Thursday, September 17, 2009
Rodolfo Llanos > www.SoloIngles.com
What do you need to be an entrepreneur?
I am encouraged to say that, more than anything, you need great determination to turn a dream into reality. Once you have that you have the most important thing and, adding a lot of work, creativity, planning and passion for what you propose, you are surely qualified as an “entrepreneur.” Every person that has an idea, takes the initiative with the only objective to turn it into a reality and leads the project all while keeping his nose to the grindstone to me is an entrepreneur. You need a lot of willpower, confidence and clarity of your objectives to not give in when things get stormy or negative. You must also be very attentive to the market so that you are not surprised by the reality
What did inspire you to start your business?
All my life I have known that education is the base of all progress and I firmly believe that the English language drives the business world. This is not only true for business, but also general communications increase and improve when we interact with other cultures, so it is important to use a universal language. Based on that belief I saw that many more people than I had thought do not use English due to the difficulties they have in finding a professor. These difficulties vary (different schedules, distances and economic resources) and it occurred to me that something as massive as the internet could be the solution to this problem that has been so important and reoccurring for a long time. In this way I used an existing resource for an educational mission that strives to be completely global and beneficial for everyone. I am motivated by imagining thousands of men and women finding the solution to their language problem with my service and that it helps to improve and change their quality of life.
How did you finance it?
To tell the truth, I started with $500. There wasn’t any more. We taught the first class from an internet café, without a proper structure, or investors. We gradually found the market and all of the investments were the fruit of sales done in the street, door to door and face to café. Everything was a “re-investment” in the business. It was hard, very hard, and something longer than we had imagined, but today we can say that we grew thanks to our work and our economic sacrifice. I made the furniture and the light fixtures in the office, I hired employees when it was possible to pay them and, in this way, always looking for more and improving the service, we financed the project.
Being Hispanic…Does it have any influence on your business?
I don’t know. I feel that the market for those who need to learn the English language is clearer for me, since I am a part of it. Being a “Spanish speaker” is related to the awareness of the need of my service in the world, but being “Hispanic” in reality could be a handicap rather than a positive influence in opening my business to the world.
In the face of adversity, how do you decide to keep going?
What a question! I will take a few of the words quoted in my first answer, for example: “determination.” For me, adversity is always there; it is not something that comes and goes. I look at it as an unfavorable condition which is always there with any goal (truthfully there have been very few when I have felt the “fair winds”), and therefore I have learned to see it as a part of life. Nothing more than that. And despite of it I have decided to keep moving forward for the same reasons as I started. My desire to see mi dream made into a reality, precisely against the tide. I knew when I started that my dream would never abandon me and I would never abandon my dream due to adversity. I never questioned whether I would move forward or not; I battled adversity with optimism and a lot of ingenuity. I know that it is passing and if I dwell too much on it, adversity wins.
What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
The biggest? My business is one disaster after another, partly because I handle it that way. In any case, I think that the biggest challenge has been opening offices in other countries and not just finding clients: flying to another country to tell them about myself and my project, my business, getting them to believe in an Argentine and his business. It is hard for me to decide which of these challenges deserves the title of “most difficult,” but, in the real world, Argentina is seen as an unstable country, therefore, it seems that all of the residents are unstable as well, so it is difficult to show this flag with pride when talking about businesses. Opening offices in foreign countries is also a new adventure for us, since what we have already done was a big investment and that is why I can select it as the biggest challenge. Another big one occurred while we were getting started: trying to quiet all of those voices that said, “This isn’t going to work.” This included experts in education who said that it was a good idea, but not applicable. This was an even bigger problem due to the fact that we were trying to teach by “videoconferencing” during an era when many of our students had never even chatted before.
If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
Nothing; this is the way I know it and any other way wouldn’t be the same. I imagine that I would cut down on the time needed to put our product on the market and spread to foreign countries. If I could change anything, I would change that, but if you are asking me to choose a characteristic that I don’t like leading, it would be this: I am a very anxious person and this sometimes makes me too restless. In any case I also know that this time that is spent waiting teaches you a lot and is very useful for me today. Therefore, I will stay with my lived experience, because without it the business wouldn’t be MINE, but a business to conquer.
What was your childhood ambition?
To be big. I always wanted to leave my mark. Have my family and my family. Reap the fruits of my labor successfully. When I was an adolescent it wasn’t very clear, maybe at that age I wanted more to have a girlfriend and travel the world with her, but I quickly changed!
Tell us about three entrepreneurs that you admire?
Gates, Ford and Larry Page.
For business meetings: breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
For me the best is lunch; it allows me to complete my daily activities and it makes me predisposed to eating well while doing business. This is very good because it helps everyone to relate the business meeting with a friendly gathering. Nothing takes away the goal of the meeting, but if we can make it more agreeable, all the better. In any case, I will agree to breakfast and dinner for any presented opportunities.
What sacrifices on your personal life did you have to make in order to become a business success?
Many. Giving up time with my family, principally with my children. It was hard but I always accomplished my goals knowing that they were also for a better future for my children. Abandoning the sport that I’m participating in again today, triathlons, because it took up so much time that I had to dedicate to my project. Reducing a few of the pleasures of my family because the money didn’t cover everything. I sacrificed, among other things, the sensation of security that someone who receives a salary at the end of the month feels. My decision to be an entrepreneur wouldn’t be changed for anything, but I know that in my life a lot my strength came from knowing that if I didn’t do it I wouldn’t get paid.
What is your favorite quote?
“Failure will never surprise you if your determination to catch up with success is sufficiently powerful.”
Is it difficult to be unconventional?
Haha, this question makes me feel too special! I don’t think I’m that special! I know that it is a decision that must be made everyday and that there are many temptations to fall into mediocrity and reduce our ambitions and it is not hard to stay conventional. Sometimes it is a question of conduct, but in my case, the desire grew in my essence to challenge the limits that held me back. Ignoring this would be much more difficult than maintaining a comfortable position where I was bored.
Biggest mistake made?
Delaying the opening of offices in other countries and thinking of publicity as a consequence of the consolidation of the business.
Do you consider yourself an innovator? Why?
Yes, it is something that I love: trying new things, inventing things to propose to the world. I like that my actions change the course of things and that my steps make a difference. Change attracts me and I get bored of routine. Innovation to me is a carrot that I will always pursue and enjoy exploring.
About the Company
Soloingles.com is a global technology and education company, a pioneer at the global level in the teaching of languages to professionals, executives and business people through videoconferencing and cell phones.
As an organization with strong international grow, the success of our project is based in our constant dedication to developing an educational system where the student obtains control of the language, both oral and written, that his profession demands.
Our number one strength is giving our students an indispensible tool in the globalized world of today. www.soloingles.com
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