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A Global C-Suite Consulting Mindset with Angel Ribo

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

By: Thoughts of a Random Citizen Podcast





Hello all and welcome to another episode of Thoughts from a Random Citizen. Today I'm joined by Angel Ribo, a true global citizen who has worked with a variety of different businesses in many countries. However, he's recently shifted his efforts to aid underprivileged kids in Latin America become entrepreneurs utilizing their own resources with his foundation, Wisdom for Kids.


Angel has an amazing mindset and is very entertaining in this episode. His emphasis on long-term growth and helping develop communities for the future is inspiring, especially regarding his expertise of the global business environment. My favorite part of this discussion probably comes at the end so I hope you stick around for that. We discuss how and why kids are better at meditating than you. By you I mean, anyone most likely listening to this who is not a kid, me included.


Lastly, you know how when you're having a conversation and you respond with mm-hmm or yes, or, huh, well, typically, I block that out for you guys and mute it you don't have to hear the annoyance of me responding. However, because of stupidity and experimentation, I threw that all in one track for you guys. Completely my fault. The audio squad was quite happy with me. I figured I'd let you know that he got a bit more than me and sorry, but the good news is when you experiment, you typically get answers. That's not going to be a problem anymore because got it figured out. Anyways, it's a really good episode, and enjoy.


All right, I'm speaking with Angel Ribo today. A huge thank you and welcome to the podcast Angel. You have among many things empowered over 1500 CEOs in 33 different countries while speaking five different languages. If you know this podcast at all, you fit in pretty perfectly with what I'm trying to do and communicate. All in all amazing accomplishments.

I know you've moved from corporate life, and we'll discuss that thoroughly but before that, one of the things that you've said recently is CEOs need to be conscious now more than ever. What were you implying when you said this?


Yes, because there's a lot-- well, first of all, thank you very much for having me here. It's a pleasure to be with you. It's a pleasure to be with your audience. Thank you everybody who's listening to us today. I believe that this being a change, and I don't know, probably you are at work, there is a big-- what happens in the online world, as you know for many years, it eventually becomes a hashtag.


I'm going to tell you about the hashtag that is right now, in a very high-trend pitch, let's say in at least in the US, and the hashtag is #GreatResignation, #GreatResignation. Right now in the US, there is a lot of people, and I'm sure that's happening in the world as well in the digital world as well. There's a large amount of people from the corporate world that are leaving corporate America.


That's why this hashtag is so much trending. Why I'm saying this is because I have realized that in my conversations with C-level executives and CEOs starting in 2020, where all this worldwide chaos started, I immediately realized that everybody obviously had to stay at home, and had to work from home and work remotely, et cetera. They started to actually value much more things that they had taken for granted.


Everybody knew they wanted to make a living, they had to go to the office, and they had to spend long hours and maybe people like me, for instance, we would be traveling four weeks a month and we would be staying at those hotels and taking so many flights to so many countries, blah, blah, blah. What I figured-- what I found out, excuse me, was that after what had started to happen in 2020, the executives started to become more conscious about what they really value, what their values and principles are.


That's why I believe strongly that in the future, the leaders of the main corporations in the world and the leaders in the business world are going to be conscious and conscious, meaning that they're going to be really leading their teams in a completely different way. They got to put these values and principles of dealing with these people and taking really care of their teams much more than before.


I totally-- that's why I said, if you have a great resignation it's because people are valuing other things. Not only a good salary and a good compensation package, they value other things. They value their families, they value their friends, they value being there for them, they value maybe improving their house, they value working on a hobby, they value working on something else, maybe working on their passion, something that that didn't have the value. That's why I said what I said, and thank you for bringing it up, Hugh.


Referring again to you working with so many businesses and CEOs in such a vast array and distance across the world, can you describe some of the things that many startup entrepreneurs or veteran entrepreneurs should focus on that you found success with implementing?


Yes. I think that the most important thing, I just-- it's funny how I just had got before speaking with you today, I spoke with a fund manager, fund, F-U-N-D, fund manager and the president of an incubator accelerator. Both ladies and we were talking exactly about very similar things. What makes entrepreneurs successful? What's that piece of advice that you could give them, given your experience, Angel?


It's funny because these two ladies I was talking to, they were in Africa. I am a member here in Texas, in Dallas, of the African Chamber of Commerce, the African Chamber of Commerce. I have to tell you that the secret for success or of success for an entrepreneur really do not change from continent to continent, from culture to culture. It's really-- that's my favorite statement, I always say the same thing. The main reason why businesses maybe they never ramp up is because they don't take imperfect action immediately. They don't take imperfect action immediately.


As you said in the beginning, I've worked internationally in so many countries with so many companies, and so many CEOs, I see that all the time, all the time, all the time, is that the first thing that you should do, and that's obviously my maybe five cents of advice is that I always advise every single entrepreneur or startup CEO to make sure that they talk to their prospective clientele before they even have a product or a service. Before they even have it just to make sure that they know what the market is going to say.


There's many, many years ago in the Northeast of the US where the top business schools, Ivy schools, business schools in the world are, they came up with a term called "lean startup." Lean startup. They started to talk about this concept of before anything else, make sure that you start talking to your potential future clientele, future customers and you tell them, "Hey, I would like to do this, I'd like to do this business, I would like to sell those products and services, would you buy them from me?" The reality is, Hugh, that nobody does it. Only a handful of people do it.


Yes.


Hey, we can be here for 30 minutes talking about this concept, and people are still not going to do it. Why? Because they feel fearful. They feel fearful. You sit in Spain, I sit in Texas, you happen to know Texas, I happen to know where you are in Spain. If I wanted to start selling a particular product to, let's say the restaurants in Spain were open at this point in time really, which is not the case but let's say that that's the case.


The first thing I would do is I would go restaurant by restaurant, or maybe even to maybe to hotels to offer them catering services. Whatever that product was that they wanted to sell to them, I would start talking with them. I would say, "Hey, now with this scale that's happening in the world, how would you find my products or my services, my catering services or my food products or beverage products more valuable than before? What should those products and services be different in order for me to serve you now?" That makes sense, right?


Yes. Oh, yes. Absolutely.


Makes sense but in reality, people don't do it. People don't do it.


They make their product and then try to pick up the slack afterward.


Take your car, take your bicycle, right. I mean, in Texas, we don't have many bikes, but we love driving, as you know and big trucks as you know too.


That's what I was going to say.


Exactly. Take your truck. And make it the goal. Before starting my company, the next week I'm going to have five conversations every day with specific-- that are members of my target audience and I'm going to ask them, what do they believe, what do they think about my future product or service. It's so simple. It's so simple. It's so simple. That's why I say that the world is owned by the brave. The world is owned by the brave, the ones that really take imperfect action now, which is my favorite sentence, take imperfect action now. Do it now. It's so simple.


Excellent advice. One of the things I did notice you said is that entrepreneurship does carry over across borders. Then, I was actually going to ask this question later, but I'm just going to ask it now because of that. Another quote I found that you said is whether you're in business or philanthropy, learning about and understanding the community you want to serve is absolutely essential. There's no one-size-fits-all solution. Can you elaborate or explain the scenario in which this has happened in your life before?


Yes, exactly. I am a great example. I was born in a poorly lower-class family in the Northeast of Spain, a region called Catalonia. I was very shy. Believe it or not, extremely shy. I was the kind of boy that when I would go with my mum and dad somewhere, I would be sitting on that chair, and I wouldn't move from that chair until we left the place. You know what I mean?


Yes.


I was the kind of guy. I was born in the '60s. That means that there was a dictatorship in Spain at that time. I was really lucky that the school where I was studying, they would offer French, which wasn't heard of at that time. I learned French. My mum and dad signed me up for an external school to learn English. Lucky again. At the end of high school, I was able to speak fluently English and French. I had already spent the summer in the UK, and I had already spent three weeks traveling in France because we organized a field trip to France, and I was in charge of organizing it. I'm just trying to picture where I was born and what I was doing.


Right now, I live in Texas. The society is completely different. The values are completely different. Before coming to Texas-- I've lived in Texas for 11 years, I was living in Latin America. Again, socially, economically, demographically, everything is totally different.


Every single time, in all those different environments I just mentioned, I have had to help companies grow their businesses. Every single time, although you think, "No, no, no, no, no, everybody needs the same thing. Everybody uses this product the same way," not a chance, Hugh. Not a chance. Even the same product, the same service can be useful in one territory, in one geography for a specific target audience, or can be totally useless. That's why you always have to ask the questions.


That's why you always have to do your homework, and you always have to adapt to the local people. I always say it's the same thing with a nonprofit or with a for-profit organization because the only difference is that with a nonprofit, and as you know, I am the president and co-founder of a nonprofit in Latin America, we still have to know who the kids are because what we do is we help underprivileged kids in Latin America become entrepreneurs using their local resources.


Before we go to a specific community, we first connect with the community leaders so that we really understand how this community is being run, what are the important values, what's the economy based on that community. Then, we eventually offer our services, which obviously for free, which is helping those kids in that community to become entrepreneurs using those local resources. You see? Using their local resources, that's the most important thing that makes us different at Wisdom for Kids Foundation.


Using their local resources, it's very important. Regardless of the profit factor of an organization, there's always something, which is you have to really talk to the people locally to know how to work with them, how to sell to them, or how to partner up with them to develop that particular organization.


We're going to dive into what you do for your nonprofit in a moment. One of the things that I thought was funny though when you were saying that is just on some of my very early travels, I noticed that scenario playing itself out meaning selling to the specific demographic in which you're in when I couldn't even find my favorite bag of chips, Doritos or whatever, I couldn't even find the flavors in the new places that I'd go, whether it be Bali or now here in Spain. I was like, "Where are my chips at?"


It's because those chips, although extremely popular back home, don't even sell over here. It just really illustrates your point that global businesses sell to local communities because they are aware that just because a flavor is really popular in the US doesn't mean it'll even sell one bag in the UK or Australia or Indonesia or Europe. Just a funny example I thought I'd mention there. Really quick to ask, why Texas? Because now I know you're based in Texas, and you've been all around the world, can you elaborate on why Texas?


Before living in Texas, I was living in Mexico. The worldwide vice president for sales of that organization that I was working with came to Mexico in one of his trips. He said, "Hey, we would love to be able to offer you better opportunities, but you have to move to the US." As a European, and you now live in Europe, and you have very close people to you, which are European, going to the US for a European, it's not always a good fit necessarily for many reasons. Again, I am a citizen of the world. I consider myself a global citizen.


I was living in Mexico, and they told me, "Hey, we would like to bring you and your family to the US if you were open to it and to offer you better opportunities." I said, "Okay, so where can I go?" The company have literally 30 different or maybe more offices in the US. They told me, "You can choose wherever you want to go. You really can choose wherever you want to go." Then, at that time, I had-- and I have today, three kids and for me, the school district was really important.


We had had a lot of challenges in Mexico with the schools and with the school system. We had gone both to private schools. We had taken our kids to private schools and to public schools, and we had had lots of challenges. I said, "I really want to make the school district a priority wherever we go." Obviously, interestingly or coincidentally enough, one of the people that I had been working with extensively since I was in Mexico, with that corporation that she was a subcontractor, and she told me, "Hey, why don't you go to this specific place in Texas." It's north of Dallas because my sister lives there and her husband is part of the leadership team of the school district."


Nice.


Exactly. In one of my scouting trips, I came to Texas, and I came to Dallas, and I met with this wonderful couple, my friend's sister and her husband. I was totally sold into the school district. I was 100% sure that that was going to help us a lot. It was going to help the education for my kids. My mum is a teacher. One of my sisters is a teacher. I have two or three nieces who are teachers as well. I've lived in the education, let's say surrounded by educators for my entire life, and I really value the education.


We live in a suburb north of Dallas. It's called Plano, P-L-A-N-O. It's one of the top five school districts in Texas, very wealthy area with a very nice international community with literally students from all over the world, families from all over the world. Texas is attracting more and more talent from all over the country. As you know, there's a lot of people from the Northeast and from California fleeing those places and coming to Texas, as you know, Hugh. This community is only getting better and better and better. I love this cosmopolitan atmosphere that's being created. I really like it. That's why we ended up in Texas.


Very nice stuff. Being from Kansas City, you guys aren't too far away. I like the culture down there too. That's great stuff. I did want to highlight your early career in tech. Can you elaborate for all of us, how you went from that early career in tech, maybe a bit about what you did, but then how that transitioned into working with CEOs around the world?


Exactly. Number one, I chose to go and have or take a master's degree in computer engineering because I loved computers when I was in high school. I loved computers. Actually, it was even earlier. It was in middle school. Guess what? Just picture this. It was my second semester, a computer engineering degree in Spain. It was 10 semesters. I was in my second semester, and I said, "I hate computers."


I can't say I'm surprised.


I can't stand this anymore. I just can't. Why do I have to study calculus and numerical analysis and algebra and all those things? The only thing I want to do is I want to be able to help people using technology and make a difference in their lives and in their businesses. That's what I would like to do.


Anyway, and don't ask me how, I eventually got the degree. I guess that there was a lot of effort and help from a lot of many different people. Obviously, I had to give some return of investment to my mum and dad that had paid so much for me. Then, it was the '90s, I was working because I didn't like computers at all so my first jobs in Spain were not computer-related at all, nothing related to computers, but in the nineties I said, "Well, I'm working for this very nice audiovisual company in Barcelona on the outskirts of Barcelona. I was living in the outskirts of Barcelona as well. I speak French, speak English. I would like to have an international experience," and there's a very famous newspaper in Madrid called El Pais. There was this announcement, this advert about a position classified as an inside sales position in London.


I applied to the job and they flew me from Barcelona to Madrid for the interview and I got the job. In only two months, I was already in London, in the UK working for my first ever multinational multi-billion dollar software company headquarters in the UK, American company, but headquarters and my first role was to be an inside sales guy. That means, for the people that maybe don't know what their inside sales guys, it's a telemarketer upgraded in the name. It means that they will be on the phone all the time, eight hours a day on the phone making phone calls, trying to basically prospect, find leads, find potential clients for my company in that specific territory.


I started calling to Spain in Spanish, but then I suddenly was calling to Germany in English. I was calling to the Nordic countries in English-- that's a true story, and to Portugal in my poor Portuguese. So I got used to rejection. I was an inside sales guy. I could have business conversations because I had a degree in business administration and I was able to have very basic conversations about how technology would impact businesses. I realized that I was good in creating and developing relationships with the people at the other side of the phone line. I started to generate a lot of leads for my sales field force.


That's how I became so used to rejection that then for me, calling a CEO and go over or pass through the bottlenecks, the gatekeepers I became so natural and comfortable that that was definitely the origin and the reason why I would eventually become so familiar and so comfortable doing that that I developed a way to systematically reach out to CEOs, have conversations with them and show them how with the technologies I was selling I could improve their lives and their businesses.


Okay. Well, amazing. As I understand it, what bridged the gap for you and your corporate life to what you do now in your nonprofit which we're just moments away from talking about is, you had a spiritual experience that led you to leave corporate America. Can you elaborate on what this experience was for us?


Yes. Obviously, I was already living in the US.


You were or you weren't?


I was already living in the US, but I was still going to Latin America. While I was working in corporate America, so I left corporate America in 2016, I all the time was traveling to Latin America. I always had some role that involved Latin America. In regard, even if I moved here, I was always going back to Latin America at some point during a month or during a quarter.

When you work for a multinational company and you are actually living in a third-world country or region like Latin America, you are a very privileged person. You are able to rent cars. You are able to go to nice hotels. You're able to have nice meals with your CEO clients. You really live like in that 1% of life. 1%, maybe the 0.01% even. You know what I mean? Every time I was going to see a customer, let's say, I would 0go maybe to the headquarters in the city.