This post is an interview with Oscar Contreras who has recently published the book “B2U” (Business To You and Be To You), a guide to personal branding and entrepreneurship.
His background is hybrid. Bachelor of Arts in Industrial Arts and a Major in Strategic Communications, from San Francisco State University, and MBA with Specializations in E-Commerce from the same alma mater.
Interview with Oscar
Oscar kindly agreed to answer a few questions from me…
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started out?
In 1999, I wish I knew I should never follow other people’s patterns: the ones that are imposed by society, education or profession. Patterns are the result of failure, and they never define nor predict who you really are. I followed that pattern to fail in my career as a lawyer (after spending 4 years in Law School 😉 I thought I knew what I wanted, but instead, I did what I thought or was told that I wanted.
It took me 15 years to finally find out what drives my life: interacting with people. That makes me a very unusual kind of animal.
Who are 5 people who inspire you to be the best version of yourself?
- My father Oscar, who is the most correct person I’ve ever met in the whole world. Thanks to him, I still keep ingenuity and ethics as some of my personal tools.
- My grandfather Santiago (unfortunately died this year), because he was relentless and brave. Didn’t have formal education, but acted as a master of sobriety and negotiation. He became successful and influent by his own hand.
- Elon Musk, he told me about being servile as a manager. One of the biggest lessons of my life.
- Pope Francis. Yes, I was raised catholic, but I’m not a religious fanatic, nor I want to evangelize anyone ;). He has an edge that makes him different, he has character and guts. His actions do move people more than his prey.
- Steve Jobs. Yeah… typical right? But I knew the guy and have had it on my table while negotiating. He is both passion and a despot. He has no fear as long as he pursues what he wants. He reminds me to always speak up what I want, if I want to be a game changer.
Where did the idea for setting up your Company come from?
After skyrocketing a career of ten years at Electronic Arts, I went back to Chile in 2010, thinking I was going to have the same success as an Entrepreneur.
I was wrong.
After 3 years of struggle to maintain a videogame start-up called Syrenaica (raising various rounds of capital), the time came to pivot the business model to training instead of development. I started working with Colleges and Universities in the country. I did well enough, by creating a certificate program that sold well in four consecutive years. In the process I found out that the core of our success was the training methodology. I faced some resistance from academics. Thus, Universities are really not the best partners for this kind of business.
In 2013, the company finally failed. I tried miserably to find employment. The working culture was too different. My mind was already forged in the American Way. With my bank account numbers in red and with a big knot in my stomach, I quickly had to find my first 6 company clients to work as a marketing consultant. In the meantime, I started to write my first book “Restart”. It was a memoir, but at the same time a chance to tell my career story to many people and find some kind of catharsis. It’s was a dark period, losing a dream was like losing a son.
The recipe is simple: I only make money If my client makes more money and is successful.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I run 5 miles in the morning. It really helps me prepare my willpower for what’s coming next. I visit or I’m visited by some clients (corporate) that I’m counselling and advising.
Mid-day, I’m visiting some prospects. I write my thoughts; sometimes I teach a class at a University.
I’m always available for my family; I make them part of my schedule. Vacation for me is a real vacation, not an escape from pressure or stress.
At the end of my day, I have another long session with clients. But these are private, certain “influential” people that wish to remain incognito. I usually end my day at 10:00 PM. Have dinner, put my kids to sleep, kiss my wife.
What single achievement are you proudest about?
I have a beautiful family. My objective in life has changed dramatically. Now, I don’t want to be rich. I only want to have a comfortable life and see that I am changing the world one client at a time; I can sleep like a baby when I put my head on the pillow, knowing that I’m doing something good and have never damaged another person’s dreams.
However, you might think that this is a happy story. It is not. It took me decades and stomach to stand the risk of never working for another boss. You start being a coach of coaches, but who coaches you? When you live your life driven by your own expectations, you can feel very lonely sometimes. I love it, but it’s not perfect.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
As a sales associate in Sears, Oakland, in 2002 when I was restarting my life after leaving Chile. Terrible pay and horrible hours. I was studying in College with an F-1 Visa, but working illegally to survive.
I saw one of my colleagues being arrested by immigration. I never felt secure. I realised that nobody is better and nobody is worse than me. I’ve learnt that I can handle being poor, and since I had nothing more to lose, reinventing myself was a much easier process.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I organise my schedule a week in advance. It gives me the chance to create the reality I’m going to live.
What change would you make in the world?
In the information era, the one with the best story wins. Thus, you should stop fooling yourself with so much “yadayada” that others say, instead of making your own genuine decisions. Or try to have mentors that have really changed the world by your side.
So many people postpone important decisions, because they tend to find as much information as they can. Too much information usually contradicts, and that can be confusing. Learn by failing and don’t be afraid. Afterwards, you are constructing your own story and that can make you a winner everywhere. Make failure your best success and success your best failure. You cannot judge anyone but yourself.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and would recommend everyone else to do?
I dedicate 1/3 of my week to meet new people.
These 2 weekly cups of coffee are my best investment. Coffee is cheap, and it has allowed me to get to know people I had never never imagined.
What burning Question do you want the readers’ help to answer for you?
What is success? Is what you were told or promised, or what you biggest dream commanded? Or maybe you were always successful and you haven’t realised it yet?
What is one failure you had, and how did you overcome it?
Choosing the wrong person in my first start-up. I used guts instead of head to put one of my co-founders on board. I was betrayed. It meant debt, headaches and deep personal disappointment.
My current company is successful because it doesn’t have employees: It has associates. I recruit talent on a project by project basis. I look for a “business owner” mentality. I don’t want to deal with complainers. I proactively choose to surround myself with energised people.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I love to sing, and I sing very well (enough to impress the girls in the front row). Mostly ballads from the 80’s.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Favourite youtube video?
This is my favourite youtube video:
Connect with Oscar Contreras :
- Linkedin: https://cl.linkedin.com/in/gamesveteran
- Twitter: @gamesveteran
Where are you located? Santiago, Chile