All Superheroes Have Origin Stories, So Why Shouldn’t I?
I started my first business when I was 11 years old. I sold soda’s in downtown El Paso in the summer. By the time I was 12 I had my first full time employee to help me run my business. And by 13 I had sold my first business. I sold my soda business to a much older competitor.
By that time, I was burnt out and wanted my summers back so the money didn’t really matter. I just wanted to goof off and be irresponsible like the rest of my friends. Little did I know that was the beginning of a life-long journey for me.
It’s this journey that keeps me hungry and motivated. I’ve always known where I want to end up. The zig and the zag of getting there is what makes life worth living… and a little stressful. But I have no doubt that this is what I was born to do. I love what I do and wouldn’t want to do anything else. That’s partly because by this point I’m unemployable.
But let me tell you how I got here.
I went to UTEP and got my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. I didn’t have a very good high school guidance counselor and didn’t know what options I had in college. So I did what most 18-year-olds do. I did what my friends were doing. Luckily for me my friends were studying engineering.
I started my career as a mechanical engineer in Silicon Valley. I worked for Applied Materials, the largest semiconductor equipment manufacturer in the world. It was an awesome ride. The job sent me all over the world with a no-limit American Express card in my wallet.
Imagine how jealous my friends were when I would tell them I just spent two weeks in France or a month in Korea and Japan. But, all good things must come to an end. I was laid off during the dot com bubble and World Trade Center attacks. So I came back to El Paso to get my MBA.
I was half way through my MBA and working at the family business when I got a call from a recruiter at General Motors. They wanted to know if I was interested in interviewing with them. I said “sure”,figuring that I had been rejected by them as an undergrad the same would surely happen again.
Before I knew it I was packing up and moving to Kansas City. Going to work for what was then the largest auto manufacturer in the world!
I lived and worked in Kansas City for about three years. I was an automation engineer at the plant that assembles the Chevy Malibu’s. What I learned there was invaluable.
Not only did I learn about electrical engineering, but I learned how “old industries” work. GM was a place where political correctness was NOT the norm. It was a place where I saw grown men leave the bosses office in tears. And where it wasn’t uncommon for “rival” engineering groups to have full blown cussing matches over the scheduling of weekend work.
It was a combination of the harsh Midwest winters and the “f**k your neighbor” attitude at work that made me quit and come back home. It was the last time I ever worked for someone else.
I’ve been back in El Paso since late 2004. When I got back I joined the family business again. The intent was for me to take over once my dad retired. To be honest, I wasn’t completely in love with the idea. I wanted to build something of my own.
With the help of my dad as my initial business partner I started looking for something I could do. My search eventually led me to The UPS Store, and it’s the ride I’ve been on for the past 11 years.
Today, I own, or have owned, UPS Store franchises all over the United States. I’ve had my ups and downs in business and have even flirted with insolvency a few years back. Coming back from the brink taught me more than any MBA class ever could.
I’m proud to admit that entrepreneurship has absolutely ruined my chances of ever being an employee again. I could never take direction from someone I saw as dumber than me. Plus, my abrasive “get-it-done-now” attitude would rub A LOT of people the wrong way.
This comes as no surprise. I was a terrible employee to begin with. Doing just enough to get by and expecting to get paid handsomely for it. In those days I lived for the weekend.
I often tell entrepreneurs that if had been my own boss when I was an engineer I would’ve “fired myass.” If I had worked as hard then as I do now I’m sure I would’ve climbed the corporate ladder quickly. But I felt entitled and didn’t really know hard work or dedication.
Being an entrepreneur or small business owner is like running a marathon EVERY day. There is very little chance of routine unless you’re disciplined enough to manufacture it. And even then it’s a fight to stay on course and not be distracted by the daily fires you have to put out.
Today, I get the most enjoyment out of the marketing consulting I do. I work with entrepreneurs and businesses all over the United States and Mexico. I’m fortunate to be the highest paid bilingual direct mail and direct response marketing consultant and copywriter in the country. I’ve written two books on the topic of marketing that you can find on Amazon.
As you can guess from the last sentence, I’m going to be talking about marketing A LOT here. Why?
Because as Peter Drucker once said, “The purpose of business is to create a customer. The business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”
Nothing happens until a customer walks in the door. Without customers all you have is an expensive hobby. And if you’re not sure who Peter Drucker is Google him.
I will also share what I’ve learned as an entrepreneur. And what consulting with other businesses has taught me. I’m very passionate about entrepreneurship and marketing so I hope that comes through. Iinvite you to email me and let me know what you think of this column.
If something I shared has helped you in any way, I’d like to know about it. On the flip side if you thought something was garbage let me know. I can be reached at email@example.com.
Well, now that we’ve been formally introduced I’m eager to get started.
To sign off I leave you with my personal credo, “Life is a series of missed opportunities, so go for yours.”™
Look for Victor’s column: Victor Urbina’s Minding Your Business every other Sunday.