Situated in the history-steeped region of Alsace, dotted with picturesque half-timber buildings, and renowned for its impressive cathedral—the city on the rivers Rhine and the Ill proves that water doesn’t divide, but rather connects. Right on the German-French border, Strasbourg has acted as a bridge between the two central-European countries—both historically and economically—cementing a remarkable friendship, despite all differences. A special place, where Bechtle has also been at home for the past 19 years.
As a European Union capital, Strasbourg is the headquarters of numerous institutions such as the European Parliament and the European Court for Human Rights. Additionally, several higher-education institutions make the city a centre for education and science. While the impressive old town is always busy with visitors from all around the world Strasbourg and the surrounding area are also highly interesting for many French and foreign companies from a financial point of view. In March 2000, Bechtle founded a trading company here. On bechtle.fr, French customers can access tens of thousands of IT products from established manufacturers—in French and via a tailored bios® portal—in order to optimise their procurement process. Direct sales by phone are, however, still highly popular. And not only because of Bechtle’s ever-growing consultation expertise, because when doing business in France, personal connection is just as important as performance.
IT with personality.
“Our history and strong regional connections in France mean that we favour contracts with local partners—the neighbours we know well. A structure, however, that’s slowly dissolving with the rise of globalisation,” explains Céline Schell, Head of Marketing, Bechtle direct France. The 90 employees in Strasbourg know how to manage both scenarios—not least through a combination of localised, personalised sales and the international expertise of the Bechtle Group. A concept that’s been successful. Bechtle direct France today counts as one of the most important players on the French IT market. It’s managed to make a name for itself on a simple premise: “We don’t just focus on digitalisation, but also a sense of togetherness,” emphasises Alain Baselga, Managing Director, Bechtle direct France. “The interpersonal side of business is often neglected by our competitors, but it’s a quality our customers and partners often commend us on. It’s another type of Business Intelligence, if you will.”
A feel-good location
It’s no surprise then, that when hiring new employees, Alain Baselga sets great store on friendliness and enthusiasm. The team currently consists of 43 women and 47 men, but the balance of genders is no coincidence—it’s of high importance to the executive board. Two years ago, an additional floor was added to encourage unhindered growth, bringing to the ten year old building space for projects that boost the feel good factor. “Relaxation zones in the open air, attractive break areas with table football, pinball, and games consoles, in addition to living-room style meeting rooms don’t just foster a sense of togetherness, but also help break down widespread French hierarchies and traditional codes,” Alain Baselga explains. In addition, there’s a versatile conference area that can be used for customer presentations, video shootings and as a showroom. And all this just 30 kilometres away from the gates of the city centre—the heart of Europe.
Which are the important factors in a customer relationship?
Alain Baselga: Listening! My guiding theme is maintaining a real, interpersonal relationship. Men and women that actually talk to each other, can construct a joint project and fully understand each other’s point of view. In this way, we can make our obstacles into something positive and use them to create new strengths.
What challenges does the French market pose in particular?
France is a large country and its many and varied regions—each with their own culture—play a large part in every-day life. In business terms, it means that contracts are often awarded locally, because it’s easier to trust your immediate neighbours. At the same time, France is, in many respects, a highly centralised country with large focus on Paris. And outside of the capital there are exciting industries—such as the aerospace industry in Toulouse and the food industry in the West.
What sets the Bechtle France team apart?
We have employees with extremely varied profiles working with us, due to the fact that we have flexible hiring criteria. Everyone that can and wants to help Bechtle succeed, in their own special way, has a chance. This often requires a lot of managing, but ensures that we have a vibrant team that never stops evolving and is prepared for any change. This is important, because as I see it, decisions taken about the future today shouldn’t be set in stone. We need to be able to change or even reverse them—not on a whim, but rather because we need to adjust them to a changing environment. This skill is very strong in our team.
Do you have a special Bechtle moment?
Just one? So many! What I find really moving is that even in difficult times like the attacks on Paris and the death of a young colleague, we all came together and supported each other as one. It touches me deeply to see that Bechtle is, above all, a team of individuals that are there for one another.
What motivates you?
Our ability to play an important role in the IT sector and hold a high position on the market. In the 19 years that we’ve been active in France, metaphorically speaking, we’ve built the first two floors of a skyscraper. All the other floors and the business that will thrive on them are still to be thought up, constructed and created for a future bright with Bechtle’s colours. I love the idea that when I finish my working life, I will have left behind me a structure that is still taking shape.
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The historic old town with the 142 metre high Strasbourg Cathedral is a must for anyone visiting the city. La Petite France (Little France) with its narrow streets, 16th and 17th century half-timbered houses and canals invites you to stroll around. And Grande-Île, literally “large island”, was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 1988.
Wine lovers are recommended to stop off at the historic wine cellar of the Strasbourg Hospice, founded in 1395. There you can see the oldest white wine—from 1472! Unfortunately, you can’t drink it. But if you have time on your hands and fancy a drink, the 157 kilometre wine route snakes through typical Alsatian villages—a feast for the eyes and the palate!
During Advent, the famous Strasbourg Christmas Market—or “Christkindelsmärik” as they say in Alsatian—is well worth a visit. And there are more markets, events and Yuletide decorations and lights in the surrounding towns and villages—each more festive than the last.
Alsatian cuisine is rich and hearty. A good example in the heart of Strasbourg can be found Chez Yvonne, where Helmut Kohl and Jacques Chirac dined in 1995.
At the Tire-bouchon (Corkscrew), a cosy inn atmosphere reigns and you can enjoy typical dishes such as Baeckoffe (meat hotpot) or Bibeleskäse (fried potatoes with a creamy cheese dip).
A little outside the centre, in Strasbourg’s largest park, you’ll find Le Buerehiesel. If you love frogs’ legs, this is the place for you. And it has a Michelin star.
The most traditional Flammkuchen are generally to be found in the villages around Strasbourg, where there are as many types as there are restaurants. A particularly good example is Le Marronnier in Stutzheim. Good to know: Flammkuchen are usually only served in the evening.
Strasbourg is a pedestrian-friendly city, and accommodation in the centre of town isn’t hard to find. Here are our two top recommendations:
The lifestyle hotel Boma is both brand new and quite exciting.
The Régent Petite France hotel is situated in the heart of Strasbourg and will cater to even your most extravagant tastes.
Connoisseurs and lovers of French cheese will get their money’s worth at Maison Lorho, and probably won’t be able to leave this shop empty handed.
Aedaen Place is a hidden bar—one of the top trends of the moment in France. When you’ve found it, you can drink a cocktail, eat a pizza, read a book...
Summer in Strasbourg wouldn’t be the same without a glass of something nice on one of the bistro boats at Quai des pêcheurs. Another renowned square is the Place du marché Gayot—just a few steps from the cathedral. It’s wall to wall bars.
Need some air? Take a deep breath and zip-line over the Vosges mountains.
Every year the fit (and the brave) take part in the vineyard marathon which starts from Molsheim.
In winter, it’s well worth the one hour drive into the Vosges. There you’ll find the pistes of Bresse and Gérardmer
Published on Feb 7, 2019.