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by Zsolt Szemerszky

Zsolt Szemerszky

The Dark side or Challenge

The Dark side or Challenge

Even if the Principality of Monaco sounds really attractive for you and your business, it has its own dark sides. This reflects also in the fact that most of the new residents are leaving Monaco in the first three years.

But to be fair, whether it is a dark side or not, at the end of the day it all depends on your mindset and your attitude. 

My advice for anyone is simple: Do not come here to lose, come here to WIN! 

And to be a winner as a foreign “outsider”, you have to be prepared for some major differences in the daily business methods and recognise that if something is different, it does not mean it is worse. 

One of the most common problems for foreign people is that the communications and the business decisions are very slow. I would say extremely slow… In most cases you can wait for two-three weeks for a call back, and this is considered to be normal. Sometimes you will get a reply to your e-mail only after two months. There is no such thing in Monaco as time sensitivity (especially with digital communications), and I believe there is a reason for this. 

There is a law in Monaco called Article 6., which basically says that as a business owner you cannot fire your own employee. If you, you will have to pay a serious penalty. This influence and controlling power of the government protects the employees and the residents of the Principality, but I truly believe that in many cases, it may slow down the business and the economic development. 

During the last four years, I have experienced many times that some employees become very comfortable in their positions; I would almost say lazy. This lack of motivation can really destroy ambitions, since it is very hard to implement any kind of changes. In many cases, it creates a lack of efficiency from the side of the employees. 

One of my worst experiences, which repeats itself from time to time, is related to my own ambition to get things done, which is sometimes mixed up with “pushing” things. Asking people after two weeks to answer to business conversations can cause in Monaco a resistance in the prospects. In most countries, you would consider it a form of disrespect if someone you have met does not answer your emails after a long time. Here in Monaco, it is a part of doing business as usual. Obviously, you can always find motivated partners as well and I would really suggest sticking with them. 

Based on my own professional experience, one of the biggest disadvantages of a company or business organisation is when its reaction is too slow to the market needs. This can be especially true when your company is aiming to enter a foreign market without adopting its business behaviour. 

Therefore, if you want to get rich in three months, Monaco is definitely not your country. When you relocate your business, you have to be prepared for much longer business decision-making. You will be faced with this from day one, because a typical business formation takes 6 months in Monaco, unlike in many countries, where you can form a company through an online government portal. This flexibility does not exist in Monaco. As I always say in my business lessons and writings, any kind of improvement comes from fully understanding the specific area. 

Yes, many people will say that they received immediate answers, but I would ask them to make a bold difference between whether they are spending money or asking for it. When you want to pay for a service you will be handled in a very exceptional way. However, when you are looking for a deal for a Monaco-based company to pay, that can be a different type of game. 

The biggest problem when you are trying to implement your business into this protective and very closed environment is coming from the fact that change is one of the most feared things after death. And as much as the Principality likes innovators, creative people, and sport personnels, Monaco does not like rapid changes in business developments.

The reason why it is frustrating sometimes is because I like to be in charge. When I am passionate about something, I like to grab the opportunity and to go for it. However, slow decisions can demotivate people.

One of my favourite life and business example comes from China. They teach the freedom of choice, and therefore, in China the word “crisis” is written with two symbols. 

The first symbol is called “Wei” and it means “crucial” or “danger”. Therefore, Wei is often referred to as “a time of danger”. 

The second symbol is called “Gee”, which means “opportunity” or “a time of opportunity”. 

So, in China the word crisis contains the “crucial” and the “opportunity” symbols as well. This is exactly the right philosophy of being a tiger or a rabbit in our life.

The decision is always yours! 

Yes, it can be nerve-wracking sometimes, but it is also great because nerves can give you an adrenaline push making you capable of achieving things you never imagined before. Nerves are not equal with fear. Fear is coming from your decision, and fear can crush you. Meanwhile, nerves are a reaction to a situation, and in most cases, it brings you more power to accomplish things. 

From my personal point of view, the one thing that I really hate in business is non-performance. Many people are lazy to do their homework or are simply just not ready to look around and challenge their situations. However, I have to admit that more than twenty-five years ago, I was the same too. I started to gain knowledge from books, but when something happened which was not written in books, I started to panic. 

After many years, I crossed paths with Dodo Newman, the artist, and she taught me one very important thing, which was to not give up my beliefs and a positive solution. She taught me to keep up the hard work and to continuously believe in my aims. 

I organised for her a speaking possibility at the Monaco Residents’ Club (Club des Résidents Etrangers de Monaco) back in 2012, where among many other things she said the following:

“Passion cannot be learned, cannot be faked or copied. It is something that burns like fire, and if not kept alive, it soon can burn out. 

When I first meet people, often their first impression of me is that my philosophy and the way of thinking is far away from the standards and sometimes they seem almost impossible.

I believe that impossible means = i m possible.”

– Dodo Newman

Most of us are ready to give up the fight without even realising that maybe we are already at the finish line. Thanks to Dodo, I realised that I can always challenge the existing because we are capable of improving things and innovating. 

Since then, it has become my philosophy that if you try something new, you never lose, however, you immediately lose, when you give it up.  And in Monaco you need to have persistence.

You can do the same old methods hoping to survive or you can take the opportunity and challenge the market. It is never easy as it seems, but it is easier to wait and do nothing. The truth is that there is always a way.

The other dark side is that I often hear in Monaco that success is dangerous. Since the Principality is very concentrated, the more you are in the spotlight, the more people are monitoring your steps. Those who are not ready to change or improve, to stand out from the rest, is almost like waiting for your own failure. If one fails, it immediately spreads across Monaco as small-town gossip. 

So is success really dangerous here? I would not say it is, but I have to admit that you can find many power plays and greediness. However, at the end of the day, it all comes down to your inner peace and mindset. 

One of the most basic and important business rules is that you are responsible for all your own decisions, success, or failures. Only you! When you know that you did everything right with the tools and assets you had, you will be always happy in front of the face looking back in the mirror.

There is always a way if you are ready for competition. However hard it is, you cannot blame the external factors. We are in the same business jungle and the rules are the same for all of us. No exceptions. It is on you, if you will survive or not. It is all upon you if you will be a rabbit or if you will become a tiger. 

Nowadays, business is your jungle, your playground. If you do not want to be a rabbit, then change it. You are the master of your destiny. Do not blame others – that is the game of losers and cowards.

Never blame outside factors, never say what could be if… You need to focus solely on what you can do now with all your available assets. You need to bring out the best as much as possible from your current, existing knowledge.

Economy, politics, weather, your neighbour, etc… it is easy to blame these factors for your failure, but believe it or not, these factors influence your competition, not only you. 

You cannot change these factors, just as you cannot change the politics. You need to accept them, acknowledge the rules, and go forward towards your aims. Sitting and waiting for the changes equals suicide, because you will lose control over things. And even in a small community such as Monaco, there is always a way to proceed.

“Excuse = The easy way. 

An excuse is worse than a mistake because it effects everything around us and drains down all possible solutions. There is always a way, a wrong way ahead is much better than a no way at all anywhere…”

– Dodo Newman

Sometimes we are all in a symbolical maze and our survival depends on our decisions, determination, and the influence of the people around us. 

People like the balance and the regularity in their lives, therefore changes are often considered something negative. However, changes are never bad because by changing and challenging the existing we have a very good position to improve our skills and our business. 

I would like to highlight that you cannot achieve anything without contrast and fear. However, in the business society of the Principality you will definitely need persistence as well.

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