Three Key Lessons that Shaped My Entrepreneurial JourneyBy Inigo Rumayor Belausteguigoitia | Thu, 08/20/2020 - 09:17
Every entrepreneur has a different journey. Life experiences and decisions impact the path that we take or how we arrive at success, and the main failures that usually precede that success. I began my career at age 15, in a small town in northern Mexico, taking over my family’s agricultural business after my father’s death. Now, I am the chief revenue officer (CRO) and co-founder of Arcus, a fintech-as-a-service platform.
However, throughout my journey thus far, I have found that there are a few key principles that are essential to the success of any entrepreneur.
We’re taught that a hard day’s work is the gold standard; that hard work will be rewarded. In the world of entrepreneurship, working hard for something should always be a part of the equation but hard work is not always the final answer.
Sometimes, the answer is working differently.
Entrepreneurs aren’t afraid to recognize that there is a problem, which is the first step in working differently. An entrepreneur needs to be able to examine an existing situation, assess the required input and weigh it against the desired output. If the output doesn’t validate the input, then you have to ask yourself if it is necessary and if it can be done differently to produce a more desirable outcome.
When I took over the family business, I watched how hard everyone at the company was working, day in and day out. I also observed broken systems and processes and ways of doing things that had become second nature, but didn’t always make sense. For example, no one was tracking the production of the cattle or its capacity. We had enough water, but we needed to design a rotation plan that maximized the production and usage of the property and food. Since I was new to the business, I had the opportunity to question the way things were done in the past. This forced me to ask questions and discover new ways of doing things.
It also became clear that in order to grow the business, we needed to change how we thought about our offerings. We found new opportunities to focus our energy, including exporting our production to new markets, which allowed us to find a more competitive market for our products.
THE IMPORTANCE OF INSIGHT
The truth is, sometimes working differently needs to be precipitated by thinking differently. This requires an innate inquisitiveness, but also deep insight into the problem that you’re trying to solve.
I realized this early on because each week I had to travel into the city to manage the payment for our company’s staff. Due to a lack of banking infrastructure in Mexico, particularly in rural towns, I traveled to a bank branch that was an hour away, withdrew enough cash to pay all of our workers, traveled back and then managed each individual’s payment. On top of this, the lack of proper infrastructure made it nearly impossible for our workers to pay their bills easily, as they would have to make the same trip to the city. This wasn’t efficient for them, so I began coordinating their bill payments for them. I would withdraw the necessary cash, pay bills for each worker and then give them whatever wages they had left after the bill payments. I had to do this every single week, even if I was sick or there was a problem with transportation, because if I didn’t go our workers wouldn’t be paid.
I had to stop and ask myself, “Is there a better way to do this?” I knew there had to be, yet I wasn’t yet equipped with the right knowledge to figure it out - yet. But I knew I wanted to. I set my sights on pursuing the best possible education, earning a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania and a few months later, I landed in the US, ready to learn everything I could about the financial ecosystem.
Now, Arcus is making it possible to solve the exact problem I set out to solve years ago.
We’ve built financial infrastructure that is creating better ways for people to access financial systems that improve their lives. Our fintech-as-a-service infrastructure makes it possible for banks and companies to serve unbanked or underbanked populations.
What I learned is this: If you think there is a better way, there often is. Take the time to find it. Educate yourself so you become an expert and gain the necessary insight to find a solution for the problem at hand.
Referencing my point above, the vast majority of people have said to themselves at one point or another, “there has to be a better way to do this.” Most people can recognize that there is a potential problem that could be solved. There is almost always an opportunity for optimization, whether it is for efficiency, experience or even speed.
As entrepreneurs, we are searching for these opportunities for optimization. However, all of the effort we put into working differently and thinking differently amounts to nothing without initiative.
My first steps in my entrepreneurial journey weren’t planned. I was not prepared to run a business, but overnight, it became what I needed to do. I had to learn fast, adapt and lead to keep the business running successfully. I didn’t have time to worry about failing. I took initiative and those first steps soon turned into the path toward my future.
Embrace initiative. Don’t wait for perfect conditions or something to fall into place. Just go, full speed ahead and enjoy the ride!