Starting a business in France could be a great opportunity for your company. The country has a strong economy, a highly skilled workforce and world-class infrastructure, making it an attractive market for many industries. The public authorities also offer support to companies of all sizes, including financial aid for startups and innovative projects: make the move and get your business off the ground!
Why France is one of the best places to set up your business
France is an attractive market for starting or expanding a company and is Europe’s #1 business destination. The country has a population of over 68 million people, and the French consumer market is a sophisticated and discerning market, with a focus on high-quality products, service, and brand loyalty.
France has a well-developed transport network (motorways, railways, ports and airports) and telecommunications infrastructure, and as a member of the European Union, it offers your business access to a large market of over 500 million consumers. The country is strategically located in the heart of Europe, making it an ideal location for businesses that want to expand to several countries.
In 2021, France came second in Europe for the highest number of patents filed, and its highly skilled workforce would give you access to a talented pool of potential employees for your business. With a GDP of over €2 trillion, the country is the 6th largest economy in the world and the 4th most dynamic economy in the OECD area. Additionally, France is a popular tourist destination and its well-established legal system can provide a good level of protection for your business.
Thanks to these assets, France has been the most attractive business destination in Europe for three years in a row: 1 in 5 investment projects in Europe is located in France, according to an EY survey taken in 2022.
Steps for setting up a business in France
Starting a business in France is not complicated and administrative formalities for the establishment of international companies have been greatly reduced in recent years: setting up a business only takes 3.5 days in France – compared to 4.5 in the UK and 10.5 in Germany.
Nevertheless, certain steps must be taken to avoid your time being wasted or issues arising later on. We therefore strongly recommend that you be accompanied by a legal firm specialised in business law, in order for your installation process in France to be carried out as smoothly as possible.
The first steps will be to appoint a director and partners, to choose how corporate profits will be distributed and to prepare the articles of association. As well as this, you will need to open a corporate bank account and deposit the company’s share capital into a frozen account. You will also need the bank’s deposit certificate before you can proceed with the signing of the articles of association.
Once this is done, you will have to register your business with the French government via the CFE, Centre de Formalités des Entreprises (Business Formalities Centre), which is run by the URSSAF, the organisation that manages the social security system for businesses in France. The CCI, Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie (Chamber of Commerce and Industry), or the legal firm you chose to support you, will provide you with information and guidance on the different legal structures, taxes, and regulations that apply to your business.
Financing options for a business in France
In addition to traditional bank loans and other financing schemes such as crowdfunding, entrepreneurs in France can have access to government-backed loan programs and supportive policies.
Businesses can obtain subsidies from the French Government, in particular through the €100 billion “France 2030” investment plan, and dedicated national or regional subsidies which support innovation.
France also offers a wide range of tax incentives for international companies, low-interest or zero-interest loans, and financial support such as co-financing, financial guarantees and capital injection.
Finding the right talent for your business
Here are a few key things to keep in mind when recruiting in France:
- France has labour laws and regulations that protect both employers and employees; these include minimum wage requirements, overtime pay, vacation time, and other benefits. Employers must also provide safe working conditions and comply with anti-discrimination laws.
- France offers excellent flexibility for businesses that are hiring and firing employees. Companies can negotiate wages and conditions directly with employees and can benefit from a 2 to 8 month trial period for new hires.
- France has a highly educated and skilled workforce, and there are a variety of ways to find the right talent for your business, such as job fairs, networking events, online job boards and recruitment agencies. Additionally, many universities and trade schools have career centres that can help connect employers with recent graduates. In Atlantic France, we developed a web platform to help companies recruit: https://nosemplois.fr.
- Once you have hired employees, you will need to set up a payroll system. This includes registering with the French social security system, which is responsible for collecting and managing employee contributions and determining the appropriate taxes that should be withheld from employee paychecks.
Ready to make the move? We are here to help!
Starting a business in France can be a challenging and exciting experience. It’s a great opportunity to be part of such a vibrant and dynamic business environment.
If you are unfamiliar with the French business environment, it can be very helpful to rely on a business advisor who will guide you through the process of setting up and running a business in France.
Other useful resources for starting a business in France
- The Business France and Invest in France websites. Business France is the national agency that helps foreign companies to develop their business in France and Business Solutions Atlantic France is its official partner for the Atlantic France region (Pays de la Loire).
- The guide Doing Business in France, produced by Business France in partnership with the leading accountancy firm Deloitte.
- The document Inclusive Entrepreneurship Policies: Country Assessment Notes – France, 2018, published by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).