“North Forge Growth Coaches connect entrepreneurs with resources, identify opportunities in different markets, and provide a broader growth vision because whenever you’re working on growth, that means expanding your markets,” explains Rodrigo de Alvarenga, Growth Coach with North Forge Technology Exchange, from his home in Brazil.
“Entrepreneurs ready for growth have to work on at least two different things: how they can expand their market in the country they’re based in and overseas. We help them to soft-land in the US, Europe, or Latin America, and we help them to understand how to create a growth strategy.”
“I’ve been helping entrepreneurs for over 11 years now in different countries and programs. That’s how I met Joelle (CEO for North Forge); we met at the European Innovation Academy (EIA) in 2018 in Portugal.”
In May, Rodrigo was nominated by Thinkers360 as one of the Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Startups and in August as one of the Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Entrepreneurship. We asked him about it, and he humbly mentioned, “I hope that these nominations help me help entrepreneurs and startups reach their goals in growing and expanding into new markets!”.
“Since I was a little boy, I have been the person that asks why every time. I must know why because the whys help you understand what is going on, the core reasons that lie underneath,” Rodrigo remembered.
As a Growth Coach, Rodrigo has high expectations of his founders. “I am going to be very challenging in terms of questioning all the things that founders allegedly know because working on strategies is not about budgeting or projecting your sales. Strategy is about successfully reaching your long-term goals, the purpose if you will, is minimizing the losses and maximizing impact. So, unless you are sure to understand the certainties and uncertainties around your business, you’re going to fail. Therefore, I challenge everything!
That doesn’t mean I disagree. The initial conversation isn’t easy as I will challenge the entrepreneur to explain things to me, and perhaps I will agree. But I will challenge them until we get to a place where we understand what we don’t know and what we know, then we start from there.”
“Sometimes as a mentor or advisor, we must be careful. It’s not about how I envision the business, it’s more about how I can help entrepreneurs combine and temper the way they see reality.” Rodrigo continues with an example, “Let’s imagine that you start a business, and you did a so-so validation process. When you work with a growth advisor, it’s going to be hard if you haven’t validated enough because we will be challenging all the things you’re providing to us as certainties. We must know if they are certainties or not. Otherwise, it will be impossible to build the growth strategy needed.
From this point on, we can better share our own experiences into the reality that the entrepreneur is dealing with. At the same time, we’re jumping between tough love and support. They can apply everything that we’re talking about. They can test it. Sometimes it’s going to work the way we have designed it together. Other times we’re going to learn something more, and, eventually, we’re going to discover what may be missing, so you have to adjust.”
“I have been called ‘bad cop’ or ‘good cop,’ but most of the time, it’s the bad cop.” Rodrigo chuckled. “But that’s the job, I’m not there to agree with them, nor I am there to disagree with them. I have this deep connection with the customer’s pain point. I am there to temper the entrepreneur until they’re ready enough and prepared to speed things up.”
Rodrigo has had seven forge masters (people who have helped shape his outlook on life and guide his future) that molded him into the growth coach he is today. “My mother always took us to visit parks, or we travelled. She was always encouraging us to be curious about everything that happened around us and to care about others.
My father was a fantastic example of how to be responsible, how to do what must be done, how to be a hard worker, and have good ethics.” From his experience with his father, Rodrigo remembered forging one of his mottos: “Right is right, wrong is wrong, and both things don’t change places. The only one who can change places is you.”
“At the beginning of my professional career, I met a guy who gave me an amazing opportunity when I was young. He was the first forge master I met outside of my family. He challenged me, ‘OK, how do you do this? Or explain to me why?’ Whenever I came back with the answer, he kept asking the next questions, always pushing me more and more.”
Rodrigo goes on to remember, “Later, I had another forge master, someone who was Japanese-Brazilian, who was completely different. He said, ‘this is what you need to do: come back when everything is done.’ I curiously asked, ‘OK but, tell me how you want this done?’”
He answered, ‘I just want it done. I don’t care how you do it. You can do it however you think is best, provided that this is the result’. This time there was no instruction. I felt lost at first because it was too broad, everything was too much! I had to learn how to narrow things down until I got to a point where I knew what to do. That lesson was about complex problem-solving. If you have something very complicated to solve, you have to split it into as many smaller parts as possible so that you can sort each one out, one by one. Afterwards, you will begin doing this simultaneously: you get a complex problem, you split it into smaller parts, and then solve it.
This individual taught me that when growing a new business, you cannot say, ‘I know better what to do than everybody who is already doing it, unless you can better understand the problem underneath, learning how and what to do better. It is complex – you’re basically saying that everybody is wrong. If you don’t understand the complexity of the problem that must be sorted out, you won’t be able to come up with a solution that is so easy to understand that your consumer will say yes. As an entrepreneur, you must do this! So I found a different way to solve my problems and pains, and I realized that I had become an entrepreneur.”, Rodrigo explained.
“The next forge master I had, connected everything I had learned so far,” Rodrigo remembered fondly. “This forge master taught me how to understand the world. He didn’t give me any goals to accomplish, he was not task-oriented. He worked with me in a very complex way. We had opposing personalities, but he was a master in strategy. Every time we worked together, he asked, ‘how can you think about all the aspects involved; competition, capabilities, what are our competencies and skills, what are we best at, where are we worse off compared to others, how can you organize all this, and prepare for a winning strategy?’
I’ve learned how to strategize and connect the dots even when they didn’t seem to be connecting. There may always be a connection that perhaps you’re not seeing.”
“However, I didn’t know at the time, but two things were missing and only when I moved to a different city – Curitiba, I came to learn about them by meeting the last two forge masters in my life.
Firstly, came my wife Claudia, she is the most amazing human being I have ever met, and she taught me about faith, exactly, faith! You may be wondering what faith has to do with entrepreneurship, and until this point, I didn’t know either, but it has a lot to do with becoming an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur must believe that it is possible to reach the results even though there is a long and uncertain journey ahead, and for that, you need faith.
After this lesson, I found my last forge master, God. Through faith, I found reason and purpose. I learned the most important reason as to why we need an answer, which addresses purpose or why we must do something, which will then influence and drive everything else. In other words, there are two essential parts to building up an entrepreneur. Purpose and faith to address the why, and then, all the tactical elements to cover the hows and whats.”
“I would say that all this summarises me really well, now the way I work with entrepreneurs is the result of all this. Every time I have worked with entrepreneurs, I see them later in a better place, perhaps in a different startup or career. But all of them, they are more mature and ready for whatever comes their way with all the tactical elements to become better entrepreneurs!”.
There is nothing better than this in terms of making you feel successful as a mentor and an advisor.” Rodrigo proudly shared.
“There is an artistic approach where we are trying to forge a magnificent sword, but that means we have to jump between hot and cold, support and tough love. Between these two different scenarios, we must infuse the forge master experience and prepare the materials to outperform the expectations. So, translating this analogy to entrepreneurs, that is precisely the work that the North Forge team (management, mentors & advisors) does with all startups, their founders (talent) and materials (technology, software, or apps).”
The entrepreneurial journey is for innovators and inventors, rebels and visionaries, who dive deep into solving customer problems. Do you have a budding idea that is waiting to be explored?
Grow your business with North Forge and our team of growth coaches like Rodrigo! Learn more about the four-stage Founders Program and apply today!