At the time when the first license was granted to a French company in 1957 France occupied the greatest land mass of any western European country, 212,895 sq. miles (UK 50,300 sq. miles). Stretching from the Straits of Dover in the north, bounded by the Atlantic Ocean in the west, the Pyrenees mountains on its south west periphery, the Mediterranean sea in the south, its eastern borders encompass the south western range of the alpine mountains (Alpes Maritimes, Haute Alpes and Savoie) and the river Rhine making the border in the east. Its circumference is estimated at about 3,000 miles bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Politically it is a democratic republic headed by a president with elected members forming a senate and a chamber of deputies. Administratively it is divided into 22 regions, sub-divided into 96 Departements each further broken down into communes governed by elected municipal councils. Historically it was a colonial power with a strong presence in North Africa, the African continent and south east Asia as well as retaining a presence in the Caribbean and in the Pacific Islands. Very little of the colonial empire now remains.
The climate is generally temperate but there are wide regional variations ranging from that influenced by the Atlantic Ocean along the western seaboard, continental in mid and eastern France, semi-tropical along the Mediterranean coast and alpine in the mountainous regions of the east.
France was a relative late-comer to the industrial revolution being about 75 years behind England but caught up quickly in the manufacturing industries the principal of which are the state-owned automobile industries and ship building. Consequently the economy was based mainly on agriculture, covering the whole range of products which can be cultivated in the climatic conditions prevailing. However, due to the historic method of land divisions within families, agriculture is based on small scale holdings which are comparatively inefficient when judged by UK standards. This has led to violent differences of opinion about support within the EU. Being such an important aspect of their economy the French have always fervently protected the subsidies supporting the agricultural sector irrespective of the product in question.
While there are regional variations between the inhabitants of the UK they are nowhere near as marked as those found in France. Historically for centuries the government has had to put a great deal of effort into teaching and persuading these regional people to be Frenchmen and women. Even today the regions guard their variations with pride and jealously retain their languages and customs. Breton, Basque, Catalan, Provencal, Flemish and German are still widely spoken as first languages in these regions.
France was a founder member of the European Economic Union in 1957. President De Gaulle, determined to maintain dominance of this organisation over the other, relatively weak states involved recovering from a recent disastrous war, vetoed the application by Britain to join and we had to wait a further 16 years to be accepted. (Was it all a big mistake?).
I do not believe that I exaggerate when I claim that all at Evode, from HS downwards, found that dealing with French companies in general was a frustrating exercise. Chauvinism is a characteristic French attribute which was displayed in full by all of the companies and many of the personalities with which we dealt. Despite the fact that the two licensees appointed were newcomers to the manufacture and art of adhesives and sealants they insisted that they were masters of the craft, doing things in their own way and loathe to accept advice and assistance. Inevitably things went wrong and Evode was roundly accused of lack of support and, in one instance, of supplying misleading information.
Not only the individuals involved but the systems employed by the industries, overseen by state legislation, dictated that all foreign companies engaged in an enterprise in France faced an uphill struggle. The experiences with French companies, two licensees in the space of 15 years plus an abortive attempt to establish a sales company, tells its own story.
There was something of a thread running though the French experience. La Gutta Percha assumed that they could enter the French market at the gallop, offering a wide range of diverse products without technical and commercial support from the licensor. They bit off more than they could chew.
Early in the association with LGP Evode was informed that, because of French legislation, a site for a factory 130km from Paris had been acquired to manufacture products. In the absence of specific details was this site Chauny where Dia-Prosim was established?
However a link exists between LGP and DP in an agreement between the two companies that LGP would sell products made by DP. Therefore was DP, in effect, a subsidiary of LGP?
DP again tried to emulate LGP by trying to offer a wide range of products to a market with which they were not familiar, made on plant with which they had little or no experience, overseen by personnel who had no background in making such products. DP did, at least, engage Tony Talbot to get them off the ground but even this acknowledgement of their inability to cope ran into personality difficulties.
M. Philipe Cerf was the managing director of Dia-Prosim. When the licensee arrangement with DP was terminated because Evode suspected that someone within the company had been divulging confidential information to a third party, M. Cerf was involved in the first tentative arrangements to set up Evo-France, which suggests that he was absolved from blame for the cause of collapse with DP. He was appointed to head Evo-France, a position which he resigned within a few months. AHS took over as managing director.
Does this love-hate relationship between the French and the British lie in past history? From Norman times the royal houses in England had French associations and ruled quite large tracts of north west France resulting in numerous conflicts. Down the ages France has, by some form or other, but mainly by war, attempted to influence Europe as a whole. The British have seen it as their bounden duty to maintain the balance of power within the Continent, leading most violently to the Napoleonic conflicts and in more modern times the First and Second World Wars. Has this historic situation, where Britain appears to be their saviour, led to an inferiority complex under the strain of which they feel duty bound to preserve all things French using systems and methods alien to any other European country?
In expressing the above views I do so as an Englishman who has worked closely with our French associates, speaking their language but being frustrated by their attitude on so many occasions.June 2004.