And other words of advice from James Gutierrez
Progresso Financiero founder and CEO James Gutierrez shares seven hard-won lessons with LatinBusinessToday.com readers:
- Never give up: Whether I'm going after investment dollars or convincing a community supermarket to allow us to set up a lending kiosk, I never let disappointment prevent me from trying again and again.
- Don't be afraid to change strategies: We regularly look at new ways of securing venture capital. That means finding new investors we hadn't previously considered instead of thinking Oh, this isn't working anymore. We're always prepared to explore a slightly different road.
- Have a clear business plan that addresses a particular problem: A plan must be easy to articulate so people can clearly understand what you're trying to do. We were able to point at a problem: communities and individuals with little or no credit or banking history. We showed it was very painful, very real and demonstrated that it would be a very big deal if we could solve, or at least begin, to address the problem.
- Believe passionately in what you're doing: It's extremely important for a founder or entrepreneur to have personal goals closely aligned with the venture he or she is starting. I grew up in a Latino community. I want to give back to it and make a real difference in the lives of its people. That keeps me going through all the ups and downs. It also contributes to my overall ambition, drive and staying power.
- Ask "Why am I building this business?": Investors often ask this question. You must make the case for why they should invest in you, instead of someone else with a similar plan. Investors want the assurance that you're going to stick through the tough times and commit to making the business work.
- Be humble: Be intellectually honest and admit you don't know what you don't know. When you acknowledge that you know a lot about one thing but very little about something else, you can recruit a team of great people to help you build a great business.
- Be bold: Sometimes you're the little guy on the block trying to convince someone into giving you your first $10 million. You have to have something inside you that allows you to make tough but confident decisions and to stick to your guns. That's when you have to be bold, commit to your vision, and talk confidently about what you're building. That's how you recruit people, secure money, get people to follow you - and eventually build a successful business.