English translation of the interview done by the French Consulate of Shanghai in January 2016
Aurelien Rigart is an entrepreneur of the digital world. Let's look back on the development and success of this French entrepreneur managing IT Consultis, a start up he created in Shanghai.
Can you introduce IT Consultis and its development?
IT Consultis (ITC) is a digital agency I co-founded after finishing my studies four-and-a-half years ago, together with my brother Yoan Rigart and Thomas Guillemaud - who today, is ITC's COO.
(In order) Aurelien Rigart,Thomas Guillemaud and Yoan Rigart back when IT Consultis was created
Today, ITC is a team of 32 professionals from 8 different countries. We have designers, developers, project managers and consultants working together to deliver the following services:
- Digital strategy
- Art direction
- Web software
- Mobile apps
- Data management, CRM loyalty programs and system integration
The company has grown extremely fast over the last year; we've doubled our workforce and added big clients to our portfolio such as Budweiser, Decathlon, Stella Luna, Eram Group and Luxottica to name a few.
Our goal for 2016 is the same as last year and I must admit it's already going pretty well!
Our mission is to become a leader in the digital industry in China and we are of course going to continue working very hard to achieve this. We'll then think about a potential expansion into other countries.
IT Consultis family during last team building
IT Consultis team, almost complete, in the office
What are the main advantages and challenges of doing business in China?
The benefits are:
- Fast and steady evolution of the market
- Easy company set up
- Market is not fully mature yet so people are not too risk averse
- Increasing number of international companies wanting to set up in China
The challenge is for international companies to find a way through Chinese companies and attract the best local talents. This is actually going to be one of our main challenges this year.
What were the biggest achievements of the year and what are the coming projects for your company?
The biggest accomplishment in 2015 was to transform IT Consultis from a start up into a well established firm while maintaining the same essence: young, innovative, energetic and determined.
We've created dedicated departments for Marketing and Business Development, HR/Recruitment and Finance. In addition, we've started to hire senior talents including a Project Director and an Art Director.
The highlights of this year was the entry of 4 big names in our portfolio: Stella Luna, Budweiser, Sunglass Hut and another I can unfortunately not mention yet.
The objective for 2016 is to continue working hard and take build on the foundation we have solidified throughout the past 4 years. In 2016, we'll focus on bigger projects and on more advanced and complexed technologies.
On a personal level, it was the transformation from an entrepreneur to a business leader. The two jobs are very different from each other and I would be thrilled to talk more about it next time.
A team of developers at work
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs in Shanghai?
After 5 years of entrepreneurship, 7 components are essential to me.
Just go for it, there's no shortcut: There's a lot of books nowadays on 4 hour weeks or how to work less and still establish the best strategy... These books are interesting but they do not always match the reality. My advice would be to take actions. At some point, you need to stop planning, writing strategies and business plans, listening to every single person around you; just go for it and work hard, very hard. You have nothing to lose.
Lead the way and inspire people around you: It is crucial to be a leader. In other words to lead by example. Your colleagues will more likely want to work for someone who works 80h/week to make things progress, rather than a boss who is always taking selfies on the beach. You need to get your hands dirty and be on the frontline. An entrepreneur also needs to always anticipate and be one step ahead.
Invest in talents: Employees are the strength of companies. The more employees are skillful, the better the company's performance will be. It is necessary to always invest in R&D, training and employee development plans. It will serve you well.
It is also imperative to always back up your cash flow with a few months to ensure your employees are always paid on time. Even if sometimes, you can't pay yourself. This never has to be your employees' issue, just yours. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs forget this too many times.
Always deliver more than what is expected from you:
Don't focus on your ROI for the first years. Rely on a long term vision. It's obvious a start-up needs to be able to pay its salaries and finance a minimum of its R&D to start.
For a company to climb the ladder, it is necessary to compromise on a few elements in order to win a few market shares and sign bigger projects. Needless to say you need to prove yourself, especially in the beginning. This means always deliver more than what clients expect and always seek their endorsement over profitability.
Trust and rely on yourself: Most young entrepreneurs want to work exclusively with Venture Capitalists or Business Angels. If your project allows it and doesn't require massive investments; start with your own funds and make the necessary sacrifices. It is mostly when there's no financial back up or security than one takes the best decisions. One also takes better decisions when the money is from your own pocket. You need to trust yourself and go for it.
Remain humble and modest: After a few successes, an entrepreneur can see their ego take off rapidly. Several very interesting studies showed that most businesses die before their decision leaders actually realise it. Maintain a humble attitude to keep an eye on all signs and continue to constantly learn.
Know how to get support and believe in yourself: Being an entrepreneur, we learn everyday. Things are never easy. We need to solve 1,000 problems at a time and it just doesn't stop. An entrepreneur works 24 hours a day, all year long. Therefore, it is crucial to build an environment that you can rely on in the good as well as the difficult moments. Surround yourself with people who believe in you; family, loved ones or friends. They will be a precious support and your success will be theirs too.
Being an entrepreneur is an adventure that is worth living and sharing. The sooner the adventure begins, the better it is. So go for it!
Post-Interview edit: Being an entrepreneur does not necessarily mean being alone in the adventure. I chose to partner with Yoan Rigart and Thomas Guillemaud and I am glad I made this choice. It would have been much harder alone.
Last, I am thankful to all our employees, clients and partners for the trust they've put in IT Consultis.