For the past 15 years, Laurence Freche and her brother Eric have been co-managing the Freche Location group, a company initially founded by their grandfather in Vitrolles (Bouches-du-Rhône) in 1966. With its 24 agencies in the three southern regions of France and the Paris area, the rental company has become a reference for the industry and the construction field. At the moment, Freche Location is employing 230 persons. It is also one of Haulotte’s long-lasting partners. We have had the pleasure to discuss with Laurence Freche, a successful business woman who has managed to make her path into a very masculine world.
How did you manage to get to the head of your family business?
It didn’t happen in a blink of an eye. I have a bachelor’s degree in banking and finances, so naturally, I entered the banking world where I took care of companies’ portfolios for fifteen years.
Then, I felt like it was time for me to join the family business. When I did, I overviewed the financial part of it. I only became co-manager when my father retired in 2007.
Nowadays, I am the general manager, and my brother is the company’s CEO.
Freche Location truly is a family business, founded by my grandfather and where my son gets to work.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?
That will be working as a family. The main difficulty was to deny what I represent at home. I wasn’t just someone’s daughter or sister anymore. Because I am close to my family, I had no choice but to make it work.
On a daily basis, what do you find the most challenging and rewarding?
The hardest thing to manage is time. My job takes up a lot of it. Like everyone else, I need time for myself, and I need time for my family.
The most rewarding part of my job is when I can get everything done in a week, take my mom to her doctor appointment, have my kids over for dinner, close the purchase of a building and conduct three business meetings.
Work-life balance is key to everything. If I have one priority in my life, it’s to balance the two.
Does working with your brother help?
This is the greatest accomplishment of my professional life: the tandem we have built with my brother. We both have found a certain balance that helps me reconcile my personal and professional life. We share everything, both the successes and the difficulties. That’s huge. Everyone knows that the company’s strength relies on this tandem.
We are a family business with traditional values. We are very close to our teams, and very caring of our employees and our partners. With my brother, we both work at the same level of responsibility. This makes it easy for us to talk to all the players in the business. I find it very rewarding to be a woman in this business.
In your opinion, is it a preconceived idea that women are better business managers than men?
I don’t think women are better, but we manage differently, that’s for sure. I think that there is an added value to being a woman when you run a company because we don’t have the same sensitivity, and we don’t have the same sense of organization. We don’t have the same ability to listen and pay attention to others.
Did you have to work harder to prove your leadership?
In my previous company, it came to me because I was working very hard. Joining Freche Location and being a member of this family, I immediately got some extra credibility which was great. I do think that in a very male-dominated environment, it is a strength to be a woman. We bring a different perspective because we dare to share our ideas, we are more and more solicited. Because of the parity obligation, for example, I was asked to join the directory board.
What was your biggest success?
Above all, it is the recognition we get from our customers and other professionals for our teams’ work.
In 2022, we received the Rental Company of the Year award from DLR, the federation of distribution and rental companies, and from BTP Magazine.
This is something our teams are very proud of, and so are we.
It is often said that women leaders have a more participative management style than men. Myth or fact?
That’s a fact. I think women have more on their plates than men. It’s a bit sexist to say that, but women experience several lives at the same time. Our brain’s activity never stops, juggling with work, family, children and our own life… We need to be organized and to do so, at least at work, we use participative management.
Would you have some advice for young women who are willing to start their own company?
I would advise them to surround themselves with the right persons, don’t isolate yourself. With a good team, you go to the next level. I had never thought of creating a company, but since I joined the family group, I have plenty of ideas.
What opportunities do you have to attract women into the industry?
To promote our field and work opportunities, we need training. Very few women know about us and are usually trained to work either in transport or in mechanics. Overall, I think women will settle and succeed in companies where they find values that are matching their personal ones and where they could get flexible time.
Is it a commitment of yours to achieve gender equality within your company?
Professional equality is a very important topic for us. We make sure that for the same work and experience, the salary and recognition are the same for everyone. We don’t have a full parity yet as it doesn’t really depend on us, but more on the industry we are evolving in. Among our branch managers, we have more women than men, but in the workshops, there are only men because there are still too very few women who pick these technical fields.
How do you see your company in 10 years? What are your ambitions and hopes in terms of recruitment?
In 10 years, I would like us to have a network of national agencies.
The employer brand will make a difference to attract and retain talent and a woman at the head of the company will be able to grasp the subject and make it her own strategically so that we could continue to grow.