Jessica Vincendeau has been running VLOK (formerly Vendée Location), a significant generalist rental company based in western France, since 2014. This trained saleswoman succeeded her father at a very young age at the head of this company with 150 employees, spread over 20 agencies for a turnover of 30 million euros.
Did you take over the management through a business start-up, a company buyout, or by benefiting from an internal promotion?
It was a family transmission and a buyout. My father took over the rental company where he worked in 1997. I studied business and started working in the marketing department of a boat manufacturer. I joined Vendée Location by chance in 2006 because my father was looking for someone to replace a person in charge of an IT project. I discovered the company before working in purchasing, customer relations, and HR. At the end of 2010, I agreed with my father to take over the company. Then I worked alongside him for three years to gradually take over his activities. And I took the reins in 2014 when he retired.
Did you encounter any difficulties during this succession?
Let’s say that on paper I had disadvantages. First, I was a woman, which is quite rare in our business and with our clients, mainly industrial or construction companies. Second, I was young because I was 33 years old when I took over. And I was the boss’s daughter. So, I was sometimes presented like that initially when I worked there rather than being presented as an employee. But I didn’t suffer from this situation, and this transmission went well.
Are women better business managers than men? Do you have to work harder to prove your leadership skills?
It is often said that women entrepreneurs have more participative management than men, according to you, "myth or reality"?
I am divided. A woman may be a little more responsive. But it is above all a question of personality, whether you are a male or female manager. I attach a lot of importance to people and emotions. So, I quickly go towards participation and listening. Today, this is a management style that is developing. Management is less directive than before. At VLOK, we have more meetings. When we changed our name, we got everyone involved through workgroups.
Are women managers less tender with their peers?
I don’t know. My dad says that women are tougher in business. That makes me smile. Maybe we don’t let go of our goals as much, and perhaps we experience things more intensely.
In your company, do you encourage the feminization of jobs?
We are trying, but it is still tricky because we have many jobs involving handling, carrying loads, and driving heavy goods vehicles. We receive applications from women, but this represents one CV for every 50 applications from men. So, parity is not evident in production jobs. But we do have women in the positions of branch manager or rental manager.
On a day-to-day basis, what do you find most challenging to manage and most rewarding?
The most challenging thing to manage is the balance between professional life and personal and family life. You must be well organized. For example, I only have one scheduled, so I must be very structured to ensure that my professional and personal obligations are met. A woman is always very much expected to have a family. When you have a position of responsibility and children, you want to succeed in everything.
Any advice for young women who want to start their own business?
It will help if you believe in yourself. Martin Luther King said: “Believe in your dreams, and they may come true. Believe in yourself, and they will surely come true”. This is true for any leader, man, or woman. You must believe in yourself and get organized. It takes effort. Trust yourself and your instincts when you make a decision.