Business Advice from a 19th Century Paris Madam – Madame Alexandra’s Rules of Business

Paris, City of LightAuthor Claude Roessiger, an entrepreneur from the world of luxury enterprises, penned a book set in Paris that is so unique it often brought a smile to my face as I was reading. I just had to share this unusual story with you. 

Part non-fiction, part fiction, Madame Alexandra’s Rules for Business: The Enduring Principles of Business Success is an enchanting read. Roessiger’s prose flows like fine champagne: dry, refined, and effervescent.

Roessiger assumes the fictional voice of a nineteenth-century madam in Paris – not just any madam, indeed, but rather one of the highest in society, a discreet proprietor of a maison close – who, by her brilliant expertise in business (dispensed in the book) also became one of the wealthiest self-made women of the day.

Madame Alexandra's Rules of BusinessRules of Business

As an entrepreneur, I found myself nodding as I read the brief, easily digestible passages, and smiling at Madame Alexandra’s clever tongue-in-cheek asides. Her advice is appropriate for any business – and though her account is dated 1905, her rules of business still hold true today.

For example, a few quotes by Madame:

“Much is made in France of formal preparation. This may be great good for one who would erect bridges, or for a surgeon, but is an impossibility for commerce. It is true, one must be able to do one’s sums and that must be learned the hard way, but beyond this, commerce is one part imagination and one part human nature. You learn neither in class. Great books written by lofty spirits open our minds and bring understanding. These are the right classroom.”

Madame Alexandra

“Read great books which teach you to think rather than paltry ones which seek to think for you.”

Madame Alexandra


I found myself cheering for Madame Alexandra, a woman who ran a sophisticated business, valued her employees, and welcome her clients with the expertise of a diplomat. For the illegitimate child who, by her own intelligence, work ethic and investment strategy, came to own a quarter-mile of the most prized real estate on the Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris, deserves a standing ovation.

Claude RoessigerA Modern MBA

Madame Alexandra dispenses advice on Education, Establishment, Integrity, Employees, Giving of Direction, Presentation, Accountancy, Investment of Capital, Manners of Commerce, Law, Comportment, Negotiation, Government, and Charity. As a thought leader, her opinions might have been the precursor to the modern MBA of today.

Roessiger brought the period to life through his lovely use of language and attention to detail. His immersion and expertise in the world of luxury is authentic, imbuing Madame Alexandra with the ring of truth.

This little book would make a delightful gift for anyone who loves Paris and all things French. And of course, indispensable for anyone in business–even if your address isn’t Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris. I hope to read more from Claude Roessiger soon. Purchase his book on Amazon now.

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What are your most memorable lessons learned? What advice might you give others on the entrepreneurial path? Share your thoughts below.

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