Category Archives: Ramblings

No freaking way…

Just when you think everything is under control, life gives you a good dose of reality and gets you back in your place. This did not happen to us this last to weeks. Well, then why are you writing about it, you might ask yourself, and the answer is quite simple, because I am telling you it is bound to happen.

Just like when you throw a baseball, whether you are a pitcher or a little kid playing, you know that the ball, sooner than later is going to have to come down. If you can’t realize that, then you are not accepting your reality, and that certainly is dangerous.

As an entrepreneur, you need to always stay grounded in your emotions, we have talked about this several times. You also need to stay grounded in your plans, as they might make most sense when things are going good but then all of a sudden as things turn, they might make no sense at all and place your business in jeopardy.

There is no freaking way that we can foresee anything and everything thrown our way. Just this week I had a client tell me that there is another company with real bad blood against me. He was not concerned, from what I could see, but mostly surprised. I told him why I thought this was happening and he seemed very satisfied and surprised at my calm demeanor. I told him that business decisions from 10 years ago made me enemies, it gave great success to my old employer and not so good for them as competitors. I guess they can’t let it go and that is fine with me. He was surprised I did not speak badly about them, and I told them that they are a good company and have a great product, they just think differently than I do and I do not hold grudges in my personal life, I am not going to do it in my business life either. That is no way to live!

In essence, I expect that all the good things that are happening around us, one day stop. They do not have to go away, but it can all of a sudden bring us some bad news. We can’t always expect good news and think that success is eternal. I am sure there will be some instances where we bang our heads against the desk and ask why us? Well, being grounded helps you deal with that. If you can’t, then challenges can be very bitter and hard to work through.

Keep Calm and Stay Humble…

The Effing Broker…

2017 has come and already we have one month down.  How amazing is that?  I thought we were just eating turkey and watching football a couple of weeks back at my brother’s home?  Needless to say, 2017 has been a reaaaaal busy time.

Let’s start off by saying, and this is for the benefit of all those who are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur; this is maybe not be the year to do so, in my own humble opinion.  There are a lot of uncertainties in the economy and in the political climate. Lots of unknown factors and surprises.  But I will also say this: nothing is certain, perhaps precisely because of these same reasons, this is the year to do so!  Large and medium size companies get affected by regulation at a much quicker rate than the little guy. What is going to happen to your job next week if new laws come into play out of nowhere? Well I guess that settles that, you may not want to be an entrepreneur, but if you are thinking about it, make sure you have some savings ready at your disposal and that you start planning just in case.

For us, this has been a blessed month. Record sales and record income. We are extremely thankful to have people who have believed in us and more than anything, that we have been able to deliver and meet their expectations.  My main concern is servicing our customers well, and that requires taking a step back and accepting our limitations.  So, last week, we made a decision that in order to make sure that Customer Service was not an issue, we would have to invest in more personnel or in better technology.  At this point in time, we will be going with more personnel.  Technology can help you so much, but I feel that it is critical to have a human touch to our growth and not become to distant from our customers. It also gives an opportunity to someone to come and help us out for 10-15 hours a week and for us to start understanding how to make our growth more efficient.

As time passes, we have to consider that growth brings in less attention to our customers if we do not place the necessary resources at their disposal, then we become just another “effing broker” and we certainly do not want that.  We should be considered part of their success, if not, we are not adding value and then we become obsolete, just a middleman, and you know what happens then…

Stay Calm and Keep Humble,,,


Contrast of the Whiteboards…

If you are lucky enough to visit my office (LOL) you will find two things: 1) It is clean and organized, a little OCD maybe and 2) I have two large Whiteboards in my office that I think summarize my life perfectly.  I believe every entrepreneur should have these whiteboards in their office. Let me explain and I think you will follow my logic.

The first Whiteboard is what you THINK you should find in my office.  It is a board that summarizes my pending projects and what I am working on right now.  To give you an example, and this is an exact count, I have 11 categories up there and 38 projects.  Of those 38 projects I have 17 projects marked as begun.  That means I have 21 projects that I know I need to get to, and for reasons 1 thru 1000 I have not begun yet.  Not a slacker by any means, just real busy.  Pending projects are great and awful at the same time, they signify ideas and potential business as well as lack of resources or time.  The perfect combination in the messed up life of a broke entrepreneur.

The second Whiteboard is what you SHOULD find in my office.  It is a board full of drawings of my youngest daughter.  She took over this board about a year ago, and I am not allowed to erase anything. She has drawn her stuffed animals and some of the phrases that make our playtime such a joy.  I have some pink hippos, a couple of dogs (one who is a ninja), some dolphins, a reindeer, a hedgehog and a cat that likes red Gatorade, oh and a weird little one that we call Martian Hippo – pink of course.  This is my constant reminder that I have to get home. This is my home family in my office. This is the balance that I wanted when I stopped being a W-2 and became a 1099.

Nothing but happiness can be expected of having your loved ones with you.  The fact that my Whiteboard is non-negotiable and that I have to limit myself to draw around it is the greatest thing in the world.  I am always reminded why I am sitting down here and why I am working as I am.  My family is my balance.  More entrepreneurs need to understand this, as their projects involve their loved ones in many unnoticeable aspects.

I am glad I have a Whiteboard full of stuffed animals in my life, and sure hope I can erase some more of these projects on the non-important board.

Stay Calm and Keep Humble…


Getting paid…

I was smiling today because I signed my first check for payroll for myself. The business has done very well over the last 6 months and I have been able to payoff any outstanding debts for the business. No long-term debt on the business side, only on the personal side, and there is a bunch there. I had not experienced debt in over 10 years and although it is an uneasy feeling, it is comforting to know that it is personal and that the business has none. It is a healthy and lean venture.

Most people would be embarrassed to say that they have not made any money off of their business in a year and a half in business, but that certainly is not the case.

First, I am not embarrassed at all; on the contrary, I am damn proud of the fact that I was a person who saved and used his savings to start something good and productive. I am very proud that my kids, who have always had everything needed, did not always have everything they wanted. You have to make them hungry for them to work hard. I am also extremely content that I did not have to go to banks or angel investors to help me fund a business. It is because of a fairly simply thing – I was in no hurry to get paid, so I did not need their money.  Most other people that do not save can’t afford this.

Second, it would be irresponsable for me to curtail the growth of my company just because I need to get paid. I pay my employees, pay my bills and have paid off HT’s debt. Cash Flow is now healthy and now I can actually get a starting salary of not much, but enough to help start replenishing the pot. I am very sure my Visa, AMEX and MC cards will be happy to start getting more than minimum payments. Interest payments? they do not bother me, I would rather pay the bank for once than someone else who could have a claim on my business.

So it seems, at least for the next few months, that I will be getting a check every two weeks. It is about 10 times smaller than my last one, but it somehow feels different. I understand its currency value, but its pride significance is unimaginable. I am proud of the checks I used to get, but I am prouder of the fact that I chose to let those checks go and traded them for no checks for so long and now for a modest one. Who knows?  Maybe I will get a raise soon… Yeah, right.

Stay Calm and Keep Humble…

Looking forwards and backwards…

It certainly has been an interesting year for this entrepreneur.  The year started off with plans in one arena and it looks like it is ending with no results on that arena.  Instead, we wound up with a totally different and distinct business model. Oh, the humbleness! My mother has a saying that translates something like: “We make plans and God laughs them off”.

I will say that the 2016 plans were great. I had two wonderful partners joining me that I knew would bring in a lot of success to this young venture.  But reality has a different way of thinking than you most of the time, and as time went by, so did my partners.  It is not their fault.  As many of you know, first and foremost, I am not an easy guy to work with everyday (although I really have gotten a whole lot better, a little sarcasm remains) but mostly, being a starving entrepreneur is not for everybody.

I wanted to make sure that I had the full experience of ownership, and that means carrying a lot of weight on you, and I did. In hindsight, I should have done it differently. I guess that I made a mistake and even though I was very clear and open about my finances and not-so-pretty expectations for the 2016 year, my mistake was not realizing that maybe I was ready but my partners were not. It is not their fault, it is mine for not understanding that cash flow is king and that when you are not an entrepreneur, if you are not ready emotionally to receive a big pay shave then you might as well not get involved.

Another thing to highlight on 2016 was that I realized that I am a  much better producer when I am out of my office. Unfortunately, I do not spend that much time out of office as I should, so next year I will strive to improve that.  Additionally, I found out that I should listen more to my wife and partner (yes, I know, I will never hear the end of this one.) My business common sense has really developed over the years and I can honestly say I am pretty good at what I do and at judging good business.  However, I found that my wife is really good at being human, and sometimes I go overboard on projects and ideas, thinking they should work one way because it is HOW it should be.  She sees it not HOW it should but how IT IS.  That grounds me immediately and I have started to see things more as they are and think more as a person instead of as a robot.

Lastly, I really enjoy my personal time.  I really like the time I get to spend with my family and I like the down time honestly that I am afforded when I need it.  I will improve my handicap for next year as well and I promise I will be more focused on being a better person.  I also think that next year will be a great make-it-or-break-it year for Hispanic Trade and I invite you to take the ride with me.

Best wishes for 2017 from us to yours!

Stay Calm and Keep Humble…

The complainer…

Before you think I am going to go off on a customer or on a vendor, please hold you horses and just know that this is not what this blog today is all about. The complainer as I call it today is my teenage son, who in his efforts to be the next great bodybuilder has taken the Cheetos and the Pizza out of his diet and substituted it by healthy stuff.  His complaint was that mom mixed two cereals and that one had too much sugar, so he went off like that… First world problems.

As the year winds down, I need to tell you that all of our budgets for 2017 are ready and uploaded into our accounting system.  We have carefully analyzed each one of our vendor accounts and matched them up to our customers.  We see room for improvement in many of our accounts and some room for new accounts as well.  Business should never be static.  The day you decide to stay static is the day your business starts dying.

In my former business life I used to project some crazy revenue numbers every year.  Lots of growth was always my main purpose.  My former bosses hated it because they knew I was not looking for profits.  As you expand and grow, your profit base dwindles and it is a very hard thing for owners to swallow.  But why did they let me ask you… well, because there are very few people which can deliver growth consistently and at a somewhat decent profit.  There were divisions that gave much better profits, but they did not grow.  You can’t expect to grow at the same rate of profits as when you are consolidated.  It is an oxymoron by definition.

Well, my intentions for my company are pretty much the same.  Double-digit growth and small profits.  I would rather have a growing business spreading in different points of risk and diversifying my income base than a profitable business.  I said it, it is not about the money… for now.  There will be plenty of time for that later, when the business is ready for it.  For now, wages and expenses are fine, a decent profit is okay as well, not too much to cripple its growth though.

So, the complainer now is my partner, the lovely wife, who hates this approach.  I am going to have a harder time convincing her than I did my former board, and for those of you who are married, you know that board meetings are no cake walk, but I will take them over “the talk with the wife” any day, and twice on Sunday.

Honey, you know I am kidding right. Remember this blog is for entertainment purposes. Remember that before assigning judgement and punishment…

Keep Calm and Stay Humble…

Back to reality…

Well, we were bragging about how great life was last week. We were sharing with you our good fortune in having our project make it out of the hardest stage, Introduction.  I feel like Jerry Maguire when he goes into that room looking for his wife, telling her about their project. Well, with the slight exception that Tom Cruise and I don’t look alike at all, my wife has not left me and I do not jump on couches to profess my love, Cruisazy-style, there are some other similarities.

One, Jerry was fed up with the corporate culture of his former company – check that.  Jerry had a lot of his close business friends turn their backs on him – check that too. Jerry sang Free Falling like a maniac – yep. Jerry felt a lot of pressure (I think it was all that yelling by Cuba) – ditto. Jerry fought until the end for his project, his wife, his son and his client – you can bet your butt on that one.

Well, today was a good dose of reality, I was busy since the morning until just now.  Took a good dinner break with my kids and wife, and then a good shower.  But the day has mostly been about hard work in a LOT of different projects.  I have been pressured all day to include a new project in my day and so far, so good, with obvious adjustments.

The unfortunate realizations are that when you know you made it out of one stage, that literally means you are at the beginning of the next stage and there is a loooong way between you and the stage after that.  We have to diversify our income streams and make sure that our vendors and clients form a non-risky and balanced equation of cash flows.  We also have to entertain stepping it up for our customers and providing more differentiation tools than the competition – that is always hard.  And lastly, we have to suck it up when we get into situations that make us feel uncomfortable because the commitment to the business is more important than our personal feelings sometimes.  Personal preferences are important and necessary, but do not overrule judgement and logic.

Reality sets in quickly and puts our feet back on the ground again… quickly.

Keep Calm and Stay Humble

Getting to that point…

Yes, I have been very busy lately and I owe you many weeks of blog entries. I am sorry; I know this is the only thing that keeps you going in your have-nothing-to-do day. Well, as you can see, the sarcasm is in full force and flowing! Oh, what a last couple of months.

So… let’s start off by saying that business is much better, much busier and much more profitable.  It is getting to that point where I might just start making money!  Debts are paid off for the business, expenses are low and commissions and fees are stable. After 16 months I am seeing that light at the end of the tunnel and it is getting closer – in a good way of course.

It is getting to that point where you have to choose VERY carefully how to proceed.  How to make sure you do not bite off more than you can chew. How to make sure your good opportunities keep growing and the not-so-good ones make them grow or take another direction. It has come to the point where we can say, “Hey, I am actually in good shape.”

But then, reality sets in and I wake up – is this all a dream or a nightmare?(cruel by the way).  Nope, it is for real – no kidding.  This, as you might guess, feels very freaking good. I have my wife and partner to thank, my children to ask for forgiveness and my business partners for believing in us for so long.  We have not made it yet – that is a long time away – but I can tell you now, we are here to stay. Not going anywhere.

Like it or not, we are not a casualty, and the time to gloat is over.  Now we focus on 2017; I have our budgets ready. Just need to be a little more clear on our tactics and strategies. We are clearly motivated and on our way and as I told you many months ago, the life of an entrepreneur is always like a roller coaster.  Let’s just hope that we are not about to free-fall…

Stay Calm and, yes my friends, keep very humble.

Not in your lifetime…

One thing that really drives me up the wall from anybody is the lack of… grammar.  I will bet you that if I hear someone abusing the language, it drives me more up the wall than if I have a major issue at work.  I guess this is part of my upbringing and mostly I think it is part of my obsessive nature and compulsive family history.  For those that know me well, you know we are not all there.

But that is okay, believe me I do not mind.  On the contrary, I think that sometimes the hard hands that life deals you can be converted into positives if you recognize them on time.  I particularly always saw that I was very much always trying to turn in everything in order and was always looking for mistakes in my work and all others’ work. I was even accused of looking only for errors on many occasions.  Maybe they were right and I was only looking at the bad side of things or at the little blemish instead of pointing out all the good things the work I was given had.

With time, I learned that there were better ways to point out mistakes and that people were not necessarily happy, like I was, when I found my errors.  People had put a lot of effort and pride to their work and I just threw it in their face with negatives instead of compliments.  This was not smart and certainly not signs of a good leader.  With time I caught on that even if they know that you are going to catch something you phrase it differently and you do it positively.  Not everyone shares our little obsessions.

I was told that I could never change and I thought not while I am looking to improve my work, but I was wrong and on the contrary, sometimes your work improves more if those little things are let go because people are much happier with their jobs and the space after a period is not a deal -breaker nor will it kill anyone.  Sometimes you have to learn on how to let it slide, not for mediocrity but for happiness of others who do not share your quirks.

If you thought you would never hear this from me, I guess I just surprised you and I am glad I did, because I am happier this way, and I think everyone that works with me is happier as well.

PS.  I am not sure this applies to my kids’ school work, but it is a start and a break for all others!

Keep Calm and Stay Humble…

Tough times…

You know that feeling that you get when you think everything is OK, but you kinda feel  that it is too good to be true?   That is us right now.  Things are moving along and we are motivated.  We just came off a record month in sales and collections, paid off 80% of the company debt and gained some new accounts.  We did lose a valuable member of the team and were saddened by his choice, but we understand him and support him in his decision.

So, going back to this feeling, I think that it is that inadequacy of being calm that is really bothering me.  I know we still have a long way to go to accomplish anything.  We are probably at a rate of 2% of where I see us being in the future.  That means I see our business growing 50 times in the next 5 years.  That is hard but it is not impossible.  At my former company, I used to run the numbers from our first month every once in a while and when I left I could say we had grown it over 100 times in 13 years.

But tough times are coming, I do not know when, but I expect them and I actually want them here.  This way I am always alert and active in making sure we are not too comfortable.  I need to make sure we continue growing and getting into tough situations constantly.  I want to get those calls that tells us we have issues and that we need to resolve them.  These are the calls that give us headaches but also show our customers that we are available and more than willing and capable of resolving their issues.  That is where we excel at – service and problem solving!

So, as tough times come, I tell you one thing – bring them on! I can’t wait to be in trouble…

Keep Calm and Stay Humble…