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Meet Mario Castaneda of Blue Sail Consulting

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mario Castaneda.

Mario, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born in Mexico City and migrated with my family to the United States when I was nine years old. I was the second one in my extended family to graduate from college (University of Pacific in California) and the first to obtain a postgraduate degree (MBA from Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA), thanks to my father and mother sacrificing tremendously to put my sisters and me through college.

I started my career in retail at Sav-On Drugs where I worked in store operations and then at Vons Grocery – when it was headquartered in Arcadia, California. At Vons, I worked as a store analyst. In this role, I was on the team that developed two successful store concepts including Vons Pavilions – an upscale, European-market style chain. To develop these concepts, the team traveled internationally (Canada, Latin America, France, and England). This is when I became involved in international businesses.

I then went to work for Polaroid as a Marketing/Sales Director in the Western region where I worked at the Santa Ana, California, headquarters. I managed the far western U.S. region covering Washington, California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Hawaii.

Shortly thereafter, I was transferred as a U.S. Marketing Manager to the company’s Cambridge, Massachusetts headquarters. I worked there for six years in various capacities including operational and strategic marketing positions. In these capacities, I helped and led the launch of various consumer camera and video systems both in the U.S and internationally (mainly Japan, the Americas, and Western Europe).

I left Polaroid to go to work at IBM Corporation as an International Marketing Director.

In this capacity, I led a team of sixteen professionals in the introduction of multiple computer products including desktops and portable computers (ThinkPad) and servers, and helped the company to start selling through the internet (a new concept in the late 1990’s).

I then went to work for an internet start-up for one year. Unfortunately, this company ran out of funding. This is when I left to work for StratX, a French Management Consulting company based in Paris.

With StratX, at its Boston office, I worked with many different clients (e.g., Boeing, J&J, Abbott Laboratories, Novartis, PepsiCo, GE, etc.) in different industries (aerospace, medical, pharmaceutical, consumer, B&B, etc.). In this capacity, I led multiple groups of consultants training clients and assisting them with product launches and product life cycle management as well as business and strategic planning. During this time, I traveled extensively internationally (over fifty countries) and domestically (to all states except Alaska and Hawaii).

After nine years, I decided to start my own consulting company – Blue Sail Consulting. I have owned this company for the last eight years as Founder and Managing Director. I work with medium and small companies and start-ups to help them in the preparation and launch of new products and solutions through business and market planning, strategy development, and implementation.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not always been smooth.

Early in my career, I was quite overconfident and sometimes I did not listen to other people or follow their advice. Thus, I learned many lessons about why it is important to listen to people with more experience, since sometimes they have very good reasons for suggesting specific solutions.

I also took some jobs early in my career just to earn more. As I mentioned, growing up, my family struggled economically, so I thought many problems could be solved with money. I quickly learned that, if one does not love what she/he does and is not excited to go to work every morning, then the pay/compensation does not matter.

The key lesson I have learned managing people is that it is best to have a conversation, listen to them, and suggest ideas on how to do a specific job or task, but then it is best to let them do the job and not micromanage them. Early in my management career, I tried to get subordinates and peers to do a job exactly the way I wanted it done. I learned through experience that, sometimes, their solutions and implementations were better than mine. Thus, trusting people is a great way to improve morale and results. Even if they make a mistake, as long as it does not create large term damage to the company, it can be useful as a learning lesson.

However, I have also learned that if an issue becomes critical, it is important to step in if a colleague or direct report is in over her/his head or asks for help. Otherwise, it could have a long-term, negative impact on the business.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Blue Sail Consulting – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
As I mentioned, Blue Sail Consulting is a management consulting company that helps clients (including medium and small business, start-ups, and non-profits) to improve their profitability and revenue through business planning and strategy, innovation, and implementation.

I believe that what truly sets us apart from other management consulting companies is the fact that the two people who work here (my colleague and I) have held management positions in large, medium, and small companies and start-ups. Since I have had extensive P&L responsibility, I understand the economics and ROI of running a company. I always explain to our clients that not only can we help them to develop their plans and strategies, but we can also be realistic as to what the cost will be and what it will take in terms of human and operational resources to implement these.

Additionally, the fact that I have been working extensively with start-ups for the last two years allows me to understand the initial requirements, including funding, for these.

One more difference is that I am always very specific as to what the expectations and results will be. I do this through a detailed interview and Q&A process with the client before a project starts. If the client is not clear or satisfied with the expectations or budget, I often walk away from the project.

Finally, I will always do whatever is required to accomplish the goals and objectives set even if the cost to me ends up being higher than originally budgeted, since I think that the client should pay no more than what is budgeted at the beginning of the project.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I am about to embark in a large project where I will be the President of a company (start-up). Although I have filled temporary CMO and COO positions, I have not run a complete company. I am looking forward to working with the Founder to ensure that his vision and plans become reality.

Depending on the success of this project, I might change my business model to undertake larger and longer-term projects. I might also decide to undertake successive projects where I run a company for a time before turning it over.

The biggest challenge with this model will be that the ROI, pay-off, and personal satisfaction, are worth the effort…


  • Typical Innovation/Product Improvement Engagement – $40,000.00
  • Typical Business and Strategic Planning Engagement – $60,000 plus

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Mark Castaneda

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