Grad Q&A with Business Office Administration graduate Diego Lemus
At 20-years old Diego Lemus had a vision of owning his own business, but the road that could get him there was not a smooth one. He was young, he had a wife (Karen) and young daughter (Juliet) to support, and he did not have the business education framework to lay the foundation for entrepreneurial success.
What Diego did have was grit and determination that, coupled with family support and hard work, would set his dream of career independence into motion.
What did that career dream look like?
I always had the vision in the back of my mind of having my own business and becoming fully independent. Working for myself I would have my own schedule and have the financial and time control to make life a lot easier.
Everything was a work-in-progress toward that goal. But, having a family and being a young parent, I had to do something, and it had to be quick. I had responsibilities most 20-year-olds didn’t have.
What did you need to accomplish your career vision?
I had short-term goals and long-term goals. I needed an accelerated program (business education) that would give me the boost to get me where I needed to be (business owner) and I needed a position where I’m able to be financially supportive while I’m in school.
How did SJVC’s Business Office Administration (BOA) program fit your plan?
What attracted me to SJVC was the fast pace and purpose. Community college was more of a ‘when we have room in this class’. It was always a wait for classes I wanted to take. You couldn’t get in easily, especially business classes.
My sister, Stephanie, had completed the CMA (Clinical Medical Assisting) program at the (SJVC) Temecula campus, got her A.S. (Associate of Science) degree and is working in the medical field now. She was pretty excited about it.
And, the BOA program was offered at a time that would allow me to work part-time while I was a student.
Did you get what you needed from the BOA program?
It was an overview of the business world and what an entrepreneur needed to be successful. We learned the actual paper components you have to manage: bookkeeping, accounting, marketing. I’m a numbers guy, so the way the program is laid out made me understand the basics.
My favorite class was when you create your own business, make a business plan, a Mission Statement and figure out what products you offer. I think I used the whole class when I started my business.
I saved everything on flash drive and having those files as a reference has helped me help Karen set up her own hair extension business for supplemental income. That information has been a nice short cut in getting a business license, registering her fictitious name, and developing a business plan without having to do the research.
What experience did you not expect to get from the BOA program?
We did a lot of mixers out in the business community, or we would host something on campus, like Toastmasters where we would socialize with business owners. It taught me how to speak to others, how to introduce myself and how to do a proper handshake – a skill a lot of people overlook. It tells a lot about a person, if you walk into an interview and your handshake is off. It’s all about first impressions.
The BOA program opened my eyes to the real world of business management; it made me grow up. I didn’t really know what a business manager is until you see the background it takes in scheduling, accounting, ethics. It made me more qualified for that position.
What kind of support were you able to get from family?
Support from friends and family kept me level-headed and focused on my goals. A lot had to do with Karen being so supportive from Day One. She supported me through ups and downs. She constantly reminded me that with any downfall there’s always growth.
She started the Clinical Medical Assisting program at SJVC when I was close to being done with my program. It meant a lot for her to also be able to grow, even though her main focus was being a mom. We looked at the long-term goals for the bigger picture for her in the medical field.
What was your business career trajectory after you graduated from the BOA program?
As a student I had been working part-time at Staples and after I graduated, I got a management position there. After two years I applied for a Career Services position at SJVC and worked there for almost three years, until I was able to go out on my own. I needed to have that leap of faith, and the timing wasn’t there yet.
In November 2018 I started my own insurance business focused on life and health insurance and retirement (annuities) accounts. I represent different plans and enroll people in those insurance plans. I like helping people find answers to their insurance needs.
And now I have the financial and scheduling freedom to attend our kids’ (now includes 7-year-old Mason) soccer practice, awards ceremonies and events, and it’s made life a lot easier.
What is the next step in your business-owner game plan?
It is growing a team. Right now, it’s a team of ‘me’. But my next goal is to open an office and hire 10-20 insurance agents.
What advice do you have for others who struggle with the thought of balancing work, home and school to achieve their career ambitions?
Write down your goals and figure out a plan for how you’re going to get there. If you don’t see them getting them closer, don’t put them away. It takes a lot of discipline to stay on track. But if you’re passionate about your goals, you’re not going to let anything get in the way.
For anyone who goes through the BOA program, you can pretty much tailor it for what your career goals are. There has to be a goal – how you see yourself. This is the foundation for whatever you want to get into. It gives structure to a vision.
Enjoy the process. There isn’t an elevator that will take you to your success. You may have to walk up the stairs or run up the stairs, but as long as you put in the time and effort, you can
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