Uassist.ME's 5th Anniversary: Alfredo Atanacio on "Pencho y Aida"
To celebrate Uassist.ME’s 5th anniversary, our founder and CEO Alfredo Atanacio was invited to one of the biggest radio shows in El Salvador and Central America “Pencho Y Aida”. During this show he shared some very interesting stories about the company as well as his insight on entrepreneurship.
And UAM was born
“I studied in San Salvador and decided to stay here afterwards, leaving my hometown Santa Ana. As I was starting to take care of some business I became busier and busier and decided to get a virtual assistant back home, I saw her once and then only talked to her and sent her tasks. I started thinking it was really working for me and it might work for other people too”
At first, he says, it was really hard to get customers since it was a rather innovative company “We had a very small budget we couldn’t really afford marketing”. But something really strange happened, a happy coincidence according to Alfredo: “One day people started calling in, asking about telemarketing, we didn’t really do any of that…”. It turns out there was a company back in Lima, Perú, that did telemarketing and somehow the phone numbers got mixed up, that’s how UAM got their first customers. “What are the chances, right?” in order to secure some customers and start getting income, UAM started doing telemarketing: “After 4 months and no clients we decided to give it a shot, we really had no choice”. Eventually UAM distanced itself from this line of business in order to do what Alfredo had originally envisioned: Virtual assistance. He would later change the name of the position to “Business Analyst” since most of the employees at UAM do so much more than just answering calls and booking flights “They really help their clients run their businesses by taking care of the administrative and sometimes even personal tasks in order for them to focus on what’s really important”.
The profile of a Business Analyst
Uassist.ME hires many people from different backgrounds: “A lot of our BAs have studied marketing or economy, we have some architects and even lawyers, most of them are still students in their mid-twenties”. All of them must be at least bilingual although according to Atanacio some even speak up to 5 languages “We currently have some clients in Germany, it’s going really well”. Most importantly, he says, they must have common sense, know how to use Google “Like the real way, doing great research is key”.
How to get clients
“Pure Luck” he says. UAM is a tinny business compared to the big ones competing out there with their huge marketing campaigns “We don’t really have any budget for that, most of our clients are made through PR”. The Miami Herald featured Alfredo and Co-founder Rodolfo Schildknecht giving them the “People’s Pick Award” in 2010 as the most innovative company, this gave them the endorsement they needed “It was really awesome, a way of proving that we were the real deal and not a scam”. This was a jump start for them, people started talking more and more about UAM, not long later, INC. magazine, the third business magazine un the USA, honored them with a top spot in their “30 under 30” entrepreneurs list: “We were really surprised, I mean, it was a great achievement to be featured next to Mark Zuckerberg and other big millionaire businesses”.
A day in the life
“No two days are the same; some clients send easy tasks, like booking flights, hotel reservations or car rental but sometimes clients need more complicated things, some strange tasks come around every once in a while”.
He and the team always find a way to make it happen “This is what we do, Salvadorians, we find a way to make anything happen, we are hard workers, we don’t give up easily”.
Some of the strangest stories include a client that needed help finding women to date while in college, he also needed them to be in a 1km radius from the school because he didn’t own a car at the time “We do pretty much anything, as long as it’s legal and does not require physical presence”.
UAM has some awesome clients, but according to Alfredo it is not always easy: “We had some bad clients; we even had to fire some of them for being rude for example, in those cases we can’t say the customer is always right”.
And there was a pet rock
Every time Alfredo does an interview, he brings along his pet rock “Rock”, it’s a toy that first came out in the 70’s; it comes in a box with a little nest and an instruction manual, it really nails the “stay still” trick but needs a little help with the “roll over” one. Alfredo explained that this was his inspiration “This rock has gotten over 56 million dollars in sales. If someone made 56 million dollars out of a rock, we can do anything”.
Entrepreneurship comes from within, but sometimes people need a little help, a push and some inspiration. The businessman thinks it is vital that parent’s inspire their kinds to be independent and encourage them to pursue their dream of entrepreneurship “as a kid, while my family was busy working on their business I was working on mine as well. I used to sell drawings to my friends at school, or pretty much anything that I was allowed to”. Everybody faces challenges on their way to success. Insecurity in our country is a big one; it stops many entrepreneurs these days “it's hard and with the lack of education in our country it can be very tough to find the inspiration you need.”
“The English language is basic. I love my country; I create jobs in my country! But I do take advantage of other countries economies, especially those in North America, and speaking English is basic for that” Atanacio mentions when asked which part of the education systems he thinks needs more attention.
Moving Force - CNN in Spanish
“I met some pretty awesome people, these entrepreneurs are giants compared to Uassist.ME. I was surprised to hear how much money they spend on private security for their businesses but despite that, they still believe in our country, and so do I”.
For Alfredo it is important to understand that it is not an easy road “people say "Oh this big rich business!" but it didn't use to be, it started small, they all do”; so it’s vital to motivate young people to believe that it CAN go well and that their businesses WILL grow in time.
“Right now we are building POINT a business center. It’s going to be our new office, we will also have virtual offices and co-working, it's a place where you can meet other people with the same motivation and vision as you; the idea is to have some innovative businesses, it doesn’t have to be very technological, we are just looking for great ideas!”
UAM wants to implement the BA business in El Salvador “we are still looking into it but a business is about following the market’s evolution and needs and not always stick to what we think is best”. We will see how that goes.
You can listen to the entire interview HERE.