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Félix Bouquet: Hello everyone. The idea of inviting Olivier Roland happened when I did a forum post saying that inviting inspiring and motivating people, can be a great idea. On the forum, we had thought of Philippe Bloch as well as Olivier Roland. So I had a go. And thanks to 42 entrepreneurs who helped me get to Olivier, he’s here today and will give a talk. As a bit of background, I discovered Olivier Roland on YouTube, as he now has a very popular YouTube channel.
Bit by bit, I became interested in all his work. He produced a blog called “Des livres pour changer de vie” which is very inspiring too.
He recently wrote a book that enjoyed great success and that I recommend as it’s very good. It’s a digest of lots of methods and of ideas on education, being an entrepreneur and on enterprise in general, which is called “Not everyone was lucky enough to fail their studies” which I’m sure you’ve heard of.
Olivier Roland: Hello everyone. Ok. Why dare to start a business when you are a student?
Before understanding why it might be a good idea to create your own business when you’re a student, we must first answer the question: Why be an entrepreneur rather than a salaried employee?
Today, I’m going to give you no less than 10.5 reasons why it’s good, important even, to be an entrepreneur rather than a salaried employee.
Reason N.1: The experience.
Being employed allows you to gain experience. But, when you start your own business, when you are an entrepreneur, you acquire experience so much faster for lots of reasons.
The first is that you have to multi-task. When you launch your company, it’s not good enough to just be good technically at what you do. You can’t just be a good developer for example.
Being an entrepreneur from the get-go means you have to wear many hats. You’re not doing this just for fun, it’s an obligation. It gives you a perspective on the business which is much wider than all the different employee roles that you couldn’t have imagined. Unless, your salaried job is to run a business. That exists obviously. But, let’s just say that when you start out, it’s difficult to get hired as the CEO of a big company, right out of school. However, creating your own company is within your reach.
You have this broader vision and you learn basic skills in each area that is important to your business. It’s going to be skills that will accompany you your whole life and even if afterwards you decide to go back to an employee career, they will be a huge asset compared to your colleagues who followed the classic path.
Also, creating your business is an extraordinary way to meet exciting people. Of course, as an employee, you can meet exciting people. But when you create your business, when you are an entrepreneur, you meet people that you would never have met otherwise. You are going to meet people who have the same approach as you, who are in the process of business creation.
You will meet entrepreneurs who for the most part, will be delighted to share their experiences, to give you advice, to recount the mistakes they made so that you don’t commit them. You will meet people who are ready to accompany you because they know that they are the creators of businesses which largely create the wealth of a country.
I personally quit school at 18 and I created my first company in IT and software development services at 19 years old. I could never have done that if I hadn’t been accompanied by a whole network that existed in my city. I’m originally from Lille.
Going from high school student to corporate chief is difficult. And it’s by getting me started in this project and by going to meet all the people who could help me that I succeeded to develop the necessary skills to create my company at 19 years old.
All the people I met were fascinating, impressive. I met people in the boardroom, commerce, banks, associations support and entrepreneurs. People from all walks of life who were united by a shared purpose, to help me create my company.
When you create your company, you will have lots of people coming together in your mission and who will help you, sometimes voluntarily, sometimes in exchange for something else.
And, it’s a great accelerator of learning experience with immediate application.
What is interesting when you have your business is that, you’re going to be able to put into practice everything you learn and that is useful for your company.
Studies show that we forget 80% of what we learned and what we don’t use after just a few days. That’s what it is to learn theoretical things that don’t really help us. When you have your own company, you don’t just learn theoretical knowledge. You transform this theoretical knowledge into competence by applying them in your business. And that makes all the difference eventually.
When you are an entrepreneur, you are generally ultra-motivated. If you are not ultra-motivated when you create your business, there is a fundamental problem. You really want your project to succeed and, suddenly, something pretty amazing happens the first time you live through it. You’re really going to want to give it your all from deep within you. It will allow you to reveal yourself to yourself.
I told you that I quit school at 18, because I stopped after my first year of a literature course. And the last year, I was very solemnly summoned by the high school director to his office. He said to me “Olivier, sit down. We need to talk. You are so demotivated that you demotivate the teachers. There are teachers who no longer want to teach when you are in the classroom”. I said: “wow”. So, I had attained quite a level here.
If you could have seen me in the classroom at the time, I was slumped at my desk. I had so little motivation that I sucked out the energy of others. That was my level. What’s amazing is that, a few months later, I was in the process of creating my business. And for this, I wasn’t the same man at all. I had a burning desire; I was super motivated. I so wanted my project to succeed that I saw a mountain in front of me, I rushed towards it and made a hole in it.
There are only a few months between the Olivier slumped at his desk demotivating the teachers, and the Olivier with the burning desire, who was unstoppable. When I say that I was not the same man, well, I was the same man. The only difference is that I threw myself into a project that was close to my heart, which was a challenge, which was difficult to achieve and that I desperately wanted to succeed in.
When you embark on this kind of project, this is when you actually reveal yourself. You see all the potential within you. Had you seen me at the time, slumped at my desk, you probably wouldn’t have bet a dime on my future. And no doubt, I wouldn’t have bet a dime on my future either!
Your current motivation level has nothing to do with the one you get when you embark on a project that is really important to you and that is challenging to you. And it’s an extraordinary way to learn too. When you have your company, there is no the choice, it has to work. You are not going to launch your own business only to tell yourself “If I fail after 6 months, it’s no big deal”.
You will give it everything. It is often said that it is important to consider failure as something interesting, as a good experience. That is true. But you should not fall into the extreme opposite trap and say “It’s ok if I fail, I can put it down to experience”.
Really, when you create your business, you have to give it everything. You have to do everything to succeed. You must fail despite yourself. And when you are in this mindset, you have no choice.
Similarly, everything creates motivation. Your brain will go into search engine mode. It’ll look for knowledge, contacts, interesting things that you will be able to apply to your business to make it succeed.
And here too, it increases the speed of your experience.
To summarize: yes, when you are an employee, you can increase your experience. This is obvious. But, when you’re an entrepreneur, things go much faster. So much faster and you become a better version of yourself.
Reason N°2: The diploma.
I am very happy to show you the magnificent diploma I got at school. I am the holder of a BAC minus 2. I stopped before the Baccalaureate. The only real diploma I have, is my college certificate. I don’t even know if you can call it a diploma. I managed this IT and software development company for 10 years which I then sold as a client portfolio.
And never in 10 years did a single customer ask what my diploma was. It just never happened. However, I managed computer networks – and these were not small computer networks.
One of the company’s clients was Peugeot SIAN’s commercial subsidiary up in the north. We managed all the big car showrooms as well as the workshops. We are talking about a group of 150 workstations. You can imagine that if a mistake was made, that brought the network or a server down. The daily losses could reach tens, even hundreds of thousands of euros. I managed this IT network with my employees. Peugeot never asked me for my diploma. And this is interesting.
Here now at 42, I have understood that you are not going to have of diploma at the end of your course. Maybe for some, you might say to yourself that that could be difficult in the case of certain roles, to have the same job or the same salary than others who have the same skills, but who has a degree to prove it.
When you create your company, it’s a way of hacking this. There’s this extremely heavy tradition that still exists today, where pretty much the first thing employers will look for and then ask you is “What is your degree?”
When you have your own company, very few people, none even, will ask you this. It’s interesting to question “Why this is?” For example, why did Peugeot never ask me this question?
If I had applied for an IT manager position there for exactly the same role I did as a provider, it’s obvious that this is the first thing they would have asked me. Besides, they probably wouldn’t have even considered me, given my magnificent BAC-2 achievement.
Of course, there is a difference between employing someone and taking on a provider. You can easily fire a provider. There is a lot of flexibility that way. So, companies are a little more relaxed in this regard. But, it’s not just that. There really is a kind of tradition where it’s simply not done this way.
It’s not polite to ask a provider what their degrees are. So, people simply don’t do it and they judge you on face value. With an employee, who is on a trial period, we can quickly see if they are competent or not. We can even see it at the interview.
So, apart from certain regulated areas like medicine or if you want to be a notary or lawyer, then yes, a diploma is required to practice as an entrepreneur. But, for the vast majority of fields setting up your own company is a great hack.
And just for the record, 32 of the 100 richest entrepreneurs on the planet, the billionaires, do not have a diploma. This is the main category of the 100 richest entrepreneurs. The second is where they have engineering degrees. And in third place, those who have degrees in business and finance.
Reason N°3: The salary
If money is not important to you and you are salaried, it’s absolutely perfect, as being an employee is the worst way in the world to make money. Quite simply, because you exchange what is most precious to you – your time – for money.
Ok, we know that not all your time is for money. Ok, we know that not all your time is used for things you like, you can’t bank it and you can’t save it for later. It’s time that is lost forever. When we think about it, we know that time is what we hold most precious. We shouldn’t trade it for money without having huge leverage.
If you really value your time, you should only exchange it for a very advantageous gain. 2000 years ago, Seneca, a Roman Stoic philosopher who was the richest man in the world – kind of the Bill Gates of his time, he advised the emperor and all that – said: “People are prepared to spend a lot of energy to protect their possessions, maybe even sometimes risking their lives, whilst also allowing their time to get so easily eaten up.”
It’s easy to spot rich people who will fiercely defend their properties, whilst being invaded by dozens, even hundreds of people who will beg them for a little time here and there, which will prevent them from focusing on the essentials.
It is default human behavior. It is important to be aware of it and to try to go beyond it, to focus on what really matters.
Also, remember that it’s mathematical: for a business to be profitable, it must always pay its employees less than the value they deliver. Otherwise, it is not profitable. It makes sense from a business perspective.
But from your point of view, it means that you will never get a return which is equal to 100% of the value you bring to a company as an employee. It is not possible. Or, your company will fail.
Either way, you’re going to have a problem after a while. When you’re an entrepreneur, it’s a lot easier to have a salary that corresponds to the added value you bring to the company.
All this is important in that the majority of people unfortunately are not passionate about work. On every street corner, we hear “Sure, yes, it’s super important, absolutely necessary that you find something that you are passionate about in life”.
But look around, how many people do you know who are genuinely passionate about what they do? If you’re like most people, you can easily see that most people you know are not passionate about what they do.
There is an extremely interesting and thoughtful study by the Gallup institute on 200,000 people across 50 countries. 9% of French people are passionate about their jobs, it’s a tiny minority. And, 26% of people hate their jobs, one quarter of the population. France has the lowest score in Western Europe, and one of the worst of the world.
But, we are not very far off the world average. Between these two extremes, the majority of French people have a job that is not too bad and not too great either.
We don’t tend to complain much. We know deep down that we are not realizing our full potential in this job, that it’s not something that inspires us, but there’s always worse. So, we content ourselves with it. This is the life of the majority of people.
And this is the greatest failure of modern society when you think about it. We condemn most people who do things that they are not passionate about. Think about that a little bit, especially when you realize how precious your time is. So, launching a business is already an easier route.
When you start your own business, generally, you will already be passionate about the project itself but also by the field you are in. It doesn’t have to be the case.
You can create a company just to live better, but you will still have more freedom to choose the idea and the field you want to be in.
In addition, it gives you leverage to make money. Why should you unconditionally trade your time for money?
All of society and the entire education system is based around this notion, which is never explained nor do we question it. Of course, 10,000 years ago, there weren’t many other ways to earn money. But since then, lots of methods have been invented to earn money without trading time, compared to years gone by.
Why can’t you make money whilst asleep for example or while you are on an African safari or skiing in the mountains? I’ll give you a classic case, just to illustrate this. Then, I will give you a more entrepreneurial example.
Let’s say you buy real estate. Once you have repaid the loan, your rents are a source of passive income because you don’t need to spend time on it. Of course, you have to manage your real estate, you have to do the work, you have to manage the tenant, etc.
For one, this is easily delegated. There are a lot of companies today that offer rental management for 6% of your annual rental income. It is not extraordinarily expensive. And you still have huge leverage.
I interviewed Stéphanie Milot on my YouTube channel who is a 44-year-old Quebecer, who today has real estate stock of 97 apartments in Quebec. The extraordinary leverage she has is very impressive. And she’s a little slip of woman.
It goes to show that it’s within anyone’s reach, well, anyone that gets a move on. She created a business at 20, which was enough for her to save some money on the side. It was in the 90s, she put aside 20,000 Canadian dollars and that was enough deposit for her first property.
In Quebec, there is something that does not exist in France, which helped her. Your property increases in value compared to the price. If you have done your homework, when you buy your property, it has a certain price. Over the years, this price increases.
In Quebec, if after 5 years for example, your apartment is worth 50,000 dollars more, you can use this added value to take out a bank loan which is guaranteed by this capital gain. So, you have a snowball effect which starts to happen. It doesn’t exist in France, but there are other ways to achieve this snowball effect with real estate.
Warren Buffett was the richest person in 2008. And since then, he is regularly in the top 5 richest men in the world in the Forbes ranking. He often competes with Bill Gates.
He created most of his fortune in investing in the stock market, in an extremely intelligent and methodical way. But, he started to invest in the stock market at 20 by creating an automated business. This is just to give you an example of what is possible.
It was the 1950s, he realized that in his town, there was always a long wait when he went to the barber. He thought, it was a shame to have all these people waiting around not doing anything, wasn’t there a business idea here?
He had just read a book called “1000 ways to earn 1000 dollars” which gave examples of automated businesses. It inspired him for this business. He went to see his barber and he said to him “I have an idea. I suggest, I install a pinball machine here. This way, rather than waiting around watching flies, people will be able to play and you will be able to earn money.”
Here’s the deal: “I bring you the machine, you pay nothing. I take care of the maintenance. And every week, I come here and we share the profits equally.”
An irresistible proposition. For the barber, there is absolutely no downside. So, he buys a used pinball machine for 15 dollars. After a week, he goes to see the barber again. They take out the coins, they divide them in half and he sees that his share is 15 dollars.
Within one week, he has paid for his investment. And of course, 15 dollars in the 50s is much more money than 15 dollars today. He goes to see all the barbers in his town, and he installs 6 pinball machines in his town which earned him a weekly salary without doing anything.
Look at how clever this business idea is. What’s interesting is that, if a pinball machine breaks down, no needs to worry about repairing it. He removes it and buys a new one for 15 dollars and installs it.
When you get interested in this kind of automated business, you’ll see them all around you. You’ll realize that there are a lot of very clever people around, who create huge leverage between their time and their money.
Which gave him another money-making idea: buy a coin operated weight-scale and put it in a public place. It’s rare these days, but they still exist.
These days, it’s more likely to be an impedance meter which you put your hands onto. There is a weak electric current flowing through our body and we can use it to measure our fat. Similarly, there are coin-operated machines in pharmacies that take your blood pressure.
There are other automated businesses like Laundromats, binoculars, coffee machines, drink vending machines.
Of course, there is some work involved. You have to maintain these machines. If they are drink distribution machines, you have to refill them from time to time. But, that’s easily delegated and you have tremendous leverage. In pharmacies, it’s the pharmacist who does this. When I say a public place, in my opinion, a station is complicated. But in shopping malls, everything is negotiable.
I’m not saying that it’s necessarily a good goal to create this kind of business now. There are already many people who have already thought of this. It’s just to give you examples of what is possible.
A noria is a water wheel and it has a very specific function. It’s the simplest water-wheel you’ll ever come across because it’s not a mill, it does not create electricity. There are buckets on the wheel that dive into the water and the current pushes the wheel thanks to little fins and the buckets are automatically filled with water when it dives into the river. And when they get to the top, they automatically pour out into a small tank.
Then, you have a channel that will distribute the water elsewhere, typically into fields in your village. It was invented 2300 years ago by Greek engineers. We have been trying to automate this kind of thing for years.
Imagine that before having this noria, every village, every day, everyone had to break their back to get buckets of water from the river. Once you’ve installed this, sure, it requires maintenance but a lot less back-breaking work than if you had to go to the river every day to get water.
So, it’s possible to start businesses that are like norias. It is not the case for all businesses, and it is possible to create businesses that are nothing like that. But, just bear this in mind. It is entirely possible to create businesses that are automated for the most part like this.
The aim is to separate your working time from your income. If we look at the majority of entrepreneurs, it is absolutely not what they create. You should know that the majority of entrepreneurs do not create a business, they create a job. This is the trap to avoid if you want to create a business.
Most entrepreneurs work 60-70 hours a week. Often, they have created their company to be free and independent, and they realize after a few years, they have created their own prisons. This was my exact experience with my first business. I’m just saying that it’s a possibility. I’m not saying it’s easy and automatic.
Reason N° 4: Job security
These days, we all know that security is mostly an illusion in the private sector. It’s different if you are a civil servant.
Often, we still hear people say: “You do realize, if you create your own company, you won’t have any job security. But, when we really think about it, no one wants to spend their whole life in one company. It’s an illusion, anyway. We know that when a business fails, employees are often the first to go.
What’s good when you have your own business is that, generally, unless you’re schizophrenic, you’re not going to fire yourself. Ok, if you do things badly and you find yourself a minority shareholder in your own business, you can get fired. That’s what happened to Steve Jobs.
If you still want to be in control, be sure to hang onto at least 51% of the shares. And of course, you can get fired by your own customers. That is, if at some point your customers think you no longer make good products or provide good services, they will stop paying you and they will fire you that way.
But at least, you won’t fire yourself.
Reason N°5: To fulfil someone else’s dream
I really like this quote in my book: “If you don’t focus on fulfilling your own dream, you are going to get hired by someone to help them accomplish their own dream”. Think about it.
SpaceX is a company that was created by Elon Musk, the co-founder of PayPal, the creator of Tesla and SolarCity too. Its mission is no small feat.
SpaceX is already disrupting an extremely heavy industry that almost symbolically represents a business that cannot be disrupted: the space industry. But in addition, SpaceX’s ultimate objective is to colonize Mars, terraform it, and make it a second earth.
Elon Musk has always blown my mind. One can feel like we’re doing lots of things in life. Then, we see what he does and we say to ourselves “What am I doing with my life?” Simultaneously, Tesla is trying to ensure everyone has an electric car within 10 to 15 years. He is disrupting energy.
And he just announced a new Neuralink project to create a human-machine interface that allows us to control computers by thought.
I’m telling you this because sometimes, someone else’s dreams can get you excited. You might also say that that’s an awesome dream that you might like to be employed by SpaceX because you want to contribute to Elon Musk’s dream which is also your dream ultimately. You can adopt someone else’s dream.
I’m not saying it’s necessarily negative, but I mentioned earlier that 9% of French people love their jobs, the world average is 11%. And, the world average for people who hate their jobs is 24%. This is the reality for most people.
Yes, you could get hired by a company whose dream and values you share. But, that isn’t generally what happens to people.
I hope that, even if you leave this presentation without the motivation and desire to be an entrepreneur, at least you will leave with the idea that “I have at the very least, got to be careful and get myself hired by a company whose values I share and whose mission excites me. That I really want to contribute to the mission to help make it happen.”
When you hate your job or if you have a job that you are not passionate about, I don’t think you can be excited about the company’s dream.”
Reason N°6: The tenant syndrome
When you are an employee, it’s actually as if you were a tenant. So, you have the same disadvantages of the tenant compared to the owner, that is to say, you throw your money out the window.
If for example, you decide to be a tenant, you pay 1,000 euros in rent per month, you throw money out the window because you are enriching someone else, the owner who uses your money to pay off loans or simply to earn a salary.
However, if you take a similar apartment but one you buy, and you repay 1,000 euros per month, that’s different. You are in the process of accruing capital for yourself. It’s money that accumulates, that works for you.
It’s the same thing when you compare employees and entrepreneurs. You’re building something that doesn’t belong to you, and you can be ejected overnight just like a tenant. You build something that increases in capital value and that you can resell later.
Here’s my own example. I told you that my first business lasted 10 years and I sold it when my second web-based company started to do well. My employees have contributed to the value of the company. But, when I sold it after 10 years, I was the one who got the money from the buyout.
It’s understandable since I was the one to take the risk of launching the company, I had more responsibility than my employees.
When you’re an entrepreneur, all the value that accumulates in the company, in the end is all yours. But, not when you’re an employee.
Reason N°7: The trap of the cement slippers
I love this idea of cement slippers. It was someone who read my blog some years ago who told me about this. Experience will tell you that the longer you stay in a salaried job, the harder it’s going to be to leave these cement slippers, symbolically represented by the salary.
There are lots of you who want to start your own business and it’s a dream that many French people have. 37% of French people want to launch their own company. And the proportion of that 37% that will go on to actually set up their own company, is pretty low.
This is partly down to the fact that when you’re salaried, it’s difficult to get out of that rut. And, you generally hang out with people for whom, being salaried is the norm, it becomes a normal way of life.
Maybe, you’ll get married, you’ll have the house, the dog and two kids, the gold fish, the mortgage and so on. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but think about it. You’ll get very comfortable in those slippers, but they’ll be heavy.
Reason N°8: Creating your own business is an extraordinary adventure.
It’s something vibrant. It’s not that easy to find a job that gives you a good buzz. But, to create your own company, pretty much guarantees that you’ll get a good buzz. If you don’t feel one, I think it’s probably not a good idea to get into this at all, really.
Reason N°9: Employees are still basically entrepreneurs
When you think about it purely from a business point of view, an employee is an entrepreneur that has just one client providing just one service, that’s all. Your client is your boss, or your company and your product is time.
It’s not a good idea to have a company with just one client and a great product because you’re dependent. The slightest problem with this client and this product, and you’re in trouble. If you’re an entrepreneur, it means you can diversify.
Reason N°10: The color of your skin, your sex and where you come from.
These things could or could not be relevant to you in terms of who you are. Just like having your own business is a great hack, so that no one asks to see your diploma. Launching your company means, you’ll be less discriminated against.
This doesn’t do away with all forms of discrimination, but it means less discrimination. Because once again, clients are more interested in a good product or a good service at a good price. Obviously, if you go and see the clients yourself, you might be discriminated against by them. It’s possible. But, it will happen less. And especially, when you don’t have any direct contact with clients or that your company is on the web.
For some of you, this could be an important factor.
Reason N°10.5: There are always more salaried employees
So, the famous reason 10.5 is that, despite everything I’ve just told you, there will always lots of salaried employees. When I share this kind of content in my book presentations or in my blogs, there is often at least one person who comes to see me and says “Your thing looks great, but imagine what would happen if the whole world became an entrepreneur? Who will look after the fields? Who will produce the reality TV shows? Who will look after the little cats? Civilization will crumble.”
This always makes me laugh because the answer I give to this is: Imagine there’s a charismatic firefighter who knows what he’s talking about and is really passionate about his job. He appears on a TV show. His message is to be a firefighter is awesome. Plus, it saves lives and adds value to society. I encourage all youngsters to become a firefighter.
Imagine that at the end of the TV show, someone comes to see him and says: “But Sir, what you say is great but what happens if the whole world becomes a firefighter? Who will look after the fields? Who will produce the reality TV shows? Who will look after the little cats?”
You see, it’s completely absurd to think like this. The truth is that, however relevant it might be to be an entrepreneur, it’s not for everyone. There will always be more employees than entrepreneurs.
Salaried employees need entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs need employees. This is not something that should stop you. The Family is a startup incubator doing really well in Europe. It’s growing in Paris, London, in Berlin. I am one of their investors. They have much in common with school 42.
It’s not their official slogan, but they often say: “Anyone can be an entrepreneur but not everyone can be.” What they mean by this is that not everyone is entrepreneur material, but an entrepreneur can come from anywhere.
An entrepreneur can come from the worst French suburb ever. It’s impossible to know in advance if someone is going to be a good entrepreneur or not. It’s also about a state of mind as well as about action, putting things into play, deciding whether to be one or not.
One of my clients is Mateo. He has a rap label, but he doesn’t rap as such. These days, it’s a company that has a 2,000,000-euro turnover a year which provides him with a fantastic margin. And he works about 10 hours a week. He constantly travels to the four corners of the world.
Mateo was born in a rundown Marseille suburb. You can still see it today when you meet him. But at the same time, he didn’t let that stop him. He decided to launch himself into entrepreneurship. And today, he has a career and a lifestyle that is the envy of many.
So, do anyone have any questions about these 10.5 reasons?
Attendee: I’m often told that to be an entrepreneur requires a specific personality profile. Do you think there are important personality traits that one really needs or can anyone with the will and the right mindset do it?
Olivier Roland: Part of the answer is already in your question because you say “I’ve been told you need the personality, but do you think if I have the mindset I could do it?” What’s the difference between personality and mindset?
Yes ok, there are qualities that are important for an entrepreneur, but I don’t think they need to be fundamentally innate. They can be acquired.
Amongst the qualities that for me are essential, is being proactive rather than reactive. When I see a problem in society around me, I’ll complain. If I’m reactive, I’ll just complain. I’ve complained, that’s cool, but the problem is still there.
If I’m proactive, I’ll ask myself the question and say to myself: “How can I solve the problem? What can I personally do to solve this problem? We’re not all 100% proactive or reactive, we all have a mix.
I think that an entrepreneur generally has more proactivity than reactivity in them. They see these kinds of problems as opportunities to create businesses. The moment you see this, it is way to get business ideas.
The moment you see something around you that doesn’t work, you see people complaining, you see that things could be improved and even you get exasperated, it’s a potential business because maybe, you, yourself could solve the problem and that this could be turned into a business. There are loads of businesses that have been created like this.
Understanding is important. It’s something that needs to be understood emotionally. It’s possible to understand it intellectually, but not emotionally.
To understand that everything you see around you, even the most extraordinary things, has been done by imperfect humans and sometimes some with extraordinarily prohibitive shortcomings.
And when you understand this at a deeply emotional level within you, you understand that there is nothing to stop you too from making a profound contribution to society by creating a business and doing something that maybe one day, will be looked upon with admiration by people, who may even bring you benefit somehow or think that you’re better than you really are.
But the truth is that, everything you see around you, has been created by profoundly human and imperfect people.
This is one of the really important things in an entrepreneur’s state of mind. And for me, these are things that can be acquired. It’s a question of curiosity, to learn and to understand.
Attendee: If I’ve understood your presentation, to be an entrepreneur, in summary, is to have a bunch of dreams, quite a few in fact, in which we connect people using a process whereby we can capture their time. And then, time and money from other people.
The question is, what is the entrepreneur’s contribution to society?
Olivier Roland: That’s a good question. One can be an entrepreneur and not deliver much added value to society. I was in Malta recently, and I met an entrepreneur who has all the trappings of success, who earned millions of Euros online, and who has an extremely inspiring personal story in that he comes from a suburb, he threw himself into it, he knew nothing.
Just this in itself, is very inspiring. But, when you look at his business, it’s much less so, because he created online casinos.
What added value does an online casino bring to society?
My point of view is, not much. If anything, it’s negative. I think it takes value away. That’s also a perspective to bear in mind. That said, it’s very complicated. I spoke to you about not swapping your time for money, lots of entrepreneurs do this. They create their own job and work too much.
So, the ethic is something important to consider. Steve Jobs or Elon Musk or even Bill Gates have all brought added value to society.
There’s another way to deliver added value to society, and that’s by using money that you’ve earned for charitable causes that will help humanity. Even if you say “Bill Gates, really hasn’t brought much added value because, well, Windows, that’s rubbish. Today, he gives billions away to try and eradicate illnesses in Africa and to promote education.
This is an important point to bear in mind. It’s not automatic.
Attendee: You talk about minimal effect (…) that you bring up your blogs.
Olivier Roland: There are lots of ways to be an entrepreneur. I’m giving you my approach to show you that there are so many ways of doing it. There are those that are really deep into it: work 70 hours a week and create a start-up which will disrupt an industry and will deliver lots of value. That’s also a possibility.
But, when you think about it, even with this frame of mind, you still have the effect of leverage I spoke about, regarding time and money that exist in any case because they’re intrinsically linked to entrepreneurship if you do it well.
Attendee: At one point, you said that it is experience that makes you better suited to this type of entrepreneurship.
Olivier Roland: It depends on your personality, your own thoughts and your own path. It can be something you do over a number of years. And then, you move on to another period of your life. The idea is to have this leverage on your time and money that you give to a company that is doing well.
What do you do with this time and this money?
You can use it to work even more on your own company and try to build it up, you can use it to have a better quality of life and you can use it to get into something charitable. You are free, that’s the point.
And then, it’s up to you to work out how to use this freedom and your resources. There are lots of different schools of thought in this regard. Even if you’re sold on being an entrepreneur, that’s fantastic, there is the elephant in the room though: being an entrepreneur is brilliant, but it’s pretty scary to launch your own business.
One third of companies fail within three years. And after 5 years, it’s half of them. There are many myths around this. It’s not the first time I’ve heard 9/10.
It can be scary; we could say to ourselves that there is a 50% chance of failure. It means that after 5 years, there is a 50% chance of messing up and failing. But, it’s too easy to say that because half of the companies no longer exist after 5 years. You can spend ages looking for the reasons, that’s basically impossible.
Everyone focusses on these stats, whereas they are superficial. There are people who come to the same conclusion but decide to dig deeper on this.
In 2003, the Senate mandated an inquiry to try and find out more about why companies failed. They focused their interest on companies that were created in 1998. That’s going back a bit but bear in mind that the number of failures and closures are very stable from one year to the next.
It always varies by a few percent, but it’s always more or less 1/3 after 3 years, and more or less half after 5 years. So, we can assume the other stats are also stable.
They focused on the reasons. In 2003, 52% of the companies created in 1998 closed down. Out of all of them, 14% closed for favorable reasons, and 38% were failures. Already a drop, it’s no longer 1/2, it’s a bit more than 1/3. That’s already a bit more reassuring.
Regarding the favorable reasons, 4% of them were in a good situation: the creation of another company, a change in legal status or a retirement, basically a positive reason. 10% that closed, did so for no reason to do with the company’s viability as such. Personal reasons for nearly half. These are people who created a company purely for administrative reasons, who had no desire to turn it into a proper business, etc. Death for a small %.
Let’s now look at the failures. When you fail, there are 2 ways this happens to your business. You can just stop trading or file for bankruptcy. You might stop your business from trading for XYZ reason. It could simply be, because you see that it’s not working. In this case, you pay off your debts if you have any, and you close down the company. You might even leave with a little bonus if there’s anything left.
Filing for bankruptcy is very different. This is when the company has debts that it cannot pay and as a result, you’re in a stranglehold. In this case, you go to the commercial tribunal and tell them you can no longer pay your debts and that you will file for bankruptcy. Then, the judge can do one of two things:
– Either he will place you in administration for a period of time. He will appoint someone to run your company for you, who will help you, and during this time, your debts will be managed. This can mean that you get your head back above water.
– Or, he will say: “It’s clear that the business isn’t working. So, we’ll close the company.” And he’ll sell off all the company’s assets if there are any, and reimburse the suppliers if possible, knowing that it’s the employees and the state that are the priorities.
There’s a big difference between closing a business and filing for bankruptcy. When we look at the percentage of companies that really did fail, that is to say filed for bankruptcy, we get to 15% of the total number of businesses created. This is quite reassuring compared to the 1/2 number which no one really talks about.
In terms of debt, 61% of those who close their companies are debt-free and 39% have an average debt of to 9,000 euros. And for those who file for bankruptcy, the debt is a little higher: for 2/3 of them, it is about 11,000 euros.
8,000 – 9,000 – 11,000 euros is a pain to pay back. But, these are not insurmountable sums to repay. Of course, these are averages. There can be huge disparity. You can end up with 5 euros of debt or 100,000. It can happen.
But, when you actually look at the risks of having significant debt, basically, you have a 10% chance when you set up your company, as it is 2/3 of 15%. A 10% risk of ending up with an average debt of 11,000 euros. You have to do things right. You can’t just say: “Well, if that’s the case, that’s fine. I can go for it.” You have to be prudent.
Also, what’s interesting is to look at what happens once the entrepreneurs close their businesses. What happens next? They studied what happened one and a half years later and 70% of these entrepreneurs are active. Most went back to a job. 2% are training and 28% are inactive.
That can seem like a lot. When you look at the socio-demographic characteristics of this inactive 28%, most of them are people who set up their own companies because they were either 55 years old or more, and sometimes even 50 years or more, and were struggling to find a job.
So, they started their own companies because they were either 55 years old or more, and sometimes even 50 years or more, and were struggling to find a job. So, they started their own companies because for them, it was the only way to create their own jobs.
So, when they stop, they find themselves in the same situation as before, i.e. that it’s difficult for them to find a job. For smart people, educated at school 42 like you, I don’t think it’ll be too much of a problem finding a job just after shutting down your company if you get to that point.
I can share all the stats in the world with you, but it’s still about intellectual knowledge. After a while, there’s no other choice. You’ll just have to be scared and do it anyway, because you can reassure yourselves all you like with success stories and statistics like this. You’re going to feel fear, and that’s normal.
Who’s ever been skydiving before? You should do it, it’s very interesting. When you parachute jump, the teacher is behind you for your first go. That’s quite comforting. But, you’re in an airplane, and a small one that vibrates nonstop. You get closer and there you see thousands of meters of emptiness beneath you.
You say: “What am I doing here? What am I doing in this thing? And then, you throw yourself into the void. This is something amazing. It really freaks you out, and it’s scary. But, at the same time it’s incredibly exciting.
Afterwards, you’re really happy to have done it. They’re great memories. Plus, stick a Go Pro on your helmet and it makes a brilliant video.
It’s the same with entrepreneurship. It’s like this for everything. Fear doesn’t go away just by looking at numbers. It disappears when you’ve done something and you realize that you are not dead.
Remember, we were afraid to walk or ride a bike without the training wheels when we were kids. Nowadays, we laugh about it. Our parents could have told us anything they wanted, but if we hadn’t actually done these things, we might still be scared today.
Today, there are people who are afraid to swim. Maybe, there are some in this room. Be afraid and do it anyway. This is the best way to suppress fear.
Ok, the right state of mind to create when you’re a student. There are two major schools of thought on entrepreneurship in terms of the risks that need to be taken. To make this clear, we’re going to go back in time a little bit. We’re going to look at Agathocles, who was a tyrant from Syracuse.
In 310 B.C., he was in charge of the city of Syracuse and the Yellow Kingdom. When I say kingdom, that’s very optimistic because it was an alliance of city-states that were more or less independent, who had pledged allegiance.
And since Agathocles was very ambitious, he could think of nothing better than to declare war to Carthage. Unfortunately for him, we might have guessed, his war with Carthage did not go very well. He finds himself under siege at Syracuse.
Agathocles is not faint-hearted, he says “Since, that’s the way it is, we’re going to take our fleet and we’ll simply attack the capital. We leave at night, so the Carthaginians don’t see what we do. We’ll use the fog and we’re going to attack the capital while the guys are still laying siege to our city.”
That was very bold. It’s kind of like if the Americans laid siege to Cuba and Cuba says “We’re going to attack Washington.” So, he arrives on the shores of Carthage and he orders his army to burn all the ships because then he says “Now, it’s simple we have two choices: either we win or we die, what do you prefer?” That’s where the expression “Burn your ships behind you” comes from.
It’s a possible approach when you create your business. You quit your job, you put yourself in a really desperate situation in order to succeed, because then, you’re not going to have a choice. You burn your ships behind you. And basically, either you’re out on the street or at the soup kitchen, or you win.
So, this is one school. There are some who recommend this approach. Personally, I find that for the majority of people, that’s a myth. It’s absolutely not the approach I recommend.
My approach, on the contrary, is to minimize the risks as much as possible. It’s the approach I’ve been using throughout my life. You could think I’ve been a little bit kamikaze to quit school at 18, to create my first business. But, you will see it wasn’t as kamikaze as that. Maybe, it was bold but not kamikaze.
You have to:
- limit your financial risk as much as possible
- test your initial hypothesis
- start your project part-time
- take advantage of aids and subsidies, take everything you can get
I was telling you that when you’re going to create your company, you’re going to have a lot of people with good will that will help you accomplish your goal. It also translates in a material way. You can’t believe the number of loans, subsidies, state benefits you can get in France, it’s really impressive.
For that, I recommend using a method called “The Lean Startup”.
First, I’ll give you my example of how I started my first company at 19 years old?
There’s a lot of reasons for this. I was originally a shy geek. I had a lot of trouble talking to people and I had a great deal of trouble talking to girls too. I ended up in my first literary class with 28 girls out of 32 people. So, I wasn’t very comfortable.
There’s a lot of things that made me uncomfortable in school and I wanted to leave. There was already this basic suffering. And like a lot of shy geeks eventually, I made up for my shyness by spending a lot of time on the computer to develop computer skills.
That doesn’t mean I was antisocial. I did have a few friends. And a friend and I thought: we help out people on a regular basis with problems that they find insurmountable and we just solve them. Don’t you think we could make money with this?
That’s how we got the idea to start the company. If you use the classic approach. You think “I’m quitting school. I will burn my ships behind me, go all the way with the knife between my teeth, I dive into it screaming banzai, and we’re off.”
We didn’t do it like that. We said to ourselves how could we test our idea in a simple and efficient way and without giving up our lives? We found something simple. We decided to take out an ad in a local newspaper to offer our services, and then we’ll see what happens.
We did a field test that went very well as we had invested only 60 francs at the time. That was in 1999, it was still in francs. 60 francs for the classified ad and we got 5,000 francs of sales in one month. And at that time, I was 18 years old, I got 50 francs pocket money per week from my father. So, 5,000 francs in one month, I thought “Wow. That’s nice”.
It’s that field test that gave me the confidence to quit school at 18 and starting my own business at 19. I didn’t do it on a whim, just like that. I’d been in the market, I had met the clients, they had given me money, I saw that I had skills that were useful, etc. this is the Lean Startup approach. It’s to put in place the simplest possible experience with the means you have to confront – as quickly as possible – the reality on the ground, as realistically as possible.
Another example is one of my students. Thierry Crignon, really impressive because he’s an internet marketing professor at a prestigious business school in Lyon. He signed up for one of my training courses and he thought “I’m an Internet marketing professor, I’ll just take what I’m interested in from the training and I’ll do the rest my own way.” And he made the mistake of not using the Lean Startup method.
Thierry Crignon is a marketing professor, but he’s also passionate about painting. He has a blog which is very well known on the subject, called “Nabis Magazine” about how to create a beautiful painting.
He made the mistake of not using Lean Startup. He made the classic mistake and also the most dramatic one for an entrepreneur, which was that he spent two years of his life creating the product he wanted to create, and not the product his customers, his prospects, wanted.
So for two years, he created his masterpieces, a book on beautiful painting and he realized after 2 years that no one cared. He didn’t sell more than a few copies. He starts the course from scratch, he applies the Lean Startup method, he does a survey on his prospects and he sells the product before created it. This is another way of doing Lean Startup. He realizes that in fact, his audience expects him to teach how to mix the paint colors.
He publishes a training course on the subject. The first week of sales, he does 22,000 euros of sales. The difference it can make is that, when you do a field test and when you connect to the reality of the marketplace, it can save you months and years of work. It happens to even the best entrepreneurs. It even happened to Steve Jobs, who focused on the product that he wanted to create without really caring about what people wanted.
As a result, we end up spending enormous amounts of energy and resources on a product that no one is interested in. It works for a company, too. There are many people who spend months and sometimes years working on their business idea. And when they create their company, they realize that nobody cares. You absolutely have to avoid this. There are sometimes billions of dollars or euros that are invested.
Going back to the experience I had before I started my company, it was not a perfect experience. Far from it. There were a lot of things that wouldn’t work in relation to the reality of the market.
For example, the tariff was ridiculously low compared to what an established company could pay, since it was all done outside of any legal framework. We placed the ad; it was the black market. There’s no tax, we didn’t really need a salary. We were both 18.
5,000 francs, seems awesome. But, 5,000 francs a month, that’s not how you create a fully-fledged company. The newspaper itself wasn’t suitable to do good canvassing. We didn’t do a split test, i.e. we did not test our ad with several variances to see what words were the most impactful.
There were a lot of things that meant that this was not exactly the reality of the market. But, a bad experience on the ground is better than the best plan drawn up in your room.
Always ask yourself the question when you have a product or business idea: “How can I test my hypothesis as closely to reality as possible”. Even if it’s imperfect, even if it doesn’t exactly represent reality, it’s better than being in your bedroom telling yourself how great it is.
To sum up the Lean Startup:
- You define the hypothesis and the offer.
- You do a field survey or a poll. Today with the internet, there are hundreds of thousands of the people who answer questionnaires without getting off the sofa.
- You create what is called a Minimum Viable Product. This is the minimal functional version of your product or service. What is the essential thing that’s really going to interest the people you wish to target? I recommend that you read the book “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, who explains this.
- You measure the results of the experiment. If it doesn’t work, you switch. Or, if it works but not well enough, you also switch. It means you change the approach or the product or different things until you find what does work, and then, you do it again. It’s a sign of continuous improvement. I could give you a lot of reasons to be an entrepreneur, but just remember that this is the adventure of a lifetime. It’s something exhilarating.
- Even if you fail, you’re going to learn a lot of things, there are not as many risks as you might think.
- That’s going to give you an extraordinary experience, something exhilarating that you’re going to remember your whole life. You’re fulfilling your dream. If you are employed all your life and that you have helped others build their dreams, maybe in the end you’d say “Still, it’s a shame. I would have liked to at least try, at least attempt.” And if you feel the call within you, don’t ignore it for too long.
Who has questions about all we have seen or maybe you have some entrepreneurial projects you want to share?
Attendee: Thank you for this presentation. I wanted to ask you about the fact that you spoke at the beginning of your conference, of all the collaborators who have surrounded you to create your business, the motivation which was necessary. And in the end, Lean Startup that allows for change to the axis once we’ve tested something.
But the first two points that are employees and motivation, when you have your own idea that is your own at the beginning before changing it after testing it, you must share it with collaborators who are going to help you test it.
What’s the dosage between the ultra-personal project and the communication with others? Are they going be okay with that? Will they understand? And the communication problems that might ensue?
Olivier Roland: First of all, you can easily do Lean Startup by yourself. I’d always been a solo entrepreneur. There are advantages and disadvantages to this.
When I was talking about being accompanied, I was talking about an outside entity, about meeting interesting people who don’t have decision-making power in the company or in the project, who can give advice that can change your mind. But, that they do not have the power of decision as such.
Ok, with collaborators, yes, there’s a question of buy-in to the process. In general, I don’t recommend starting out with too many people in the beginning. If you want to launch with more than one person, three is already tricky. It gets complicated to maintain a shared vision and that can happen.
But, it’s part of Lean Startup to have a reduced team when you start out because the more people you add, the more noise you add. I don’t know if that answers your question, but I think that to be optimal, you have to find the right size. In my opinion, 2 or 3 at the beginning, is already plenty in the majority of cases.
And you can test it yourself. You can recruit people, but not people who are involved in the decision-making process.
Attendee: And in order to get an idea of the optimal cost, you have to be able to share it because by yourself, you’ve probably been very successful and it does you credit, but there’s no one with an outside opinion close enough as a collaborator or someone in the organization, you can talk to in order to get any feedback?
Olivier Roland: Yes, the feedback is fine but there’s no substitute for field data. If I had done a survey at age 18 with those I knew to say “Do you think I should start my own company? Most people would say no. So, it’s more interesting to have field and scientific data than what people actually think. Which doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in your ivory tower and cut off people’s views, but rather try to see and get experience because even the most seasoned entrepreneurs cannot predict with 100% success whether any of this will work or not. We’d know otherwise.
I like to give the example of the publishing world. Harry Potter has sold 420 million copies. That’s almost half a billion when you think about it. This is a phenomenal success. Do you think the first Harry Potter was accepted by the first publisher who was approached? No. It was rejected six times before the author found a publishing house that was prepared to publish the first one.
She got an advance of £2,500. You’d think people with experience in the publishing world who have 20, 30, 40 years of experience would be able to spot such an incredible phenomenon as Harry Potter.
The truth is that, even people who have 40 years of experience in the publishing field cannot predict with accuracy whether a book will work or not. So, it’s more interesting to have experience in the field than to have people’s opinions.
Attendee: What do you think the limit is between fulfilling your dream and meeting a need for customers?
Olivier Roland: It’s obvious that there are dreams that have no economic potential. I always say that when you create your company, you must try to find an idea that is at the intersection of three things: passion, economic potential and competence. It’s the ideal.
It is possible to create a company in a market in which you have no expertise. To start with, you can develop it. For example, today, Elon Musk is one of the world’s leading specialists in rockets whereas he knew nothing in the beginning. He learned on his own, but he knew how to surround himself with competent people.
You can create a company and not be passionate about what you do. A lot of entrepreneurs start a company because they have to live. So, it’s not a passion as such. But you can’t create a company that has no economic potential. This is the sine qua non condition.
Yes, we can have a business that we hate and in which we have no special competence. But you cannot have a business that doesn’t have economic potential. The ideal is to find something at the intersection of all of these. There are no guarantees in entrepreneurship. That’s for sure.
Say you have a beautiful vision of having a platform that is a good foundation for freedom of expression, but at the same time it is a trap you can get stuck in because there’s too much freedom of speech and it kills the platform.
Attendee: I would just like to know because we’re talking about economic potential. For example, if you have an idea that you think is innovative, compared to other companies already in that market and who have seen it all and have research and development and financial resources behind them to be able to do all that, do we risk getting lost in an already very crowded market?
Olivier Roland: Yes, it’s a risk, yes.
Attendee: It’s a big problem these days.
Olivier Roland: It’s always been a big problem. There are a lot of big problems in entrepreneurship. It’s all part of the game. You could say, I won’t do anything because there’s something that’s blocking me. Or on the contrary, it’s a challenge and I’m going to try to overcome this.
There’s an excellent book on exactly this point you mention, which is “Blue Ocean Strategy”. It’s an interesting aspect in entrepreneurship. You see a problem; you know that there are already people who have put methods in place to try and solve it. You can read books that will train you in this. It’s something that motivates because you’re going to read tangible things that you’re going to be able to apply in your strategy of business creation.
And in “Blue Ocean Strategy”, the authors provide a method. They say that most people create companies in an ocean which is red with the blood of their competitors, and that as a result, everyone is fighting for the same thing when you could try to create a new market of your own.
They give the example of Cirque du Soleil because, Cirque du Soleil created a new type of entertainment. They mixed things that already existed beforehand. They created a mix that is in itself original. They took a little burlesque, a little bit of circus, a little bit of technique, strategies, concerts and bands, etc.
They made something new out of it. They created a new market of their own. Afterwards, competitors arrived in the market. But, they have the preeminent position. So, it’s possible to try to mix existing things to create something new.
And beyond that, there are a lot of ways to differentiate from the competition today particularly with new technologies. We still have some old dinosaurs including big companies with lots of means who still haven’t understood how the internet works.
Attendee: I would like to ask a question on entrepreneurship in general. You talk a lot about books and I think you certainly have the one by Tim Ferriss called “The 4-Hours Workweek”.
Olivier Roland: Yes, it completely changed my life.
Attendee: Exactly, that’s why I wanted to talk about it. You also mentioned Lean Startup. For you, what is the book that motivated you the most, aside from “The 4-Hours Workweek”?
Olivier Roland: “The 4-Hours Workweek” should be read by everyone I would say. You can disagree with this book, but I think anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur should read it to at least know that it is possible to create a company.
Anyone who reads it can see to what extent it’s a book that influenced me in this presentation and the way I behave. Because, it’s the classic book on how to start a business that serves your life rather than having your life serve your business.
The most inspirational book aside from “The 4-Hours Workweek” in entrepreneurship, I have already mentioned “The Lean Startup”. Because, it is really key.
There’s also a book that’s very complementary to “The 4-Hours Workweek” but lesser known which is called “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber. It’s a book from the 90’s that was translated into French, but the translation has disappeared. So, you have to read it in English.
The E-Myth is the myth of the entrepreneur in fact. He explains that millions of people want to create their companies to be freer and more independent. And in the end, they find themselves having created their own prison, working 70 hours a week for an average salary. And he explains the difference between creating your job and creating a business, and how to avoid this very pitfall. This is a book that I highly recommend because even if you want an ambitious business and work like Elon Musk for 100 hours a week, it’s important to understand and have a good knowledge of the company as a system.
Attendee: There is the difference between working 70 hours because we have no choice and the difference itself is all in the work.
Olivier Roland: Completely. And, we come back to this notion of freedom that I was talking about earlier. In that you set up your business to have leverage over all your time and your money, and what you do with it afterwards. Elon Musk, after he sold PayPal could have spent the rest of his life as a jet-setter all over the world. I don’t think it would have impacted his capital much.
Attendee: How many hours do you work when you’re passionate?
Olivier Roland: That’s a very good question. There is the notion of how we define what we call work. I’ve asked this question to hundreds, maybe even thousands of entrepreneurs and everyone has their own definition.
Personally, I travel 6 month a year because I can manage my entire business on the web today. It’s what we call a laptop business and I make the most of it. I love travel, it’s a passion of mine. When I travel, I work 10-15 hours per week. When I’m not traveling, it’s more like 30-40.
I’ll give an example so as to understand that sometimes, you really think “Is this work or not?” I wrote a book called “Not everyone was lucky enough to fail their studies”. I wrote it over four years, not full time, of course. When I travelled, I was writing it.
For example, one of the most productive periods of those four years is when I spend two months in the Philippines, including one month in an absolutely heavenly village. I had my routine where I would write 1000 words a day in the morning, and in the afternoon, I would do what I wanted. Some afternoons, I used to go to the beach, the almost clichéd tropical beach with the white sand, coconut trees, transparent water and all that.
And I was reading interesting books on my Kindle that were interesting in terms of the research I was doing for my own book. The question is, when I’m on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world reading a business book, am I working or not?
When you’re an entrepreneur, the difference between work and vacation is far more vague. It could be something that you’re going to hate or something you’re going to take advantage of and redefine your life, ultimately in a different way. There’s that famous Confucius proverb that says, “Choose a job that you’re passionate about and you’ll never work a day in your life”.
There’s some truth in that, but don’t forget that only 9% of people do work that they’re passionate about. Then, we come back to the notion of freedom. How do I use my time? For me, I define work as something that I have to do, that I don’t necessarily want to do. But if I don’t do it, my business will eventually fail.
Still, I can have some fun with it. It’s something complex. It’s also a question of cycle. You can spend, say, six months working 5 hours a week and it relaxes you, it re-energizes you, it boosts your creativity. After a while, you’re going get tired of it, we might say “I’m going back to full-time work and you spend six months at it or even years.
You’re not locked into a particular behavior. There are several ways to be an entrepreneur and to see, explore throughout your life.
Attendee: I wanted to come back to the question of Tim Ferris’ book. He recently released a new book “Tools of Titans”. If I’m not mistaken, you’re going do the preface.
Olivier Roland: Yes, for the French version.
Attendee: In the original version, it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. How does it feel to think that you are kind of the French Terminator?
Olivier Roland: Schwarzenegger’s preface is maintained in the French version. It’s a bit of a joke, your question, but it’s an honor. It’s especially an honor for me to write a preface in a book by Tim Ferriss who completely changed my life. Because, it’s thanks to him that I moved from a business where I worked 60-70 hours a week to a business today that allows me to travel so much and inspire so many people too.
Attendee: Do you have employees?
Olivier Roland: Today, I don’t have any employees. I made the choice to have a structure that is extremely flexible and I have freelancers working for me. Some of them are almost employees as they work nearly full-time for me, let’s say about thirty hours a week. But, I only have suppliers who are all over the world.
Attendee: In your first company, did you have any employees?
Olivier Roland: Yes.
Attendee: And potentially, 1/4 of your employees hated working for you?
Olivier Roland: Yes, when you think about it, it’s not necessarily hating the boss, it could be hating the company. But often, one goes with the other. It’s the way it is. It’s also interesting and it’s a very good point you make. As an entrepreneur, when you become an employer, make sure that there are as few people as possible working for you who hate working with you.
Try to get more people who are passionate about what you do. I’m willing to bet that at SpaceX for example, the percentage of employees who are passionate about their jobs is very high, in my view. Thank you.