Be what you are but dress according to your industry standards. If you are in the pharmaceutical world for example… remove your earrings and gold chains .
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paolo Aliatis.
Paolo Aliatis is a Property Entrepreneur and Investor. He began his career in 2001 as the founder of Paintball Club, an afterschool business which brought the sport to a few south American countries and sold to his partners when he moved to finish his university studies in France. As any other university graduate in the other side of the world and having to fend for first time by himself he started trying to save rent by renting a flat in Barcelona and subletting the other rooms; this early endeavor led him to build up an impressive portfolio of properties in London.
Thank you so much for joining us Paolo! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In reality I never would have believed that I was going to end up in the property world and even less so in London, as I always considered myself a marketer. I was struggling with my pharmaceutical company in Spain and a friend recommended I reduce my overheads by flat-sharing and basically living rent free. It took me a while to realise that the actual cashflow that the properties were generating and the risk/reward relationship was better than any other business around. Once I partnered with the guy who introduced me to the industry who was making “more money than the boss of the boss of his boss” by running flatshares part time after work (even when he was a private banking professional) I decided that my full focus was going to be on making it big within the industry.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
One day I will never forget is waking up at 4am to bike in the rain to take a bus (as I couldn’t afford a taxi) to go to the airport to take the first flight of the day (as it was the cheapest one) to go to Madrid to present my product (dental flossers) to a buyer of a retailer at 10am to hear that he didn’t like the product because his teeth were separated and he doesn’t use dental floss.. after that meeting I had to wait until midnight passing the time while eating bread to take the last flight (the cheapest one back) to get home exactly at 3am next day. I had to stay awake for 23 hours just to be able to present my product to a buyer who I’m sure had no idea what I went through to be there. That day I realised that business requires sacrifice.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I don’t know. I have reached the conclusion that all businesspeople are crazy and we do it by default. We just have that something that push us forward and is inexplicable.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Today I can retire if I wanted, but I don’t want to. The Covid-19 disaster was an interesting reset which has obligated us all to reinvent who we are, what we do and how we do it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In family meetings we always laugh when my brother tells the story of when I opened a restaurant back home; I had half of my family working for free (helping me out) while I was in the terrace of the restaurant getting tanned and not happy with that, I used to fire them every once in a while even when they were helping me out for free. Logically the restaurant was a failure but I guess we had fun. The lesson I learn is that regardless of how stupid you can be, something good will always come out of the businesses you start. Not only for you, but also for society.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We love to work and we are addicted to what we do and we stick together when an external enemy arises. Therefore, once we need to compete with 9 to 5ers we tend to win within our industry. I once had a team member who was trying to work on her laptop in the sand in the middle of her holidays in the Caribbean. I had to fire her temporarily so she could disconnect and enjoy her holiday.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Funnily enough, I recommend they burn out few times. Once they get used to the experience, they’ll instinctively know what to do in the future so that they won’t burn out so easily.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m grateful to many people. You definitely don’t get anywhere by yourself. There will be always someone ready to help when they see that you mean business. Once an American company gave me half container of products for free as I could only afford to buy half and they allowed me to pay them whenever and whatever I could afford after I sold those products. That extra cash injection really made a huge difference.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I try to help people whenever I can and you definitely can help more when you have the knowledge and the resources.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Start with a business or activity that generates immediate cashflow and that can support your living expenses before you enter into longer term projects.
- What they taught you in university means almost nothing. The real business world is much more practical.
- Be what you are but dress according to your industry standards. If you are in the pharmaceutical world for example… remove your earrings and gold chains .
- Educate yourself constantly in your free time. It will save you a lot of head aches and will buy you more free time.
- Understand basic business concepts as margin by rotation, supply chains and price structure. At the end it all comes down to hard cold numbers.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start a movement that lets everyone think by themselves and not just to confirm with what the heard thinks.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m an old man already. My social media will be very boring. Maybe one post per year.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!