member of the French Chamber for many years now – so how did you end up coming to the UK? 

My late husband Jean-Noël Mermet first came to the UK to study in 1982. Sensing that French entrepreneurs needed help adjusting to the British market, he set up Frenger the following year. I followed him over to help establish the company and I’ve never looked back! 

We started out providing consultancy and export promotion services for French and British companies. Over the years we have broadened our services to include support in areas like FDI and M&A target acquisition. 

What was the UK business environment like for a French person back then? 

The first and perhaps most obvious challenge was the language! Speaking little English when I arrived, I had to immerse myself very quickly in both the day-to-day and business language. Adapting to the new ways of living and doing business in a new country was a challenge in and of itself. 

We also had to spend a lot of time working out what kind of help French companies actually needed. This involved honing in on the specific differences between the French and British markets and developing our business offering accordingly. 

Businesses have been facing increased pressure this year. What do you think leaders can do to stay afloat? 

These days, it’s more important than ever to be able to adapt and be open to new ways of doing things. At Frenger, we have found that our smaller business structure gives us greater flexibility to make more reactive decisions – so recognising and applying this can help you to stay ahead of any major disruptions. 

What do you think 2023 has in store for the business community? 

Despite all the challenges, I still believe that both entrepreneurs and internationally established businesses will continue to choose to come to the UK. 

Even post-Brexit and throughout the Covid pandemic, we have seen a continuous flow of businesses remaining focused on the UK as their point for international expansion. As we head into 2023, I plan to continue helping these businesses to achieve their goal of establishing a UK presence. 

So what advice would you give to these businesspeople? 

Firstly, make sure you have done your homework on the process for setting up your company. Whilst some steps are relatively quick, others can take considerably longer. Make sure you have a realistic timeframe in mind and understand what the setup process involves. 

I would also strongly advise taking time to think through who will be working for the UK business. The visa and right-to-work system for non-UK citizens is now incredibly complex and a much longer process than it was pre-Brexit. If you plan on coming to work for the business as a French citizen, make sure you are on top of the visa options: it will avoid long time delays.  

The ability to speak at least a little English will also go a long way, as will having an awareness of the basic cultural differences between the British and the French!  

That’s very true – and it’s what we’re all about at the French Chamber! How has your membership helped you over the years? 

Throughout our many years of membership, we have always found the French Chamber to be a helpful community of individuals looking to make connections and help other businesses. We have attended countless events over the years and been able to forge some really strong connections with other members as a result. 

Frenger International is a leading provider of international development and investment services for corporations and government organisations in Europe. 

Share this page Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Linkedin