Business Money

Success Story: The Rise of a Little Man

Written by Igor K

We all love those success stories – but many of them are about people getting funding from outer sources. But it IS possible to do it without. Even if you live in a really poor war torn country.

Theory and preaching is one thing. It may or may not accumulate the long-term result. But when you hear or read the real life story of a little man that succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, then you start thinking. What it took him to flip his life from having virtually nothing besides the clothes he wore – to running a successful family business?

How can we replicate his strategy?

What motivated him and kept his fire burning? Because, we all know how the former is the second biggest obstacle that comes right after deciding to make your move!

And when you know that story is coming from the small, developing country, where no new-age funding options exist, and where a man is left on his own to find the way, the entire thing sounds even more powerful.

That’s why we have decided to use this powerful story to show you how every man on this planet can succeed by following few simple rules of engagement.

Imagine the situation where war breaks loose in a once peaceful and open country. Everybody is fighting everybody for the causes of only a few, eager to seize the thrones. It doesn’t sound very promising, does it?

Again, there are those who find the way and there are those who keep searching for excuses.


There are those who find the way and there are those who keep searching for excuses.


One man found the way, even in those dreadful circumstances

La Grisa, a small, family-owned hotel, situated in a center of the old town of Porec in Istria (Croatia, EU), on Adriatic coast, opened its doors back in 2011. With only 14 rooms and small receptions, already in a first year, the hotel has seen great booking.

Today, 5 years later, Muric family is employing 50 staff members, making around $1.2 mill. annually.

We are talking about the success in a country where most of the residents are struggling to connect the ends and where around 300,000 out of 4.2 million people are unemployed. Fundings are not easy to come by because the system and the country itself are still developing.

20 years ago, the situation was even more difficult because the war was raging in this part of the world.

But that didn’t stop a young man who, in June 1994, got out of the bus in this small, ancient town, having nothing but the clothes he wore and a small bag over his shoulder. Nobody could recognize the future owner of one of the best small hotels on the Adriatic coast.

Everything starts with the decision

Lutvo Muric came to Istria running away from the war in Bosnia. A shirt. The shorts. The slippers on his feet. A sports bag. That’s all he had, along with the small amount of money in his pocket because, traveling through the areas impacted by the war activities, cost some serious money – if you want to reach your destination in one piece.

At that time, Lutvo was only 21-year-old.

The first thing he did was to find some work in masonry – the field he specialized in.

Years later, Lutvo opened a hotel, hidden behind the block of housing estates between two main streets, is a small architectural wonder, spreading on over 3,000 square feet, with gardens and corridors. The entire complex is made from 8 mutually connected houses, that Lutvo purchased over the course of time. Some are over 200 years old.

Booking is great, but it’s still the hotel’s restaurant that brings the biggest profit.

But the road to this success wasn’t easy.

Once he arrived in a pretty much foreign environment, Lutvo got a job in a local construction company. After a while, he realized that he’s better off making a profit than receiving a paycheck.

With the money he saved, an old Renault 4, some basic tools, 1 employee and hardcore determination to succeed was all he needed for a startup.

In the following period, his company was doing small renovations and construction works. But in time, with the cumulative efforts and the will to expand and increase the profit, Lutvo made his way to the top, becoming one of the four largest construction companies in a local area.

Yet, the construction company was just a part of the overall plan. Because, during that entire time, he was planning the hotel business.

Working 15 hours for every day, including most of the Sundays, to reach the point of independence before the age of 40.

What he did was McDonald’s style of thinking

When you hear the word ‘McDonald’s’, the first thing that comes to your mind is a small and freakishly overpriced hamburger. You’re thinking about the fast food. About food.

And if someone would ask you what McDonald’s, as a privately held company, does, you’d answer – making burgers.

They can, paint walls for all it matters because burgers are not what they do.

McDonald’s are in the real estate business, owning some of the most valuable properties throughout the World. Just notice the location of your favorite McDonald’s and then cross-examine it with the others in a radius of 200 miles, and you’ll see how each and every estate is on some attractive location and each and every is privately owned by McDonald’s Corp.

That’s what they do. Using one business model to acquire means for the main strategy, and that would be the world’s biggest single-entity real estate owner. Mr. Trump doesn’t come even near when comparing the investment portfolios of those two companies.

You can see these models all around you. Build PayPal or build SpaceX and Tesla, like Elon Musk did. Or build the chain of small fast-foods to acquire enough capital to launch a 5 star hotel in the center of the capital like one of my friends did.

The hero of our story did something similar.

He laid his eyes on a villa, called La Grisa. It was the old house that was also the heritage (the protected monument).

Unfortunately, the property burnt in fire 50 years ago which, subsequently forced the local municipality to sell it for cheap money with only one condition attached to the contract – the new owner must complete the strict restoration process that, in all fairness, never got started.

It’s not surprising how people were reluctant to invest in such a property.

Someone’s trash is gold for someone else

You’ll throw away your broken boiler or washing machine by paying for the disposal and just go out and buy another one. Everyday gipsies will make money, even on that broken and useless appliance by dismantling the device and selling the materials for recycling purposes.

Lutvo saw the potential where everybody else saw the risk and complete waste of money and time. He recognized the possibilities – once the building is restored. By his own account, he planned the hotel for 5 years before it opened its doors for tourists and not once did he deviate from the original plan.

As it usually happens, people kept persuading Lutvo how he essentially bought two extremely overpriced parking lots. The property was lacking a roof and there were around 350 square feet of trash to remove before restoration process could even begin.

Planning and patience are everything!

Nowadays, it seems that no one is even thinking about starting the business before collecting a couple of millions as a startup capital. The devastating result of such approach is found in a fact that nearly 98% of all startups are either struggling to break-even or ceasing to exist in a matter of 2 years.

Lutvo was aware of this so he didn’t run in a nearest bank to pick the millions. Instead, he took his time, knowing that patience and careful planning will eventually pay off.

The first thing he did was the restoration work on that first property he bought. He was working on it in his free time, having a help from a few of his employees. As soon as one apartment was finished, he would rent it to tourists.

Now, an important thing to know is this: the local town’s officials had a clear vision about that particular part of the old town – to convert the ancient stone homes into a hotel complex.

Lutvo saw the potential.

He saved money and borrowed just enough to buy the neighboring property and repeat the entire process. Then, the next one. And another one after that. Until he had bought a total of 8 neighboring properties, now connected into one complex, with alleys and gardens. It took 8 years and $4 million to complete the process and connect everything into one cool looking hotel.

Each and every of those 8 stone-made homes was in disastrous condition. Each and every had to be properly restored.

How to buy if you don’t have cash?

Lutvo made a simple offer to few owners: in exchange for the ownership over that ruined and demolished property, he’ll do some construction work for the owner at some other location. Many of them accepted because those ruins were costly liabilities. None of the previous owners was willing to invest money into the restauration. At the same time, they were paying higher taxes and penalties for “ruining” the look & feel of the ancient town with their collapsed buildings.

The business model

In the beginning, the main monetization model was apartment rentals. As Lutvo kept expanding his business by acquiring additional properties, he started planning the hotel. As he said, it took 5 years to figure out everything.

8 properties, each designed in its own ancient way and each colored differently, present the core of the hotel business.

Fighting the competition

But Lutvo is not alone. There’s some fearsome competition in the area. So what gives him the edge?

First of all, he understands the power of the proper CRM.

Latvia knows all of his guests on first name basis. In addition, he sends birthday cards and ‘Thank you’ notes. Christmas cards and gifts are dispatched all over the Europe because 80% of his guests are coming from Western and Northern European countries. Hotel staff doesn’t shy away from contacting the old clients directly and asking about the health, but NOT PITCHING THEIR SERVICES!

Second of all, he grows and uses only organic ingredients.

Vegetables and fruits are grown on-site. Fresh seafood is purchased directly from the fishing boats.

Instead of building yet another facility with rooms, Lutvo gambled a bit and decided to leave some space for a neat looking garden, accessible to every guest in hotel.

The point of having the garden right in front of the eyes of his guests is to convince them how good the food they are being served with is  – and purely organic.

His guests are also more than welcome to join him or the chef early in the morning when they are bargaining with the fishermen. It just adds to the overall experience.

But that’s just one part of the success.

The hotel is offering ONLY traditional food.

The kind that is unique for that part of the world, prepared the same way like hundreds of years ago.

To do that efficiently, Lutvo applies one of the greatest practices in entrepreneurship of any kind – if you don’t know how it’s done, hire someone who does and leave him or her the fuck alone to do his or her job!

In other words, the secret of successful businesses is not knowing all or trying to cover everything, but hiring people who are better than you and delegate responsibilities to them!

In Lutvo’s case, the head chef is taking care of everything connected with the meals, including the composition of the menu, without any limits and without being biased or influenced by anyone who lacks the experience.

That’s how you do it in any type of business. You leave it to the pro to handle that particular segment because that’s why you hired the person in the first place.

Long-term planning

OK, you’ve good food, wonderful ambient, guests…what’s next?

How about conference tourism?

We are talking about development perspectives of the business, which must be included in overall planning. Entrepreneur must be able to see the future of his business. And that implies adding new stuff to the overall concept in a precise sequence. Otherwise, you’re risking becoming the “old news.” Time and competition simply run over you, pushing you in the background of the business landscape.

That’s why you need to keep that innovative part of the brain constantly occupied. Because innovations are that tip of the spear, you are using to stick from the crowd!


Lutvo’s success story is a clear demonstration of what a man can achieve when determined and patient. And even though it’s about the hotel business emerged from the masonry, this case can be applied to virtually any field of success because it follows the essential steps and obeys to the rules of engagement:

  • You don’t rush into anything but you don’t shy away from the challenge either!
  • You scale down the main concept to stay liquid over the extended period of time.
  • Everything can be monetized one way or another and this story proves it. Among 1000 people, only 1 recognized the potential, seized the opportunity and transformed it into a success! This same pattern is repeated throughout the world in every single segment of our lives.
  • When you plan it, execute without deviating!
  • Do not waste your money. Plan the investment and reinvest the most of the revenues to speed up the process. Lavish lifestyle comes last and not first!


Rich people stay rich by living as if they are broke, broke people stay broke by living as if they are rich!



About the author

Igor K

Former detective, now entrepreneur with the passion for applied investigative journalism, profiling, personal development and business analyses.