Do you know what role your business plays in your life? Building a business is like building a safety net; not only can you build your financial freedom, but you can also change your life and the lives of the people around you while having fun and enjoying yourself. Today we’ll be talking to Marcelo De Fuentes. He started his own market research company after getting laid off in the 1990s. He’s going to talk to us about how he built the company and how he sold it. We’ll also discuss what Marcelo’s life was like post-sale. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the insight that Marcelo shares.
You will learn about:
- When and why Marcelo decided to be an entrepreneur, as well as how he jumped in with both feet.
- The benchmarks Marcelo met while growing his business.
- Some of the goals Marcelo wanted to reach as he continued to invest in is company.
- What it meant to Marcelo to create a valuable company, as well as how he invested in his employees to build human capital.
- What influenced Marcelo’s views on what would define a valuable company.
- Why Marcelo went down the route of partnering with someone else, as well as how the partnership transpired.
- Details of the negotiation process and how the deal progressed with an agreed-upon formula.
- What Marcelo learned from two other companies who wanted to buy the company.
- What it was like going from being a solo entrepreneur to becoming a partner, as well as how the rest of the process to a sale unfolded.
- Some of the mixed emotions that Marcelo went through as he sold his business.
- How Marcelo created a personal safety net after he sold his company by continuing to create value and grow.
- Some of Marcelo’s current goals and projects.
Altruism and business go together far better than most of us realize. As entrepreneurs, we’re often so focused on getting our business up and running and performing well that we don’t stop to think about the impact we’re having on our community, or the world at large. Is it our responsibility to do so? Marcelo De Fuentes argues that yes, it is, particularly as we look to the future.
However, Marcelo assures us we can still have good profit margins while creating a more positive work and living environment.
Altruism and the Entrepreneur
You’ve noticed that market gap and have built a bespoke business which perfectly fills that niche. Good for you! But are your employees happy? Do you have a good ecological impact? How big is your carbon footprint? What are you doing to further the society around which you’ve built your business?
Let’s not get too crazy, here, by trying to tackle all these points. Instead, we’ll look at the impact Marcelo’s business model had on his business and how that is now applying to his newest venture, Fundary, and what that company is enabling an entire country to do.
It’s About Your People, People
We’ve heard this before: company culture and employee happiness is tantamount to business success. We’ve studied why, we have entire departments devoted to securing a functioning workplace and we even acknowledge that most people prefer companies that offer bonuses and benefits.
But all those things cut into our bottom line, don’t they? Marcelo shows us in today’s podcast exactly how it was that his company was the strongest in the market research industry because of how much he gave back to his employees. He ensured his first liners, as he calls them, received owner status in the company and therefore received a share of the profits.
Not surprisingly, his people first focus created more energy and buy-in from his employees who then worked even more diligently for him and grew the company. This is not a unique model, but it is very underrated. So much so that when Marcelo sold the company, this structure was abandoned within two years.
As an owner, you are responsible for your employees. We feel this very keenly when we first start our business because we know each employee’s name and face intimately. Don’t lose sight of this as you grow, however, since these employees can make or break your business. When they’re doing well and happily engaged at work, your company does well also. While you could cut compensation packages for your employees and earn a little more for yourself or key (often higher-up) employees, you are undermining the positive impact you can have on your work culture and community.
Marcelo is a great example of doing better for the sake of it. After he sold his company and realized he wasn’t going to be able to convince them to look after his employees the way he had (by keeping the business model the same), he knew he needed to do something else.
As with most entrepreneurs, Marcelo turned around and started a new company in pretty short order. This time, he took what he had learned while running his first business and applied it to making this one far more altruistic. Not only did Marcelo get into recycling and became the top private recycling company in Mexico, he also started a business venture called Fundary which supplies capital to business owners (or aspiring business owners) so they can grow — and he’s doing this in lieu of bank accounts. Did you know that only 37% of Mexicans have bank accounts? Yeah, I didn’t either. Crazy! But the economy can’t really grow if people don’t have either the capital or the credit to help build it, so Marcelo stepped in when he saw that need and created a business capable of helping people who do not have access to fair credit succeed.
Not only that, he has managed to create this as a win-win scenario: investing or being invested in, everyone gets something out of the peer-to-peer exchange. Effectively, this program is giving the resources necessary to create new enterprises in areas where traditional banking models are either not available or ineffective.
Working for change is the change in working we need to see in the world today. Marcelo recognized the ability to utilize technology to level the business playing field. What is your business doing for your employees? Your community? Your country?
Take a close look at how things are going. Is there room to make some small changes that can have huge impacts? Are you working with people who share your progressive and altruistic vision?
Pick the Right Business Partner
As Marcelo discovered, sometimes the partner you bring on is not the partner you need. He ended up using his capital partner as an exit opportunity so he could move onto bigger and better things. He did this because his partner had a different vision for the company and started taking away some of the compensation structures that Marcelo stood firmly behind.
There are tons of options available for capital sources and even for partners. One of the conversations that needs to happen earlier on in the partnering process is that of mutual future vision. The partner Marcelo needed was someone who shared his passion for helping his country and others who are struggling to achieve their business and financial goals. When this person came along, Marcelo was able to jump straight onboard to develop their mutual passion into a feasible business plan.
Whether you’re listening today because you’re struggling with the idea of exiting your business or you’re considering what other options you have in front of you, try to consider Marcelo’s call to action for us entrepreneurs to give back in order to get ahead. https://fundary.network/
- Having the ability to be true to yourself and who you are is essential.
- Success is about the people, the culture, and your employees. Take the time to build a community and treat your employees well.
- Understanding your company’s value and focusing on long-term sustainability will help you position your business in the right place for a successful sale.
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Marcelo De Fuentes has been an entrepreneur since the age of 23. He became the founder and owner of MERC-GfK, a market research company, in 1991. In 2011, he became the president and co-founder of Ziklum, today’s biggest TetraPak recycling company in Mexico. In 2016, Marcelo co-founded Fundary, one of the first companies in LATAM within the Fintech sector that uses blockchain, smart contracts, and cryptocurrencies for peer-to-peer lending. In 2017, he co-founded Muvu, a mobility solution company based on a proprietary algorithm that solves the financial problem of the car tax deduction.
Marcelo’s personal interests include ecology, graphene, alternative energies, reading, motocross, wine, friends, and, most importantly, his family.