Guilherme Paulus

Look for advice. It’s easy when you’re new and confident to ignore advice from elders and people with more experience than you. But it’s vital that you seek out advice as often as you can and grow your knowledge base.


Brazilian hotelier and global entrepreneur Guilherme Paulus leads the Board of Advisors of Brazilian tour company CVC Brasil and GJP Hotels and Resorts, a brand of hotels and resorts with locations throughout the country. Paulus began his career working as an intern for IBM and is now considered one of the most influential businessmen in Brazil. So what is it about Paulus that allowed him to grow from an intern to one of Brazil’s most powerful and influential businesspeople? For this interview, we asked him a series of focused questions to help find out the answers. The result is an insightful, inspiring look at what makes Paulus who he is as a businessman and as a human being.

GJP Hotels and Resorts currently operates over 20 hotels and resorts. It features hotels in, Maceió, Recife, Salvador, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The GJP brand currently employs over 5,000 people. Since Paulus opened his first hotel in 1995, over ninety-five thousand people have passed through the doors of his properties.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

The original idea actually didn’t come from me, but from Carlos Vicente Cerchiari, who was at the time a state deputy. I met him on a boat trip and he told me of his interest in opening a tourist agency in Santo André, where he lived. At the time I worked in Sao Paulo, and because I was very young and did not have the money to invest, he proposed an arrangement in which I provided the groundwork and initial efforts and he provided the investment to get the venture started.

I worked at Casa Faro at the time, but my brain was already spinning with ideas and motivation for this project, so I couldn’t help but accept the unique challenge this opportunity provided. I was first acknowledged as having an instinct for entrepreneurship when it came time to open our first location. I wanted to choose a place that had lots of movement, traffic, and a consistent flow of people. So I chose a location just outside the exit of a movie theater, where I knew that regardless of what else was going on there would always be people passing by our store and seeing it as they left the movies.

Carlos and I were partners for four years at the outset of our venture, and then from there I struck out at it alone. That’s when the process really began to expand and take off into something more than I ever imagined.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I always start every day with gratitude. I’m optimistic to the extreme, and feeling thankful for all that I have at the start of every day really helps me look forward to what comes next. Another daily habit I stick to is that I write out my weekly schedule—this makes me feel empowered, organized and productive as I head into a day or a new week.

How do you bring ideas to life?

For me it’s about acting first—taking that first, sometimes frightening step into the unknown. Because the truth is that you often don’t know whether something is a good idea or not until you see it in practice. So bringing ideas to life is really about faith.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The use of technology in our day to day life is undoubtedly one of the trends that most attract my attention. With the speed of information, we can understand the needs of our customers much more quickly, and act on them even faster than ever before. This is also true of understanding and responding to market trends that may arise. Technology is shortening the distance between changes, information, and action like never before, and that makes it an exciting time to be in business.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

The nature of my business means that I travel a lot to locations where we have hotels, and being close to the operations themselves absolutely makes me more productive and tuned-in to what’s happening and what needs to happen. The exchange with employees and customers is one of the most productive habits I have as chairman of the GJP. When your company grows and expands, it’s easy to let yourself become separate from the employees and customers, as well as the day-to-day work that makes a business great. But I’ve never left the day-to-day business.

What advice would you give your younger self?

My first advice would be to look for advice. It’s easy when you’re new and confident to ignore advice from elders and people with more experience than you. But it’s vital that you seek out advice as often as you can and grow your knowledge base.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

It’s not all about talent or all about hard work—it’s about combining both in a powerful combination.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

To make the dream a reality, you have to truly love everything you do. Put in the time and energy, be attentive to the needs of your customers including their changes in behavior and consumption. Many business owners end up not having this proximity to the edge of the business.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I always had the vision of not focusing on just one market. Even though international tourism is very strong, I have always valued domestic tourism a lot. Besides, I travel a lot. At least 2-3 days a week I’m visiting the hotels of GJP, a company of which I’m founder and chairman, talking to clients, understanding their needs and those of my employees.
There were several strategies that really helped grow the business, but one that I think is worth mentioning was when we started chartering flights in the 1980s and 1990s. We originally chartered flights for one week. We encourage Brazilians to make the change from road transport to air travel. There was strong international tourism, but there was no national operator investing in domestic tourism. CVC pioneered this market.

In the 90’s we took a risk and bought 100 thousand seats in VASP, to be sold in 1 year. That action was newsworthy enough to be featured in Le Monde, a French newspaper. The success was so fast and so significant that we sold in 8 months.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In the early 2000s, our president at the time – Fernando Henrique Cardoso – made an agreement with France and the French government facilitating the granting of visas. We decided to open a CVC in Paris. The French are an audience that likes exotic trips linked to nature. We offered trips to Brazil, but it was very expensive. We also expanded to a 21-day circuit that included Peru, Argentina, Foz do Iguaçu and Ushuaia. But one of the big problems is that people did not know it was a travel agency, because the sign said only CVC.
In addition, we hired Brazilians to meet the French, which was another mistake.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Investment is always the best way to spend money. I like the saying, “Save a penny to have a million”. The money best spent is the money that is going to work for you in the future.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Google. It has the best research in the world. CVC was one of the first companies to implement Google terminals. CVC and Pan America were some of the earliest adopters. I have always been very attentive to opportunities for bringing technological innovations to our company.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Greatest Salesman in the World, by Og Mandino.

I would advise everyone who likes sales to read this book. I learned a lot of what I know from that book, from scheduling my week out to planning future moves, etc. It’s an incredibly inspiring book with concrete methods for changing your approach.

What is your favorite quote?

“Prizes are my rewards, obstacles are my challenges.”

Key learnings:

  • One of the most important steps you can take is to take a step. So many businesspeople get caught up in wanting every attempt to be a success that they never take the leap and create something, go to market, start a business, etc.
  • Passion and love for what you do is incredibly important. Focusing only on success will make you lose sight of your goals.
  • Investment is always the best way to spend money.