“Prizes Are My Rewards, Obstacles Are My Challenges”: The Story of Brazilian Entrepreneur Guilherme Paulus

Brazilian Entrepreneur Guilherme Paulus

One thing that most Brazilians can agree on is that life as an entrepreneur in the country is difficult, coming with numerous obstacles one must overcome. However, being an entrepreneur in Brazil can also be extremely rewarding. On the surface, Brazil is a country where a lack of venture capital, high government taxes and an unstable bureaucracy prohibits entrepreneurs from accomplishing their business dreams. According to the World Bank in 2017, Brazil was ranked 125th out of 190 countries around the world in the ease of doing business category and 176th in starting a business.

So how does an entrepreneur that specializes in accommodations and tourism, like Guilherme de Jesus Paulus, become so successful in a country that ranks 131st in registering a property, 170th in dealing with construction permits and 184th in paying taxes? Certainly, with these types of negative numbers working against entrepreneurs, Guilherme Paulus needed a sound plan at the right time to realize his business dreams.

Mr. Paulus seized on every opportunity from the very beginning in his plan to become the leader of tourism and accommodations in Brazil. He formulated a plan that allowed him to listen to people, customers, government agencies and above all his peers. Mr. Paulus is a firm believer in listening and has been quoted saying “First advice [I can give] is to ask for advice. Listen to the elders, always. [You will] Hear more.”

“First advice [I can give] is to ask for advice. Listen to the elders, always. [You will] Hear more.”

Who is Guilherme Paulus?

Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil during 1949, Guilherme de Jesus Paulus has gone on to become one of the most successful businessmen in Brazil; thanks to a vision he fostered and nurtured in his mind as a child. As a young man, Mr. Paulus studied business administration while in university and at the tender age of 20 years old he accepted an internship with IBM.

At the age of 24 years old Mr. Paulus met a local government official named Carlos Vicente Cerchiari in 1972, who had an idea about expanding and bringing tourism to Brazil. Mr. Paulus was keen to the idea but had no money to invest. Mr. Cerchiari offered an investment deal to form a new company named CVC also known as Operadora e Agencia de Viagens CVC Tour Ltda, with the understanding that Mr. Paulus would be the man behind the day-to-day operation. The two men opened their first store front in Sao Paulo later in 1972 and continued their partnership for four more years before Mr. Cerchiari departed from the operations.

How did Guilherme Paulus become successful in business?

There are many fascinating reasons on how Guilherme Paulus became a successful businessman and entrepreneur in Brazil. First off, his vision of tourism in Brazil is unprecedented. For example, the very first CVC outlet for selling tours was placed within a large street within Santo André where a cinema attracted thousands of movie goers every day. The placement of the store cannot go unnoticed as thousands of movie goers left the theater with visions of explorations, adventures and fantasy that are so prevalent in movies; CVC was there to provide the next journey in life for these people. Mr. Paulus brought a vision to the country that increased Brazil’s tourism by putting a face on the company and in his own words believes that tourism “was very embryonic. We broke the market.”

The sky was the limit for Mr. Paulus and CVC as the company continued to open stores across Brazil in large retail malls that provided sufficient foot traffic for his concept of travel and tourism in Brazil to thrive. In 2009, Mr. Paulus had the idea of taking his company public and sold 63% of CVC (while retaining 27% of CVC) to the global investment fund, the Carlyle Group for $750 million, to help further finance his dreams of dominating the tourism industry of Brazil. In 2013, CVC started to trade as a public company, thus raising more capital for the company to grow. Since this time, CVC has grown into the largest tourism company in Brazil and Latin America with more than $5.2 billion per year in sales.

As of recently, CVC has around 1,200 store fronts operating around the world and with more than 3,000 employees dedicated to his vision.

Why is he investing so much in Brazil?

As CVC grew, so did other opportunities for Mr. Paulus. In 2005, Mr. Paulus invested more than $600 million while starting a new venture named GJP Hotels & Resorts within Brazil. Today, GJP Hotels & Resorts have grown to more than 3,000 rooms within 14 hotels and resorts around Brazil while employing more than 5,000 workers. GJP Hotels & Resorts include three distinct brands within the company that include 3-star Linx hotels, 4-star Prodigy hotels and their ultra-luxury 5-star brand named Wish hotels. GJP Hotels & Resorts can be found in all major cities within Brazil including Recife, Maceio, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. More recently the Wish Resort in Foz do Iguaçu was awarded the Best Golf Hotel in Brazil by the World Golf Awards in 2017.

Another available opportunity that Guilherme Paulus seized upon was the purchase of Webjet in 2006. At the time of purchase, Webjet boasted one charter airplane and Mr. Paulus quickly went to work securing finance for 20 airplanes to shuttle guests around the country. By 2011, when he sold the company to Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA, Webjet had grown to the third largest airline in Brazil with operations in 20 cities around the country.

With the number of obstacles in Brazil to overcome for an entrepreneur, one should wonder why Guilherme Paulus is still heavily investing in his beloved country. Mr. Paulus continues to invest in the country because of the people, his employees and his long-time advisers that have helped him achieve numerous successes over the years. To Mr. Paulus “investment is always the best way to spend money. I like the motto [of] save a penny to have a million.”

“Investment is always the best way to spend money. I like the motto [of] save a penny to have a million.”

Building Relationships through Organizations, Clients and Employees

Guilherme Paulus has never shied away from being involved in something he truly loves. He believes the easiest way to success is to stay connected with your business and he travels to different GJP properties 2 or 3 times a week to talk with clients, employees and to figure out consumption patterns as well as changes in travel behavior. He thinks that his businesses are successful because “Many business owners end up not having this proximity to the edge of the business [they have founded or operating]. I never left the day to day operations [even as chairman of GJP.”

Another point that Guilherme Paulus likes to make is the 30,000 partnerships that he has formed while at CVC with organizations within the tourism business that range from hotels, airlines, cruise ships and specialty groups of the tourism industry worldwide.

“Many business owners end up not having this proximity to the edge of the business [they have founded or operating]. I never left the day to day operations [even as chairman of GJP.”

Be a Socially Conscious Entrepreneur

Mr. Paulus believes any successful entrepreneur needs to give back to the community in some fashion. Guilherme Paulus has done just that within his beloved country. His business ventures have supported programs such as PIET, which is located in Foz do Iguaçu, where young people can train to become leaders in the tourism industry. Other initiatives Mr. Paulus supports include the National Project of Professional Initiation in Tourism or Alfasol-Solidarity Literacy as well as the Dr. Klaide Care and Education Institution which provides free medical care, educational opportunities and psychological counseling for disadvantaged people in his home town of Santo Andre, Brazil.

Through his association with these various social conscious organizations, Guilherme Paulus knows that when an entrepreneur is close to the community, they can have an encouraging influence on the economy by creating jobs and providing a solid business foundation so there are more opportunities for other entrepreneurs to follow.

Read: Guilherme Paulus, herói ou vilão do Turismo? Veja opinião

Accolades and Awards

Mr. Paulus’s prominence in the National Tourism Council for the past 15 years has paid dividends through the relationships he has forged with venture capitalists, government agencies as well as tourists from within and out-of-the-country. For instance, when France and Brazil opened a new VISA program for French tourists, Mr. Paulus was quick to include CVC on the front line of promoting Brazilian tourism to the French people. Guilherme Paulus’s involvement in the program garnered him a special award from the French government. Other countries that have presented CVC and Mr. Paulus awards have been Cancun in Mexico, Miami in the United States, Bariloche and Buenos Aires in Argentina and the Isla Margarita in Venezuela.

In Brazil, Guilherme Paulus has been recognized with awards that range from Executive of Valor by Valor Economico, Revolutionary Consumer Relations by Modern Consumer Magazine and Personality of the Year by Viagem e Turismo of Editora Abril. Most recently, Guilherme Paulus was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 by Isto E Dinheiro.

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