Philippe Emond (Bilia-Emond): Real passion!
Having expanded from 9 to 380 employees over the last 30 years (and from 100 to 8,000 cars sold per year), Philippe Emond has the same common sense as his farmer grandparents. This passionate entrepreneur and builder even has a BMW logo tattooed on his calf. Interview.
Can you tell us about your life in brief?
As a child, I behaved like a disciplined dunce. Neither my time with the Marist Brothers nor my return to school in Virton enabled me to graduate. My father then offered me a job in the family business, which was a cross between a petrol station and a garden centre. I worked there for five years, without being paid, until I got married at the age of 24! I was very independent and I think my career was made possible by a generational conflict. When I was 20, I kept quiet; when I was 24, I grunted; when I was 28, I left! I went to see a BMW contact in Arlon and offered him my services: I didn’t have any references, so all I could say was that I was passionate! He sent me to BMW who chose to take the risk of entrusting a small dealership to a young man! At the age of 29, I became a BMW dealer and embarked on a period of debt which lasted 10 years! Step by step, the business and the building grew; in 2000, we built our “Big Machine”! Turnover doubled in 2 years and, in 2007, I invested in France where I set up 5 more dealerships. This experience has served me well in Luxembourg: integrating into the social fabric, finding the right locations and building each business, both literally and figuratively, is an uphill battle. I drove up to 100,000 kilometres a year when expanding.
“When faced with an oil field, some people bring buckets; others install a petrol pump: personally, I opt for a refinery!”
How did the opportunity for a dealership in the Grand Duchy arise?
The opportunity was there, but only major groups had applied to run the dealership: Swiss, English and Americans. The BMW Europe boss who had worked in Belgium felt that these buyers lacked local roots. He contacted me and I developed an agreement to work with a very strong Scandinavian group. I had to adapt to working with a listed company – you have to anticipate and plan the budget for the following year – but it was manageable. I started here in July 2016.
What’s your strategy?
When I walked around the dealership after I bought it, it felt very unfamiliar, not at all what I knew. I think the situation at the time reflected the fact that Luxembourg has long behaved as a market of buyers, rather than sellers. We all got down to work and I think we made significant progress, little by little. Décor, furniture, service, the business: everything has been worked on. We even had the car park covered in tarmac. We also updated the organisation chart to ensure that we provide an ideal experience for customers and our 160 employees. Each new recruit strengthens the entire team. The next step will be to build a new dealership near the Cloche d’Or. I hope to invite you to its opening in the first half of 2022. At the moment we have been given permission to demolish the existing building; I hope to receive permission to build soon.
Is your son a professional footballer at FC Nantes?
You know, in the Emond family, no son succeeds his father! (Laughs) I've tried to pass on a few values to Renaud and I'm proud to see that he's developed the courage, the capacity for work and the perseverance to reach the top level. I think humility plays a big role: he always arrives early and commits to sessions on top of those which are scheduled for the team. It's the same thing in the business world. I often tell my colleagues about a paradox which I like very much: humans have been looking for ways to economise effort for centuries, through their inventions or common sense, but in the end, the most successful are those who work the most. When it comes to energy, desire and dreams, there’s an inexhaustible supply. I think there are opportunities everywhere: faced with an oil field, some people bring buckets; others install a petrol pump: personally, I opt for a refinery!