An Interview with Carlos Vaz

Carlos Vaz is the Co-Founder/CEO of CONTI Organization. His passion, discipline and creativity coupled with his extensive real estate experience have yielded a portfolio of over 1,400 units his first year in the multifamily business. He has been involved in over $400 million in real estate transactions.

Carlos is passionate about building a solid vertically integrated company with strong core values, proven systems and an adept team. Carlos directs strategy, team building, investment sourcing and capital origination. He has received several awards including Dallas Business Journal’s 40 under 40 Award, Real Estate Forum Magazines’ 35 Rising stars in the industry under the age of 35 and a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

In this interview with Startup Savant, we have a look at Carlos’ lifestyle. He shows us how to keep grounded as an entrepreneur and notes that we should treat everyone with respect. He’s a perfect example of a ‘constant learner’, a good citizen in the community, a leader to his employees, a father and a philanthropist. Enjoy!

This is his advice to startup entrepreneurs:

Make sure you know your business better than anyone else. Be focused and don’t be afraid to put in the hours.

What ignited the spark in you to start a business? Where did the idea for Conti Organization come from?

The first spark was at an early age working on a farm with my father. At first, I never thought of starting a business but with time I realized that it would be the best way to provide for my family and those I care about.

The idea for CONTI organization was very simple, CONTI is my mother’s maiden name. I wanted to find a way to carry on my mother’s name. She is someone who is humble, never complained and always did her best to provide together with my father.

In your experience, what is the best way to find your ideal customer? Are there any mistakes that our readers can learn from?

The best way to find your ideal customer is to never stop networking. There is a great book called “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi, that summarizes this very well.

Additionally, there is a lot that can be said for being honest, for always working with integrity and respecting everyone. In an interview with YPO Financial Services last year, I had some suggestions on how to make connections count. I’ll list those here:

  • Have a plan in mind. Do your research. Know what you want for your business and who you should be meeting.
  • Have a one-page summary. So many times I want to help someone, but I need materials to pass along.
  • Check with both parties before making an introduction. You want both people to know what to expect and understand your intentions.
  • Always follow up. Send an email or a thank you note. Make a phone call. And if you say you’re going to do something, do it.
  • Treat everyone you meet with the same level of respect. You’ll never know, maybe that executive assistant you aren’t being as respectful to is the gatekeeper to many CEOs you want to meet.
  • Don’t make the meeting just about yourself. Figure out how your relationship can be mutually beneficial. I always ask myself how I can help the other person.

Everyone makes mistakes but one of the biggest mistakes you can make is making the meeting about yourself.

As a business owner, what is your greatest fear and how do you keep it under control or harness it?

I don’t have a fear because I believe I’m constantly improving. The only fear that concerns me most is people. What I mean by that is, it’s our job to create a strong company with solid core values, strong processes and clear execution. A place where our employees have a say inside of the company and they strive to obtain the best results.

Like Patrick Lencioni states in his book “The Ideal Team Player”, that we want to employ people who are “humble, hungry and smart”. Therefore, my biggest concern is losing one of my team members. In order to avoid that, we have an open policy that is fostered by trust. Every person in our office has a say inside the company. Although we are a vertically integrated company, we are a flat organization.

Who has been your greatest influencer along your entrepreneurial journey? How did they shape Conti Organization?

Of course I could mention great authors, writers, entrepreneurs and business owners, but my greatest influences are my parents who didn’t even have a basic education. They taught us to always work hard, have integrity and respect everyone. Always try to do your best without complaining. I can say for sure without that influence CONTI Organization wouldn’t be here today.

Have you faced any failures with Conti Organization? How did you overcome it?

Yes, we have had failures. We’re not perfect but we are constantly improving. The best way to overcome a failure is after things settle down look at the source and ask why did this happen? I will be the 1st one to take responsibility. In this case, we would have a discussion with our leadership team to review all the steps taken that caused such a failure, then we will change the process, improve and move on.

How do you stay focused on a day-to-day basis? Do you have a key motivator that keeps you going and fighting the good fight?

In order to stay focused we follow the “EOS” (Entreprenuerial Operating System). You can learn more about this in the book, “Get a Grip”. This process, which is followed by leadership and our employees, helps us set very clear 1, 3, and 10 year goals.

What motivates me the most is my commitment to God, my commitment to family, my commitment to my business partner and our employees and my commitment to the charities that we help in the US.

What attitude/habits helped make you successful while starting Conti Organization?

Always be networking, always be humble and remind yourself you must always be learning. Have a “Make it Happen” attitude, that means that no matter what happens to me, I will be persistent and determined and I will find a way to accomplish my goals.

What are your visions for your business? Where do you see it in the next 5 years?

I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished at CONTI and very thankful for the people inside CONTI. In a very “EOS” way of doing things in the next 5 years I can see us having a billion dollars in assets. Continuing to improve all of our processes, our systems and our execution.

We will continue to deliver great results to our investors. We will have a great impact in our employees’ lives and we will have a great impact on the charities we work with in the US.

What was the best piece of advice you have ever gotten from another business owner or someone you admired?

The best advice I have ever gotten was never stop learning. I believe we can never stop learning how to be a better entrepreneur, a better boss, husband, friend, father, etc.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in Texas who have a business idea but don’t know where to get started?

Network Network Network – be open and keep your mind open.

Through the right networking, you will find people that can give you advice and show you the right way to put a business together. They may even decided to partner with you.

In order to accomplish this, make sure you know your business better than anyone else. Be focused and don’t be afraid to put in the hours. The saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, is very powerful because a business is not built so quickly.

Be patient yet persistent and if you hold meetings with everyone you meet for both parties (mutually beneficial), eventually someone will help you and your business will take off. Make it Happen!