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CURIOSITY AND CONSISTENCY
“I call myself an indie hacker…and a self-taught person.”
Anthony Santos believes alternative forms of learning can be a formula for success for some people, like him.
The soon-to-be 28-year-old says he started college to become a civil engineer, but he dropped out after deciding there was a better route for his type of learning. And it focuses on curiosity and consistency.
INDUSTRY: Recruiting (Tech & Health Care)
STARTED BUSINESS: 2019 (as a side-hustle), early 2021 (full-time)
LATINO CONNECTION: Parents are Dominican
EDUCATION: Attended Florida Atlantic University for 2 years to study engineering
DREAM JOB AS A KID: “As a child, I was the builder. So I think my parents thought I was going to be an engineer.”
But he always had an entrepreneurial spirit. At a young age, he would “go into the garage" and find all the stuff that his “family wouldn’t use. I would go and put it on the table and see if I could sell it.”
“I think in middle school, I started selling shoes and sneakers.”
BIGGEST GOAL YET:
PROFESSIONALLY: “I want to be able to create, with Kaizen Talent [his company], the most disruptive and innovative staffing firm,” not only in South Florida, but also nationwide. “And that has really nothing to do with money, but innovation.”
PERSONALLY: “I owe my parents a big house for all the things that they’ve done for me…They’re getting older, so I have less time than before. But I’m also a lot closer than I was before.”
BUILT FROM SCRATCH
Santos feeds his curiosity by devoting some time to reading, practically every day, to learn something new. He also practices consistency.
If he gets “curious about learning a particular skill, he makes sure to “learn something about that skill every day for six months minimum,” until he not only understands it, but he knows it well enough to “teach someone.”
That’s how he was able to start his staffing firm, Kaizen Talent. He says the company was started from scratch with everything he was able to learn on his own.
Santos started working on Kaizen Talent about two years ago as a side-hustle. He says he’d been doing well working at a consulting firm. But, “I knew I had the itch. I had the vision and just the desire to jump in… I still worked my day job. And, at night, usually from 6 to 10, 6 to 11, 6 to midnight, sometimes, I would work on building the foundational…purposes of the business.
MIAMI’S GROWTH FROM WITHIN
Santos is glad to have his recruiting business in South Florida because of how the tech scene has developed in Miami. “Yeah, there’s people from the outside…but there’s a lot of organic growth…that’s happening… as a result of great programs that have been around here for years.”
He credits Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez for helping spur the growth, from pushing for the Bitcoin 2021 conference to come to town, to “creating a lot of programs and partnering with a lot of groups that are focused on technology and incubators to help companies grow here.”
He says the opportunities to network in Miami are endless and the size of the groups can vary widely. He points to Techqueria, a global nonprofit for the Latinx community with seven city chapters, as an example of a group he believes will continue to grow. Techqueria Miami is actually how I found him.
Santos says people also mistakenly assume the groups are insulated and exclusive. But many are not. He says you could go to a meetup.com. He points to The Lab Miami, CIC Miami or WeWork, all coworking spaces, as places where you can find a buzz of activity involving tech entrepreneurship and networking.
“YOU FAIL MORE THAN YOU WIN”
The possibilities for entrepreneurs may be numerous, but Santos says the failures can be, as well. Still, he’s not fazed. “I’ve had so many of them. And I’ve learned from every one of them. It’s hard to choose just one.” But he prefaces it by saying, “You fail more than you win.”
And the black hole he was in four years ago was the experience that taught him the most.
“It was a failed period of different failed projects and just hitting a rock-bottom point that allowed me to just springboard back.” They included e-commerce ventures. But he says he came back wiser, by asking himself questions. They included these:
“Why am I doing what I’m doing?”
“Why do I do what I want to do?”
“Why do I wake up each morning?”
“What’s my motivation and drive?”
The answers helped him figure out the core principles for his own staffing firm. Most people assume you start a business to make a lot of money and for the freedom it provides you. While he’s not naïve to that and says all of that is true, he realized, at least for him, entrepreneurship is “creating something. It’s being able to build. It’s doing something and having that be the livelihood of others and helping them grow and helping them build.”
That process of self-discovery helped him come up with “a really long list” of principles that he looks at almost every day (Note: See screenshot of "list" below).
As a result, he now looks at that “dark period” as a “good period”. He says it helped him “realign with who I am and start living my life about my principles.” Santos says it also made him “a better man and, ultimately, over time, a better leader, as well.”
THE TIP JAR...(tips passed out courtesy of Anthony Santos)
STARTING OUT: He suggests you pick up the book, Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days, by Chris Guillebeau, or a similar book.
“Read it. Digest it. Think of a list of ideas that you would want to do. Compare. Pick one and try it out.”
"One principle that I live by is 'perfect is not perfect, at first.'”
Santos says, “You need to go throw yourself out there…Take 30 days and see what it is. And if it’s a fail, it’s not a fail…It’s a learning moment. Go take the feedback and build off of that.”
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career):
”Leverage the strengths that you learned from your corporate world or from your career.”
“Don’t let that experience or those learning moments go to waste.”
One option: “Leverage the niche skills that you’ve learned and become a trainer…so that no one can replace you. Because if society is training you, then they can train someone else to replace you.”
“Identify a problem within [your existing] space and create a solution behind it, using what you know foundationally.”
REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE: “I know someone who was a lawyer and wanted to do something completely different…He eventually found his way to becoming a tech entrepreneur. But the way he started was being able to identify issues in his own line of work and then created a technology company that provides a solution to that.”
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN: “Trust everything related to your personal finances, debts, credit and vision to yourself, like a treasure.”
PRACTICAL EXAMPLE: Before Kaizen Talent, “I had to learn the hard way about not just sharing your vision [with] everyone. Not just sharing a good idea and going to the bank to try to get a loan together.”
“I’d be very cautious and wary of those things until you find people you can truly trust. And, sometimes, it’s not your friends…Sometimes, it’s people outside your personal circle.”
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE:
Santos says his mom’s words of wisdom stay with him the most. They include:
“Put God above everything. You don’t need to be religious to believe in a higher power.”
“Si quieres que te valoren, primero, tu seas de valor.”
TRANSLATION: If you ever want to be valued, you must first be of value.”
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
DESIGN THINKING BASICS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
This on-demand course piqued my interest because “design thinking” isn’t something I’d heard of before. Apparently, it’s an approach used for innovating, decision-making and finding solutions to problems. This course is presented in bite-size sections. It explains what the design thinking mindset is, how to use it in generating ideas, building empathy, prototyping, testing ideas and getting feedback. You can even get a certificate for taking the course. Obviously, I’m a big believer in continuing education. If you can collect a certificate in the process, even better. And, as always with the webinars I post, it’s FREE. Take a look:
FLORIDA SBDC (Small Business Development Corporation)
1 hour 40 minutes
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help, especially when it comes to emotional health:
STAYING TRUE TO YOUR VALUES IN THE FACE OF CHANGE
Isn’t it interesting how we wish other people would change and don’t understand why they don’t? Yet, when we have to change, we resist. This FREE seminar helps you take a look at change and your values, especially when the vision for your company doesn’t align with your customers’ expectations. The webinar description says it’ll help you drill down your core values to help you adapt, focusing on how to succeed when the issues you face in your business seem overwhelming. This is another class that sounds like it would do wonders if applied to personal challenges, too. Here’s the link to register:
NATIONAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP CENTER/SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) ORLANDO
Thursday, October 14, 2021
8:00 A.M. – 9:30 A.M. EDT
INSPIRATION FOR THIS ISSUE:
After working in several newsrooms over the years, I’ve noticed the best ones have a mix of young, eager newbies and seasoned veterans who have been around the block. Clearly, everyone brings something to the table that can be useful to their co-workers. But, generally speaking, younger journalists are great with social media, multi-tasking and technology. Older journalists tend to excel at punctuation/spelling, knowledge of history and interpersonal communication.
With Gen Z, millennials and Generation X all working together in corporate America, we can all learn from each other. That’s why I conscientiously look for a good mix of Latinos to profile from different backgrounds and age groups to profile for this newsletter.
What struck me about Anthony Santos, even though he’s not yet 28, was his empathy and thoughtfulness with his answers. By the time I finished the interview, I realized he had a lot of really good examples to share with others.
What I also noticed was that he didn’t seem bashful about being a college dropout. Many people who haven’t finished college are, sometimes, a little hesitant to share that. What I admire is that Anthony owned it. He recognized the path that worked best for him, at least for now, did not involve finishing college. He also comes across as a gentle soul, definitely not the brash stereotype some people may associate with an entrepreneur.
For the “Best Advice from La Casa” section, he was able to recite many quotes from his parents. This resonated with me. My parents are full of advice. They offer their advice, solicited and, sometimes, unsolicited. Sometimes, I hear their nuggets of wisdom so frequently that I tease them and say, “You guys sure do come with a lot of “recommendations!”
Santos said his mom would always tell him, “El mundo da vuelta.” Basically, “one day, you’re on top. The other, you may be on the bottom. So always remain humble.” I’ve definitely heard that one before from my dad. Santos said he has so many “tips” from his parents, it could fill a whole article. I understand. I could do the same.
And it’s that connection he has with his parents and for helping others find the best job that will serve this “indie” spirit well.
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