Not all business owners dream of passing on their business to their children or to the highest bidder. Sometimes an entrepreneur's path crosses that of a conscientious, hard-working employee who becomes a "natural" successor.
We head to Martigues in the south of France, 40km west of Marseille, to meet Gérard Loubet (the former head of Transbennes), Freddy and Rosy (the current managers) and Rémy Vandenbussche (their son, who is a driver with Transbennes). A lively discussion in the shade of the palm trees, one fine summer morning.
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From left to right : Juan RODRIGUEZ, Françoise DOBIGIES, Kevin RODRIGUEZ, Roberto TRECASSE, Alain PEREZ, Pascal COLOMBANI, Rosy VANDENBUSSCHE, Freddy VANDENBUSSCHE & Rémy VANDENBUSSCHE.
Can you introduce yourselves, in turn?
Gérard: My name's Gérard Loubet. I'm 72 and a half years old and happily retired. I began my career in transport at the age of 18, without a penny to my name. I knew what I wanted: a new Scania, and I got it on lease. Back then, you could start out with nothing; you couldn't do that today.
In 1986, I set up the Transbennes transport company.
Freddy: I'm Freddy Vandenbussche. I'm exactly 10 years younger than Gérard; in other words, 62 and a half (he laughs). I worked 6 years for the Belgian army before becoming a long-haul driver.
I joined Transbennes in 1996 as a driver.
Rosy: I was born Carmen, but everyone knows me as Rosy and calls me that. I'm Freddy's wife and co-manager, with him, of the Transbennes company since 2013.
Rémy: I'm Freddy and Carmen's son. I turned 30 this year. I passed my truck driver's license in 2013 and started working at Transbennes as a driver straight away: you wouldn't believe it, would you, from someone who gets sick in a truck... unless I'm driving, that is!
Gérard, can you give us a brief rundown on the history of Transbennes up until your departure in 2013?
Gérard: I set up Transbennes in 1986 in Martigues. I was working with my two brothers, Jacques and Alain, who were shareholders and drivers in the company. Ten years later, I bought out Transki, a small three-truck company specialised in short-haul goods transport. I merged the two companies to form a fleet of seven trucks.
That same year, in 1996, I took on Freddy as a driver.
I soon saw that he was hard-working and conscientious. The time came when I gave him a leg up and started to delegate some responsibilities to him. I knew that, sooner or later, I was going to stop working and I only had a daughter, who wasn't interested in taking over the company.
I had offers from customers who wanted to buy out Transbennes. When you've started a company from scratch, handing it over is not just a matter of money. There are feelings involved, too... and I'm sentimental about these things!
The drivers all knew that Freddy would take over from me. So it was only natural when I handed over Transbennes to Freddy and Rosy in 2013.
When you've started a company from scratch, handing it over is not just a matter of money. There are feelings involved, too... and I'm sentimental about these things!
Gérard Loubet, Former head of Transbennes
Freddy and Rosy, how did the handover go?
Freddy: I won't pretend otherwise: when I officially took over from Gérard, it was hell. The other drivers were jealous, even if they had known for years that I was going to take over the company.
Rosy: They thought that Gérard had just given us the company...
Freddy: Rosy would wake in the middle of the night. The guys made our lives miserable. One after the other, they left the company. Then Rémy arrived. And gradually we rebuilt a good team with excellent drivers.
How do you share out the work today?
Freddy: It's important to point out that it was Rosy who obtained the certificate of professional competence. Taking over Transbennes was really a family affair for us.
Today, I take charge of the equipment and the men. The administrative side – including all the legal aspects – is Rosy's exclusive domain. For three years now, Rémy has been backing me up by handling relations with the drivers and the customers.
You could say it's a three-headed management team.
Our motto is "I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine", at every level.
Freddy Vandenbussche, Owner of Transbennes
Rémy, is it an obvious move for you to take over the company?
Rémy: I like what I do. I'm more demanding with myself than with the other drivers. I don't want people to see me as the boss's son who thinks he can get away with anything. I'm gradually moving up the ladder. Now I'm the most senior driver in the company. But I'm not putting any pressure on myself; we'll see what happens...
Freddy, is it important for you that the company stays in the family?
Freddy: If it works out that way, so much the better. But if it doesn't, it won't matter. At Transbennes, there isn't a boss - man or woman - or a boss's son; there's just a team of men and women (Rosy and a woman driver) who work in a good atmosphere. Our motto is "I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine", at every level.
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Transbennes ID card
· Established: 1986 by Gérard Loubet
· Date transferred to Freddy and Rosy Vandenbussche: 2013
· Number of vehicle registrations: 18 in all - 10 tippers and 8 tractor units
· Number of employees: 9
· Business: 85% is the transportation of lime and limestone