10 tips for doing Business in Germany

10 tips for doing business in Germany

„If we apply the French recipes to establish in Germany, we will not get there …“ This is the warning issued by Frédéric Munch, associate director of CXP Group, consulting and analysis firm in the software domain, during the Franco-German Digital Meetings organized by Syntec Numérique.

If Germany cultivates its attractiveness and its assets, the country, for a French company that seeks to export or a tricolor start-up in search of new markets, can not be approached by chance, without asking the right questions or knowing the characteristics of this market characterized, in particular, by the dynamism of its midsize companies.

  1. Choose your location according to your sector of activity
  2. Grow your networks locally
  3. Germanize your company
  4. Adapt your commercial approach
  5. Prefer to recruit experienced people
  6. Developing your approach to recruitment interviews
  7. Prioritize the experience
  8. Address the subtleties of German labor law
  9. Going to the salons and exhibitions
  10. Budgeting your implementation project

1. Choose your location according to your sector of activity

This is not a discovery: Germany, unlike France, is a very decentralized country. Rather than a capital and a region of Ile-de-France encompassing entire sectors of economic activity, it is distinguished by a multiplicity of „clusters“, that is to say, poles of activity angled on large sectors – energy transition , connected home, industry 4.0 … – 67 precisely.

That’s why, far from the idea of ​​going to Berlin, the capital, at all costs, „the entrepreneur must choose according to its segments“, advocates Raphaël Goldstein, Director France promotion of investment at GTAI Paris , Franco-German point of contact for the cooperation of clusters. The future location will depend primarily on the objectives of his company and his sector.

2. Grow your networks locally

Beyond the importance of its manufacturing sector and the dynamism of its mid-cap companies, Germany is also characterized by its federalism. „Germany is full of small towns, where everyone knows each other,“ says Frederic Munch (CXP Group) „A regional presence is important according to your goal, you have to be present in the region and be the same „. Important, and even primordial. This is where you have to make yourself known, to gain credibility, strengthen your ability to find support and business opportunities. This networking work is essential if you want to give your business every chance to grow sustainably.

3. Germanize your company

In Germany, business is done not in English, but in German. „You need to get as much of your business as possible,“ says Violaine Terreaux, Head of Technology and Services at Business France in Düsseldorf.

In other words: plan commercial media in German, employees comfortable with the language of Goethe, an address on the territory. In addition, preferably use sales representatives who understand the decision-making process, time management or the structuring of the country’s own business market. So many codes whose mastery will enhance your efficiency.

4. Adapt your commercial approach

During a business meeting, a German contact will be quick to ask for customer references. To satisfy it, do not just quote a few names, however prestigious they may be. „You have to be precise, concrete, put forward facts,“ says Frédéric Munch (CXP Group).

Moreover, while in France, having worked with the competitor of a prospect is sometimes prohibitive, in Germany on the contrary, this experience is rather seen positively.

In addition, Germans are known to be „concerned about certifications, patents“, says Violaine Terreaux (Business France). Even if certification methods differ between France and Germany, it seems advisable to put it forward if your products are concerned.

Another point of vigilance: no question, as is sometimes seen in France, to put weeks to meet the demand of a prospect. „Be reactive, when a prospect asks you, answer him in two days,“ says the expert.

Finally, your salespeople will first have to contact the operational staff, who, once convinced by the product, will be able to promote it to their general management.

5. Prefer to recruit experienced people

Finding qualified employees is a particularly delicate business in Germany. „The job market is in tension,“ observes Frédéric Berner, Deputy Director General of the French Chamber of Commerce in Germany.
It would be missing, for example, 100,000 engineers in the country. A real handicap for French companies who want to start in this area, especially since they do not have the power of attraction of their German counterparts …

In this context, „It is better to first look for people with luggage, network, experience,“ advises the expert. This implies, however, he warns, that the proposed wages must follow. For example, a confirmed business developer can claim 70,000 euros gross annual salary (excluding variable and benefits like the car).

Why not, also, call for a VIE (Volontariat International en Entreprise)? Provided, however, that it corresponds to your needs. VIEs are almost 9800 currently in Germany. The characteristics of this type of contract are threefold: „no contractual relationship between the company and the VIE, no social charges and administrative, social and legal management supported,“ lists Eléonore Hurault de Ligny, project manager partnerships LIFE at Business France. On the financial side, „a 12-month mission in Germany costs around € 25,000, including allowances, management and social protection costs,“ adds the expert.

And quote the platform Civiweb allowing candidates to find recruiters and companies to put forward their offers.

6. Developing your approach to recruitment interviews

Beyond appealing to experienced people, it is also, to succeed recruitment, to ensure reassurance candidates.

The Germans, indeed, would be famous for not having a taste for risk. „It will be necessary to say who one is, which bases its specificity“, explains Frédéric Berner (French Chamber of Commerce in Germany). And to continue: „the product is the center of everything.
More than marketing, more than people „.

In terms of CV, the uses, too, differ. „The CV is not condensed on a page but can do three or four,“ says Frederic Berner. It includes appendices delivered by the previous employer on the missions of the person, how it carried them out, if it gave satisfaction. „The game is to say yes,“ says the expert. Quit to support his compliments, for a particularly efficient employee.

7. Prioritize the experience

Another difference of approach: while in France the weight of schools and diplomas remains preponderant even for a candidate already largely experienced, it is much less the case in Germany, for which the training course is gradually put in the background .
Still, the training system is not at all identical. „There is no business school in the business school sense of the term, commercial qualities are acquired with experience.
This system trains people who are less hunters and more breeders, „says Frédéric Berner, adding,“ many people are coming up in companies with learning. “

8. Address the subtleties of German labor law

„Labor law in Germany can be very unpleasant …“ warns Roman Frik, a lawyer specializing in labor law at Vogel & Partner.

One of the main differences concerns the uses of works councils. While in France the creation of an EC is mandatory from 50 employees, in Germany, it is an option, and this concerns structures from 5 employees. „Employees to start the movement, says the lawyer.The employer can not refuse.A him to create a pleasant atmosphere so that employees do not wish to create one.
Moreover, by virtue of a right to co-determination, the entrepreneur decides with the works council. If no agreement is found on a subject, for example overtime, it can not succeed.
On working time there is no law in Germany like the 35 hours. Below 48 hours, working time is negotiable with employees.
In terms of charges, „you can never pay more than 13,000 euros in employer costs per year and per employee,“ said his side Frederic Berner (French Chamber of Commerce in Germany).

9. Going to the salons

CeBIT for IT in Hanover, IFA (electronics) in Berlin, IAA (automobile) in Frankfurt … „Two-thirds of leading trade fairs take place in Germany,“ says Ulrike Mayer, head of trade fairs in the Franco-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

These events (listed online in a dedicated database) are essential to establish contacts and business in the territory.

To participate, a preparation „a year in advance“ appears necessary to the expert, who recommends starting by visiting the exhibition and, if the target audience is at the rendezvous, to begin, only then, the registration procedures.

To expose, it is better, a priori, the grouped play. „Exhibitors take booths of 150 m2 If you arrive with 9m2, we will not see you …“, warns Violaine Terreaux (Business France).

And the expert to put forward the pavilions France set up by the organization, where SMEs can be welcomed to present their solutions. Proof that, despite their huge size, the salons are accessible to all profiles.

For example, for a first-time exhibitor and a turnkey stand, „the average budget starts at 2000 euros,“ says Ulrike Mayer (Franco-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry).

10. Budgeting your implementation project

„Setting up your company in Germany is not very expensive, for 5000 euros everything can be put in place“. This is what Frédéric Berner (French Chamber of Commerce in Germany) assures.
Still, these are not the only costs to be incurred, far from it.
By counting 70 k € annually for the hiring of a business develop, its variable (the variables being proportionally less important than in France), 13 k € of charges, a car, the salons, „below 120 to 130 k € for the first year, it’s too fair, „says the expert.


„How do I do business in Germany?“ Marc Lott is Managing Director of Actimage GmbH, an engineering, computer and multimedia services company based in France, Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

Based, among others, on the French border, he stressed the importance of finding, for an entrepreneur who would like to follow the same path, the appropriate base. „Look what you have to offer and go where it fits,“ advises the leader. It will take a long time to get into local networks and find opportunities.
To form his team, he surrounded himself with Germans „not to make foolishness“.
Moreover, he himself learned the language, which he did not speak when he arrived in the country. Among other qualities, „the bicultural aspect is fundamental,“ he says, „you need people who can understand both cultures.“ Cooperation between entrepreneurs In a tense job market, he, like many entrepreneurs, has experienced the difficulties inherent in this type of context. „It’s hard to find good profiles – there are not enough people trained in IT.
Also, you have to look for it, sell your vision. To do this, never pass an ad, it is useless: enter the networks. As an entrepreneur, you have to spend a lot of time in the networks. Little by little, we will help you. There is a lot of cooptation between entrepreneurs, „he says.

On the commercial side, he confirms that a client meeting can not be improvised. „You have to be much more precise in the preparation, to know what you are going to talk about, to have your road map, to stick to the points of the meeting, in order“. No need to count seducing his interlocutor without a solid file. „Customers need to see projects you have done.
At first, I landed a project worth more than a million euros without being asked for my turnover. „A project that he believes he probably would not have won in France.
To develop his business, he participated in exhibitions. „You have to target them, that does not mean to be present as an exhibitor but to get out there, to have the feeling,“ he says. Former exhibitor at Cebit, he does not intend to reproduce the experience: „You will not do business.The people who know each other greet each other,“ he regrets. So many ways to be recognized and become a preferred partner. „My partner opened my address book after five years …“, says the manager