Sonia Clayton on Fostering Dreams & Innovation
Alan Olsen: Hi, this is Alan Olsen and welcome to American Dreams. My guest today is Sonia Clayton. She’s the CEO of VIP global. Sonia. Welcome to today’s show.
Sonia Clayton: Alan, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Alan Olsen: So Sonia, for the listeners hear, can you give the background of what brought you up to where you are today?
Sonia Clayton: Oh, it’s a long story, but actually starts back in Colombia, my my birth country. I was born during the narco guerrilla movement when narco traffickers and socialist guerrillas got together to unseat the American, sorry, the Colombian government. And unfortunately, I was not in the privileged side of the Colombian society I was in the very unprivileged side of a Colombian society. And when I was eight years old, my mother was just walking around. And notice that it was a group of people passing food and things like that. And we went and peeked and we realized that was a lot of Americans and a lot of missionaries from different denominations involved in receiving American aid and passing a to the Colombian citizens. So we were under the impression that that was just a group of volunteers. And indeed, that’s what it was. We also saw military people there. And so they will bring aid all the way through Panama. And then from Panama, they will bring it into into helicopters into Colombia. And then you will be distributed actually in a Catholic location is called Caritas. And that’s where my mother first identified to me who America was, I remember looking at a big 50 pound. I think it was wheat or rice. I can’t remember what it was. But he had the American flag on it. And I asked my mom what it was what wasn’t what is this moment, he said, this is the American flag. And I said, What is America, America is a very powerful country, but only the rich go there. Remember that. So a few weeks later, we were walking around the city. And then we saw a couple of “Mormon” missionaries or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and missionaries. And they have put together like a six foot trifle with the story of the church history, church history and so forth. And one of them had a handmade, gold leaf Book of Mormon, I mean, sorry, golden plates. And I remember he was raising them up. And that’s what caught our attention, because we were kids, and we were just distracted with just about anything. And he was my mother and three kids, I’m the youngest. And my oldest brother was just very interested. And so we stood there and listened to what they have to say. And I was just petrified because Colombia was such a high crime area in those days, and I really thought those those were golden plates. And so I thought, oh my gosh, you’re gonna kill him in a minute. Then they’re gonna take those plates. Anyway, we stay there, we met the missionaries, and we became members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when I was eight years old. While the violence in Colombia was just unbearable, and in is something that my mom being a Venezuelan citizen, she was just willing to, you know, forfeit, the kids were Colombian but she was Venezualan as well. And but my dad had abandoned my family when I was 18 months old. So we just basically on our own. So we went back to Venezuela, or my mom went back in Venezuela, and we went with her, and we actually had the privilege of pioneering the church in many sites. And from then I, you know, I lived and worked in Venezuela for a number of years, we pioneer a lot of new chapels and locations and then we moved into the center of it as well. And then I in 1984, I was planning on going on a mission and then this gentleman had served as mission had gone back to Venezuela a year after his mission with his best friend for a general trip. And so they stopped on my house and that was actually the former Elder Clayton they visited and he talked me out of going into mission and coming to America. So I came in 1984. I bought my return ticket. I remember I have $550 or $500. With me, my ticket cosmic 450 is I was left with about $50 in my pocket, and so that’s why my story says I came to America with $50 in my pocket. And I arrived at the Clayton home who had generously offered me to stay there. And, you know, I eventually marry Kirk. And we have two children and one is Aaron serve in the military. And the other one is Lisa Marie, who actually serve in her mission in San Fernando Valley, California and Spanish speaking. In the process, we moved to Texas, my husband graduated, we moved to Texas in 1990. And I went to work for an airline, he went to work for another airline, he was actually contracted by Continental Airlines and I went to work for airfriends work there two years, and then eventually transitioned to continental as well. And then, in 1999, I left the airlines and joined the world of it, and SAP, which is the technology that I worked with. And eventually, in 2001, two weeks after 911, we created my company, my team and I were actually supposed to be at the towers on 911. We were blessed not to be at the towers, but the team ended up talking to me and asking me, what do we do. And we didn’t know what to do very similar circumstances, a lot of unrest in those days a huge economic collapse as a result of the attack. And so I decided that I was going to do something to help rebuild America. And I started passing resumes around to people, companies like shell and Exxon and Chevron for free. And one day shell called me and said, What are you doing? Why are you giving this thing some of these restaurants away, they’re so good, this perform good. And so they gave me a contract. So I started making my first climb was actually shell Pennzoil Shell. So that’s my story.
Alan Olsen: So VIP global, the missionary objective for the organization is what?
Sonia Clayton: We are here to promote and bring to pass innovation. And our mission is to help customers that are looking to innovate and create and implement new technologies. Maybe for or, right now we are focusing on fourth generation technologies. I’m talking about artificial intelligence, robotics. We’re also very involved with earpiece systems of all types Oracle Maximo SAP. And pretty much it’s optimizing business processes, bringing technology to accelerate the performance of company pay less or reduce costs and accelerate performance.
How big is your organization today?
Sonia Clayton: Well, we have been banging small. Right now we’re small, because COVID has reduced significantly our company. So we are considered a small business. But we’ve been pretty big in the past. So right now we’re just humbly downsizing, or we had to downsize due to the COVID situation. We lost customers, which is a complex situation. But right now we’re probably 20 consultants.
Alan Olsen: And then when you when you when you start to work with companies and their new technologies, what advice you have for individuals who are interested in starting a company for the first time?
Sonia Clayton: That is so crazy, because it’s something that I have done throughout the years, people says when you have a success story, and you created a company made it a multimillion dollar company. And how did you do that? And honestly, when I was doing that, Alan, I wanted it to find somebody that will give me that advice that I so desperately needed. And as a result, I decided that I was going to help anybody I could. And so I have actually set up about some good 25 startups. One of them is actually bigger than mine. And they give us business. Actually, we are their vendor now, and they become bigger. Currently, I’m working with the carbonization process of the oil and gas industry. Now we have this great new agenda, which is green, and they don’t like fossil fuels, and they don’t like Texas. And so I’m actually working with the big operators in Texas to set up a forum and we just created two weeks ago, not one week ago, the global decarbonisation forum, and it’s bringing together all these people that were displaced by the new green and green agenda, from the fossil fuels, the energy processes, and obviously This individuals will place them on the street ExxonMobil for example, ledo, 14,000 people. And maybe 200 of them ended up in my, in my, on my desk. And I started calling these people and asking them if they have found jobs, I went back on the mode of 2001, and decided that I was going to help him out any way I could. And so I decided that I was going to pass the resumes around, and I helped many, many find jobs in, I went into the process of helping them transition their skill sets from being a, an oil and gas geologists into maybe a project manager or a data scientist, but it was a gap in between. So I was helping them fill that gap with educational courses, advice. And eventually, most of them landed, but a good group of them about 10 of them brilliant individuals, and keep in mind ExxonMobil highest the best they look for masters and PhDs, you have to be a 4.0, where they don’t hire you. These guys are very capable. And so I started talking to them, and they few of them, maybe four or five decided that they want to create their own businesses. And so I’ve been coaching and mentoring them. And we created the forum just to help them out and give them exposure to media, to the government, to education and also to bigger operators in the world that can give them an opportunity to develop their own ideas and concepts. Their concepts are all related to CCU as Cal carbon capture, utilization and storage of co2.
Alan Olsen: So Sonia, when you when you begin working with individuals, you have any words of advice for them? Or? Or do you take them through as a certain process to try to find where your best value added is in the company.
Sonia Clayton: When I work with individuals, I look at what their talents are, and what is it that they’re trying to create that will add value and how I teach them how to project that value to their customers, to when they are conversing with somebody. I want them to convey that they need to be utilized because they indeed solve a problem.
Alan Olsen: What other organizations are you involved with? Outside of VIP global projects.
Sonia Clayton: I work with the Brigham Young University Board, I work with the staff for Latino entrepreneur board I work also with I’m an advisor and certified negotiator with Harvard Business School. And I also work with the Lone Star College of Texas where I am actually the chairman of their marketing and communications subcommittee. I work with my own charities, I got three nonprofit organizations, a VIP Education Foundation, which provides scholarships to colleges and universities. Basically, I look for girls that are interested in technology and make this whole stem spectrum science, engineering, technology and math. And I also have the VIP Cancer Foundation helps ladies with breast cancer. I’m a cancer survivor myself, and so is a very personal cause. And then the VIP angels for soldiers Foundation, which is also another personal cause because my son is in the military and he’s an F 18 fighter pilot for the US Navy.
Alan Olsen: Sonia, that’s absolutely the remarkable in fact I’ll just say you just lit up when I talked about the other projects. I’ll have to say, in a short while that I’ve known you, you are one remarkable individual. You know, in life today, there’s the pandemic has created a lot of people to reflect back on their foundation, and of life. And you you have quite a story of coming to this country, your father leaving at a very early age, what advice would you have or a person that’s really struggling with life? Right now, throughout this change?
Sonia Clayton: It’s really interesting that you are asking me this question because I’ve been pondering a lot about this. The reality is that trials are designed to make us stronger. This is indeed the school of life. And my life has been very challenging since I was a child. And we just my mother is 101 and she actually lives with us. And she survived COVID her and I were actually afflicted afflicted by COVID, the last part of July. And during the entire month of August and the earlier part of September, we just went through a horrific experience, not knowing what COVID was going to give us in leave with, and the entire family got sick. My brother got COVID from my mom, he gave it to his wife, his wife in the 17 days at the hospital, very scary time. And I’ve been losing friends right on left. And it is a very depressing time, I have to say is a moment of his moment of stress and calamity, and pain and suffering. And Everywhere you look, you you’re being touched by COVID, friends, family, relatives, someone is dying. This is a warzone. And I have been in a war zone before. So I, I have come to the realization that we have to have our eyes on the things that matter, which is people. We’re all children of God, and my case is not exceptional. Maybe I’m more boisterous about mine. And people know my story because I tell my story. And the only reason I tell my story is because I hope that it will help somebody. And I believe that right now the best advice people can have is, love one another. Keep your family close. And, you know, be focused on Christ. That’s the only thing that has helped me throughout my life is the only thing that has been certain in my life is that my faith and my believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, I’ve helped me tremendously. And it is faith that the miracle, so we have to have our faith completely founded on him. For for us to see the miracle. And one of the privileges that I have as a CEO is that I’m able and openly speak about God because I don’t have a CEO that is going to fire me if I do. And so I love that. And one of the reasons I created my company is to have a freedom and that independence in this country. We have the privilege of having freedom of speech and I love that.
Alan Olsen:So Sonia, what message do you have are individuals that are going through trials in life, especially with the pandemic?
Sonia Clayton: Sure. Um, one of the things that I always tell people is to stay focus, focus on something, right. I’ve always been a very focused person. And that helps me tremendously during trials and tribulations and difficult times. And I have lived a very difficult life. But I believe that sometimes I’m in this situation where I have to share my story, because I believe that I have lived through so much challenge that maybe I have something to share. And I’d like to share my story. And I believe everybody has a very difficult life, because life is not easy for anybody. But maybe they know more about my life, because I share more about my life publicly. I’m very open about it. But one of the things that I always tell people is to stay very, very focused on something and one of the main objectives of trials and tribulations is that eventually you will become a better person, a better individual, or a better professional, or a better CEO. And you learn through this because we don’t have that adversity in our lives. We won’t develop ourselves as individuals, however, it’s painful, it’s difficult, people don’t like it. So I always tell people stay focus on God. I best what I do I, what I have a very stressful life, like my whole month of September, in my month, the beginning of August and September, were extremely stressful for me because my mother was 101 and myself had COVID. And then we pass the COVID to the whole family. And it was a fun time, it was horrible. It’s a horrible, stressful time, the business was actually coming back was growing like crazy. And I wasn’t able to be as responsive as I could. I was very frustrated, here’s you know, the business now lounging like crazy and my mom is sick, she’s 101 and so we are having to make life and death choices I decided to care for her on my home and not send her to the hospital so well. She’s 101 she’s she’s going to die and let her die in my home. I don’t want her in the hospital what I cannot see her. And so it was a very difficult time, but they just humble me down so much that I was just in constant prayer and a constant constant pondering of my life on my my main goals and objectives and allow me to refocus and he allowed me to understand that we are here in just a three dimensional life that will one day end. And at the end of the day, what counts is what have you done for your spirit for your soul? And how have you learned and managed through this process and so I always tell people focus on God stay faithful. And one of the things that I love about being a CEO of my own company is that no one tells me no to talk about my religion or my God or my faith. I love that freedom and we live in America which is a great country that allows me to do this and give me the right to do this and I’m willing to exercise that freedom
Alan Olsen: Very inspiring Sonyia and I appreciate you being with us today. And if an individual wants to reach out for advice and starting new new company or work with you How do they do that?
Sonia Clayton: They can actually call my office number is 281-350-6862 You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org And if they put it in the reference section, the name of your show, I will make sure that I personally, I personally respond to their phone calls.
Alan Olsen: Thank you, Sonia, appreciate you being with us today.
Sonia Clayton: Thank you Alan it was a pleasure. Bye bye
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This transcript was generated by software and may not accurately reflect exactly what was said.
Alan Olsen, is the Host of the American Dreams Show and the Managing Partner of GROCO.com. GROCO is a premier family office and tax advisory firm located in the San Francisco Bay area serving clients all over the world.
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