19 Jan Nothing replaces hard work and endurance – STOLT interview with Swen Lorenz
Swen Lorenz enjoys the art and science of building and running businesses. Having managed start-ups, turnarounds, charities, investment funds, and special projects such as fundraising for a hostile take-over, there is a broad variety of management related subjects he has something to say about. He likes to disrupt, provoke, and transform and his work has been featured in the Financial Times, Vanity Fair, and the Economist.
We asked him about his career and his take on fitness and how he manages to fit exercise into his busy daily schedule.
INTRODUCTION Tell us a little bit more about who you are and what you do?
I manage an entrepreneurial venture that is organising a large event in the finance industry, the Master Investor Show. I co-host this event together with Jim Mellon, the financier and book author who the press dubbed “Britain’s answer to Warren Buffet”. We also publish a free monthly e-magazine about investing. I am also a non-executive director of a medical device company, Smart Matrix Ltd., as well as a director of a private investment fund that I set up for an ultra high net worth individual. The event company is my main project right now, not the least as we have plans to expand it globally.
CAREER What are your key career steps so far and how did you get your current job?
I am a university drop-out and my career never really developed along a conventional path. E.g., I never applied for a job, and instead only ever did work that was offered to me or for which I created the company. During the past 25 years, I have built, restructured and run businesses and organisations of a pretty broad variety. At different stages in my life, I helped set up and run a $300m property fund in Asia, a luxury cosmetics brand in Russia, and some media ventures in the finance industry. I also once saved a scientific charity, the Charles Darwin Foundation in the Galapagos Islands, from going bust. In between these projects and companies, I have written two books and hundreds of blog articles. It’s all been good fun!
SUCCESS Can you name 3 things that have made you successful professionally?
Nothing replaces hard work. You have to outrun your competition and adversaries through sheer endurance. At least that’s been true for me. Maybe I am just not smart enough, and I need to out-compete others through brute force.
Knowing the right people is important. Having a strong and wide personal network helps you to get things done. Be loyal to people, stick to them during troughs, and it’ll all pay off with you eventually having a personal support base that others are envious about.
I wished I spoke more languages. Having a full grasp of English, despite growing up in Germany, has been a huge asset. It would have been great had I taken the time earlier in my life to learn another one or two languages.
TRAINING How does your weekly exercise routine look like?
I run, I swim, I cycle. Though what exactly I do varies a lot. During the past few months, I have mostly stuck to cycling because I only took that up again last year and it’s still got the feeling of being new and exciting.
When I can, I cycle 3 times a week for 2.5h to 3h each. There have been weeks that I have been on my bike more often, and weeks where I had to skip it altogether due to work commitments and travelling.
I always work out by myself. It gives me an opportunity to think through what ever it is that is going through my head at that point, and also because I am selfish and simply want to determine my schedule.
When I run, there is nothing I love more than running in Hyde Park. It’s such a theatre! There is some great people watching to be done in Hyde Park. That’ll take me 1h to 1.5h depending on which route I take. For swimming, I tend to make it 45 min to 60 min. Regarding physical well-being, firing up your metabolism, and not having any adverse side effects, nothing beats swimming! It’s just so insanely boring. Maybe I should finally try an underwater iPod?
SCHEDULE How do you manage to fit exercise in your busy daily schedule?
Just get up early and get a 3h head-start on everyone else! Then you’ll have the spare time later in the day to work out. I am strong on having a nap in the afternoon and feel that a 1h nap buys me an additional 2h to 3h of awake time each day. Also, the fitter you are, the easier it is to get by on a bit less sleep than everyone else. I usually sleep 5h to 6h per night.
I am a total morning person when it comes to work, i.e. I get up at 5am or 6am and then spend the first 5h to 6h writing emails and doing other work at my laptop. That’s one of the reasons why I work out either in the afternoon or the evening. Surprisingly, I have never had a problem going swimming even at 9pm or 10pm at night. My fitness program takes place between 3pm and 10pm.
Because I start work so early and assuming I am not tied up by meetings, it’s usually my social life in the evening that I need to tailor my workouts around rather than work.
FITNESS There are studies suggesting positive correlation between physical exercise and business success. What’s your take on this?
Very basically, if you are fit, you can work harder and longer than others. You can do so with a clearer, sharper mind. You lose less days to being sick or not feeling great. That alone justifies it and contributes to success.
Also, at the risk of being blunt, it helps to look fit and healthy. Humans still live by animal instincts, and appearing fit and healthy makes it more likely that people will want to deal with you, give you business, engage your service or your firm. Very archaic but entirely true. I know successful companies (no names to be mentioned) who have made that a part of their hiring strategy, and it works.
KEEPING FIT Why do you keep exercising? What’s your motivation?
The older you get (I am now 42), the more you realise the value of fresh air, cardiovascular training, and just generally ensuring you don’t sit the entire day. It pays dividends, and it’s also a defensive strategy to avoid bigger health problems in the future. I want to be a “wellderly” person one day, and ideally not change my lifestyle much even as I head into my 80s and 90s. I see keeping fit as something that has to be done continuously, and which ultimately affects your life on many levels.
NUTRITION How much attention do you pay on food and how does your diet look like?
I am a firm believer that you are what you eat. Not in the short run, but over the long term. What I eat is very important to me and I spend a lot of money on quality food.
My diet is an unusual one. For the past 20 years, I have only had 2 meals a day. I skip breakfast, which many say is the day’s most important meal, but to me it simply never was. Having looked at this question quite a lot, I am also a strong believer that very simply, different things work for different people and everyone needs to find their own rhythm and regime. Leaving out breakfast has worked nicely for me.
I can’t overemphasise how important it is to invest into quality food and staying away from fast food, soda and the like. There is no need to be perfect, but if you cut it out most of the time, you’ll inevitably feel better, look better and also be more productive. My downfall is alcohol, which comes with my very active social life. The older you get, the easier you put on weight from wine and beer.
EXERCISE TIP What advice would you give to people with excessive travel schedule like yours to fit exercise in their daily schedule?
Book hotels with a pool! Swimming is a very intense workout, i.e. even just 20 min or 30 min do a lot of good. If there is a pool in the building, and provided you didn’t just get off a 2am plane, then there is hardly an excuse not to go for at least a short workout if you have a nice pool in the building.
CAREER TIP What advice would you give to a start entrepreneur who’s trying to find funding for their business?
Never give up and keep remembering that it’s inevitably a marathon! Fundraising is one of the hardest things on the planet. Chances are it’ll be much harder, take much more time, and create much more frustration than you can ever imagine. Just keep going! If you bang your head against the wall for long enough, eventually the wall will give in.
CONTACT Where can people find you and learn more about what you do and connect with you?
I am always very happy to connect with people both on LinkedIn and Facebook. On my personal website, https://www.swen-lorenz.com, I publish blog articles and also give people a heads-up if I am speaking at an event or attending a conference. Never hesitate to reach out to me! I like hearing from people and always reply.