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by Zsolt Szemerszky

Zsolt Szemerszky

Foreign peoples’ biggest mistake

Foreign peoples’ biggest mistake

Human nature has a big problem related to confidence. It is very hard to admit to ourselves when we do not understand something. We are in a society where everybody is “forced” to know everything, to be involved in various activities, and to be an expert in their field.

In my business field as a revenue specialist, during the first meetings, almost 99% of my clients state that they understand their field of business, the need of their customers, as well as their market. However, the truth is that even if you know your business field exceptionally, the market is in continuous change. Just imagine how the economy was in 2005, in 2015, and how it is now. To give you an example I share with you my own experience in the Principality of Monaco which served as my own learning cycle.

In 2010 when I arrived in Monaco, I decided to improve what the local market was offering, and I was ready to create something great to support the local businesses. Obviously, I hoped that by doing this, I would be able to gain some trust for myself and the services I provide. So, I created a news and information aggregator portal called, which targeted my potential clients by offering them valuable information (the site was working in this form until January 2020).

I pushed this business aggregator service, but somehow it did not really perform as I imagined. I also received a letter in 2012 from Mr. Michel Roger, the Minister of State of Monaco, that my activity did not seem professional. One year later, after finally realising my mistake which was never disclosed in details, I have to admit he was right.

Frankly this is another great thing in the Principality of Monaco, which is a very rare thing in the world, specifically that a Minister of State writes you a personal letter after reviewing your contribution to his country. I really respect Mr. Roger for this – he is a great man. Because of him, I was able to understand my mistake and to learn from it.

During those times, I was really sad because I believed that my service was excellent and I was ensuring the highest quality for the local needs. In my mind, my business model was perfect. The number one reason for my temporary failure was my ego.

If you are not open to understanding your market, you have a strong chance of failing. By that time, I had sixteen years of business experience with Fortune 500 companies in various countries. I got the National Quality Prize and was the Entrepreneur of the Year, therefore, I already decided what Monaco needed. Looking back at those years, I have to confess that I was so wrong. My ego overtook my capability for objective observations.

Every market is different and every business sector and country has its own specialities. This is a learning cycle where we can build up things based on our experience and knowledge. However we cannot leave out the local market specific views from the execution of our visions.

In order to give you a short and little example, the portal had a section specificallydedicated for lawyers. I collected and listed all the lawyers and financial advisors I found. You can find them under the section titled “Lawyers and Legal advisors”.

I relocated to the Mediterranean seaside from Berlin, Germany, and in Germany, every lawyer is called a lawyer. Honestly, I did not understand what the problem was with the service I offered to the lawyers.

In the Principality, I saw and knew that there are some different titles such as “Avocat-Défenseur” or “Avocat”, but I was sure that Avocat- Défenseur stands for defence lawyer, while Avocat is a general lawyer. Again, I made the mistake to decide what those words stand for, instead of researching them.

As we all know, in many cases, success relies only on one tiny thing. For me, this was the meaning of the words.

In 2013, I got a message from Régis Bergonzi, who’s law firm, the Régis Bergonzi Law Firm has been awarded as the “Law firm of the year – Monaco” at the Citywealth IFC Awards 2020.

Instead of just ignoring my offer, Mr. Bergonzi took the energy to sit down with me, and he property explained to me how the Monegasque system works. He did this free of charge, because he knew that my aim was to bring value to the Principality of Monaco, and he perfectly understood how to put me back on to the right track.

In Monaco, there is a huge difference between these words. When you finish law school, you start as Avocats-Stragiaire for three years. After that, for the next five years you are an Avocat. So basically, you will be a full powered lawyer, called Avocat-Défenseur only after eight years.

So it is no wonder that the Avocat-Défenseurs did not want to be put in the same box as the Avocats-Stragiaires. Naturally the difference is significant and not just because of the years of practice, but also because of all the experience coming with it. The professional experience really counts in Monaco.

The legal hierarchy is extremely important in Monaco:

  • Avocats-Stragiaire (first 3 years)
  • Avocat (next 5 years)
  • Avocats-Défenseur (minimum 8 years of experience)

Therefore, when I listed the “juniors” with the “masters”, they were not happy and they refused all co-operation. Not to mention that many of them criticised that the Legal advisors are not even approved by the Monaco BAR.

The realisation of this “little” misunderstanding with the words took me almost three years. It delivered a big struggle for me before I finally found out the reason; however, the solution was very easy. Since then, I have created different sections and now everybody is happy; the business prospers.

What I would like to share with my example is that understanding your market is considered among the number one priorities in any business. One little misunderstanding, one tiny detail, one wrong approach can destroy your business. If you are patient enough to take the energy to understand your market, then you can capitalise on all of its potential. Therefore, you are ready to be in charge of your future and make significant steps to achieve your aims.

What you need to understand is that in Monaco every business is measured by their professional licenses, and the same rule applies for the lawyers as well. Therefore, it is always better to look for a lawyer experienced enough for your business or personal needs.

Also, be aware that a legal advisor or a foreign lawyer has no power of attorney to represent any client in front of the Court of Monaco. You can find countless legal advisors in Monaco, but before you commit, it is always good to know about their capability under the regulations of the Principality of Monaco.

If you are uncertain of anyone, do not hesitate to reach out to the Monaco Legal Bar and they will guide you.

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