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Xavier Gendron (SK 1995): from business development and management to digital entrepreneurship

15 June 2020

Xavier Gendron, an alumnus of SKEMA’s Class of 1995, is an accomplished entrepreneur. The CEO and founder of BeWe spoke to SKEMA Alumni about his professional journey so far.

 

To start with, tell us about your education: what did you study at SKEMA?

I am a graduate of the Grande Ecole programme’s Class of 1995 at SKEMA Lille. I majored in marketing and business unit management.

 

What sort of work did you do after leaving SKEMA? What did you get out of these experiences?

After obtaining my degree from SKEMA, I first worked as a financial controller and then as an internal auditor for AXA in Côte d’Ivoire.

On my return to France I was recruited as an account manager in 1998 at Absys, a small Lille-based company specialising in management solution integration for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and mid-market companies (MMCs). I created and then developed that company’s activities in Belgium and Luxembourg as Sales Manager for about six years, and also had some business development responsibilities in the vertical and international markets. That is where I gained my first skills in management, profit centre management and launching new growth-driving offerings.

In 2006, still at Absys Cyborg, I became Regional Manager (east of France) and Global Solutions Manager. In this context I was elected to the Board of a Denmark-based joint venture working with some one hundred integrators around the world and specialising in the international deployment of Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM solutions.

Still within the same group, at Keyrus (specialised in corporate performance management for large companies), I then held the position of Deputy General Manager in Brazil. That subsidiary had about 180 employees at the time.

When I returned to Lille in 2010, I was recruited by the DL Software Group as Deputy General Manager, on secondment to the CIM subsidiary, a publisher, integrator and host of management solutions for the insurance industry. Then the BeWe adventure started…

 

These days you are an entrepreneur and you founded the company BeWe? Where did you get the idea and drive to do what you are doing now?

After I left my previous position (due to a layoff), a friend introduced me to Euratechnologies, a startup incubator and accelerator. That got me thinking about the opportunity to start my own business in my core area of expertise: digital. In 2012, there was a huge gap in the market for collaborative and cloud-based business solutions.

Plus after 15 years of employment in roles such as sales manager, regional manager and general manager with sales, management, HR and administration skills, I felt I had the right skills to strike out on my own. I really wanted something different, a new challenge, and perhaps a midlife crisis helped me to pull it off!

I wanted to be my own boss, to not have to answer to anyone, to manage my own schedule and objectives, although let’s be honest we are never completely “free”, since we are always accountable to someone (shareholders and bankers, for example).

 

What kinds of products/services does BeWe offer?

BeWe assists its clients with each step of their transformation into a “digital, connected and networked enterprise”. A more productive, agile, collaborative, innovative and human enterprise. We work mainly with SMEs and MMCs.

BeWe specialises in collaborative information systems: we are experts in Microsoft’s collaborative platforms (Office 365, SharePoint, Yammer, Teams, etc.), but also Powell 365 (Digital WorkPlace for Office 365), LMS365 (learning management platform for Office 365), and DocuSign (the global leader in electronic signature) for which BeWe is also a certified partner. 

We offer a complete catalogue of services that rely on agile, pragmatic and innovative methods: consulting/project management support, integration/deployment/migration, change management (training and communication), support and managed services. Our main goals are to maximise both the value added to the business and the user adoption of the new work modes.

I am convinced that our lockdown experience has made many companies finally realise the importance of implementing innovative tools that enable their teams to work together remotely.

 

What are your development plans for the future?

Our annual growth is currently at about 20%, but most of our clients are in the Hauts de France region (20% in Ile-de-France, also). Our priority in the near future will be to establish ourselves in Ile-de-France, where close to 50% of our target clientele in France are located (probably through external growth).

In the medium term, we would like to open offices in the major regional cities and in Belgium where we already have several clients.

 

How have your studies at SKEMA helped you become what you are today, and in what ways has what you learned at the school helped you to develop your venture?

Besides my SKEMA diploma, which is gaining in prestige thanks to the school’s rise in the different rankings, I think that the programmes being taught give a real chance of succeeding in life, especially in the world of entrepreneurship. The school’s global positioning is also a big plus.

Our training covers so many aspects of business, which facilitates our integration into the professional world and opens many doors for future advancement.

Personally, I had extensive training in negotiation techniques (one of the school’s spearheads in the 1990s), which has served me well throughout my career and in each of my positions.

 

Your fondest memory of your time at SKEMA?

There are so many... probably the orientation weekends and the ski seminars 😊

 

How has SKEMA’s alumni network helped you, or how could it help you, develop BeWe?

The SKEMA Alumni network has not directly helped me to develop BeWe. However, I am an alumni ambassador in charge of the Lille Entrepreneurs’ Club and in that role I have been able to make many contacts, including business contacts for my company.

 

If you had some advice for SKEMA alumni wanting to do the same as you, what would it be?

You have to be patient, because everything takes more time than you think. Finances are crucial: make sure you have enough money and don’t fall into the red, to guarantee a minimum of protection for your business. But the most important thing is not to hesitate: give it a go if that is what you want!

 

What can we wish for you next?

In the short term, to suffer as little damage as possible from the economic tsunami caused by the COVID-19 crisis, and to remain driven to grow my company and innovate!

 

Contact: Xavier Gendron (SK 1995), founder and CEO of BeWe

 

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