Being an entrepreneur often requires going with the flow, flying by the seat of your pants, making things up as you go. Being in the military, however, is all about structure, following a regimented schedule, abiding by rules written long before you arrived. Given that the two worlds are so vastly different, it’s worth noting that Andre Uribe was successful at both. Initially, joining the Navy was about avoiding college, but it’s a decision Uribe is still pleased with having made, as it introduced him to the field where he would find the most success as an entrepreneur: electrical engineering.
“I joined the Navy at 18 because school didn’t interest me one bit,” Uribe says. “I didn’t have a role model pushing me to go to college. Looking back I think I was afraid to fail, so I didn’t even try. Ironically, the Navy put me through two years of technical schooling and I became a communications specialist. In the military, I learned that everyone is capable of growing and learning, no matter how resistant they are to it.”
Before cofounding his current company Power Grid Engineering, LLC, a Florida-based firm specializing in engineering design and consultation for the power systems industry, Uribe was involved in several entrepreneurial opportunities where he gained management, financing, and marketing experience before cofounding Horizon Trust, LLC with his wife, where they helped families enjoy the dream of home ownership.
Uribe says that when he left the Navy in his early 20s, he knew he wanted the freedom to do what he wanted to do, making entrepreneurship seem like an enticing option. It seems that he always had an entrepreneurial spirit. In high school, Uribe walked door-to-door selling water filters to make extra cash. He loved networking and meeting new people and was good at asking questions and making friends. When he was in the Navy, there were 5,000 people on his ship and he made an effort to get to know as many of them as he could.
“The military taught me about discipline and focus; you can’t achieve goals without focus and discipline. The Navy introduced me to the field I loved and it taught me what I wanted and didn’t want. After the Navy, I knew I didn’t want to work 10-hour shifts starting at 6 a.m. That’s when I realized that being an entrepreneur was for me,” Uribe says.
Power Grid Engineering came about in a very organic way. After years of sitting on the other side of the table as a client and hearing consultants make false promises and fail to do their jobs correctly, Uribe and some friends decided to do something about it. As an engineer himself, Uribe knew what it took to get a job done and he also knew that consultants got paid well, so if consultants who had no idea what they were doing were getting work, imagine a firm that operated smoothly and delivered results? After endless conversations in a Starbucks, Uribe and his partner decided to form Power Grid Engineering.
“To be an entrepreneur you have to think bigger than you did the day before,” Uribe says. “We all have limitations and when you set out to be your own boss, you have to be humble enough to admit you don’t know it all. Always hire people who are smarter than you and you’ll be OK.”