GET YOUR MIND RIGHT- DAILY. In order to be a resilient person, you can’t be controlled by fears and anxieties. I recommend starting the first hour of your morning without your phone or any other media device. Then take some time to think about the people and things that you are grateful for. Gratitude is the prescription you need to fight that fear and act courageously every day. While most people see problems with every opportunity, resilient people see opportunity with every problem. How you choose to see things is what will inevitably manifest.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Nieto.
After a 10-year career building successful teams and managing a successful organization for the largest telecommunications company in the world, AT&T, Thomas Nieto decided to take a leap of faith and jump into entrepreneurship. Since 2017, Nieto has served as the CEO of Main Squeeze Juice Co. The New Orleans-based franchise’s mission is to make healthy easier, and the company’s nutritionist-designed, the superfood-centric menu does exactly that. As CEO, Nieto serves as the brand’s fearless leader who manages their corporate team while leading site selection, franchisee support and franchise sales.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Of course, thank you for the invitation. I grew up in the suburbs of New Orleans and was one of five siblings in my household. I was the middle child and the stigma was 100% spot on in my case. I got into a lot of trouble in my early years but eventually got it together in my late teen years and became very involved in my church. As an 18-year-old I had about 50 people in my ministry and it was through that experience that I found my passion. Playing a role and helping others that were going through the same struggles I was going through really brought me a lot of joy and satisfaction. My experience in youth ministry directly translated into what started as my professional career when I joined the workforce at Cingular Wireless (AT&T) in 2005 as a retail sales consultant. I loved meeting and connecting with new people every day so that, combined with my very competitive nature, helped me achieve a lot of success in that environment. After my first promotion to a management position, I fell in love with the challenge and rewards of leading others, while everyone else was focused on numbers, numbers, numbers. My focus was always on the growth and development of my team and helping people self-discover their God given talents, gifts, and abilities. I received several awards and promotions in my 10-year experience with AT&T that ended up playing a heavy hand in preparing me for both my former role as COO for In and Out Smart Repair and my current role as CEO for Main Squeeze Juice Co. (MSJC) Franchise.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
In 2015 a good friend of mine, John Mike Heroman, called me up and asked me to leave AT&T to join him in creating a cell phone repair concept, what would become In and Out Smart Repair. The decision was not an easy one for me, as I was leaving an arena that I knew very well and had found success in the bubble I called my “career.” But my dad always told me the best bet I could ever make in life was on myself. I decided to take his advice and the leap of faith in May 2015 to join John Mike as the COO and minority partner of In and Out Franchise. Together with our team, we opened 78 locations with 120 total sold licenses before selling the company to CPR (Cell Phone Repair). I was actually upset and disappointed in the sale of the company as I didn’t want the journey to end. People were calling to congratulate me, meanwhile I was seeing a psychologist trying to reconcile losing what I viewed as this “once in a lifetime” opportunity by “selling out” too soon. But as it would turn out, everything happens for a reason.
Two main takeaways here:
1. Always bet on yourself. Never allow fear to stop you from taking that leap of faith. You only
have one life to live so GO FOR IT!
2. Understand the value of experience. What you learn today is what will open the doors of
your future opportunities.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
While there are many things that set us apart, by far the stand out winners are going to be our branding, packaging, and the “wow factor” when it comes to the delicious taste of our award-winning products.
I’ll share a quick story that illustrates how these differential factors are the very reason I’m here writing about Main Squeeze Juice Co. today:
In April of 2017, while looking for my next move after the CPR sale, I was exploring a cell phone repair concept with two guys out of Lake Charles, LA, Nick Fontenot and Carl Comeaux. While exploring their cell phone repair concept, Nick asked if I wouldn’t mind riding over to his little sister and brother-in-law’s soon-to-be juice bar because they needed help unloading produce from the truck while gearing up for their grand opening. I thought it was a bit odd but nevertheless said I’d be happy to help.
When I got to the store, I met two of the most incredible people, Matt and Miranda Duplichan. After helping them unload the produce truck, they wanted to show their gratitude and decided to give me a
tour of the store and insisted I try their one-of-a-kind products. I gave them the disclaimer that I was not really into health-oriented products and might not like it, but I would still be happy to try them. They both smiled at me, with confidence, and said we’ll have to see about that. To my surprise, there I was drinking beet juice, spinach, kale, broccoli, chard, and turmeric, loving every bit of it. I really couldn’t believe how something so healthy could taste so good. My mom could never get me to eat vegetables and that struggle remained true up until that very moment. After trying the smoothies and acai bowl I was really blown away. Then after trying everything, I felt a strong energy rush that was different from the caffeine rush I was used to. It was like a natural high energy and it felt unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I thought to myself, “I’d come here every day if I lived here”. Again, that’s coming from someone that didn’t, at that time, have a palate for healthy eating of any kind. That’s when it hit me — if you could win me over, you can win the world over! With 25 locations opened and operating, 50+ more locations in various stages of development, and millions of products being sold every year — it looks like I was on to something.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are too many people to name everyone, but God first, with my mom and dad as a strong second and third. They’ve always believed in me and encouraged me to live my life to the fullest. And like I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t the best behaving teenager growing up and there is no doubt in my mind that I would have ended up on a different path had it not been for my
parents. Making them proud and positioning myself to take care of them for the rest of their lives is a motivation for me every day.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
When I think of resilience, I think of someone that’s ‘tough’ and absolutely bullet proof from fear and failure. Resilient people don’t often succumb to fear because they are full of faith on a daily basis and they can’t “fail” because their interpretation of “failure” is simply growth by learning how to not do something next time. I think about Thomas Edison and how many times he “failed” before creating light. These types of people have a “can’t stop, won’t stop” mentality trait and refuse to quit no matter the circumstances and obstacles that get thrown their way.
I also think a big characteristic of resilient people are those who generate results. When setting out to accomplish something, you either succeed or have the excuses and reasons as to why you couldn’t. Basically, you can either have results or excuses, but never both. Resilient people tend to outlast the storms that consume everyone else and they always find a way to achieve what they set out to accomplish.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Resilience to me is more of a trait and mindset whereas courage is the ‘action’ required to
develop resilience. Courage is the test whereas resilience is the outcome. To me, demonstrating courage requires you to face and acknowledge your fears, demonstrating strength in the midst of weakness. This is an important point to note because a lot of people think that being scared makes you weak, but in reality, the element of fear must be in play to even have the opportunity to show courage. In other words, courage doesn’t exist in the absence of fear. Resilient people are simply more battle-tested than non-resilient people because of their willingness to face their fears more than others. It’s that process over time that creates resilience.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
The person that comes to mind is my really good friend, Bob Lumby. Bob was a general manager that worked for me at AT&T in Jacksonville, FL and is one of the most positive, inspiring, loving, kind-hearted human beings I’ve ever met. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever seen Bob get upset or have a bad day. I’m sure he did get upset and have bad days like the rest of us but I swear you’d never know it. In September 2015, shortly after I left AT&T for my venture with In and Out Smart Repair, Bob was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Just like that, in an instant, Bob’s world flipped upside down and was given only a 3-month clock to live. Everyone was devastated and I just remember feeling so helpless and not knowing what to do or say to help my good friend. The level of fear he was facing had to be higher than what most of us will ever know. But in the midst of all the fear and weakness, Bob showed strength and courage while he was literally fighting for his life. Bob’s positive attitude and optimism shined so bright that you couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with inspiration, his faith and positivity were infectious!
Bob fought the good fight and because of his resiliency, he extended his life from the 3 months the doctors gave him to 68 months, all of which he was able to spend precious time with his 3 beautiful kids and world of friends. Bob passed away on August 3rd, 2021. I’ll never forget that man and seeing him fight the way he did for the past 6 years made him a one-of-a-kind inspiration to everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. There is no greater example of someone who consistently showed great courage and resilience than my good friend Bob.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
My job as a leader is to persuade and convince my team that we can do great things, things that either they themselves or others say are impossible. My success is solely contingent upon my ability to win them over by making them ‘believers.’ My tactics to accomplish this may vary from case to case, but generally, I find that reminding people of past battles and victories makes the best case for why we can win future battles. We’ve conquered before and we’ll conquer again. As Henry Ford says, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
Early on when we started MSJC, there were some differences in opinions with two of my
original partners. They were, and still are, awesome people, but we just didn’t see eye to eye on quite a few things. This was discouraging at the time because at one point everyone was teaming up against me, trying to push me out of my role as CEO. These partners and the sole investor of the company at the time wanted me to lay off our entire staff, but they failed to understand that we could not meet our obligations as a franchisor without these essential positions, especially understanding the growth that was to come. To say I was under an enormous amount of stress would be an understatement. But with the support of my brother-in-law Michael Canseco, MSJC’s CFO and General Counsel, I refused to back down and made the hard decisions that ended up spring-boarding into success.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. GET YOUR MIND RIGHT- DAILY. In order to be a resilient person, you can’t be controlled by fears and anxieties. I recommend starting the first hour of your morning without your phone or any other media device. Then take some time to think about the people and things that you are grateful for. Gratitude is the prescription you need to fight that fear and act courageously every day. While most people see problems with every opportunity, resilient people see opportunity with every problem. How you choose to see things is what will inevitably manifest.
2. LEARN AND GROW. Just like our physical body needs to be fed, your mind and spirit also need food less you get weak. I’d recommend reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching motivational content via YouTube/streaming services etc.
3. IRON SHARPENS IRON. You are who you hang around so really smart people find other really smart people to hang out with. This isn’t a hard principle to understand. Find the most resilient people you know and hang out with them as much as you can.
4. ZOOM OUT. Sometimes when you are dealing with a challenging situation that’s testing you, the best thing you can do is step back and try to readjust your perspective. I use the analogy that when you are downtown in the city, all of the buildings and skyscrapers look enormous, but those same buildings look like little specs from the airplane. Same buildings, different perspectives. My normal process here is that I typically talk through the challenge or circumstance with a few different people. Then, after discussing it to hear other perspectives, I typically stop thinking and talking about that particular challenge or circumstance for a day or two and then re-engage with a new and fresh perspective.
5. SEE IT. SPEAK IT. MANIFEST IT. Sometimes goals can seem daunting and unfavorable circumstances can be an open door for doubt and fear to creep in. The law of attraction is real and you have to see and speak into existence what you want. If you start thinking and speaking negatively, you are projecting those things to be manifested. You have to see, speak, and authentically believe that good things are going to happen and that all things are working together for your good.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
In a world full of negativity, anxiety and a bunch of other joy-killers, choose to be kind to people. To put that into action, try doing one thing a day that can help make someone else’s day. It could be as easy as paying for the person behind you in the drive through, or giving someone a kind word of encouragement. You’ll be shocked how something so simple can mean so much to someone else. There isn’t a greater movement needed in this world than kindness.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Get my hopes up, why don’t you? One of my favorite authors of all time is John C. Maxwell.
His words have had such an impact on my journey as a leader. I even started a leadership development program based on his book “Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”. He’s already done so much for me and we’ve never even met. The main reason I’d like to meet him is to thank him!
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!