Lucien Besse (Shippeo) defends productive contradiction, Management

[Cofondateur en 2014 de Shippeo, une entreprise qui commercialise une solution SaaS de visibilité de transport routier en temps réel, Lucien Besse a mené de très belles levées de fonds. Aujourd’hui, sa start-up a racheté Obone en 2020. Elle compte 200 salariés et une centaine de clients actifs dans 72 pays.]

How did you choose your collaborators, what were your successes and failures?A first element of context before answering: we created the company with six partners at the beginning. We are six co-founders. When you start a company with six, you almost have a small volleyball team running to work on a project. We didn’t have any immediate needs for the first few months because we tried to bring all of our team’s skills together from the beginning.

In everyday life, everyone has a lot of responsibility in the teams in which they work. Some take care of the operation, others of Tech, others of the product… Each one has their area of ​​responsibility.

Today we are almost 200 people. Our first recruits allowed us to build the product. It was a rather vital recruitment… We didn’t have a computer coder to develop the first platform. The first recruits involved IT engineers, developers who helped us build the product.

If I had to redo recruiting a different way, we could bring people into the company a little sooner with a greater experience, to help us structure the teams. We find ourselves in an inverted pyramid scheme. We started by building the team and then we said to ourselves that there were too many of us, that we needed a manager for this team.

Obviously, among those recruited, some became managers and evolved with the company. However, I think we could have brought in even more seniority early on. Establishing a solid foundation helps you accelerate faster. There is possibly a slight slowdown effect at the beginning, because these people have to be integrated, so that they put into practice the processes they are used to working with. But once everything is in place, we have a much more efficient delivery machine.

The second thing we could have done differently is build a sales team faster. We may have lost some time. Unfortunately, this commercial role is somewhat underrated in France, especially in the tech world, when in fact it is a key role.

What are your daily priorities as a manager? My first priority is to make sure that the things I consider a priority have a response time less than twenty-four hours. I create my backlog like an IT developer who needs to list his tasks. I try to get myself this hygiene. I like to work applying the concept of zero inbox, that is, I don’t have anything else to do as a priority at the end of the day.

For the rest, I try to give the people I work with as much autonomy as possible and not micromanage anything. Each week, in my one-on-one interviews with each manager, I prefer to focus on the issues they need to discuss or have questions about. All my collaborators are better than me in their areas. What I can bring to them is a form of hindsight, knowledge of the market and Shippeo that by definition is quite unique as I was at the origin of the company. I help them reflect on this knowledge, on the market and the environment, rather than trying to challenge them on technical matters. If I could challenge one of my collaborators on a technical issue, it would mean I didn’t recruit right.

Have you implemented innovative management methods?Innovators, I don’t know. We have always avoided the very “innovative” management principles that we can see in some start-ups, such as discretionary vacations or absolute salary transparency. I’m not sure this would have served a virtuous purpose for Shippeo. I have never refused a leave request or a request for clarification on salary or any other matter.

The best management method is simplicity in interactions and the fact thatalways be open to others. At Shippeo, we encourage a lot of significant disagreement: everyone has the right to have their say on everything. Sometimes it’s upsetting because you might find yourself in a meeting with a team member who has nothing to do with the issue saying to a founder “no, but wait! You say anything and I have another opinion. But I don’t know anyone among my associates who would take it badly. It is an important value for us to allow people to express themselves.

One of our values ​​is simplicity, especially in the way people interact in the company. But we don’t have a completely flat organization where nobody manages and where we would be like in a kibbutz! It’s not our modus operandi. But a managerial stratum should not prevent the person below or above from interacting with his colleague.

The author:

President and Founder of Ivy, Pierre Aussure is a high-level professional headhunting. This text was taken from his book “Le Courage de l’Audace. 12 days of French technology entrepreneurs”, published in January 2022 by Dunod editions, 224 pages, 18.50 euros.

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