One of my favorite business books is called The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. The book presents an interesting concept called Genchi Gembutsu, which is used by the author to relay the idea that the only way to identify, build, and grow a business is by “going and seeing for yourself.” This ancient Japanese concept represents a lot of the virtues of entrepreneurship and is itself is a powerful screenshot of a career transition I have recently pursued by entering the journalism field.
My entire career before 2019 was spent in the beverage industry, when I was part of two teams that started businesses in the U.S. and in Asia. For seven years that was all I did — study and work in beer and spirits, and my day-to-day routines revolved around fermentation, shelf-life, distribution, project management, energy efficiency, human resources, branding, investments…etc.
About two years ago I decided I needed a change in order to address my many political, economic, and social frustrations that had been bubbling within me without due recourse. I wanted to become more involved with two specific transitions; the transition being seen in Cuba (which I have yet to define because the direction of the wind changes almost daily in this paradoxical island) and the transition being seen in Venezuela towards a migrant-expelling tragedy.
You are probably asking yourself the exact same question I did at the time, what the Piccadilly (yes, I have heard that expression during my time in London) can a former entrepreneur in spirits and beer contribute in any economic and political context?
Yes…this very same thought revolved around my head for a long time, and I needed time and space to explore this interest I have in social entrepreneurship before deciding to dive into any one particular opportunity. With this in mind, I decided to adhere to the aforementioned mentality of Genchi Gembutsu: go and see for myself.
Fast forward 14 months and I am based in Colombia writing for five different publications and/or organizations. The topics I have written about are many, but the experience has been useful in identifying new career possibilities. There is a certain synergy between being a journalist and being an entrepreneur. We often forget that building a business is more than just “inventing a product,” it is sales, it is business development, it is negotiation, it is understanding your market.
The connection between entrepreneurship and journalism:
- Interview people, relate with people
- Invest in networking, business development
- Expose yourself to different cultures, different industries, different values
- Both very independent
- Both creative and open-ended
Not only was I able to strengthen my entrepreneurial skills by working in this field, but the experience allowed me to work as close as possible to one of my homes (Venezuela) as I realistically could. By being here I have been able to interview people from different branches of government, study the impact of social enterprises, and analyze the synergies between the private sector, the public sector, and the third sector. By conducting interviews and writing articles on these fields I have been able to explore their importance and impressions within me while staying productive.
I also have the opportunity of hearing and seeing first-hand the impact the Venezuelan migration is having on the Colombian economy and society. I am also capturing the thoughts, fears, and needs of the very people who are migrating from Venezuela in a very intimate way. By showing my “journalist badge” many people feel motivated to open up and share their stories and impressions in ways a random citizen would be unable to access.
I still don’t have all the answers in regard to my career transition, but I am getting close, and the experience of writing and reporting is a magnificent and productive strategy of going Genchi Gambutsu and learning by doing.
Enrique Jose Garcia is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. He was born from Cuban parents and was raised in Venezuela until moving to the U.S. to attend university. He has spent most of his career as an entrepreneur in the beverage sector, both in the U.S. and in Cambodia, and most recently started a Master’s at the London School of Economics in Public Administration and concentrating his studies on Social Entrepreneurship. He currently spends his time between London and Colombia and writes for a few publications on economics and entrepreneurship in Latin America.