Daniel Abrego is CEO of Intercontinental Logistics Corp. He is an international logistics expert and business innovator. At ILC’s headquarters in Panama Pacifico, he talks frankly about what inspires him and the principles he follows to lead a standout company in a country dominated by logistics players.

What would you tell a young person who is choosing between college and starting a business?

It depends on your goal and targets. To become a doctor or other professional, of course, college is the way. To become an entrepreneur, college would be a personal choice. But I would always advise that you shadow the person you want to become before opening a company. Too many people jump into starting a business because they want to be called ‘the boss’ and chase that feeling of being in charge. They underestimate the resources and capital they will need, the time frame needed to build influence, network and reputation. And this whole notion of an ‘overnight’ success and immediate gratification should come with a disclaimer. Yes, ILC has great momentum now but it’s been 18 years in the making. It takes grit, determination, and full-time attention to get a business going and if you ask any successful person; they have put in the time and that applies to even successful 25-year olds who probably started when they were 15, not 24.

What about youngsters who face resistance from their family and community to pursue an unconventional career path?

There’s a beauty in following your heart. It takes faith, courage, and never giving up. It takes tremendous mental fortitude, seeing opportunities where others see problems, never taking no for an answer. If you think you have the champion mindset to do this, not let criticism affect you, you will add value to the world and feel fulfilled. And to all the naysayers and negative people, at the end of the day, remember the saying, ‘Success is the best revenge.’ When people told me to cut my losses and abandon my business during a tough period, I just couldn’t do it. And now, I don’t have a single regret and would encourage anyone to follow their dreams. Coming out at the end of the tunnel is hugely rewarding for your confidence and self-worth, and cannot be put in words. You will be a new person.

How do you maintain a positive attitude every day?

We’re all human and have bad days. But I don’t let them define me and I know that in the long run, positivity will get you to success. You simply cannot be a successful person if you are negative. I focus a lot on feeling good on the inside. I always have a fallback; it could be a run or an hour at the gym, and that helps me bounce back faster. But I’ve learnt to be kind to myself when I do have off days and to keep perspective in the long run.

Your biggest tip for success?

Follow a combination of determination and persistence. It’s not even about talent. You can be an amateur talent, but combined with an obsessive determination and persistence, you will be unstoppable.

How did you choose your career path?

I studied engineering at the University of Texas, Austin, and then completed an MBA from Syracuse University. I wanted to follow these degrees and still think this combination of engineering and an MBA can open any door. And it did for me. I worked at international companies and had interesting postings abroad in the logistics field and even went on to pursue post graduate degrees at the University of Miami and Universidad Tecnologica de Panama.  At the back of my mind, I think I always wanted to start my business and I did it initially on a very small scale. Not everyone will have setbacks, but I did and have learnt valuable lessons from them. Somehow, I wasn’t able to go back to the corporate ladder and stuck with my business. And being native to Panama, I think there is an innate affinity towards the logistics sector. It is limitless in possibility, technology and geographical reach and I find it endlessly exciting.

What do you say to people who are demoralized in a ‘bad’ economy and struggling to find opportunity?

In any matter in life, there’s no ideal time to start something. You can wait and wait for the perfect moment but it just doesn’t exist. I’ve always said forget about the economic atmosphere. Leverage whatever’s happening around you, find a way to benefit. If you want to be an entrepreneur, this is your challenge. But you cannot take on excuses for your business because you will learn the hard way that is going to be fatal to your company. Instead, get help and good advice. Learn. You will see that during recession, many things, including marketing services and part time workers are less expensive. You can be creative and offer solutions to others who are also faced with an economic slowdown, you can downsize in a smart way, let employees work from home if you don’t have office space, repair equipment instead of buying new items. Life doesn’t stop during a recession, it simply changes. Once you figure out how to manage during lean times, you will see that a ‘bad’ economy has turned out to be the best thing for your company. In the worst case, pick a sector that always does well during recession, such as healthcare or thrift stores.

What sets you apart from others in a busy logistics hub?

Our core business will always be transportation and contract logistics. But yes, we do things differently and that was my intention when I started the company. We’re not just about getting goods from point A to B, but also improving your business process and really taking a multi layered approach to the supply chain. I don’t want to give you a truck to load your goods and send it on its way. I want you to steer that truck to remote places you didn’t think were reachable, find new suppliers who are waiting to meet you, broaden your customer base so that you go from sharing a ship to owning your own.  We’re not just providing you a service, we’re very keen for you to grow, which is an attitude many companies here simply do not embrace. Why shouldn’t we all benefit? I want my clients to walk away with some of this energy that we have at our offices, I want them to be successful too! This energy, you cannot put a price on it.

What’s next for you and your company?

We are now well based in Panama Pacifico with the right infrastructure and technology to really push our boundaries on a global scale. Through years of preparation, I am happy to say we are poised to make the ILC brand more recognizable internationally as far as China and India. Recently, we launched Intra-Hospital Solutions, which includes everything from medical waste collection and management to optimizing medicine distribution between pharma companies to patient. As for me, I feel like I’m just getting started. That’s the frame of mind you acquire when you’ve overcome hard obstacles. You get addicted to challenging yourself and doing more. I can only say that I’ve become a Yes man and am always eager to work with others of a similar mindset to improve business methods, improve lives and make a difference.