José the cab driver has a plan…and a mentor

by jeffhilimire on September 6, 2011

I like to talk to cab drivers. I find that they’re like the bartenders for business travelers, often happy to give life advice to their passengers. Plus they’re just generally hilarious. You should try it.

Recently I was traveling to Engauge’s Orlando office and I got a ride with José the cab driver. José was full of life from the moment he picked me up. This was one of those mornings that I was still groggy from the early morning flight out of Atlanta and frankly would have opted for a silent ride if given the chance. But José was cranked to level 11 from the second he picked me up.

He started by asking me what I did and where I was from. He queried his way into hearing most of my business life story, from founding Spunlogic to now president of Engauge. He was thrilled to hear of my entrepreneurial past.

Then he very excitedly told me about his plan. He’d been driving cabs in Orlando for eight years, having come over from Portugal to live “the American dream”. He started by driving a cab and saving his money for his future business. For years he did this, until finally he was able to stop working for the cab company and lease his own cab. By the time I got in his cab that morning, he had another guy driving one of his leased cabs. He had a business.

But more importantly, he had a plan. He was going to save enough money, buy his own cab while continuing to lease the one to his other driver, and eventually have a fleet of cabs that he owned. He said he had two more years until he could get to that point.

I asked him if he had a partner or was getting guidance from someone. I know well how difficult it can be to build a business and I couldn’t imagine how hard it must be if you’re not even native to this country. He began telling me about Joe, his mentor, who had been giving him advice for many years now. Joe was a long time cab driver and had built his own company very much in the same model that José was building his, only Joe had never grown his business past the one additional driver. Joe believed that José had the potential to make both of their dreams a reality.

“He believes in me,” José expressed excitedly, “and that makes all the difference.”

It’s amazing how having a plan and having someone believe in you can make all the difference in the world. I’m confident one day I’ll jump in a cab in Orlando and find out that my driver is one of José’s guys, and that he has plans himself to start his own cab company and José believes he can do it.

PS – I recently accepted the invitation to be a mentor to a Flashpoint company. Our first meeting is this week where I will find out who my startup is. Honestly, I didn’t really have the time in my schedule for this but I know how important it is for startups to have mentors, both for support and for someone to believe in them. So I’m going to make the time and I’m very excited to see who I’ll be paired with.

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  • http://mindgrapes.ryantuttle.com Ryan P. Tuttle

    I was waiting for the part where you offered to invest in José’s business. You could just give him the Jetta as a 2nd/3rd car for only the cost of a yellow paint job. Think about it.

  • http://www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff Hilimire

    Ok, that’s hilarious…and not a bad idea ;)

  • http://twitter.com/RudiShumpert Rudi Shumpert

    “It’s amazing how having a plan and having someone believe in you can make all the difference in the world. ”  Great point.  Sometimes it is just this little catalyst that can set you down on a path towards true success.

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