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Samuel Lebain
Samuel Lebain

CEO at Unifer Environment

Samuel Lebain, who graduated from EM Normandie in 2004, rose through the ranks and even ended up taking over the company where he worked. Today, he is CEO of UNIFER and has managed to triple his company's turnover. Find out more about his career path.

Graduating at EM Normandie

I followed the Specialised Master in Entrepreneurship. With my engineering-oriented profile, I could see myself joining a Parisian company in the field of new technologies.

Joining a company in Le Havre after graduation

At the time, I had applied for a job with UNIFER Environnement, a small business based in Le Havre with about twenty employees and specialised in the field of waste recycling. I first worked on the company's IT reorganisation for a few months and then I led various projects within this company.

A relationship of trust was established with the CEO and I quickly obtained responsibilities by becoming project manager, then business manager and then assistant director before taking over the company. Beyond the world of recycling, which I discovered and found fascinating, it is above all a matter of people.

Graduating the ranks in the company

I gradually worked on bigger and bigger projects, including managing the company's move. The CEO gave me a budget of 3 million euros when I was only 25 years old. She already trusted me a lot. I managed the setting up of the offices and buildings and chose the partners. I feel that, with hindsight, my choices were good but if I had made mistakes, it could have had serious consequences for the company.

Following the move, we have grown very quickly with a site ten times the size of our previous one. I really appreciate my manager's ability to delegate such an important task. As a manager, I find it more difficult to delegate nowadays. I find it hard to trust others 100% even though I try to do this work on myself.

I have put a lot of effort into all my projects and my business in general. I never counted my hours and acted like it was my own company. You quickly take ownership of this small to medium-sized company.

Living the luxury of autonomy

You can only experience this in an SME because this type of company gives you access to everything. I organised my work as I wished and had very little accountability. I had the schedule I wanted even though I was working a lot. I imposed my own work rhythm and the division between sales, implementation, project management, certifications, quality, etc. I was not driven at all and I gave it my all as if it were my own business.

From employee to the company manager

I was at the very beginning a project manager and I became deputy director after 3 to 4 years. A few years later, I became the director and my CEO remained the president. A little later, she wanted to sell her company and I accompanied her in this process.

After several failed sales, the person commissioned to sell the company to a third party finally offered me to buy it. At the time, I was only 35 years old and did not have the money to do so. This person worked on a financial package to enable me to buy the company, and that's what I did.

Leveraging the network to buy the business

What helped me with the buyout was that for several years I relied heavily on my network. I was part of several entrepreneur and management clubs, which allowed me to meet the right people and make myself known. It is important to be well surrounded and not to be too "greedy". Initially, I only bought 80% of the shares and my partner held the rest of the company.

I was lucky enough to have vendor credit from my CEO who trusted me. This allowed me to borrow less money from the bank. I was also in the "Entreprendre" network which gave me grants and honorary loans to bring money into the company. I also benefited from the Initiatives scheme at the CCI of Le Havre. Altogether, I managed to build up a nice budget.

I finally managed to buy back the shares I was missing and recently bought back the shares of my partner. So it's something that can be achieved if you are well supported, well surrounded, and well advised.

Harvesting the fruits of growth

Once I took over the company, the market really went in the direction of growth. I had bought a company and a site. Today we have four different sites and have tripled the turnover to €16 million. We have gone from 30 to 65 employees. Recently, I took over a site in a slightly different activity around recycling. The company's profitability is good. I am lucky to have a good team around me and motivated people.

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