Risk pays off for MS

This company is a perfect example of the type of entrepreneurship that our governments promote: an SME that achieves growth, creates jobs in France and exports its expertise around the world.

Created 1976 and based in Veyre-Monton near Clermont-Ferrand, MS is a company with a solid footing in a number of markets: the treatment and regeneration of drilling fluids, the cleaning of ores and aggregates and the decontamination of industrial waste discharges. With 75 employees, the company collects 80% of its revenue from abroad and exports its treatment facilities to approximately 50 countries.

However, six years ago MS experienced a rough patch. "The economic crisis came without warning," recalls Alexandre Guillaume, son of the company's founder and co-manager with his sister Cécile. "Suddenly, cement and construction companies froze their investments. The industry was at a standstill." It was a hard blow for the company, which had grown accustomed to success. "The orders coming in had given us plenty to do. We hadn't taken precautionary measures."

More innovation

What could they do? Freeze ongoing projects, stop spending and lie low? "Prudence called for such an approach, but we chose to take risks and look ahead," Alexandre Guillaume recalls. To begin with, the family decided to continue with the construction of 7,600m2 of office space and facilities, "a major investment for an SME of our size." At the same time, it developed a new strategy, got its teams working on R&D and decided to join a cluster of companies devoted to green technology (EEIA in Clermont-Ferrand): "We needed more innovation." Above all, the company refocused its business onto markets with stronger prospects. "We put the focus on the treatment of drilling fluids released by tunnelling machines, a promising opportunity with strong potential abroad, and for which we received very quick responses," the CEO explains.

A relentless drive to succeed

Within a few years, the company changed its size, orientation and client base. "From 2008 to 2013, the share of revenues generated from exporting doubled and grew from 50% to 80% of the business." Its traditional activity based on quarries and sand mines used to represent 60% of sales but now accounts for just a third. Today, MS is a global leader in the treatment and regeneration of drilling fluids from underground works and an impressive project portfolio that spans New York, Hong Kong, Cairo and Sydney as well as Lyon, where it has worked on an extension to the metro system. The gamble taken in 2008 in the midst of the crisis paid off. But nothing was assured at the outset. "We were aware of the risks but we proceeded with a relentless drive to succeed," concludes Alexandre Guillaume. When adversity strikes, boldness and willpower are invaluable allies.