Senior Manager Nicolas Mueller is well-known at Simon-Kucher. He’s worked in three offices for nearly every sector. But many may not be aware that he found time in his busy schedule to write and self-publish two books! Nicolas reveals the secret to his success and reminds us of the importance of following your passion.
Hi Nicolas, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us about your passion! Could you first introduce yourself and say what you do at Simon-Kucher?
Sure! I’m a senior manager in our Cologne office. I’ve been working here since April 2016, so for around six and half years. I specialize in automotive and wholesale, but I’ve experienced a lot of different practices and divisions in my time. I’ve jumped from construction and chemicals to leisure and tourism, then from pharma to software.
I was also lucky enough to get the opportunity to go on rotation in 2019, where I spent a total of six months in our Sydney and Tokyo offices.
That’s so lucky! It’s clear that you’ve had a dynamic and colorful career at Simon-Kucher. But some people may not be aware that you’re a published author! Could you tell us a little more about that? When did you first discover a passion for writing?
It was in my teenage years when I needed a way to express myself. I’ve always read a lot. For example, I was in the Harry Potter generation. We would have to wait for each new book to come out. They would come out every summer, so I knew I’d spend my holidays reading the next instalment.
Then one day I thought, wouldn't it be cool to express my own imagination into words? So, one day I decided to start writing my own story. I was 10/11 years old, when I wrote my first story. It was about a little boy who helped a raccoon he’d found by a river.
When I was 15/16 years old, I wrote another story. At this stage I had the confidence to show it to a teacher I trusted at school. She gave me my first constructive feedback on my writing. I remember feeling the desire to improve and write more.
Is this story about the boy and raccoon the one you have published now?
Ah no, that was just the first story I wrote in a notebook at school. I have two books published about a boy called Milo. Neither have been translated into English, but the rough English translations of the titles are: “Milo and the Secret of Polyrica” and “Milo and the Stolen Aventurine”.
Milo is a boy who’s a good student, but his parents are separated, and he gets bullied. So, naturally, he escapes into the books he reads and the video games he plays, wishing to be somewhere else. One day, he’s reading one of his favorite books, and although he wants to keep reading, he can’t help but fall asleep. The book lands on his face and “BAM!” he wakes up in another world.
In this new world an old man offers him the opportunity to dive into the story he’s reading. He agrees, and finds himself in his favorite story, meeting all the characters he’s been reading about. The thing is, he knows that something terrible happens in the story. So, his quest, let’s say, is to change events so that it doesn’t happen.
That sounds so fun! How did Milo’s story come to you?
In 2017, one year after joining Simon-Kucher, I had a gnawing feeling that I needed something besides work in my life. I was working, working, working but I didn’t feel like I was using my creativity to its utmost. I had done an online writing course in 2011 that I found really motivating but, sadly, no book came out of that. So, I set out on a second online course with the same teacher. This time I was determined to complete a story, and that is when Milo’s story came to me.
It took me a while to write because I was doing this alongside my consultancy work. I was also traveling a lot in 2018 for work, so I would find any moment I could to write. Whether I was on a plane, a train, in a hotel room, it didn’t matter. I just had to find some moment when I could do it. That said, some weeks were simply too demanding, so the writing had to be paused, but as soon as it was possible, I was back on it again.
I published the first book in October 2020, nearly three years after starting. I also had a sabbatical scheduled at the beginning of 2021. I had wanted to travel initially, but since this wasn’t possible, I decided to write the second book. I published it in December last year.
That’s amazing dedication! You spoke a little about when you found time to write, but how did you balance your work and social life with writing?
You have to be very disciplined and have a strict plan. I’m quite lucky in that my work starts at 9:00 a.m. It means that I have time in the morning to write before I start work. I find the morning is a much better time to write for me than the evening when I feel drained.
On the weekends I’d make sure to book time for writing, and I’d be strict about it. So even if it’s a beautiful day and I know my friends are going to the lake, or something, I have to stick to my plan. Discipline is key, otherwise you risk always choosing something else over your personal pursuits – writing in my case.
Are you planning to publish a third book?
I have some ideas for a third one but, I have to say, at the moment I'm focusing on a completely new story for young adults. The main target group for Milo is 10 to 12-year-olds, but 13–17-year-olds enjoy it too. I’d like to try my hand at something for older readers, and I have a great story in mind!
Would you say that you used skills you learned at Simon-Kucher to help you write these books? And are you applying any skills you’ve learned from writing to your projects?
To be honest, one of our core values – entrepreneurial spirit – has been a key skill that I developed at Simon-Kucher that has served me extremely well. I do everything on my own, from finding an editor and cover illustrator, to self-publishing and price setting.
Another value – creating positive impact – also made me seriously think about the message, the moral in my story. I tried not only to create a fast-paced plot with twists and turns, but also one that makes readers think and has impact. One of my happiest moments was receiving an email from a kid in Switzerland who thanked me for writing Milo and told me what a great read it was. It melted my heart.
In terms of what my writing experience brings to my work, it’s really improved my creative thinking. When I develop a plot, I have to think of all the different things that could happen and what the consequences of those things are. I can now use this internal brainstorming to my advantage in projects. It’s easier for me to bring out-of-the-box thinking and creative solutions to the table.
What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to follow their passion alongside work?
Well, firstly, I can’t stress enough how important it is to find a hobby or pursue a passion outside of work. We humans don’t just exist to work. We can’t do our job well when all we do is wake up, go to work, eat, come home, and so on. I truly believe that no matter how much you love your job, to be at your best you have to take something on that brings you joy outside of work.
And once you find your passion, whether that’s writing, painting, sports, etc., it has to be made a priority. As I’ve already said, you have to be disciplined because finding your passion is a gift. And I’m grateful that I’ve had the possibility of pursuing my passion because of the flexible environment I have here.