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Movers & Shakers Interview with Ernesto Gonzalez

Dillon Kivo

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Tell us your name and a little about yourself.

My name is Ernesto Gonzalez, Founder and CEO of Probus Sway, LLC. I have founded 7 companies in different industries, from manufacturing labels and packaging for Fortune 500 clients globally to healthy pet food products in the Latin American market. But I am more passionate about my last co-founded venture, where we are working in solving global challenges for underserved communities. Our primary focus is to bring drinking water to 1 billion people who currently have no access to this vital resource.

What exactly does your company do?

Manufacturing and converting labels and packaging, healthy pet food, atmospheric water generators, e-commerce, and more importantly, solutions for 1 billion people in underserved communities

What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?

The financial crisis of 2007-2008. It was a very challenging time for us. We had recently financed a multi-million dollar equipment to manufacture units for a Fortune 500 client. The equipment we purchased was defective and by the time the manufacturer was able to repair it, significant debt had accumulated. Caused by the financial crisis, banks were not looking at any refinancing structures. I had never seen bankruptcy so close. We went through foreclosures and repossessions, leans and levies. But with the advice of a client and now my partner and great friend Mike, and my operations manager Eduardo, we restructured. Sadly laid off 50% of our payroll, negotiated with vendors, government, and finally, after 2 years we were back in shape stronger than ever. We maintained most of our suppliers, clients and a fantastic team of people.

What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?

To surround myself with smarter and more experienced people than me, and always ask them for advice before making any major decision.

Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?

In global leadership, I would have to say Warren Buffett. Started to work at a very young age like I did, with great vision. Made bold moves and took high risks, but always with success in mind. He did not only do the things he enjoyed but had to take action when things were not going his way. He almost bankrupted and had to jump in to save more than one of his investments from collapsing, and always came out stronger. He did not only get to the top but was able to stay there, which is even tougher. After being one of the richest men alive, he donated most of his money to charity, changing and improving humanity for forever. My mother and my great aunt are my heroes, though. After my father passed away, they had to sacrifice everything, the car, their possessions and their house to give my brothers and I an education, shelter and food. They were and continue to be an example of all obstacles that can be overcome by the power of love.

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?

Michael Nixon. He believed in me at a time when most people did not. Bankruptcy was looking more real than ever. He invested in me and what I believed in, and after 10 years I am happy to say I did not let him down. We make a great team together and he has been an awesome teacher.

What do you see as your greatest success in life?

Having changed the way I measure success would be the most rewarding thing. I used to measure business success by adding dollars. The more money a business could make, the more successful it was. I don’t believe that anymore. I do believe money is necessary for any business, but it should not be the target. Instead, it must be a consequence of doing a good job. The better job you do, the larger the consequence will be. The true target to measure business success should be counted in people you positively affect. Imagine being able to affect in a positive manner 1 billion people by improving their lives. Obviously doing this has a cost, and selling the solution through a product or service has to be part of the equation. But can you imagine selling the solution for 1 dollar per person? You would have 1 billion dollars. The difference is you would be a billionaire by consequence and not by goal. It changes everything, from the way you make decisions, to the way you make strategy, to the people you chose to be part of your team. Now imagine saying you are a billionaire, but not for having 1 billion dollars, but for having changed 1 billion lives. Isn’t people count the greatest currency there is?

You can contact Ernesto by clicking the link(s) below.

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