Brian Toro is an Enterprise Architect and Technology Manager for a US Based Minerals and Aggregates Manufacturer. In addition to his full-time work in the Technology sector, he is an MBA student at the University of Illinois iMBA studying how technology and culture will reshape how and where we work.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Enterprise Architecture, Business Consulting, Investing, Writing- this is all a service I perform, this is the product that I wanted to offer. And so I wanted my business to be a natural extension of all of these service-related areas that include skills, interests, passions. In 2016 I decided to take a step back from pursuing business ownership to stay more intimately involved in the technology sector and to focus on getting my MBA. This has been an excellent experience and has provided me with the opportunity to study from and learn with some amazing people. It was a case of taking a small step backward so I could take a huge leap forward.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I’ve had a long-held belief that you should always view the work you are doing from the standpoint of being self-employed. It’s a very empowering concept. So naturally, my business ventures and investments have been a natural offshoot of this.
What challenges did you face in making the transition to self-employment?
I’ve never been in a situation where I was fully self-employed and so I have never faced that transitory period. A few years ago I went down the path of co-ownership with a Technical Services company. When it became obvious that the opportunity was not going to work out I pivoted and decided to pursue an MBA at the University of Illinois. Currently, my consulting, investing, and writing is all part of projects within my MBA program. My primary work and income are working in Enterprise Architecture.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
My days are often fairly unstructured and much of it depends on what my schedule looks like. I’m a huge fan of “Deep Work“, the concept of doing highly focused, uninterrupted work on a single project for several hours in a row. And so I try to visualize my day and group my tasks in such a manner that I can stay very focused. If I can get 1 or 2 of these Deep Work blocks in a day I’m usually very productive. Aside from that I also aim to have as few ‘loose ends’ – unanswered emails, incomplete tasks, etc. per day.
What is one major obstacle or failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There are 2 major ones that come to mind. The first was a series of investments in small companies and emerging technologies that flopped. In hindsight, the investments were a result of allowing different biases to influence my decision-making process and so I’m much more cautious with my investing and the different biases at play. The main thing was that I reflected on what I did right and did wrong, didn’t overreact, and ultimately was able to make up for the financial losses within a relatively short period of time.
The second was when I was pursuing co-ownership of a company that I had partnered with on different projects. The mistake I made was to become overly invested in the outcomes and not the processes. Despite it being a huge emotional setback, I was able to quickly recover. The big learning experience, in that case, was that you have to love the process and not the outcome. Also the importance of boundary setting in your professional life and the impact it can have on your family life.
What major changes/trends do you see in your industry in the next 5 years?
By far the biggest trend is going to be the impact of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in the job market. We are on the cusp (2-3 years) of having technologies that could put millions of people out of work. A few simple examples that come to mind would be self-driving vehicles, real estate, investing, and retail. It’s not going to happen overnight, but what will happen is daily news of major companies letting go of several thousand employees similar to the impact industrial automation had in factories. I don’t think the net result will not be mass unemployment, but it will have a major impact on the individuals that have invested their lives in those fields and will now have to start over.
What advice would you give to someone that is looking to start a business either in general or in your craft?
Think of technology work with a craftsman mindset. Find something you like doing and keep getting better at it every day through intentional practice, studying and experience. Reading a book doesn’t push your boundaries, but reading a book that attempting something new does. Also, getting jobs/projects is more about having a portfolio that showcases your skills and talent and less about your degree or GPA. As with anything intentionally building a strong network is THE most important skill you can have.
What is the best small value investment (~$100) that you have made and has provided the most return?
Amazon Prime comes to mind because it has really simplified the decision-making process for the large majority of my purchases. If I need to buy something then I go to Amazon. I immediately have a good idea of the quality of the product and any specific details. 2 days later it arrives at my door. I like purchases that provide a lot of value and simplify my life.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive at work?
By far the single most productive habit I have is my decision-making process. I see so many people ‘freeze up’ with both big and small decisions. For most things, I don’t have a fear of failure and so I just quickly analyze the worst case scenarios and go from there. In most cases, the worst case scenario is very easily reversible – and so I look for that. If I want to go with “X”, and “X” is easily reversible if I’m wrong, then the decision is made and I move on. “Success is never final and failure is never fatal” – John Wooden.