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The key to success in Monaco

In life, you can have excuses or results, but you cannot have both. As an old friend of mine used to say, an excuse is worse than a mistake because when you do a mistake you at least tried all the things available. This is why I always tried to focus on results in my life.

Zsolt Szemerszky
Zsolt Szemerszky, chief editor of the Monaco Residents’ Magazine

Working for 13 years with Monaco Wealth Management and being the founder of Living in Monaco for ten years, I have been privileged to see multiple people and brands coming to Monaco. Although many have grown over the years, I can say that over 80% of the luxury businesses coming to the Principality of Monaco fail to capitalise on their true potential.

Entrepreneurs, advisors, and brands make similar mistakes, which however can guide us in the right direction if we are willing to learn from them and do things differently. 

In an interview many years ago, author Paulo Coelho said that in the cycle of nature, there is no such thing as victory or defeat, there is only movement. Defeat is for warriors… Failure is when you don’t have any more interest in fighting. Defeat ends when we launch into another battle. Meanwhile, failure has no end because it is a lifetime choice.

This thought has stayed with me ever since I read it, reminding me constantly to not give up on my goals.

When I was a kid, my mom always told me that she would buy me anything I want if I can collect half of its price. She always ensured me that I can have things if I put the work in them to get them. So since I was 12, I did small jobs in the neighbourhood, like mowing the lawn, shovelling the snow, and helping out here and there. It was hard work, but it taught me to appreciate everything I got in life and not take things for granted.

I was mostly confident growing up, but there were moments later when I temporarily neglected  my trust in myself. These are the times when somebody who cares can inspire and empower us to be courageous and to build up the most important thing in life, stability. 

And boy-oh-boy stability means multiple things to me, including but not limited to emotional stability, financial stability, being loved and surrounded by people who care for you, and more importantly, experiencing a level of success in all areas of life. No matter how small that is, it is important to be in a positive environment that recognises our values.

In the spring of 2010, I fell in love with Monaco and it was one of the best decisions of my life to move here. The Principality is safe and glamorous, but more importantly, it is filled with accomplished people. Residents who can motivate and help to accomplish success.

One of the first lessons I learnt in Monaco is that if you look at life through the framework of money, you will miss most of the picture.

In business, especially after living for 13 years in the Principality, you realise that ethics are not the same anymore and people plan incentives. As the average age shifted towards a younger population, the mentality shifted as well, becoming not just more competitive but also more materialistic.

I also realised that any job that makes you depend on others’ approval for your livelihood is not the right one.

I realised that the more I invested in myself to satisfy others the less I got to own of myself. It was a controversial feeling because I wanted to learn and develop but at the same time also maintain my integrity.

During these years, I have observed many entrepreneurs and brands who failed because of their lack of willingness to understand the local characteristics of the Principality of Monaco.

As I always say, the capitalisation of our personal and business potential highly depends on our willingness to learn and improve.

Zsolt Szemerszky, founder of ELEVATE Monte-Carlo
Zsolt Szemerszky, founder of ELEVATE Monte-Carlo

Rule number 1 for any business targeting Monaco residents is that simply putting a price tag on a product and shouting it around loudly is not enough. Trust is a very important factor because the luxury market is very unforgiving. 

It is very important to remember that everyone can see the price of the product, but not its value! Value has always been a relative concept, based on the personal judgment of the customer. Real luxury products never have an absolute value, a product is worth as much as the buyer is willing to pay for it. To accomplish this desire towards any brand, you need time.

Just as in any market, understanding your target group is the key to prosperity. This is the very first step before you hold any kind of event or invest in any marketing campaign. Just because every third resident is a millionaire in Monaco, they will not give you money on a golden platter. Most residents do not attend public networking events because people are always pitching them.

Monaco has a unique vibe with a friendly, but very closed community. There is nothing more powerful than being recommended by long-term residents and established local businesses. So, never underestimate the value of Monaco’s small and niche community because people talk.

Social capital is of the highest importance when you do something in Monaco because you need to target the right people. Many people believe that they can do the work themselves, however, they underestimate the value of a local partner. This is a huge and costly mistake. 

Working with trusted local partners can help you by providing the right connections, and getting you in touch with the right local businesses to reach out to your target group.

However, there are differences between global and local strategies. What works in New York or London, might fail in the Principality of Monaco. Just to give an example, most of the ultra-wealthy people I know do not do their own administration. They have the family office and personal assistance for these types of tasks, for marketing they have a PR agency, their Instagram is managed by the digital agency or social media manager and the emails are read by the secretary. It is nearly impossible to attract the ultra-wealthy with digital-only promotions.

What works in Monaco is to approach them at their private addresses. Meaning, an advertisement in a printed magazine that is delivered to their living room is a hundred times more effective than an Instagram campaign. Remember, Monaco has the highest concentration of high-net-worth people in the world and here the rules are different. It is a unique market that requires many years of experience and massive guidance for brands.

This is often the reason why brands fail when hiring people who previously worked with companies that are targeting the mass market.

Another big mistake that brands coming to Monaco make is expecting everything to be “discounted”.

For instance, working for a commission is a typical request I receive every day, which gives me the instant impression that the brand has no sufficient funds to live and breathe in the Monaco market and they don’t value the direct network we have.

I often smile when I walk around in Monaco and see for instance that private jet companies are advertising at the train station. Maybe I am wrong, but those who commute by train hardly can afford to travel by private jet. Again, understanding your target group is a key element to success.

In Monaco it is not about how many train commuters see your advertisement, it is how many people can actually afford it.

If you ask for the number of subscribers and visitors, the Monaco market will disappoint you because of the size of the country. But it will also prove your lack of experience in the high-net-worth market. Because quality is more important than quantity.

Luxury marketing is not about the number of people. It is all about the “who”.

If you want to create sales transactions then you need to take targeted approaches because ten people who can afford your product are worth much more than 1 million Instagram likes from people who are not in the area and who don’t have the necessary financial needs.

The luxury market needs significant funds and it is far less forgiving than the mass market which allows failed products to relaunch. To generate interest and convert it into an actual sale, you need to aim for the long-term game. Do not rush things because the market in Monaco is slow. Lack of time to build up relationships will end up losing opportunities and these are the cases when excuses become the idea. Aim for the synergy of understanding, educating, pre-qualifying, presenting, following up, and sales closing. These steps are equally important on the road to success in Monaco.

Usually, many people think that success is a straight line, from one point to the other. That it starts from A and ends in B. Just straight with logical steps and without any breaks or turns.

Obviously, to gain success you need to overcome obstacles and sometimes use your many years of know-how and experience to challenge the market. If you try something new, you never lose, however, you immediately lose when you give it up.

Developing a business is not easy and it is easy to get frustrated when things are not going in the right way. It was the same when I started Living in Monaco ten years ago. I was never angry in my life, it is not in my character, but at some point, things made me bitter. Thanks to the right people around me I realised that no matter what happens to you, you got to keep going and bitterness will compress and vanish on the way.

Personally, when I need some motivation I re-read my favourite book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” which has pushed me forward many times in life. The author, Dr. Spencer Johnson found the language and tools to deal with change, an issue that makes us all nervous and uncomfortable.

It is a book about four little mice. They are all looking for the cheese in a maze in a very changing and challenging time. The cheese represents their survival, cheese being a metaphor for what we want to have in life.

Sometimes we are all in a symbolic maze and our survival highly depends on our decisions, determination, and the influence of the people around us. This book has literally changed my life not once, but multiple times because I did not want to be stuck in the maze.

Once I heard at a conference that we are living an “ego life”. The term ego life seems to be true because many of us love other people around us for what they can do for us and not for the fact of who they really are. What has always motivated me was to be known and acknowledged for what I am doing.

Zsolt Szemerszky, Founder of the Elevate Monte-Carlo Space Conference
Zsolt Szemerszky, Founder of the Elevate Monte-Carlo Space Conference

I believe that community is everything and it fosters trust among each other which is a great treasure. Stay connected with your communities because you have so much more power in life when you are “together”. 

Last year, I turned 41 and realised that life is limited and we won’t stay here forever. Therefore, we need to appreciate it because it does not last forever and is precious.

Zsolt Szemerszky, David Yakobashvili, Victoria Logvinsky, Vitaly Malkin
Zsolt Szemerszky, David Yakobashvili, Victoria Logvinsky, Vitaly Malkin / ELEVATE Monte-Carlo Space Conference Gala Dinner

Coming without a background of support, I worked very hard to get to this point, to build up the Living in Monaco brand, Niche Media, Monaco Wealth Management, to inspire children through the ELEVATE Space Conference, and through the way Monaco has been so good to me. The people that I’ve met and the friendships that I’ve been lucky to develop, the memories that I made.

Looking back at the past decade, it was full of ups and emotional rollercoasters, and yet I can say what a special way to live my life and what a great reward to be settled in the Principality of Monaco!

I don’t take any of my friends, platforms, and financial existence for granted. What I learnt along the journey is that none of these would have been possible without the power of the local community and some special friends around me. 

Therefore, I can truly say that the key to success in Monaco is to surround yourself with people who can uplift and emotionally support you with your goals. Because if people believe in you and appreciate you, then you can reach the highest mountains.

Remember, it is about the “Who” not the “How many”.

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