Without a Manual | Building a Successful Business During a Pandemic
We're here with a new episode today. And we are so excited to welcome Thais Saenz, who is the owner and founder of Saenz Global, an elite administrative team for roofers. She's a wife to Cliff and mother of two amazing kids. Before launching her own company, she was an international market manager for an award-winning company. She travelled the world and was the youngest in her company to hold the role. And during her four-month maternity leave during COVID, she decided it was time to launch a company and started Saenz Global. She resigned from her corporate career and is now living her dream as they are on a trajectory to hit half a million by 2022 which is absolutely amazing. So welcome, Thais. Welcome.
Thank you so much! So nice to be here, Iva and Des, it is such a pleasure to be here with you both.
And Thais, your story definitely, I mean just from this little bio but you're going to tell us a little bit more obviously. It's just so amazing and inspiring how it highlights the fact that even in the middle of a pandemic, if you have the drive and the way you can really thrive in whatever project or dream or goal your mind is set up to. So, tell us about this amazing journey, and how it has been for you to come all the way from pretty much what we call a corporate dropout to being a full time entrepreneur, and having a team underneath you and thriving in the middle of all this chaos and craziness that it's been the past few years.
Yes, no, absolutely. First, before I get started, I definitely want to say I've been listening to your podcast. And you guys are doing such an amazing job. And I'm so excited to continue hearing this new season. I'm so excited for it. But yeah, absolutely. So, in the middle of COVID for me, I know it felt really scary, right? It was like something so new that was happening in the world, like I've never had experienced something and there was so much fear. I feel like there's so much fear, like the unknown, right and when it came to COVID. But in the midst of it all, just realizing that the world was changing- business was changing, it was going virtual, and so really seeing that there was an opportunity in the midst of a storm and having the boldness to actually take action and go okay I'm going all in and you know and kind of pioneering and launching a business in. It was definitely, you know, it sounded crazy at the time I couldn't even believe I was doing it. But the main thing is I had the support the people around me that loved me. Um so my husband said ‘just do it. Jump and go for it’. And having my sister-in-law at the same time who was opening her business as well as doing virtual things So having my parents and my close friends, everyone cheering me on made the world of a difference and really making it happen.
That is awesome. Yeah, it's like the power of this community around you to make it all possible. Because I know a lot a lot of moms are so afraid of that jump into entrepreneurship cuz you're like how am I gonna do it all and do it all alone but the point is you're just not alone and it's really powerful.
Yeah, no, absolutely.
And, also, Thais, one of the things that I feel was a great asset for you was to really niche down. Because you are working in a very, very specific type of industry which is with roofers. So tell us a bit about that: How that came about, that you decided to niche so narrowly from the get go and how can you decided to jump on that opportunity?
Yeah, so I'll kind of tell you that the story and then I'll tell you exactly how I niched. So, I was four months. I was in a four-month maternity leave and I was in a two-months postpartum. My son Tiago, he was three years old and my daughter Isabella, was two months. Right and I decided, ‘okay, virtual is the future’ so I'm going to jump in and start building is a virtual assistant company. But like what you said, having the power of the community is so vital. But I actually joined a training on How to Become a Virtual Assistant called End the Virtual Savvy so if anyone's ever heard of it, it's an amazing program that trains you on how to be a virtual assistant and actually the founder, is someone I went to college with and I was like, you're amazing. And now you have this amazing business- I'm totally in. So I started my company and I started first being very vague. All kinds of people, I just needed a human body that would want me to work with. And that's how I started, I'm like ‘oh you breathe- okay do you want to work together?’
Anyone with a pulse
Anyone with a pulse, you want to you want to work together? Let's do it. So, I started to work with everything in there. Social media management, doing outbound phone calls, you know, all of these different things. And about in November, so that was, you know, that started all in July. So I then, but my background is in stainless steel, so I used to do franchises, work with big franchises all over the world. And I would do stainless steel, so I knew all about the contracting part, which is like architecture, general contracting, I had to have communication because the buildings were being made. So never in my life did I ever think that I would be in roofing right? This is like so crazy.
So what happened is that we then got connected with a roofing company. And I was like, ‘Okay, I like this. We like roofing- like roofing is cool.’ Like we pull permits for you. We do all of these things that roofers really need: pulling permits, closing down contracts, like a bunch of really interesting things. So, as we're doing that, I'm like, you know what, I think we found our niche. We want to roofers. There are about 161,000 roofers in the United States, registered, so the market is huge and virtual assistants for roofers was unheard of. If you actually Google words like “ virtual support for roofers” you won't find anything in there. You know, like, we're working right now on our website and do the SEO so that will pull up that and be the first company that shows up. Even the hashtag on Instagram #roofingvirtualsupport literally nothing pops up only our posts are popping up. So, it's like completely pioneering something totally new. That is how we got into roofing and we actually just closed on another roofer this month, so we are actually being really proactive. everything that we're doing marketing, I just joined a bunch of roofing Associations. This past week I went to roofing events all by myself and there's a bunch of roofers there and I'm just like shaking hands, meeting people because we know what are the clients that we want to work with. So once you're able to niche down and know who your client is, where they are and how you can find them, that is gold
Congratulations on closing that contract and it's true because it's such a specific industry right? Just from what you mentioned, pulling permits like other virtual assistants would say ‘what does that even mean? What do I need to do?’ And It's also great that you kind of had that realization as you were working with the clients and you knew all of their ins and outs and I came to that realization ‘okay, we have a niche here, we know what we're doing’ so it's super amazing- It's a great story
But I cannot take credit on my own because actually I don't pull permits I don't do any of that actually. It's my team that does and I have to give them a huge shout out because it's my amazing team at Saenz Global- they are experts- have become experts. Literally we have trained ourselves to become experts and they're the ones that handle all of the projects with our partners so,
Amazing! Shout out to the Saenz team
They're amazing. They're amazing.
Good and you came up, I mean with this first of all, making this jump into entrepreneurship, then picking that very specific niche. But all of that while you were on maternity leave so, meaning you have like literally an infant attached to you. You have another one, I don't know what's their age gap. How old is Tiago?
Tiago was four, Isabella one
Yeah, so it's like a three year age gap. So you have a toddler around you, you have an infant attached to you and you made that move. So, tell us a little bit about that. Those challenges of starting in that way
Definitely, it was not easy, but I wanted it so bad. I think when you want something and you're driven and you're like ‘you know what? This is going to- in the long run, the return on investment is going to be huge’ because one of the things that was happening with me and my corporate career even though it seems so beautiful and grand, I would get to travel and do all these things. Well, that meant I was away from my family. I was not home at a lot of times. So, my mom would have to step in and watch the kids or my mother-in-law would come and help. And then my husband was super helpful as well. But I was never home. So me going ‘okay, I want this so bad that I'm going to be during the day I'm available to my family right, being a mom, like I’m a mom and that night when my kids would go to bed, even though Isabella was kind of you know, obviously, she's a newborn and she would get up and all those things, I would be working, like I would be building at night. I felt like I was back in college pulling all-nighters.
Yeah, it does feel that at the beginning right?
There's this meme going around I don't know if you've seen it. It features someone sometimes they change the person on the meme, but it pretty much says like I ditched my nine to five to be working 24/7 to be an entrepreneur
So it does have that flavor to it when you are starting out. Where you are wearing and pulling the all-nighters and you're saying like ‘okay, I thought it was I was aiming for freedom here’, but in a way, you do have to put in the work at the beginning and do the groundwork and the foundation
Completely, so you have to have that drive. Your children can't be stumbling- like I don't know, sometimes we're like no, I can't do it, I have a kid, I can’t do it. Which is true. Our children are our priority. We love them and they're number one, right? But you're like okay, me being able to be home and work, be able to build this business is going to bless my family, is going to bless me being a mom that's more available to them. So that's from the get-go. When I first started the business, I said I want to build a business where I have a team so that I can focus on only doing the things that I love. And my team can focus on doing the things they love. And so, I literally am now avail-I literally go to my office, you know, like at ten. I'll go to the office, I'll drop- I'll get the kids ready, dropped out, you know, I can go to my office. And then, I'm more available, like completely more available for them. But that's because I have a team and that's because from the beginning of building my business I said ‘I'm going to build a business I absolutely love, and if I love it, I can only do the things that I really love and everything that I don't enjoy doing, I'm going to have a team that they can do those things that they love.’ So administration, things of that nature. So that's been really helpful as well.
That's really great to have that clarity from the beginning, about how you want to structure yourself because that's also where the overwhelm comes a lot in this journey. We're like oh my god, there's many things to consider but if you know ‘I'm going to surround myself with people who are going to, you know, support all of that and then that's amazing.’ So what's the first thing that you like kind of delegated out or the first person that you hired for your team?
Yeah, so actually, it happened to be my one of my closest friends, Jackie Syncowictz and we went to school together when we were 15. We grew up together and she was a flight attendant for [inaudible] airlines and unfortunately it closed down, it left the country because she was in Argentina. And she was without a job, and I said, ‘oh my gosh I need someone on my team Jackie, do you want to do Social Media Management?’, she said ‘I have no idea what that means or what it is,’ and I'm like ‘I don't either but we have a client’ and why don’t we just be figure this out and she's like okay. So I delegated, the first thing I delegated was Social Media management, so I would be in charge of communicating with the client and then she would be in charge of making the posts and putting the captions and doing all of those things. That was The first thing I ever delegated
So it's also this factor of having people that not necessarily have she skills right off the bat but they do have that chemistry, and that connection with you, or that you feel that they have the spirit of being go-getter and that they also want to do something and give back in some ways so you channel that drive and inspiration into what needs to be done. Which is, which is for the most part, very teachable, right? There's a lot of things you can delegate and teach and create a SOP on. But having that inner drive and that personality that you know is people you enjoy being around with because they light up the room. They have this great disposition or attitude that is not so easy replicable, so finding the personality element would you say came first and then later is okay how do you apply all of that into a particular function?
One hundred percent. You said it's so beautifully, I love how you put that. Yes, exactly. It's about finding-it's not so much people don't have- like it doesn't matter that they don't have skills, if they have the stamina. If they have that work ethic. If they have that culture. Our company is all about culture. So if you’re a team player and you are dedicated to your team and dedicated the work then we can teach you anything. You’re teachacble. So totally and actually the best thing about Jacqui is she had a bunch of great- the friends that also worked with her on American Airlines and a lot of them actually now work with us. So it was incredible people with amazing talent and now they work for our company as well so it works out really awesome.
That is great and, and yeah, with the skills like anything is teachable, even if that was never your background or never anything you had envisioned. It reminds me Iva when we talked about hitting record in our conversations and start a podcast. We both love podcasts, but we had no idea what that meant. Like, what do we need? What's the equipment? What kind of like media host? We didn't even know that word existed you know,
I had no idea about a media host the learning curve was pretty steep.
Yeah, but we really wanted this so badly. Put a certain message out. We wanted to do something together. Let's just do it. And then we put a date on it. We made ourselves a timeline and we everything we're doing today, we pretty much taught ourselves- have now gotten help and support also from like different academies and courses we attended but at the beginning it was really like the learning as you’re going and you're right it's like when you have that drive and that dream and you can make anything possible
One hundred percent. And I'm in shock because I wish people could see my face right now my jaw kind of dropped when you were like we learned how to do this I was like, just you guys are so organized from the moment you set everything out, like even just a reminder, like the links to even be on this podcast. It was tremendously professional
Desiree is the automation queen. Yes, she has it down to an to an art, definitely
Amazing. Well you guys- I'm shocked that this is like, that you guys started from scratch and that this isn't your background because seriously, you're doing amazing, so cute.
This is a nice segue way into also this aspect of how in the past I believe that is changing though but now that you brought it up, in the past also, there was this sort of stigma surrounding working with friends or working with people that you like, right? That it would complicate things you know when you mix you know, business and friendship it can get muddled. People are very, very dubious about engaging in those sorts of dynamics because they feel that somehow, some way, things will not pan out. And now that you mentioned how your friend came over and she brought her friends as well and now you have this amazing team. And that everybody's working together towards the same goal. And doing a parallel with Des and I and how we’re business besties as we call ourselves. I do think it is important to highlight the fact that you can make it work, right? If you have that connection, if you have that chemistry from the get go and you and you really can work off each other's strengths, right? Because what Desiree is good at is probably is not my strength but so we compensate one another
Or vice versa
So that’s great also how you were so open minded not only bringing your friend over, but also in trusting that her judgment on how she related to other people that were also interested in coming on board played out in the positive for everybody
Yeah no. And what's even crazier, I didn’t tell you this part. So when I was in corporate America, my assistant, who I was the sales person going out and getting the business The person and do the all the logistics was Maria which was another friend from my from college. We ended up working in the same corporate company together and being put together to work together there. Well, during COVID she got furloughed and then I was like ‘you should start doing your virtual assistant. you should be one’ then she's like, ‘Okay, I'm going to try this.’ She started hers. Well at the end. I said, Wait, you should just come and we should- you can come on my team. And you can be like the Vice President of Operations because you're a queen of operations. So she said absolutely, so she's like okay, so we were literally I call her a founding member because she's the one that builds our administrative department, she’s the one that learned how to do permits and the one that taught everyone how to do it. So I go out and get the business and then she executes it. So another great example of like how you said: it's sometimes worth the risk because it can be incredible and this company wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Maria and Jackie because they were like, the founders.
Exactly. And you know how they work already, and they know how you tick. When you say your assistant is now one of the founding members and such an integral part of the company and she there's no real warm up phase needed either because she knows exactly from years of working together how you tick, what you need, when you need it to get that done. That is amazing.
Yeah, absolutely. You guys hit it on the nail- is that even a term to say I don't. And now my English sometimes it’s not working. But no, yeah, you're exactly correct that, it's been amazing working with people you love.
Yeah, and that's really fun as well. I mean, I noticed that as well when we like Iva has her own company. And I have my own, like her own business. I have my own business. But together we’re doing this collaboration, and together we're also working Like we have so many things that we're working on together and it's all intertwined. But our businesses we have, I think in entrepreneurship , that privilege to build it the way we want to build it. Who do we want to have on our team? Who do I literally want to spend all of my day with besides my kids, right and my family? But I get to choose that. Often in the corporate world which we've all been a part of as well we can’t. We’re all plugged in, like plugged into this team and you're like ‘ugh, oh my boss and my colleague’ and now it's like, ‘hey, we're all doing this together and people we really care about and love and it's it's perfect.’
No, it's amazing. It's amazing
But it's true that at the beginning you know when you don't have yet that team and you still are wearing all the hats. How was that for you Thais in terms of structuring yourself because as we mentioned earlier, having an infant, having a toddler, having a spouse, being a friend, daughter everything else that are all the roles we play, but also building this business for yourself, was there something that you were very particular with in terms of how that structure came about or was it also organic as things change you tweaked and worked from there?
So I think… So kind of you know, from life: If you kind of realize there's certain things that if you don't like-for me, when I have to do something I really don't like especially if it's a decision, I will actually stop and it will paralyze me from moving forward. So when starting the business from the beginning, I had to make this decision that I'm going to build like an agency kind of -it's going to have to be like that, because if not, I won't have a business because if I have to do all the admin, if I have to do all those things I will paralyze myself and I and just even like the first month of doing it when I would have to do a task but I was like man I really, really dislike doing this part I would just paralyzed myself and so I said, ‘Okay, I need to start outsourcing very, very quickly because if not, this is not the train is not going to move.’ So I had to realize that very quick, and I think that's why also we've had such great momentum is because I realized though I don't like.. some people like I won't do that until I have this amount of money right? Everything I did didn't make sense, right? I didn't have the perfect amount of money saved up, I didn't have all this things you know, I didn't have all of those securities right there. But I knew okay, this is gonna work out I'm gonna have to outsource really quickly, and that means that I'm not going to get all the profit and have all the money to save up till I can feel comfortable to bring someone on. But because I did that, the return on investment was so huge because then they did what I couldn't do, and then I got to go and do what I like to do, and get more momentum. So kind of from the very beginning I had to make that decision.
That is such a powerful message to send out to other moms out there. And other people who are thinking about going into entrepreneurship. That's true. Because that is often the main thing that will hold them back to doing it. To do it all and to be like- it took me, a while whole big pack of courage to do that because I'm like, ‘oh I'm just not a finance person and the tax person and now I have to do all of that. For example, I come from the hotel industry where we literally had a department for everything. And now I can’t just pick up the phone and call Human Resources or the Engineering depart. I can't like I need to fix it myself. So that was a big thing for me. So that's like kudos to you for having that vision so clear in your head, to say this is how I want to structure myself. This is how I am going to move forward. This is how I'm going to be in my zone of genius and bring this company to where I envision it to be. And the engine is being run by this amazing team, so I can drive that car so super amazing. Wow. I'm so proud of you. Like we've just met, but I feel so proud!
Aw, thank you so much! I feel so proud of you both. I'm like you guys are doing wonderful- I love it.
Thais, any advice that you want to share with other moms that might be on the fence, probably also feeling like oh, you know, I have all these excuses of why not. Not enough this, not enough that, maybe ‘I just had a baby.’ How am I going to switch over? You know from where you were standing, which is an amazing place of success already have what you have built and also of the life that you wanted for yourself now a complete reality. What advice do you want to leave the moms that are listening with?
Yeah, so one of the biggest advice that I received and then I always even till this day, I think yesterday I had to say to myself is: “Do it scared.” So a lot of times we don't do things because we're scared and that paralyzes us. But if you have a dream and you really want to launch your business, and there're things holding you back that you feel like I can't, I don't have it all together, I'll do it when I have enough money, I'll do this when I have that.
Do it scared.
Do it scared and when you do it scared, what you do is you're building that muscle and that muscle of doing it scared. You're building up muscles that you're continuing like not physical muscle, but you know you're building this muscles of
That mental mindset
Exactly. So kind of switching your mindset that's wonderful words there of how you're going to move forward. So do it scared. I know it’s scary, it's so scary. I was so afraid- it didn't make sense. I'm telling you: I'm gonna leave this six figure job where I have everything together, where It's really comfortable but your gut is telling you there's more out there for you. You’ve got that feeling, that sensation-You're like, you know I have all this comfort but there’s more for me that feels like that? Run with it. And surround yourself with people that are cheering you on. So for me it was joining The Virtual Savvy, that community really, really gave me the tools that I needed to move forward and also gave me the support that I needed in the business way, right? And then my family was there. But do it scared, because we only have one life to live. And I don't- you know, so many people, enterpreneurs people, it sounds so beautiful, it is hard, but it's worth it. Is that something that you really desire. And I can't say it enough. But like, when you're, when you're comfortable, that means you're not growing. And so when you feel uncomfortable, that means you're going to grow if you embrace that, so, continuous growth comes through uncomfortableness, and do it scared. That's what I would like to share with everyone.
Beautifully said. And your kids will be so proud of you as well and so grateful that they will have their mom around growing out, like fully there with them.
100%. When my kids are sick, guess what? I don't have to tell anyone. Oh, like I can't come in and I get to be with my children. When we want to, if we want to go to a theme park or if I just want to not take my you know if I just want to do, hey come, work later, work earlier you're available to your family and that's so worth it Your kids get to be with you.
It's such a privileged for sure.
Yes. And then you feel So fulfilled too because you're doing these two things that you absolutely love. of building a business and then building your children and building their future. So it's so great.
This is great fantastic. Thank you so much Thais for chatting with us today. And if you want to connect with Thais you can find her on Instagram @saenzglobal and also she's on Facebook. She has her LinkedIn and her website and we will share all of these links on the show notes. So, thank you so much for listening and we'll catch you next time.
Thank you so much, Desiree and Iva. It's a pleasure.
Thank you Thais!
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She is the owner and founder of Saenz Global, an elite administrative team for roofers. Wife to Cliff and mother to two amazing kids. Before launching her own company, she was an international market manager for an award-winning company. She travelled the world and was the youngest in her company to hold the role. During a four-month maternity leave during covid, she decided it was time to launch her own company and started Saenz Global. She resigned from her corporate career and is now living her dream as they are on a trajectory to hit half a million by 2022.