Interview with the founder of "Viajar Por Aragon"

Interview with Carlos Diaz, from "Viajar Por Aragón"

I met Carlos back in 2005 in Dublin. We met at work, he was one of the rookies in my team. I instantly thought Carlos was a great guy in every possible sense (he is 1.90m tall). He is cheerful, always happy to help and learn,  socially conscious as well as committed to deliver quality work. 

We had great times together in many occasions sharing at least as many pints. We worked long hours and we even failed in our attempt to blog about life and politics - when I go back to those texts I can’t stop laughing! -. 

Here we are, many years after Dublin, he is now a father of two, married to a fantastic woman and ready to kick off with a small start up in the very competitive Travel industry. “Viajar por Aragón (Traveling across Aragón)” is a travel market place focused on one specific region in Spain, Aragon.The market he is targeting is broadly speaking the Spanish market, individuals that are willing to spend some time in nature and explore the hidden treasures of this region. Here is the result of our small interview:

What is your background? What did you study? 

When I was 20 I completed a degree in Marketing and Business Management, it was a good way to understand where I will focus in my future studies. I then understood that I needed to know much more about the subject. A few years later I decided to study a Bachelor Degree in Human Resources. Fast forward a few years, I started working as Project Manager in HP where my role was very much focused on Project Management and Quality Projects for multi-regional teams, therefore I decided to become a Certified Associate in Project Management by the Project Management Institute, and became a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certified as a follow up. I then realised how much I love project management as a job discipline but also how I could apply that in my personal live. 

If we were going to ask your friends who is Carlos, how would they define you? 

Nice and challenging question, it is good to reflect and think about what I want to be, and who I am really. 

I suppose they would answer that Carlos is someone very passionate, someone that enjoys life on a daily basis specially when he doesn’t he feels frustrated and tries to find out why he is not enjoying. 

Life is too short to complain about it, life is like the best video-game ever, and playing a role on it in a daily basis is the best present he could ever wish for. 

Even when at the moment I’m unemployed - soon to become a full Enrepreneur - this situation makes me think quicker and work harder due the high level of pressure. There is no time for being lazy, and that makes life an amazing challenge. 

In a nutshell, they could say that Carlos is someone who loves life and try to enjoy it every single day! 

What are you most passionate about? 

Photography, travelling, music, not sure which one is the one I feel most passionate about. Additionally, any Project I start, makes me feel realised as a person.

As I mentioned earlier, Project Management has become one of my passions, as it can be applied to anything in life. Splitting projects and challenges in phases, and phases in small tasks makes things more and more simple, even the most complex challenge is something achievable by applying Project Management frameworks, it doesn’t matter which project you are working on and I enjoy this, very much so. 

Let’s talk about your upcoming project. How did you come up with the idea of “Viajar por Aragón"? 

Aragon is my home. I have always loved this Spanish region and I always thought that this part of Spain has plenty of possibilities, however, I used to get frustrated constantly when I didn’t see the passion and vision in others. 

After the holiday period, people at the office where I used to work in Zaragoza used to share their experiences about their leisure trips, and consistently, they would compare Aragón with the place they had visited, dismissing Aragon and its amazing landscapes, resources and heritage.  

I never accepted that, never agreed with them. I mean, I visited different places in the world, Germany, UK, France and the States. They are beautiful countries and they have loads of possibilities, but I also believe in this land. All we need to do is to believe in it. 

That’s when I decided to start a website focused on sharing what Aragón really is, and what can be done here. The project started 7 years ago, it was not a business per se, just a personal project. 

About 2 years ago I saw that it was followed by almost 10,000 people in Facebook and 4,000 in Twitter, that made me realise that perhaps there was a market behind.

Have you received any public or private funding? 

Nothing so far. In all fairness and despite that Spain is still facing a very difficult time from a macro economic perspective and bureaucracy does not always help, currently there are some nice advantages and programs for entrepreneurs, such as low income-taxes within the first 2 years of business, but this is something I’m still working out in my business plan before our go-live takes place at the beginning of March.

What advice would you give to your 20 year old self? 

Another great question, honestly! 

I think there is something in my life now, being 40 years old, that I didn’t have when I was 20, and that is, “don’t be shy!”. Life is for brave people, and as I said before, life it is too short, do not waste your life thinking “what could have happened…?” just do it! 

How do you define success? 

I read once this quote“find a job that you love, and you will never have to work again”. I think success is doing what you really love while doing it in an honest way, having fair-play always in mind. If you enjoy your job, working days will never be hard. 

What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur? 

Being my own boss, taking my own decisions. I have worked as Project Manager for several years but I was just part of a huge corporation. 

The projects I managed were not really flexible, you couldn’t be really creative, the scope was already defined, the goals were already defined, the resources you needed were pretty well defined. You could only innovate with small incremental changes. 

When you start your own business you feel as a writer before starting to write the first page. A blank paper in front of you is a challenge, but it is also amazing because “that book” is your book. 

It doesn’t mean that I want to manage everything on this project. I love delegating and hiring the best ones in some areas, such as Finance, Product Development or Graphic Design where my knowledge is limited. 

Also my wife is always there helping me with the knowledge areas where she is a Master, such as Issues & Risks Management, she is the best at what she does!

What kind of marketing strategies did you use to make your project known? 

As this is an online business, I have used social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube, also LinkedIn, but I have to recognise that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the ones which are working for me better, probably due to my lack of knowledge in others. 

Also, as I am going to be working in the Tourism industry, I have done extensive field research, visiting hundreds of hotels and B&B’s in Aragón, trying to let them know what I’m trying to achieve, getting to know their pains, their businesses, making sure that I would always be happy to help. 

I know that many online companies are very difficult to get in touch with, in this case, I’m trying to show them that I will be there, that there is a person behind an online portal. 

Other than Social Media, I am trying to reach out to local media, local TV and Radio stations. For the next 12 months I want to focus on creating my brand being available, creating ambassadors on the businesses that I work with, that is the best marketing that you can have. 

What makes you happy? 

Having the people I love around me. I have thought about it many times, and I celebrated my 30th birthday in Dublin with a surprise party. A few days ago I turned 40 and again I had an excellent surprise party. I feel very lucky about that people would invest time organising things like that for me. Success is great, but success is only amazing if you have someone to celebrate with! 

Excluding yours, what company do you admire the most? 

I admire all those companies which policies and business models are built upon sustainable development and human rights as main priorities. 

This is extremely important nowadays, we depend on the planet and the future of our environment is dependant on our actions, this is why we should take Climate Change and Human rights as our top 2 priorities.

To give you a concrete example,  ECOSIA is one of the companies I truly admire. This company is the perfect example and an evidence that a different way of thinking about our world is possible. Using our searching needs in the internet for reforesting is an amazing thinking, and it works! 

What do you expect from the future of your company? 

It would be great to break even and achieve stability within the next 2 years (2017 and 2018), then improve the service and scale. I would love to have all those friends I have around the world visiting us someday, that would be amazing!

Interviewer: Juan José Rodríguez