Hi, everybody! 👋 Hope your day is off to a great start.
Some of us start with a lot more challenges than the next person. But that shouldn't stop you from going after your dreams.
Here's a story of someone who not only served our country - but who used personal crises to help guide his path and purpose.
Don't forget to share this article with friends. And, if you haven't done so yet, please subscribe. Like my mom always says, "La unión hace la fuerza!" (Translation: Strength in numbers)
SOME GROWING UP TO DO
"I knew I wasn’t built for regular academics. But I always wanted to learn. So I tried school and did... remedial courses in college.”
That’s when a young Omar Fuentes realized, he still had some growing up to do. So he joined the United States Marine Corps.
“It was there when I kind of found my voice...”
There was a moment in the beginning of his military career that was pivotal.
INDUSTRY: Tech, Health Care
STARTED BUSINESS: Officially, December 2020, Ramp-up: 2+ years
Mother – Dominican
Father - Ecuadorian
EDUCATION: Various certifications and licenses:
CSFS® (Certified Self-Funding Specialist)
CSM® (Certified ScrumMaster)
CSPO® (Certified Scrum Product Owner) and
Attended Syracuse University - IVMF program for Project Management
Series 215, 220, 6 and 63
DREAM JOB AS A KID: “When I was a kid… I wanted to be a soccer player. When I got a little bit older…I wanted to go to John Jay University and get a criminal justice degree. I wanted to open up a facility or a program for troubled teens.”
BIGGEST GOAL YET: “The biggest goal is the scale that I want to take the company to be global.”
“I want to be able to… actually have my family… enjoy the fruits of our labor and to be able to travel on a consistent basis.”
“But me, personally, as an individual, I want to be able to mentor other veterans, other minorities… being able to show that, hey, listen, I’ve done it. So can you. Let’s… help you get to that place and provide them [with] the resources they need to get off on the right track.”
THE PHONE CALL WITH DAD
It was 1998.
It was a time of no cell phones and no phone calls, except an extremely brief call to speak to family. Besides writing letters, he and the others in boot camp would not be able to communicate with family for another three months.
Fuentes says the only time they had for themselves was during church on Sunday mornings. That’s when he came up with a plan.
“I convinced the chaplain for me to call home, and I called my father. And my father said, ‘Omar, you have to finish what you started. And then he hung up on me.’ So, at that point, I was like, excuse my French, but I was like, holy s***, I’ve gotta figure out how to get through this.”
Fuentes realized at that moment, he had a purpose. A four-year career in the United States Marine Corps taught him a lot.
Hard knocks taught him even more about where his purpose should take him, career-wise.
“I was struggling for about 12 years after I got out of active duty.”
He was asking himself, “Who am I? What am I supposed to do? Who am I supposed to be?”
One of the problems was that the formal nature of being a Marine didn’t work well in business. But a career in finance taught Fuentes how to sell, how to speak to people, how to read people and how to present himself in a professional manner that wasn’t as rigid and connected with people.
He then went on to work on selling employee group benefits and did consulting work. But something was missing.
The hustler in him got frustrated when he hit a ceiling in corporate jobs. And then…
ONE FAMILY HEALTH CRISIS AFTER ANOTHER
“When I got older and was moving up in my career, my father had a major stroke. And he survived the stroke, but he did not survive the lack of care he encountered afterwards.”
Fuentes never really thought the health care field would be his future. But what he saw and experienced made him realize there had to be a better way for health care providers to streamline their businesses and be able to provide more quality time and care to their patients.
Fuentes says his father actually received better care after he was given eight months to live. “All of a sudden, now, a nurse was showing up either every day or three or four days out of the week to kind of help him pass away peacefully.”
Fuentes says his brother also had his difficulties with the health care system. “My brother struggled with mental health for a good amount of time. And he didn’t have access to the right types of care,” according to Fuentes. Three years ago, his brother died by suicide.
As if that weren’t enough, his wife couldn’t get answers to what was wrong with her, health-wise. Three years and more than a dozen doctors later, she finally got an answer: She had Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
She was able to recover, but it cemented Omar Fuentes' mission in business.
DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT
“So all those different things made me realize… I can’t leave this industry, and I have to do something about it.
That something turned out to be accelEQ, the company he founded. Fuentes says it’s a platform that has a proactive vs. reactionary approach to care and helps medical providers streamline their business. By leveraging technology, he says health care providers can operate more efficiently and deliver better care to patients by eliminating wasted time.
MAKING THE DECISION
He said he decided to go for it and start the business after his wife asked him a question:
“What’s going to be the bigger pain? Regretting not starting - or failing?”
There was only one answer, especially after what he’d seen in business and with his own family.
“I decided to go ahead and cash in my 401K, take any savings and money that we had saved up. I’m cashing in all my chips and taking a huge bet on myself.” He also added two partners who are providing specialized technical know-how.
ANSWERING A DIFFERENT CALL
Today, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Omar Fuentes is getting ready to answer a different call.
He was selected to pitch for the annual “Disrupt the Bay” technology conference. “Disrupt the Bay” not only seeks to shine a spotlight on companies disrupting the health care sector in a positive way, but the event raises money for childhood cancer.
He’s also preparing to pitch his business for the PenFed Foundation Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Master’s Program. He was chosen for the specialized business accelerator program. It helps those who have served our country advance their entrepreneurial dreams with investment help and other resources.
ON THE RIGHT PATH
“I’m scared to death…but I’m also excited…” about the opportunity. He says, “Those are the types of steps and things…that continue to validate that I’m on the right path.”
Fuentes is on such a different path from when he started as a kid. “I got into fights all the time. I tried to run away… I think it was from a place of not being confident in who I am and not knowing that I had a purpose in life.”
He’s now focused on the future and hopes to have 300 to 350 medical providers on his platform next year. When he thinks about how far he’s come, he thinks about his younger self. He would've told young Omar, “Just quiet the noise in your head.”
Then, he thinks back to that phone call he snuck in to speak to his father during boot camp.
Fuentes says, if he could speak to his father again, he’d be telling his father that he’s finishing what he started.
THE TIP JAR (tips passed out courtesy of Corporal Omar Fuentes)
STARTING OUT: “Whatever you think entrepreneurship is, or whatever you think being a business owner is, just throw all that crap out the window… and start with a clean slate.”
“I would find, whether it’s one, two or three, quality mentors that have actually gone through this. That, in and of itself, is probably worth its weight in gold.”
“If you’re going to do it… then do it… Don’t have back-up options because it’s always going to distract you.”
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career): “I would pick out the parts in your career where you had taken risks. And put that together, and that will kind of be the framework for you to take the next steps.”
STARTING OVER: “Go all in on who you are… We don’t need to have copies of each other. You’re going to rub people the wrong way. You’re going to say the wrong thing sometimes. You’re going to make mistakes. But those are the things that we are, and those are the things that you need to embrace and learn from and move on from.”
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN: "I would never start it [a business] alone. I think I would've been further along if I had... evaluated what my weaknesses were, or what I lacked, to get my partners."
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: "If someone's a technical person, then they need to bring in a business guy or gal."
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE: Fuentes says there was no particular “saying” that his parents told him. He says, “It was really what they showed me more than anything else. They sacrificed a lot for their family and then worked really hard."
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: “It took 20 years for my father to go to college because he was trying to take care of the family and grow himself - so that he could do better for us.”
When it comes to his mother, Fuentes says, “She taught us, essentially, how to love.” When Fuentes’ dad lost his job as an accountant, he says his mother stepped it up and helped financially. “My mother ended up working at a factory and Toys ‘R Us. Just doing whatever she could do to support the family...”
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
NAVIGATING YOUR SMALL BUSINESS THROUGH FINANCIAL MILESTONES
The woman behind the TV series, Small Business Revolution, wants to help you answer key questions about your small business. Are you wondering what the difference is between fixed and variable costs? Is it the right time to expand your business? What about whether or not you should outsource or add an employee? Amanda Brinkman will discuss the above topics and more with U.S. Bank’s Nadine Seivert. Want to learn more about this live webinar from SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)? Here are the calendar details, plus the link:
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help:
GET SOME SLEEP
Getting adequate and quality sleep is something I struggle with often. This is a great, little guide that not only offers a friendly reminder of the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep, but it also gives you some tips and habits you can incorporate into your life to help you get better sleep. While some are common sense tips, I know I benefit from getting a nudge every now and then to do better with my sleep habits. Hopefully, you will, too. Take a look:
So you want to become an entrepreneur, but you just aren’t sure what kind of small business you’d start?
Many people have grappled with a problem in their lives and realized, they knew a better way to do things; they had a solution to the problem.
In Omar Fuentes’ case, his family’s heartbreaking experiences with health struggles gave him the personal mission. His professional experience working with insurance benefits provided him with the know-how and the connections. His military service qualified him for special programs to get help with his small business plans.
I pray you never have to go through the heartache he did.
To spark ideas of your own, look around. Is there something you could improve, physically or process-wise?
That’s the crux of what this newsletter is about – helping you become aware of opportunities and learn about resources.
I appreciated that Fuentes was open and honest about his troubled youth. He also recognized, even at a young age, that he needed to do some maturing and joined the Marines.
That takes self-awareness.
He’s been forthright about the difficult road he’s traveled. He also made me aware of the PenFed Foundation program. That’s a good reminder that, as you ramp-up or actually start your business, you should think about and list which groups you belong to that might have financial or other resources available to you.
No one does it alone.
Whether you’re fulfilling a promise to yourself to start something, or are committed to restarting something, I hope that Fuentes’ determination, especially in the face of such heart-wrenching family experiences, will inspire you to start on your journey. No matter where you are in the planning or execution of it, remember, progress is progress.
Fuentes says his father would be both proud and shocked to learn he started his own business. He’s proud of himself and says his late brother would have told him, “Finally, you’re doing something that you love - and you just need to continue it.”
I hope you get to do something you love and can continue down that path – your path.
🌴Liked the story? Please share it (the share button is at the top)
🌴 Before you go, please subscribe! It's easy - and the newsletter is free.