September 4, 2019
I caught up with Gian Marco Palazio, a serial entrepreneur, author, and business leader based in Managua, Nicaragua. Our conversation is packed with insight into measuring success and learning through failure, creating rituals that invite growth, and nurturing a legacy that honors the past while serving the future.
“[It’s] a lot of trial and error, you know? University doesn't teach you how to be an entrepreneur, at least they didn't back then. They taught you how to solve problems but you had to get into [those] problems on your own.” Gian Marco laughs now, decades after graduating from Georgia Tech. And why not? He’s built several successful businesses, written a book, and is an active part of a family legacy.
In 1997, however, he found himself headed back home to a country he hadn’t lived in since he was an infant to work in his father’s agricultural business.
The problem? He’d his sights set on the glamorous post-graduate world of banking, not coffee and rice.
Enter an uncle with a duffle bag full of safety gloves and a need for a distributor and Gian Marco’s vision for what is today CASCO Safety took off. That moment also kick-started his serial involvement with associations. He found the business community in post-civil war Nicaragua lacking organizational support. So, he did what came naturally to him; he created an association for Ibero-American entrepreneurs, eventually joining EO and YPO. He’s championed association membership ever since.
“These organizations have the form and structure so they are safe environments where you can really open up [and] become vulnerable. And as a leader, that has been one of my sort of go-to strategies...I've really practiced that over time and has led me to develop other skills, like public speaking and writing.”
Vulnerability is not a word that you hear often on Distribution Talk. Gian Marco says it’s the key to his success. “I like to say that I became a professional help-asker.” Throughout his career, that help has arrived in many forms, some of which have been immediately recognizable like business partners coming on board as the company took off.
There have also been challenges that he didn’t ask for that, in hindsight, became the help he needed to grow both professionally and personally. “Bigger isn't always better,” he says of being forced to downsize his business. “And definitely, it's not always more profitable. So I think I sleep a lot better at night now. And I think I'm more proud of myself of the business I have today.”
He’s also proud of the legacy he and his family have created with Café Las Flores, a coffee farm, roaster, and eco-tourism business. The brand gives Gian Marco the opportunity to get creative and exercise different areas of his brain. That cross-pollination has benefited both his coffee and distribution businesses. “My wife always says there's a saying in Spanish, ‘You know, if you try and do so many things, you'll never screw the screw on tight on any of them.’ and I know that. But I would just get bored doing one thing. That's just me.”
Listen in as Gian Marco delivers more distribution life lessons, including candid talk about his personal struggles and the steps he took to get where he is today.
Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.
Edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.