I met Chris Gutierrez over a year ago at the company I used to work with. He was seeking investments for his web development start-up, Visual Notch. He didn’t get his investment. At the time, he had instead been offered a position to head a web team. Chris accepted the offer with high expectations and had a brief segue from his initial plans.This was the time I got to know Chris Gutierrez up close and personal.
While working with Chris, I could tell that he wasn’t your ordinary Joe. He operated by a whole different set of rules which made him an odd man out. He knew his business intimately. He was so savvy about the tools and technologies of his trade that when he spoke, it was hard to doubt his word. He spoke with authority and that won him the respect of his staff and the clients he handled. He immediately took control of his unit. He clearly was a risk taker, implementing changes as he deemed fit. Being the new kid, as one might expect, this would reap mixed reactions from his colleagues. Some were elated by the changes, others were skeptical and resistant. This was what he had to struggle with for a year or so.
Chris had a clear vision of the organization he intended to build. He never once lost sight of this. He worked at it diligently day by day, assembling his dream team and building the business he had envisioned, despite the challenges he encountered along the way. Chris had many significant victories, but he also had to deal with numerous setbacks, many of which, were the offshoot of projects that had preceded him. Over time, Chris began to feel the weight of several forces tugging at him from different directions, at times demanding from him, opposing outcomes. Realizing that his personal vision for the business had become severely misaligned with that of the company he joined a year earlier, Chris made the painful decision to leave. And then Chris found himself back a the point where he started a year earlier, except now he was a year older, a bit wiser, and more determined than ever to pursue his vision.
Chris Gutierrez, The Quintessential Entrepreneur
Why do I think Chris was different from most guys at the office? For one thing, Chris was way too comfortable walking away from employment. Everyone I have talked with at the office could not imagine a life without a job. In all the time I had handled HR, I have never seen an employee who was comfortable leaving a job unless he had a new job to transfer to. But Chris, for some reason, seemed quite comfortable simply walking away, with only his vision to fall back on. I found this incredibly fascinating (not to mention brave).
Chris and I have stayed friends after he left the company and I have gotten to know him even more since then. I also have figured out the kind of creature that Chris really is. He is a quintessential entrepreneur and he operates by the entrepreneur’s code.
Chris, as it turns out, had always been occupied with one business or another. In college, he sold cell phones at a premium price, offering technical support as a value added service. He partnered with a Japanese company to supply video conferencing equipment in 2005, back when that technology was still cumbersome, expensive and hard to come by. In 2007, Chris ventured into personnel services specializing in recruitment for IT positions. Chris is also very active in his family business, marketing and sourcing back-up power generators. He would on occasion accept employment, but he was really most comfortable running a business.
It seems to me like every time I talk to Chris, he is evaluating a new business like a mini-grocery, or sourcing solar-powered water heaters. Like most entrepreneurs, Chris is always on the look out for opportunities and great deals, poised to step in if the numbers suited him. Another remarkable thing about Chris is his insatiable curiosity and drive to learn new things. Chris would always be raving about a new book he just read, or would eagerly discuss a new technology he is researching. This makes him a great resource person if you need to know the latest trends. He is knowledgeable about many topics. Chris is never stingy with information, he’s always willing to share what he knows. It’s always fun and informative to pick his brains.
You might think that someone like Chris who is so gung-ho about business was spared from the failures and disappointments of business ownership, but that isn’t so. Chris has had his fair share of downturns. For instance, because of the inadequate bandwidth infrastructure at the time, Chris discovered that he wasn’t be able to harness the full potential of his video conferencing equipment, so he decided to give up that business. Then he also discovered that although IT recruitment was a very financially rewarding business, the work was just too grueling for him. He eventually burned out. But being the entrepreneur that he is, whenever a business failed to pan out, Chris would always pick up where he left off, and move on to the next business determined to make it work, equipped with the lessons of his past misadventures.
Finding His Passion
So where is Chris now? Like I mentioned earlier, after deciding to leave the company, Chris is back where he had started a year earlier, working in his own web design company, Visual Notch. Many things have changed though. After his brief stint with employment, Chris is now crystal clear about a few fundamental things.
Chris is an entrepreneur first and foremost. He has embraced his inner visionary, and has decided to celebrate it. He is most comfortable with this set up, and is committed to see his dream to fruition.
Web Design is his passion. Despite all the difficulties he has encountered in this business, Chris is still very keen to pursue it. This is what he so loves to do. He is certain that this will be his take off point. Deeply inspired by the achievements of companies like Google and Apple, Chris is determined to put the Philippines and his company, Visual Notch, on the IT map. It seems that Chris wants to put his own ding in the universe.
Chris reports that at the moment, Visual Notch is booked to capacity. He takes this as a powerful indication that he has made the right decision to push ahead with his plans. This also assures Chris that there is a robust market for this business. Even more promising is the fact that several investors have expressed serious interest in pumping in the much-needed capital infusion to fund Visual Notch’s growth stage. Chris’ priority will be to build the core competencies of his team through recruitment and training. He sees a local-based full service e-commerce platform on his pet projects list. Somewhat dismayed with the current state of e-commerce in the Philippines, he is quite certain that he is the man to build the solutions for it. Chris sees the flaws in the current system as a tremendous opportunity for his company to step up and shine.
Over the past months, Chris and I have formed an informal mastermind group, where we bounce idea off each other, brainstorming solutions for problems we find annoying, challenging each other, cheering each other on and holding each other accountable. We discuss books we’ve read. We exchange notes and quotes and all sorts of information and funny stories. I myself have left my job, in pursuit of my vision, emboldened by Chris’ courage and resilience. I have come to value our friendship for the wealth it brings to my life. As a token of my gratitude, I am publishing this long overdue piece to make public my appreciation of this man, Chris Gutierrez, whom I am proud and grateful to call my friend.
If there are any investors out there who would like to explore the possibility of a partnership with Chris, you may reach him through email : firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his company website at https://www.visualnotch.com/.