Part of my daily job is to meet the leading entrepreneurs and business people in Barcelona. Not only do I see them as candidate speakers for Startup Grind Barcelona, but most of the times they will open new business doors for my company, MarsBased. But most of all, I like to learn from other people.
Barely a month ago, I set out to meet one of the most influential Spanish businessmen ever: David González Castro, founder of Grupo Anuntis (Segonamà, Coches.net, Fotocasa, etc.) - that was acquired by Schibsted back in 2013 (link, in Spanish) - and I was taken aback by how little we know about successful business people.
Corporations Can Retain a Human Touch
“I have hired more than 100 people in a matter of weeks. I shut down all paper editions of our magazines in the blink of an eye and managed more than 1300 people in my company. But I don’t like that. I like to see things grow and the early stages of companies.” - David González Castro.
David did not only have the patience to accept my two or three date changes for the meeting, but he also welcomed me in his office with no time restrictions and gave me a free copy of his latest book.
After breaking the ice, he proceeded to review his career and answer to all my questions without ever peering at his watch or agenda. He even was interrupted a couple of times by his assistant, but politely reminded her that he was in a meeting and would get back to whatever that was later.
You’d be surprised if I said that I had never experienced this level of attention on a business meeting. Hats off to David.
After our one-and-a-half hour meeting, he proceeded to show me the offices and meet the staff at Red Arbor, which is the company he created to “feel like an entrepreneur again” and Infojobs Brazil, one of the projects they’re helping to grow at Red Arbor.
Life in the Alternate Reality of a Successful Founder
One thing I am learning from frequenting successful people is that some of them can feel ignored by the rest of us.
The same way one wouldn’t date to flirt with a really attractive member of the opposite sex, entrepreneurs or companies do not contact the big fish in the pond. “They’re too big to pay me attention”, “they’re out of my league”, “I will only be wasting their time” and other silly thoughts pop up when trying to approach the people we look up to.
But some of them do really want to meet us. They love listening to our story and will try to help us. They might not have a lot of time for us, because it’s a matter of math: they might be meeting loads of people, therefore devoting little time to each one of them. But if you really click with them, you can use the 24- to 48-hour attention frame after the meeting to ask them anything. Go do it. In a way, we will be helping each other.
Most of all, they will be really appreciative if you are direct. “Are you interested in investing in my project?”, “would you like to become my mentor?”, “does your company outsource development?” or other direct questions will have an immediate answer. Beating around the bush won’t.
If you do not like people who waste your time, do not waste theirs.
The bottom line here is: these people are most of the time helping back to the community they came from. It is therefore up to us to reach out, ask, and make stuff happen.
Quitters Never Win
“Quitters never win” is one of the most used and reused quote when talking about successful businesses.
I read his book christened “The Conviction” and really enjoyed it. It is a description of his career, with all the highs and lows, explained with accessible language for everyone. No KPIs, no CACs, no reporting or details of investment rounds. Only easy language for everyone to understand. I really appreciated this and will be passing the book onto everyone I know.
As an owner of a 30-year-old business, David had to endure multiple crisis, with the dotcom bubble burst being the toughest. I learned a lot from what he did to keep the company alive: taking risky decisions, some more popular than others, but he did not quit.
He did not quit when computers started to take over the digital design world. He adopted this technology way before everybody else in Spain.
He did not quit when the Internet menaced to compete with paper publications. He learnt from that and tried it in his company.
He did not quit when the Internet really posed a threat to paper publications. He invested in technology and the Internet more than ever.
He did not quit when the dotcom bubble burst. He pivoted the company to be 100% digital.
He did not quit in any of the multiple times he was approached by huge corporations to buy his company. He studied the options, waited, and finally took the best offer.
I look forward to welcoming him on stage for our February edition of Startup Grind Barcelona. I’m sure it will be our best event.
What have you learnt from successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople in your network?