Working for free. Why I’ve never been richer!

August 13, 2011 § 4 Comments

Inspired with a blog post of a friend about why to enjoy working for free I realized that even though I’ve  been “working” months for free: No salary, no compensations, no vacation payments (this one is easy if you consider I haven’t had vacations :), nothing! Nothing, cero, nada. Actually, I’ve been paying a lot for what I am doing right now.

Wondering why I consider myself richer?

1. Getting back to earth

My recent MBA year was without doubt the best year of my life. But fact is, we were treated as the next elite, the managers of tomorrow’s world, etc. Cut the crap, we were nothing. At least nothing yet. Most of the people I met had in fact the potential to become something big and I am sure they will. But been surrounded by amazing people make you think you deserve the world by default. I was wrong. You have to understand what you are and where you come from without all this glamour around, to really understand where you can actually get. Becoming a great manager is not owning the world nor means owning your destiny. Getting back to earth and starting from cero has been an eye opener.

2. Learning the basics

People I met during my MBA where really close to be marketing experts, financial gurus and consultant masters. We were all almost experts with net present value calculations, balance sheet readings and defining blue ocean strategies. But what about the basics? In the last weeks at my company I had to build up a stand, hang out flyers and gather potential customers emails at the SlowFood Fair. I´ve been a waiter for our TastyEvent and as a box packer for our TastyBox. I am now a learning graphic and web designer, creative artist, salesperson, film producer, photographer, accountant, just to mention some of them. Definitively none of the skills or areas learned at a top MBA program.

I am learning to do things from scratch now, which in my view is the only way to really understand your business and be able to lead and manage your future employees to do the job. The famous “I’ve been there” you get from your father applies also for the job you are supposed to lead. And this is the main flaw I saw in big corporations: Many managers trying to join the dots from A to B to C, without knowing, understanding nor wanting to know and understand what A, B or C really was. Everyone was somehow a manager and everybody just wanted to play politics.

3. Valuing relationships

Joining a paid job includes introduction, sometimes weeks or months of training and forced networking. So, even if you would like to, your will never be alone. Doing your own stuff in the other hand, is only you and your co-founders against the world and is up to you to decide which relationships to develop. This is not simply networking, but selling your idea, inspiring others to believe in you and in your project and making them help you…for free if possible, cause there is of course no money in the beginning.

Every relationship you gain is a milestone closer to success. It could be a business angel that believes in you after 5 minutes talking with you, a blogger that wants to write for you and is proactively promoting your idea and vision,  a photographer inspired taking pictures of your products without any downtime payment, or a food expert helping you to get the best food producers available. So, you really learn the value of a relationship, a business friend, a happy customer and the importance of every stockholder in the process.

4. Keeping focus

So, if launching a business is already almost a mission impossible, building up a family with a kid and baby on its way, can be quite challenging. Sometimes it’s so hard you even undermine you are in a foreign country with a foreign language and culture and a really shitty weather. You can only think what you have to do next. Because when resources are limited (or inexistence), when uncertainty (bankruptcy) is around the corner and when your business development and success depends directly from your everyday decisions and actions, you start to understand the importance of focusing. And this skill is the one I needed the most! I am still miles away from really focusing and getting things done as I wish, but I am getting everyday better.

So, if this 4 main lessons don’t make you richer, I don’t know what else can. Yes, money-wise I havent seen a dime yet, but working for free…I mean…paying to work is the best thing I have ever done. Whatever the outcome is, success or failure, I am already a richer man as I was before.

There is this mexican saying (maybe in other parts of the world also available) that “working is such a shitty thing to do, that you have to get paid for it”. So, working for free means that whatever you are doing is not that shitty.

Knowing “vs” walking the path

June 29, 2011 § 3 Comments

“There is a big difference between knowing the path and walking the path” Morpheus, The Matrix.

This is how the book of Tony Hsieh named “Delivering Happiness” starts. I don’t know if it is just a coincidence, but there has not been a better moment to start reading this books as doing it now.

I am trained engineer with 6 years of experience in a multinational prestigious engineer company. I am also an MBA graduate and have lived in 4 countries speak 3 languages. Lets say, I can say I know stuff. Maybe not much, but enough. During the past year, I started to read and learn a lot about entrepreneurship during the MBA. I worked hard developing a business plan and relationships around a fascinating business idea. We participated in the incubator program of the business school, and won 2nd place. So I can say I’ve learned stuff. Better, I know stuff.

But knowing and walking the path is not the same thing! I have just starting to walk and I can see now the difference!  I don’t know if the beginning is the hardest part, with all the big (biggest so far in my life) pressures, uncertainties and obstacles going all around at the same time. Maybe it is just the beginning of the real beginning. I don’t know, but there are days where it really feels like life around you is telling you not to go through. Deep inside of me something tells me I have to continue. And it does not necessary mean to risk even more but actually you start gaining confidence that you can make it. So, actually, risk is reducing ;) At the end of the day you realize there is only one thing to do: Keep walking. Walking, falling, standing up, learning and then start again walking. Finally, becoming good doing this again and again!

They told me “Delivering happiness” was an amazing book. A must read. And it is. It is an easy read and if you are starting to walk through the path as I am, then you will understand immediately the why. As crazy as all this looks like, as hard as it seems, this books opens your eyes by telling you are not the only one going through all this sh*t or that you aren’t the only stupid betting against  all odds.

I am convinced now that all this somehow pays off. I am starting to notice how my thinking process is changing. I am becoming from a strategist to a doer. I am miles far away to feel comfortable with myself about my executing skills, but at least I am starting and I am feeling good about it.

Knowing and just talking about stuff is nice and doesn’t hurt. Walking the path is full of pain, hard work, risk and more pain, but like sport, it first hurts, then you like it and then you become strong. So, keep walking.

It’s time to jump! f*ck it!

April 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

As this MBA experience goes to an end, I just got inspired after reading a great post of one of my clasemates regarding our great entrepreneurship class Managing Tech Startups with Enrique Dans. See below my respond to his post:

Doing and MBA is fun, interesting, great networking experience,  bla bla bla…but after a year of “vacations” is time to cut the crap and start making things happen, getting things done, start creating stuff!

Of course you can do all these for a big company as a normal employee…but you will always be that, an employee…

The great thing of the MBA is that you already moved away from your comfort zone. You became poor with a student-like life and probably you have lots of debt. But it can’t hardly get worse! Now is the time to start the venture of your life!

Everyday that goes by, our risk increases. With almost 2 kids and some debt I (of course with support of my family) decided to take the risk. F*ck it! Now is the time. Tomorrow will be to late. Should I wait and go back to my comfort zone, I know I would never ever dare to start…

It’s just about willing to try. As simple as that. As Seneca puts it: “It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare notventure that they are difficult.” 

Like getting married, getting kids and all important decisions in life, I like to compared them to jumping from a plane in a parachute (something I still have to do :). The more you think about it, the less you are willing to actually do it. Reason will say “are you stupid?”. So, less talks, less thoughts and just jump. F*ck it!

There is no half-pregnancy! Is there half-entrepreneur?

April 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Half pregnant? Half Entrepreneur?

Half pregnant? Half Entrepreneur?

Like with pregnancy you are either pregnant or not pregnant! There is not such thing as half pregnancy. So, is there half Entrepreneur?

Well, there is the so-called part-time entrepreneur, which is a mix between being and not being an entrepreneur. It means still having a job, reducing the risk but on the flip side, having a small business (profitable or not) to take care of. A hobby?

Well, of course it is not all black and white and it depends on many factors: the type of business, the risk willing to take, age and other family constraints, etc. Last friday, Alberto Torron (Twitter:@atorron), Telefonica employee and co-founder of todotaladros.com came to talk to us in class as part of the #ietechstartup session with @edans

Alberto sells around 4 tools per day with an average sale of 250€. This makes it enough to have a good a profitable business after one year of operations while also having a normal job at Telefonica. But I would be worried if I was Alberto. He just proved to a group of high trained MBA entrepreneurs that there is a promising market for tools in Spain. It just take the courage of two full time entrepreneurs to develop a business plan in some weeks, think big, get some funding and start executing to become the herramientas.com of Spain, or better, http://www.tools.com for Europe! This does not mean that Alberto will be out of business, I guess he has some key elements like customers satisfaction, that makes him successful despite been a small player. But Alberto has the risk of not been the tool site of choice by the general consumer, who is already saturated with so many brands and tech startups.

Again, it depends on the situation. But not going full entrepreneurship has its price and the risk is as high as going for it. It takes the same effort to raise 100k as 1 million. So why think small? Yes, I am latin and I think to understand how latins think towards risk due the economic environment we have been surrounded, but if we never think big, we will never get big. After all, failing big means learning also big.

I personally think to be on the right age and time to think big, this is why I have decided to co-found foodieSquare, an online European marketplace for food lovers. Yes, we could have started under a part-time entrepreneurship approach, but because this may be my last time to start thinking big, (age, family constraints and perhaps all those reasons why Alberto has gone part-time) I therefore have decided to aim for big and become full time entrepreneur despite by MBA loan and family (second kid on the way)!

Every day of our life that goes by, risk increases. However you see it. So, if risk is only getting bigger, then you have to start NOW! As I said: My wife is for the second time pregnant. Not half pregnant. So, for me, after some years of being just an employee, the time has come to fulfill my dream and become an entrepreneur, not half entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurship does not necessarily mean ruining your personal life

March 24, 2011 § 4 Comments

Or does it? This is again, as everything else you hear around entrepreneurship, a relative statement and just a point of view. But I believe it is an extremely important principle to have as an entrepreneur, as Iñaki Arrola (LinkedIn, Twitter), founder of Coches.com, also does. Iñaki told us that his wife is the most important stockholder at any of his ventures and that he knows he will be remembered in life by his kids and not by Coches.com.

Setting the right goal is key. As father of a boy and expecting father of a girl, I know about the enormous challenge of starting (trying to start) a new venture. But it is not impossible. The harder the obstacles, the more focused you get. Your partner is your most important stockholder and therefore, you need to make her happy somehow. Been an entrepreneur is just a way of lifestyle and philosophy, not life itself. Family is.

So, it is possible to become an entrepreneur and a good husband and father at the same time. But if you had to choose, be a husband and father.

To see the live feed about Iñaki Arrola session, please follow the twitter hashtag #ietechstartup

The formula for raising money is…

March 22, 2011 § 4 Comments

that there is no formula… If I have learned something about entrepreneurship in the last months, is that there are only opinions and points of view, not general rules or To-Dos.  Of course they are principles but this are always context related and at the end all depends on the execution capabilities of the entrepreneurs.  Thats how entrepreneurship works. Starting is hard, but once you are in and get to do an startup, raising money for other startups become much easier.

Yesterday we had the successful entrepreneur Jorge Mota(TwitterLinkedIn) in class as part of the IETECHSTARTUP sessions with Enrique Dans. Jorge shared with us his experience and some basic principles about raising money. I am just naming some few of them:

  • Scalability of the business and quality and commitment of management team is key.
  • Dont give much of your company at the beginning. Give 30-35% of company in angels round (1-3 mill) and for VC no more than 30% not less of 15%
  • Join a startup and learn if you can start your own (remember what we said about the hard that is to start a company?)
  • Have ego is good, but not necessarily from the beginning!
  • Revenues are not always necessary to raise money!
  • Focus on solving a real problem! Develop the process. Then learn to communicate to engineers and finally to customers

They were much interesting stuff Jorge told us, to see some quotes, just follow the twitter hashtag #IETECHSTARTUP.

Again, please note that there is not right or wrong approach for raising money if you are planing a startup. There is also no only one investor type. For you own sake, when raising money, find an investor that you can personaly deal with. Someone that share some kind of values and you will be good to go.

foodieSquare is actually in the raising money process, so, if you know of someone interested on supporting our goal of becoming the European marketplace for high quality artisan food, then let us know!

Will Blogs take over News Media?

March 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today at 13:30 (Madrid) Julio Alonso (@JulioAlonso) founder and CEO of Weblogs will join our “Managing Tech Startup” Class with Enrique Dans (@edans). I will be liveblogging from the session via twitter #ietechstartup and see how it goes.

My own experience with blogs has been fascinating. Before I came to IE I did not understand what a Blog was and now, almost 10 months afterwards, I am an active blogger with over 3000 views so far. I also have changed my habits, for example, I am starting to read now more blogs than news website. Therefore my first question to Julio Alonso:

– If more and more journalist are becoming bloggers, when do you expect blogs to outpace traditional news corporations? What needs to happen for this to take place?

The thing I like about my blog is that it is very personalized channel I don’t need any intermediary (besides WordPress). I follow also famous bloggers because of this same feature. Additionally I follow Weblog-like blogs like TechCrunch, Engadget, etc. But there is a limit of blogs I can follow. I have already a queue of 1000 post in my google reader waiting for me =) (and growing!)

My second question goes more about the quality of the content of blogs. Reading TechCrunch I see more and more people complaining about the quality of the post. Some of them look sponsored blogs and based that bloggers are paid on the amount of blogs they write, quality issues are arising.

– How do you maintain bloggers happy and at the same time assure high-quality blogs?

A new feature was introduced by Facebook. Facebook Comments. TechCrunch is experimenting with it and they are some initial data that suggest that “trolls” (people trying to boycott the blogger with negative and offensive comments) have been reduced significantly. I am a pro Facebook authentication. Specially for blogs! Hence my third question:

– What do you think of Facebook Comments? Are they defining how we will interact in blogs and elsewhere in the future?

I look forward for this session to start. Follow the liveblog on twitter #ietechstartup

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