Let me tell you about a situation that happened to me the first time I came to Colombia.
I had just left the gym in Envigado when a bunch of clouds rolled in (not uncommon for afternoons in Medellin). As the clouds took over the sky and prepared to dump their H2O on the city, I had a feeling I wasn’t going to make it home dry as it was a good 15 minute walk all the way back to my apartment.
Sure enough, the rains came, and I ducked under the overhang of a nearby building. I don’t remember what the building was, but it had just enough room for a couple people to stand outside and stay dry.
Soon enough, though, people began to emerge from said building with the desire to get in their cars to go home for the day. The cars were parked nearby but unfortunately were under siege of the pouring rain.
Guess what happened next?
Some random Colombian man, perhaps 60 or 70 year old, popped out of nowhere carrying a few umbrellas. He saw that the people were looking to get into their cars, and he began to offer his services of walking them out to their cars, helping them to get in and shut the door, and finally, helping them back up onto the adjacent street.
In return of course, he would walk up to the window hoping for a few pesos in return for his help.
He did this for several sets of people, and I smiled to myself, “This guy is hustling!”
For real, this man was making something happen in the specific opportunity that was placed in front of him. He was providing a valuable service at the proper time, and boom, he was generating income which he undoubtedly needed.
I also reflected that this was the type of guy I would love to hire.
Highly Desirable Qualities
The random Colombian man displayed everything that you hope to find in an employee (or a friend or partner, for that matter): self-initiative, resourcefulness, and value-adding hustle. However small it was, his work was cool to watch, and his customers were surely grateful.
Now, not all Colombians are like this… But let me ask you this: why is it that I have come across so many Americans on the street who won’t offer to help you with something minor like an umbrella or backing out of a parking spot?
The Americans that I have come across streetwise will simply walk up to you and ask you for money (or con you out of some). I can’t remember one single time where an American popped out of nowhere to offer me a service in exchange for some change.
Granted, perhaps the level poverty in Latin America makes it more likely to happen in a country like Colombia… But still, they are taking initiative to actually do something with themselves rather than take a handout. And this Colombian was not just helping Americans, he was helping other Colombians. In fact, he was helping anybody and everybody that was around.
Why would I hire a Colombian over an American? The same reason I’d hire some Americans over other Americans: those that take initiative and seek to provide value wherever they find themselves in life always turn out to be high quality people.
I hope I stumble upon more of these “go-get-‘em” Colombians… May their tribe increase.