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I hope you'll share this article with friends and family (share button is at the top), especially after you learn how Teodoro "Teo" Gonzalez set up what I call "wisdom on a spreadsheet" for his family. It's in the Tip Jar section below.
The ConnectUs founder and CEO also has a great tip for "scheduling" talks with people you need to stay in touch with on a regular basis. Enjoy!
WHAT DOES SOCCER HAVE TO DO WITH IT?
Who knew that playing soccer can be, in a way, like being an entrepreneur?
I know. I hadn’t thought of it that way, either.
That was until I interviewed Teodoro "Teo" Gonzalez. He’s the founder and CEO of ConnectUs.
It’s a company that creates software that, essentially, is designed to help companies keep their employees happy by helping them create and foster better employee relationships.
Gonzalez told me about how he loved playing soccer as a kid and even got to play the sport in Spain for a couple of summers. That’s where he learned about the difference between playing in Spain vs. playing in the U.S.
INDUSTRY: Tech, Human Resources
Incorporated on July 27, 2020
Pivoted business to its current form in February 2021
Teo Gonzalez - Puerto Rican
Mother - Puerto Rican
Father - Puerto Rican
Dartmouth College – Master’s degree in Business Administration
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Bachelor’s degree in Public Health (focus was Health Policy & Management, minor was in Entrepreneurship)
DREAM JOB AS A KID: “So my childhood dream growing up actually was to probably be more like you. I wanted to be a writer.
Note: He still wants to do that someday.
“There was a point in time where I wanted to become a physician. I thought I was going to go the medical school route and realized the natural sciences were not my forté. But nonetheless, I wanted to figure out how I could positively influence people’s lives.”
BIGGEST GOAL YET: “By 2026, I want ConnectUs to be a company that’s doing $20 million annual recurring revenue.”
“What that symbolizes is that … the idea stuck. And we were able to bring in people who are really passionate about the idea, and they feel like they’re having a really great time doing it.”
THE SPEED OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
In the process of sharing his story about soccer, Gonzalez enlightened me on the different speed of entrepreneurship. That’s something I, frankly, hadn’t considered before.
To get his point across, he noted this about playing soccer in Spain vs. playing soccer in the U.S.
“It always came down to the speed of the game. It wasn’t necessarily that they [the Spaniards] were better with their feet - or [that] they’d be shooting the ball so differently.”
Gonzalez says, it was the speed with which the Spaniards play soccer that makes the difference.
“I would get the ball in the U.S. and I would have maybe… two full seconds to plan out my next move. Whereas in Spain, before I even got the ball, there was someone on top of me trying to get it from me. So I needed to be that much faster.”
Similarly, in entrepreneurship, you better be ready to move that much faster.
“The amount of things that get done towards the productivity of the organization in a week is like 3x what I’m used to at other organizations.”
THE "PEOPLE" CONNECTION
Gonzalez, who is a native of Puerto Rico, didn’t set out to become a founder of a company.
It actually evolved from wanting to first be a writer, telling stories about people, to helping people.
After briefly considering becoming a doctor and morphing that desire into studying public health, he jumped into management consulting.
That’s before he decided he could have a more direct impact on people as the owner of a company.
PEOPLE PASSION - AND PASSWORDS?
So how did our conversation about his passion for helping people turn into a discussion about password problems?
Ah, yes. That’s one of the “other” realities of entrepreneurship.
The day I interviewed Teo Gonzalez, he realized he needed to add that “skill/responsibility” to his job as CEO of his start-up, ConnectUs, in case someone at his company got locked out of their computer.
“Ok, I’m now the Microsoft Admin for my team… These are the details that I didn’t even think about because I didn’t need to – because it wasn’t a part of my daily job before. But the buck all stops with you…”
It’s just one of the many “jobs” involved in running a business that I hadn’t thought of myself.
He also brought up trying to launch your startup while in school, if at all possible. Gonzalez started his business in the 2nd year of grad school. And he actually wishes he would’ve started sooner – maybe in the first year. Here’s why:
“While you’re in business school, the expectation is [you’ll be] learning new skills, building connections, building relationships… But there’s no point in my professional life where that has been the only thing I needed to worry about. I may be thinking about a car payment or something else because I’m figuring out life, as we all are… Whereas in business school, those two years are really intended to be just a pure investment in yourself. So what better time to go ahead and try out every outlandish idea you have when there aren’t the pressures on you to be the typical productive member of society?”
KEEPING UP WITH CHANGE
Now that he’s out of business school, he’s balancing the CEO responsibilities with life’s responsibilities.
But maintaining that connection with people is what Gonzalez hopes his startup will provide companies and employees.
It comes at a time when many people are feverishly trying to keep up with the speed of change in business while simultaneously trying to keep up with life itself.
THE TIP JAR (tips passed out courtesy of Teo Gonzalez)
STARTING OUT: “Talk to people all the time. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, schedule it!”
Gonzalez has a neat way he’s mapped out how to do it by separating these talks into three categories:
-Talk to customers
-Talk to people in tangential professional networks/“People that I don’t necessarily know that I would love to get to know more” (e.g., alumni at school)
-Talk to friends and family
Here’s why he schedules these talks:
“Otherwise, I knew I was not getting enough feedback from my customers. Otherwise, I was finding myself stuck in my same circles. I am not meeting new people who are tangentially related. And, sometimes, I found myself losing touch with people, if I didn’t remind myself, ‘Hey, let me call this person and see how they’re doing.”
STEEPED IN SKILLS (mid-career): “Be really diligent about committing time or setting a milestone in terms of how long you want to give this initiative.”
PRACTICAL EXAMPLE: “I have a friend who is a little bit more advanced in their career. And they said, I want to be an entrepreneur. And we were having a conversation about their runway. We were like, all right, based on how they set themselves up, they have a year. And as much as he might want to hop off this entrepreneurship path, he cannot do so for a year.”
STARTING OVER: “I would encourage them to view their career, up to this point, and where they want to get to, as a jungle gym rather than a ladder.”
PRACTICAL EXAMPLE: Going from being an officer to big tech
“There are skills that he/[she] can definitely translate over that may not be super obvious to a person who’s looking at a resume. But that’s where the career is the jungle gym, right? You’re going sideways and then you’re going diagonally. And then you’re making a shift.”
“Really reflect, what are the skills that are not so isolated to a particular job?”
“Figure out… how can you connect to what you want to achieve instead?”
Gonzalez says, it may not be an overnight accomplishment. “But, generally, what I’ve seen is, people are able to make that jungle gym scaling happen.”
I’LL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN: “Don’t set your strategy late. And then don’t flip-flop based on some feedback. Be committed and observe results before you make any changes that you want to do.”
PRACTICAL EXAMPLE: “There have been a bunch of people telling us, this would be great as a consumer product. Forget the B2B (business to business) approach. And there is a lot of validity there. But that’s not our strategy right now. And, so, I cannot be dedicating my limited time and resources to something that could just potentially reduce our likelihood of success…”
BEST ADVICE FROM “LA CASA”/BEST “HOUSE” ADVICE:
Gonzalez says his dad gave him this valuable piece of advice: “’Si no preguntas, ya tienes el no.’”
TRANSLATION: If you don’t ask, you already have the no.
He says this applies to promotions, raises and fundraising, just to name a few examples.
Little gems of wisdom, like the above, have taken on a life of their own in the Gonzalez home.
“We have a little Gotitas del Saber (LOOSE TRANSLATION: Little Drops of Wisdom) spreadsheet in our house that we all just add to. [If] it was something that people were talking about… it was like, ‘Oh, add that to the Gotitas del Saber. A year ago, I said we should just put this on a spreadsheet – so it could live on forever.”
NO NEED TO GO IT ALONE
HELP ON THE OUTSIDE...because we can all use a helping hand:
2022 Digital Marketing Trends
It can be tough to keep up with all the changes in digital marketing. Let's get you get up to speed. I found this SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) webinar through the National Entrepreneurship Center. You'll get the lowdown on the latest trends on topics like big data, content marketing and marketing automation. Find out which trends may work for you and your small business for 2022. Here's the link to get more info and register:
National Entrepreneurship Center and SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)
Saturday, January 8, 2022
10 a.m. EST - 11 a.m. EST
WORKING ON THE INSIDE...because we know our culture has a hard time asking for help:
New Year, New Perspectives
Ready to learn about how people are using their conscience to improve their lives and their outlook? In this FREE webinar, you'll hear from students from the American Meditation Institute who share how they've experimented to make meaningful change in their lives. There will also be a Q & A.
Thursday, January 6, 2022
7 p.m. EST - 8 p.m. EST
INSPIRATION FOR THIS ISSUE:
I often say that I’m just like a kid. Aren’t we all?
I need routines to thrive.
A kid will likely never admit they want structure and routine in their life. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and other researchers, they do better when they have it.
Now as an adult, I find that those frameworks that were set up for me as a kid are even more valuable now to help me manage all the “surprises” and extra duties that sneak into my day.
I noticed Teo Gonzalez likes structure, too. I found his way of compartmentalizing and scheduling things really useful. I don’t know if he cultivated that when he was in management consulting or if he was always like that.
That’s why I found it even more interesting that he decided to take family members’ words of advice and put it on a spreadsheet for the whole family to refer to in the future.
The tech space can be considered cold and built on quantifiable results. But that’s why I’ve been following what some tech entrepreneurs are doing to meld that human, emotional element into systems. The overall goal seems to be to create more productivity and value for the company and connection for employees.
Teo’s startup focuses on building employee relationships based on those activities and interests that bind us together. He described the notion of his dual role as founder and CEO to the romance of being a founder with the practicalities of being a CEO.
In the end, isn’t that what we’re all trying to do on some level? Keep up with and benefit from an increasingly data and tech-reliant world - without losing our humanity and relationships in the process?
🎄 And that's a wrap for today!
🎄Wishing each of you many blessings for Christmas and beyond. Hope you get to connect with your family and friends.
🎄I'll be back next week with some special editions of Generation Si! Be sure to check back in to find out what's in store for you.