Since Guillaume Tardy took over the company in 2010, MCA Handicap has quadrupled its revenue and expanded its offering to include home adaptations for people with disabilities. We talk to Guillaume about how he sees inclusion.
Is it possible to head up a specialist disability support company without being personally affected? “Probably not” says Tardy, citing his own personal and often painful experience with two brothers with disabilities, sometimes seeing people cross the street to avoid them.
These experiences were formative for his career. In college in 2009, Guillaume Tardy had a placement opportunity at MCA Handicap, a company in Haute Savoie specialising in equipping vehicles for people with reduced mobility. When the then director decided to sell the company, buying it in December 2010 seemed the natural next step. He wanted to grow the company’s business by offering tailored support to customers with good products at a fair price. And it worked.
In barely 9 years, MCA Handicap’s revenue increased four-fold from €200 K to more than €900 K, powered by its new business of home adaptations, installing equipment like outdoor ramps and stair lifts. In Guillaume’s opinion, the potential of this market is seriously under-estimated. “This is a market like any other, but one that calls for a staunchly ethical approach. Since this is how we operate, it’s natural that we should be the market leader.” Other growth areas mentioned by Mr Tardy – a native of Savoie – relate to the increasing incidence of life events like strokes affecting people under 30, as well as the challenges and opportunities of catering to the needs of an ageing population of baby boomers. “By helping people to stay mobile, they can continue to be independent. And fostering independence is a big public health issue!”
Jobs & disability: opportunity to accelerate growth
Inclusion – especially of people with disabilities – may be in vogue, but Guillaume is clear that there’s still work to be done. “We’re still trailing far behind our Nordic European neighbours, especially when it comes to employment. A disabled person in the Nordic countries has full access to employment, but the situation is much more complicated in France. Yet, what’s to stop someone from working at a desk even if they’re unable to use an arm or a leg?”
MCA Handicap recently hired a disabled person with an excellent track record. “Our new salesperson immediately won over our customers. He fully understands the challenges they face and spares no effort to make things as easy as possible for them. The new addition to our staff has also been good for the rest of the company. Of course, it hasn't all been plain sailing and there’s no magic spell. We had to make the investment to adapt his workstation and, because of the rare disease he suffers from, he can’t always work full-time. But, the arrangement works perfectly. We had to ask ourselves the same question as a recruiter would ask when considering hiring a pregnant woman: should I not hire this person because she’ll be going on maternity leave and later be taking time off to care for a sick child? Our attitude in society as a whole has to change and we all have our parts to play .
Measured and local
In contrast to the global focus on fast growth, Guillaume’s strategy concentrates on steady growth anchored in the local community to stay closely connected to his customers. “We're leaders in both the Savoie and Haute Savoie regions, and that’s fine by me. I prefer to invest in making our customer service even better.” MCA Handicap plans to open a new store in Villaz near Annecy. Their approach is to offer the best products to tackle reduced mobility and also provide information on what help is available, which is not always well known.
“Like I said, we all have the power to transform how society views disability. This is why I wanted to challenge the stereotypes and put the shop on the first floor and not the ground floor. Of course, a person with reduced mobility can get to the first floor. We just have to adapt the environment to the person, and not the person to their environment!”
People with disabilities have skills and their own individual expertise to share, giving an as yet unexplored source of value for business.
Guillaume Tardy, Director, MCA Handicap
Guillaume’s commitment extends beyond the walls of the company. He teamed up with four business friends and founded an organisation promoting a very positive image of services to the disabled. “As a regular at the Musilac music festival at Aix-les-Bains, I realised that the VIP area wasn't accessible to people with reduced mobility. The organisers accepted my suggestion for an accessible VIP space, which led to a very exciting initiative.
We raised €100,000, most of it from private donors. The funds were used to create a new VIP area for guests with reduced mobility and, most importantly, to offer tickets for people with disabilities to attend events with their families and friends. For me, this is an example of positive inclusion that recognises that everybody belongs in the flow of life. As a businessman, I’m determined to rally other business leaders to be agents of change.
A vision shared
Guillaume Tardy has been a Societe Generale customer since he took over the company. The bank provided the financing for the new store. “Societe Generale trusted me right off, which I put down to the very close relationship we’ve built up. And I know that the bank supports the disabled, backing top parathletes, for example. Our shared vision of the future binds us closer together.”
Looking to the future
Asked about how he sees the future, Guillaume says that he’s taking a fresh look not only at how the “able-bodied” view disability, but also at companies’ attitudes. “People with disabilities have skills and their own individual expertise to share, giving an as yet unexplored source of value for business.”