After years of cyclical business challenges, I discovered the value of a systemic approach—and the joy of helping others implement it
Like some of my Profit Recipe colleagues, I started my career by getting a good education and working for big companies. But the most valuable lessons—by far—were those I learned while running my real estate businesses. The ups, downs, fleeting opportunities, and the market’s fickle nature taught me the value of disciplined planning. And the Entrepreneurial Operating System® is an excellent way to get that done.
Today, I love helping South Florida and LATAM entrepreneurs implement EOS. That’s because I know what it’s like to wear many different hats and struggle to adapt in business.
So, while I still get a charge out of selling a property, seeing someone else’s business improve is really fulfilling.
Following the conventional path—at first
I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and I was raised to follow a plan: get an excellent education, work for a good company for three to five years, and leverage that experience to start a business. I followed this path by obtaining a material engineering degree before working for Procter and Gamble’s Latin American headquarters in my birth country of Venezuela.
I started in the strategic purchasing department, negotiating material prices to manufacture diapers in the region. It was a pretty sweet job; I flew all over the world to find the best deals, looking for suppliers that would sell at a reasonable price. But despite living large at 22, I soon felt unfulfilled. So, after getting married, I pursued my MBA with a marketing specialty at Northeastern University in Boston.
P&G wanted me back after my degree, and they agreed to pay for it. So, I headed back into the corporate trenches for more strategic purchasing. But within six months, I was bored again and transferred over to creating profit forecasts for P&G’s Latin American operations. The job was interesting and complex, and we dealt with massive numbers—about $4 billion in revenue and $600 million in profit. But those figures and the corporate environment in which I crunched them had a big drawback.
Don’t get me wrong: P&G is a great school, exposing employees to different people and business scenarios. But the corporate world involves a lot of politics and box-checking, and the effort somehow didn’t seem “real.” The figures were large, and the stakes were high, but it felt abstract; like playing with Monopoly money. So, while I learned some valuable things during my corporate days, they didn’t really prepare me for the reality of running my own business.
Entrepreneurship is what I was meant to do. And I’d soon learn many tough lessons pursuing that dream.
Making big moves
Though I was promoted regularly at P&G, I wasn’t making much financial progress. Venezuela’s political and inflation crises destabilized the country, and I realized that though my pay in local currency was much higher than when I started, the real value was the same as 10 years before. It was time to strike out on my own.
I moved my family to Miami in 2004 and quickly looked for business opportunities. Beyond the feeling that it was the time to do it, I also knew that I didn’t want to be anyone’s employee. I wanted freedom.
Real estate was an industry that would give me some of that liberty with a low barrier to entry, and there was a lot of opportunity. So, I went to work for an acquaintance who owned an agency, as I still had to work for someone else for three years to qualify for a broker’s license. The arrangement was commission-based and very hands-off, however. So, I finally tasted some of the freedom I craved.
Within six weeks, I became the number-one producer in the company. The market was hot, and the pay and life were great. I made more money in two years than I’d made in 11 with P&G. But just as I obtained my broker’s license and started my first company, Doral Riches, the Great Recession hit.
The bottom had dropped out again. And I had to innovate to survive.
Capitalizing on a great opportunity—with insufficient planning
Working real estate after the market cratered was incredibly difficult, especially when cash was short and I had a big family to support. I needed a new plan and new revenue streams.
Fortunately, I’d learned that my old employer was moving its Latin American headquarters from Venezuela to Panama to escape the deteriorating political environment. And I knew those employees would need places to live.
So, I set up shop in Panama with a partner, reached out to contacts at P&G, and made a bid to become a qualified supplier for the company. The process took six months, but eventually, my firm and two others were approved. The opportunity was great, though the job was brutal. I’d travel to Panama Monday through Thursday, work my butt off and come back to help take care of my family on the off days, all while my wife was obtaining her Ph.D. But I sold about 350 houses, and the money was good enough to survive while the real estate market in the US recovered.
Nevertheless, I hadn’t assessed and planned for some local market realities: namely, the construction industry’s inefficiency in Panama. Many houses ran into challenges being built, and the opportunity and ROI cooled off relatively quickly. I had to adapt again.
Starting two companies in the States
By 2010, the real estate market was bouncing back, and I founded my second US company, Downtown Living. And a few years later, I started a development company, Corporación el Abuelo.
I structured the operations like a “solo shop plus:” I worked with several part-time realtors who shared some leads and brought in enough money to pay all expenses. But the main driver of income was me. Fortunately, things went well, as I leveraged my contacts and community. By then, many people had started leaving Venezuela and moving to the US, so we had a steady supply of home buyers. But external events impacted the market again.
The political situation deteriorated even further in Venezuela after Hugo Chávez died and Nicolás Maduro took over, and my sales pipeline started to dry up. I adapted by jumping into the red ocean (local) real estate market and tried buying leads, but $150,000 spent on marketing merely broke even. I had also dipped my toe into local construction but learned the realities of rising materials costs and monopolies. Eventually, I discovered a new sales pipeline from individuals moving to Florida from high-tax states like California and New York, and my companies once again found their feet.
My firms were growing again. But the process also didn’t have to be this difficult!
Of all the lessons I’ve learned running a business, the need to adapt to survive and grow is easily the biggest. I also came to understand how different entrepreneurship is from corporate positions. You can have a big company job with a lot of responsibility, but that pressure and accountability pale in comparison to running the entire show.
Finally, I learned about my weaknesses as an owner, manager, and leader. And chief among them was a failure to plan sufficiently and not being willing to delegate.
Discovering the Entrepreneurial Operating System®
Like many entrepreneurs, I read as much as possible about streamlining and improving my businesses and eventually stumbled upon EOS. I found it interesting, but the system really captivated me after I spoke to Cesar Quintero, and he showed me how it worked.
Cesar is good friends with my sister-in-law, so I cornered him one day and said, “What the heck are you doing?” He explained the system and agreed to help apply it to my company. Very quickly, I learned the concepts, discovered the tools, and saw the results.
The most crucial EOS impact was on—you guessed it—planning. I finally used tools like the 10-Year Target ™, 3-Year Picture™, and Quarterly Rocks to not only design where I’m going but put the steps in place to achieve it. EOS helped change the planning dynamic, and I fell in love with it.
Becoming an Implementer
Another thing I learned from Cesar is how happy he is with his work and how much he enjoys helping businesses. I’m also energized by helping others, and I certainly have some hard-won lessons to share. So, I decided to become an Implementer, too.
When I work with other business owners, I understand the confusion and stress of wearing too many hats. I see them struggling to plan and adapt, dealing with many of the same issues I encountered. But now I have the resources to show them that there is a better way. And being part of that solution for others is the most fulfilling work of my career.
Finishing an EOS session and seeing the impact is fantastic. It’s gratifying to witness a leadership team feeling elevated and excited about a company’s success, unifying to go after a shared goal. And as the facilitator, you know that you will share their journey, guiding and watching them improve with each session. That’s why I make sure that I deliver value for my clients every time I see them. It’s the only way to achieve their objectives—and mine.
Oh, and there is a side benefit to doing EOS Implementation. Just as my clients learn about the tools and how to execute them, I am also learning from them. I’m still an entrepreneur, too, after all. And working with other South Florida business owners makes me a better one.
If you need help achieving Business by Design, I’m ready to assist. And you can believe that I’m excited to take the journey together.
Empower your Leadership Team and improve efficiency, increase value, and foster collaboration to get better results. A professional Facilitator can ensure that all of your members are on the same page, so you can kick your business up a notch. Connect with The Profit Recipe to Achieve Traction.