MF 060 : How to Pivot by “Putting Popsicle Sticks at the End of a Boat,” with SummitSync's Al Torres
Updated: Jun 16
Al Torres is an entrepreneur, consultant, and Chief Commercial Officer for SummitSync (www.summitsync.com). Al has spent his career understanding how technology and in particular, mobile apps impact the way we conduct business and forge new business relationships. With SummitSync, an innovative mobile app (available for IOS and Android), Al is changing the way we connect at conferences. In today’s episode, you will learn Al’s secret for discovering niche opportunities and making connections so you can move forward.
Successes at a glance:
Chief Commercial Officer, SummitSync:
New Business Development Advisor, QWASI Technology.
Former VP of Sales & Business Development, Telemetry.
Former Sales Manager and Account Executive, PulsePoint.
2014 Digital Media Panelist: Deutsche Bank – Media, Internet and Telecom Conference.
IAB Digital Media Sales Certification.
Certified Empowerment Coach (CEC).
Genos Accredited Practitioner (Emotional Intelligence – “EQ”).
Accredited Energy Leadership Coach (AELC).
How Al gets inspired to conquer the day:
Al starts off his day by reading a variety of sources, including Google news to get a birds eye view of the high level headlines around the world and feedly which curates vertical-level, industry news from various websites and publishers. For Al, the practice of learning what entrepreneurs are doing all over the world thru innovation and growing their businesses, provides an inspirational burst of energy to get his day started. Moving Forward listeners, you too can use this simple yet effective morning practice to learn of new opportunities and possibilities to start a business or boost your career. As Al puts it, it’s about “finding the right niche for you” and getting inspired by those who are following their passions and seeing the opportunities around those passions.
Setback or failure that led to pivot and shift:
Al shares a pivotal and personal failure from his college days as an engineering major. During one of his early classes, Al was assigned to a team to build a mini solar-powered boat. Upon completion, all of the teams would race their boats across a waterway. The team whose boat could reach the other side the fastest and without touching the walls, would get an A in the class. The team that came in second would get B’s, the team that came in third would get C’s and the rest would fail. Al’s team was the smallest with three members (one of whom dropped out) and to complicate matters, Al did not get along well with his remaining teammate. The team built five boats that could not get across the waterway. Finally, the day before the race, they figured out how to build a boat that went straight but it took two minutes, whereas in prior years, other teams had built boats that took a minute or less to make the same trip. The day of the race, the team also had to contend with wavy waters, which would cause boats to hit the side of the wall. To compensate, Al and his teammate fastened some popsicle sticks at the front of the boat to weigh it down. The result was that the boat could get across without hitting the walls but did so in 2 1/2 minutes; much slower than boats in years past. The result: Al and his teammate won. Although their completion time was longer, it turned out that the specifications and restrictions for the motor were half as powerful as for teams in prior years. Although Al pivoted away from engineering to finance, this story has stayed with him as the moment in which he solidified a problem solving mindset. Moreover, Al learned from this experience that it’s not simply about breaking thru obstacles but sometimes figuring out your way around or above or below them. Moving Forward listeners, start reframing the way you look at obstacles. We can’t always break thru them but we can find ways around them; even if the odds are against us and even if we’re disadvantaged with smaller teams or team members we don’t necessarily get along with. Take heart that innovation and determination can be powerful forces for moving forward.
Resource or cultural experience that inspired Al to move forward:
Cultural experience: Years ago, Al traveled to Cinque Terra, Italy, a collection of small towns, right off the coast. Al ventured into one of the local “restaurants,” which was essentially someone’s home and featured a homemade pasta and pesto sauce; specific to that town. Al learned from the owner that the product (pasta and pesto sauce) was so popular that she licensed out the recipe. The fact that this woman lived in a tiny rural town and was able to achieve a scalable business from a labor of love, impressed Al with a prime example of, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Moving Forward listeners, opportunities and markets are all around us. Don’t let the environment, your surroundings or any particular obstacle hold you back from discovering those opportunities and moving forward. Finally, travel and meet people. You will get inspired and realize how interconnected and similar we really are.
How Al stays organized and manages his time:
Al lives by his calendar and recommends Sunrise (IOS | Google Play) [note: this will soon be merged into Microsoft’s Outlook], an app that curates from multiple calendars, personal and work, to keep you organized.
Al prioritizes his time week by looking at his calendar every Friday and determines what can be removed and pushed back from the list of items or meetings for the upcoming week.
Favorite app / website / resource or productivity hack:
Feedly for curating news.
Support the Podcast:
The Corporate Cliches Adult Coloring Book: makes the perfect stocking stuffer or white elephant gift.
Try out Audible (affiliate link).
Try out Amazon Prime (affiliate link).
Al’s Advice for you to Move Forward:
Reach out to people! If you have a passion or interest, ask yourself: do you know someone who is in the field or doing what you are interested in. Al reminds us, everyone got their start somewhere and inquiry has been one of Al’s biggest knowledge bursts for learning and getting started. So be proactive, ask and learn so you can move forward.