You don’t choose entrepreneurship; entrepreneurship chooses you. A great entrepreneur, by their very nature, is instinctive and instinct—when you listen to it—will always guide you in the right direction.
In my case, that gut instinct has always driven me to projects that I wanted to test and execute. Combined with this is an unquenchable sense of curiosity and a desire to prove myself. I love these ‘intellectual puzzles’, as I call them. This is exactly what entrepreneurship is about for me. It keeps life fresh and exciting. Moreover, it is actually a way of life in itself, and is something that defines who I am.
If I could highlight a few of the rules that I live by as an entrepreneur, I would first emphasize that while having a passion for what you do is necessary, it’s not enough on its own.
Neither is motivation enough by itself. It can expire quickly, and is also subject to mood, especially when the chips are down. As an entrepreneur, you have to be resilient because the harsh reality is that you will fail… many times over.
Discipline, practice, perseverance and a strong mindset, therefore, are what have helped me to succeed, and will help you too. Ambition and drive, meanwhile, are what enable me to keep fighting for my projects during tough times.
Expanding upon this, the second thing I could not do without is vision. No matter what project I decide to focus on, and lead to completion, I make sure to have a strong, and rock-solid (yet constructively adjustable), vision of my goal and what I want to achieve.
A clear plan of action is essential. I often meet people with lots of dreams, yet no plan of action. These lifelong dreamers spend their lives wondering why things never seem to move forward.
A plan of action, one that is concrete and carefully defined, turns that vague dream into a realistic and achievable goal.
As an entrepreneur with a buzzing mind, every day I have countless ideas and options available to me. It would be all-too-easy to be all over the place, attaching myself to projects I feel could work or starting new ones that seem interesting. Yet I never operate in this scattergun fashion as I would lose myself.
I always focus on implementing one or two things at a time, no more, and I never start a new venture without having first implemented those in front of me. Choosing projects wisely is vital if you wish to succeed with any of them.
Additionally, I always keep in mind that a business needs to be profitable. I could be spearheading what I think is the greatest venture in the world but that’s just my opinion. The numbers, however, speak for themselves. If the figures aren’t where they need to be then it means one thing: I’m doing something wrong, and I need to adapt my vision. As an entrepreneur, you cannot afford tunnel vision with your projects, as much as you are fond of them. This prevents adaptability, and we all know what happens in nature when an animal can’t adapt to its environment.
With each project I undertake, I make clear notes with a time frame specifically related to the investment made and the financial results required at that stage, assuming that the initial plan of action has been executed properly. If the numbers don’t match my predictions then I never allocate more time. I immediately switch strategy because there’s clearly a problem somewhere within the current plan. Not for nothing is it said that ‘madness’ is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.
By making sure that all my projects generate a substantial amount of money within a given time frame, I also stop myself from getting involved in projects which include ‘intermediaries’. I’ve found that where there are too many middle links in the chain, you rarely generate substantial income. Such ventures are, frankly, a waste of valuable time that could be better allocated to more profitable ones.
As such, either I am the direct funder and have a direct hand on the ins and outs of the cash flow, or I settle a partnership with the founder/owner directly. I don’t deal with intermediaries as this is the quickest way to stop a project dead in its tracks. You simply end up getting lost in the amount of options, projects, and ideas coming to the table every day.
This brings me to my next point: learn by doing. This is non-negotiable. The planning phase is only 20 per cent of a project. Don’t make it last forever. Just jump in and do; and roll with the punches. It’s OK if you fall along the way; you’ll stand up again… even if it’s just to fall again the next time. I’ve learned from every bruise, picking myself up and setting off again, keeping that all-important goal in sight at all times. Entrepreneurship is a journey that involves constantly looking for the next challenge and not sitting on your success, since there is always someone, somewhere, eager to push you out. Adapting and keeping at it, every single day, is absolutely key.
Planning is a safe and comfortable nest. It gives hope and energy, to the point that if we are not careful we remain a lifelong planner! The execution is what really matters, and this is where my plan, my resilience, and my adaptability are tested.
In order not to waste time and energy, I focus my mindset on going into execution as soon as possible. One of my other rules, therefore, is to move into execution at the earliest opportunity, even if the plan of action and research lack a few details.
The next rule comes hand-in-hand with execution. At some point, you will realize that you cannot do everything alone. This can be hard to admit when you are used to micromanaging everything, as I am. For quite some time I had an intense fear of delegating.
When you first start making money, my advice is to hire a personal assistant. This will save you a lot of time and energy, so that you can focus on the key tasks; those that only you can do. However, I never delegate before I fully understand the task I’m delegating. If you want the people you hire to execute your vision, you have to give them clear instructions. This is impossible without having practiced and tested these yourself first.
Last, and this one is very understated I think, don’t waste money on status symbols. You are above that.
I have noticed repeatedly how many of us like to project a certain lifestyle image, or the idea we have of it, as an entrepreneur. This means that often, when one first starts making money, they immediately start buying luxury cars, designer clothes and so on. They are not investments as they depreciate in value over time.
Production means nothing when you have a problem with consumption.
As an entrepreneur, your focus should be on the growth of your businesses and assets, as well as on strategically diversifying your streams of income. I always make sure to reinvest what I have earned into other endeavours that have the potential to produce additional income.
As an example, I have a passion for travel and real estate, so one of my main pipelines of investment is properties in different countries. I take immense pleasure in researching foreign markets and spending time on location to explore which real-estate investments are the most rewarding and best fit with what I have in mind.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ENTREPRENEUR MATHILDE VUILLERMOZ
We speak to self-made multi-millionaire Mathilde Vuillermoz, founder of MV Worldwide, about her motivations, daily routine and areas of business interest.
Q. What first prompted you to follow a path as an entrepreneur?
A. I have always been someone who is extremely independent. I love handling my own projects, starting them from scratch as if they were a completely blank page. This gives me an intellectual rush that is very addictive. I have actually always preferred projects that have no ground—nothing—and need to be entirely created, developed, and nurtured until completion.
They make me feel like an architect and the feelings I get from this have no comparison. Back when I was younger it used to be very small projects, and then they became bigger. As I emphasised, you do not choose entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship chooses you. It is instinctive. It comes organically. For me it has always been that way. I could tell I was simply never comfortable when being given instructions or told what to do. I like to follow my own way. Always. Even if it is more risky or if I make mistakes, I love the idea of relying on myself only. At the end of the day I have complete faith in my instinct and my journey. I think we all have a gift and need to identify and develop it. For me, this is entrepreneurship.
Q. What do you think are the key psychological traits that every entrepreneur needs to succeed?
A. Without a doubt, perseverance is the key one. Without this, nothing works. If you want to become successful as an entrepreneur then you will have to take perseverance and hustle to a whole other level. Because failures happen often, and they hit hard, they will make you question everything and can sometimes take you to the darkest places, emotionally speaking. It is hard to pull ourselves from this, when it seems that all hopes are gone and a project is just completely dead despite our relentless efforts and dedication.
It takes a lot of perseverance and resilience to come out of repetitive failures, learn from them and keep fighting
As an entrepreneur you absolutely have to learn to take full responsibility, always—no matter what external circumstances came in the way. It is all on you, even if you are not directly responsible. It is on you. Own it.
Versatility, flexibility and adaptability are key as well. You absolutely need a clear vision; a vision you are passionate about yet, by implementing it and executing this vision, you need to be willing to make adjustments and acknowledge when they are necessary, or you will be stuck in a “tunnel vision” and that will prevent your projects from growing.
Likewise, decisiveness is absolutely key to succeed. You need to know how to lead, that is prioritizing tasks and making decisions clearly, sometimes very quickly and under intense pressure. Last, I would say that risk-taking is a psychological trait that is absolutely essential as well. The world of entrepreneurship is crowded, and extremely cut-throat and competitive. In order to stand out you cannot be afraid to take risks, so that you can bring your projects to the next level. You have to dare. It is essential. If you feel comfortable then it means you are not growing. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone, don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. I would extend persuasiveness to risk-taking because to me they go hand-in-hand. Along the way you will need to be a brilliant negotiator, so that you can bring the best collaborators on board. Being able to persuade effectively and intelligently, without sounding pushy, is key. This is a balance that is not necessarily easy to reach.
Q. How do you spot new business opportunities?
A. For this I am someone who relies 100% on instinct.
It can be anything. I am very diligent with the readings I do every day, which focus on business, finance, tech, lifestyle, psychology, real estate, architecture, and politics mostly.
While reading, I will feel that something could be a great opportunity and needs further investigation. I always read with an open mind. My instinct guides me and I love researching and investigating in depth. Same when it comes to my environment. I travel so extensively because it feeds my brain with a ton of ideas, simply by observing cultural differences everywhere and seeing the day-to-day life of people in many corners of the world. This is also how I spot opportunities.
Entrepreneurship becomes a lifestyle, so you absolutely develop a sixth sense, some sort of ’auto pilot’ mode, and you ‘feel’ it when something is worth exploring and can be turned into an outstanding opportunity. As an example, I love crypto buying and trading. I have always done it. Yet, by spending an extensive amount of time in Malta and Singapore, which are platforms for cryptocurrencies, I took this to another level by being exposed to opportunities and being able to forge key relationships I would not have had in London or Moscow, for instance.
Every market has its specialities, and in turn a wide range of extraordinary opportunities that come with it. You just need to be willing to get out of your comfort zone, be open, be present and learn from all this. Your instinct and sixth sense will then take over and guide you. This is what works for me.
The current pandemic has unlocked many doors for opportunities. That may not be obvious at first sight, especially if we get paralysed by fear and the anxiety that is all around us this year. Yet if we adjust quickly without looking back at the way the world used to be and, by focusing on the present, look past the “screen of smoke” and remain calm, times of crisis always offer the most outstanding opportunities, precisely because all is upside down and what used to be is no more. It is all about survival, adapting quickly and chasing new unlocked opportunities aggressively. Where there is turmoil there are also a lot of opportunities. I find this oddly, incredibly exhilarating. When it comes to real estate and intellectual properties, for instance, this pandemic has offered incredible opportunities. Hollywood has gobbled up book rights like never before since the beginning of the pandemic.
Some of my businesses have been negatively impacted in 2020 and it is easy to buy into the madness, panic and be negative. A skilled entrepreneur will make sure to remain positive and calm. I cannot emphasise it enough: mindset is everything. We are in absolute control of our mindset, even in the darkest times.
Q. What has been your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur to date, and how did you overcome it?
A. While I could list some key moments that I felt could have brought me down completely, I don’t consider them my biggest challenges.
Survival on a day-to-day basis is the biggest challenge as an entrepreneur. Without a doubt. Every day will bring an avalanche of logistic issues/emergencies and all sorts of problems I need to solve promptly and efficiently, because any of these problems has the potential to possibly make an entire project collapse if not handled properly. Some days, if my mood is lower than usual for whatever reason, or if I have just come out of a long, delayed flight, or anything that can potentially affect the way I approach things, a minor problem that could be solved easily might appear like a mountain to be climbed!
Other days—ones where, let’s say, I am feeling especially cheerful and emotionally up—I will have a huge problem to deal with and will solve that quickly without giving it any second thoughts.
We are humans, not robots, so, no matter what, we will be emotionally affected by what goes on externally. This is why I do not rely on motivation exclusively, as it is subject to moods. I rely on persistence and resilience.
Every day is a challenge with its own share of issues, and the biggest challenge is to be able to go through each day, adjust, adapt, and do my very best to keep thriving and surviving in a very competitive environment and bring my projects to completion. It is a race and, as an entrepreneur, you have to hold the distance. Once one of your projects has succeeded, you will immediately need to move on to the next. Do not expect to just sit there to savour your glory—it never lasts. You constantly need to be willing to challenge yourself and keep in mind that nothing is ever for granted. Success takes a long time to build, yet all you have built can absolutely collapse overnight. Never forget this. Be modest; be humble; remain calm. This is key.
Even when you succeed, you need to doubt. Doubting is healthy and necessary. It leads to pain, which in turn leads to growth. Without growth, the journey stops.
Q. You started your career as an international literary and film agent. What are the key things you learned during this time?
A. I have always been extremely intrigued by the way Hollywood works. This is a system that is insanely powerful and is used to shape and influence humans’ minds on a worldwide basis.
The agenda behind all this is massive. It is political; it is economic; it is sociological. Hollywood has enormous marketing power; they created the concept of ‘celebrity’ to enforce this. It is an industry that is all smoke and mirrors. It is an absolutely fascinating system.
My goal by becoming a literary and film agent was not to make it a career, since I’ve always had other business ventures in the pipeline, but to make it possible for myself to explore the Hollywood industry from an insider point of view, and by extension the publishing/media mechanisms more in-depth.
I had a lot of questions that needed answers. I got them all by being able to access the behind-the-scenes of this world, which to me used to be filled with question marks, prior to entering the industry.
I now only represent properties sporadically.
As a talent/literary agent, no matter how powerful or high up you get, you are and always remain the middle person. You are only an intermediary, a dealmaker, no matter how skilled you are. That means you are replaceable and have zero ownership on a project. As an agent you can, of course, get executive producing credits on some projects, yet this is a very minimal type of ownership and even there you are only the middle man without any real key decision-making power. Those who buy the rights to the intellectual property will be the ones having control and able to make the key decisions.
As someone who is passionate about nurturing projects and “owning” them, I could never have been fulfilled as a literary agent. I always knew this. It’s like renting a house when ultimately you want to be a property owner.
Q. What comprises your entrepreneurial portfolio at present?
A. I love following my interests and building lucrative business ventures out of them, and I only get involved in business ventures if they align with my goal and if I am passionate about them (following trends blindly out of fear of missing out is something I see a lot with entrepreneurs). Yet I do not like to tackle too much at a time, to make sure that none of my businesses are neglected.
I need to feel that the execution of each of my projects is fruitful and on track according to the financial plan I have set up for each. In short, they need to be lucrative.
If a business does not generate substantial financial profits then it is not a business, it is only an idea, a hobby.
As an example, I love buying and trading cryptocurrencies. More specifically, the combination of blockchain and artificial intelligence completely fascinates me.
I find trading incredibly addictive and exciting. I started out of curiosity in the very early stages of crypto. It is now a solid part of my activities, especially this year, and since I always need to be on top of the information because markets move so fast and are so volatile. I need to be ‘on’ all the time. It is very energizing. I started trading crypto years ago when it was not worth much and Bitcoin was mostly considered a complete joke, had almost zero credibility, and was not taken seriously. This is precisely why I was so curious about it. These past years, and more specifically in 2020, some of the most powerful cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple) have surged and several of them are still well below their peaks, unlike Bitcoin. There is much more to the cryptocurrency market than Bitcoin. We are without a doubt, very slowly but surely, heading towards cashless societies, which makes cryptocurrencies even more fascinating at the moment.
Cryptocurrencies are part of a complex system that completely depends on the economic climate. They are, therefore, highly volatile and speculation is a huge part of the game. There is a lot of gambling involved in the process and I would recommend anyone to spend a very, very large amount of time educating themselves about cryptocurrencies before trading/investing. It took me years to acquire the skills I now have. And I made a lot of (very costly!) mistakes along the way. They were part of the learning process, which is absolutely necessary.
I meet a lot of people who do not know much about cryptocurrencies and now want to ‘invest in Bitcoin’ because they ‘read in the news’ that it is surging. I think Bitcoin is becoming way too popular. Winning in the cryptocurrency world involves a lot of instinct and vision when it comes to which cryptocurrency will surge next. If it is already surging then I would say it is (almost) too late to invest.
I also work a lot in real estate, with private clients who want to sell or buy off-market only. Chasing the most outstanding and unique properties worldwide, knowing the markets; this takes a lot of time and extensive research. It all comes down to building the most efficient global network of properties, knowledge, information, and people. It is a whole system that took me years of hard work to build.
In addition, I have a passion for marketing, so working with brands as a consultant, to build social media campaigns, which I do through my MV Worldwide talent agency, is something I do regularly, and I also manage some carefully-chosen YouTubers. I love managing talents; this will always be a part of what I do.
I still have a solid foot in the film world as I am involved in film and TV financing, and still sporadically represent a few properties as a literary and film agent.
And last, but definitely not least, I invest extensively in startups, mostly in BioTech, MedTech and FinTech. I love spotting and researching unique opportunities worldwide. I love the risk such financial investments imply. Sourcing smartly takes a big part of my time. This also allows me to meet absolutely fascinating individuals, who are incredibly ambitious and consumed by their projects.
When it comes to time management, as an entrepreneur you have to be able to be flexible because all is very volatile so you cannot be too academic and have a hard rock-solid schedule with specific time slots allocated to certain tasks. This is not university. There is no clear, detailed schedule. You have to be able to adjust to the motions of life, the sometimes-drastic ups and downs of the markets worldwide. This is absolutely key.
The economy will always be a rollercoaster. Adapt quickly; diversify your streams of income; think wide and see the world as your business playground; become familiar with many countries since all have completely different cultural systems and business logistics; get multiple foreign citizenships by investment and a passport portfolio that fit your current life situation and criteria in order to spread your wealth and assets in countries where you can maximize the return on investments based on your activities; and seize the opportunities. Many tend to think that economic crises (I prefer the term “economic resets”) are a complete tragedy. As I explained earlier, as an entrepreneur, I chose to see them as a huge, massive flow of new business opportunities, because everything is upside down and what worked becomes entirely obsolete, unlocking the door to previously unexplored opportunities. This is why being observant and alert is essential. Don’t panic. Observe, plan, strategize, remain calm and efficient. The current crisis (reset) is only starting, therefore anticipation and flexibility are key. Over the next couple of years, we are about to see a complete reshape of the system we knew and were familiar with.
Q. What keeps you motivated, and how do you define success?
A. Curiosity is what keeps me motivated. Everything I start I do so to satisfy a curiosity. If I am not intrigued, my level of motivation drops to zero. I love to be intrigued by projects, by people, and by specific locations in the world. Without this curiosity rush, my motivation is absolutely non existent, no matter how hard I try to force it! Curiosity is for me what activates the mechanism of motivation, before anything else. I love challenges when it comes to business, because they always start with these big, intriguing and often intimidating question marks in my head. Intellectual puzzles that need to be solved, as I say. To me they give meaning to life. They make it colourful, unpredictable, surprising, and exciting.
Realizing my full potential is to me what defines success. Having potential and doing something with it is very different. Very few people have the willingness to grow and suffer for what they want.
Discipline is absolutely the key to pursuing my dreams and turning them into goals.
Success is a state of mind, unique to anyone. There is no right or wrong answer. Being in a state of peace with my own existence and feeling a sense of pride, excitement and satisfaction as it relates to my own personal journey is success to me. This means that what I may see as success may not be successful at all in the eyes of another person.
A lot of entrepreneurs are deeply unfulfilled because they are chasing ‘unicorns’—someone else’s definition of success. Every day you have to be able to wake up and feel that you are on purpose with a purpose that is very unique to you.
Ultimately, if what I am creating only fulfils myself, it is hard for me to feel successful. Leaving a legacy that outshines me is something that I am actively working at, and making sure that this legacy reflects the best parts of me and what I contribute to others.
In short, success to me is knowing and accepting that I am perfectly imperfect and that I will make mistakes while chasing my goals, but will do all I possibly can as a human to be able to learn and grow from them.
Q. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A. During my free time I am as far away as possible from screens (phone/TV/ laptop etc.), this allows me to retreat in my internal world and focus on my thought process so that I can in turn generate more ideas.
Hiking is something that helps me to ‘unplug’ when I need to gain objectivity in order to make a decision. I love the sound of silence around me. Deep and profound silence.
That also explains why I am so productive at night, I guess. The complete silence. I find that oddly beautiful and fascinating. I am an avid scuba diver. Being underwater, again a deeply silent environment, is incredibly calming and relaxing to me. It is another dimension really. I especially love scuba diving when it rains, getting down for hours, then resurfacing and swimming under the rain. This is one of the most relaxing feelings to me. I usually dive and swim in bad weather conditions. Those are the best. That also always reminds me of the immense power of nature and of how small we are as humans in front of it. It is extremely humbling. It puts me in my place. Nature can make us feel absolutely powerless over our own life and when I dive in deep, agitated waters, it is always a good reality check and a reminder of my place as a human, ultimately subjected to nature.
And, of course, I love reading, mostly French books from the past … Zola, Balzac, Rousseau, Maupassant, Proust, Chateaubriand. I connect with those emotionally more than with any other books. My brain and soul travel back in time when I open one of these books. Despite speaking many languages, my native French language touches me much deeper than any other language. It has the power to make me very emotional, which is not the case with the other languages I speak. Consequently, reading in French is always very special to me.