North Texas business leader gives advice to next generation
by Jesse Garcia
As youth head back to college this fall, many are wondering what awaits them after graduation. Currently, 23 million Americans are looking for work. But it’s important for students to continue their academic careers. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the unemployment rate in America is at 9.5 percent, but the rate varies among people by educational achievement: the unemployment rate is at 14 percent for those without a high school degree, 10 percent with a high school degree, 5 percent for those with a college degree, and even lower for those with advanced degrees.
“Let me say that education is the great equalizer that cuts across gender, color, religion and national origin. You’ve never heard of four Ph.D.’s doing a drive-by or of four engineers holding up a liquor store,” said Eddie Reyes, a proponent of education and business. Reyes is a well-known, award-winning business man, public servant, educator and radio personality who has been lauded for his success in the world of enterprise and all-around spirit of helping his fellow man.
This past spring Reyes received his latest award, “The 2010 Minority Small Business Champion of the Year,” for his work in helping hundreds of women and minority-owned small businesses find opportunities to do work with the state. This recognition got him invited to a commemoration of the U.S. Small BusinessAdministration’s anniversary at the White House where he got to meet President Barack Obama.
This has been one fantastic journey for Reyes, who began working at the age of 6 picking strawberries as a migrant farmer worker. His road to success was continually paved with challenges. He started supporting his family at age 12 after his father passed away. He was sent to Vietnam, where he was wounded. When he got back, Reyes worked as a police officer in Dallas. Later in life, he became a successful entrepreneur. In 2004, he came out of retirement to work at the University of North Texas as an associate coordinator of the Historically Underutilized Business program. Taking business and leadership advice from Reyes is like listening to your best friend who wants you to succeed. Infórmate DFW invited Reyes to share his secrets to success:
Infórmate DFW: What makes a successful business person?
E R: Focus, persistence and complete understanding and appreciation for customer service.
Infórmate DFW: In this down economy, what areas of business show potential for growth?
E R: Almost anything in energy, technology, research, manufacturing, installation, etc.
Infórmate DFW: For our college student readers, which business schools do you recommend?
E R: Locally, the University of North Texas and Southern Methodist University. In the state, the University of Texas. out of state, the University of Southern California, and of course, Harvard and Yale. Most all have great scholarship programs.
Infórmate DFW: What are the three biggest challenges for Latinos in the business world?
E R: No. 1: You have to be able to sort out good advice from bad advice, even from people like your parents. I found that our beautiful and rich culture can be, at times, our most difficult challenge. For many of us, it is very difficult separating family from business. Our family belief system that we’re raised in can generate a tremendous sense of guilt that hinders our focus of our business. Corporate cultures can both stigmatize and place unrealistic expectations on Hispanics. There are many expectations placed on you from both sides. In some cases there’s no way you can meet them all, and it can drive you crazy. In some companies they expect Hispanics to act just like an Ivy Leaguer who has 10, 15 years experience — very aggressive, challenging, protecting ourselves as much as possible. In reality, many of the Hispanic managers I’ve worked for are reserved. They’re not self-promoters, and come across as maybe not that excited. That can be a stigma. Hell, we’re excited. It’s just a different culture.
The first advice I would give to fellow Latinos is to go for the hard jobs that have quantifiable objectives so that your results are not subject to anybody’s qualifications. Do a job that’s excellent, flawless, without mistakes, no typos. And then you write on it ‘preliminary draft.’
No. 2: Understanding the U.S. way of conducting business — very impersonal, technology based, fast–no ‘mañana,’ and understanding the great importance of ‘networking.’ One of my very favorite sayings is ‘your network is your networth!’ And No. 3: Access to capital.
Infórmate DFW: What are the three biggest advantages for Latinos in the business world?
E R: No. 1: Being multicultural and multilingual, particularly in today’s world, is a huge asset. Remember, it is twice as much as most folks! Chase opportunities and leverage your differences. American business is becoming more and more global. That makes your ethnicity more and more of an asset. Our culture’s respect and deference can be mistaken for a lack of confidence.
No. 2: This is still the land of opportunity, if you’re from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, it doesn’t matter. Hispanic cultural traits like family and hard work are crucial competitive assets for this country into the next millennium. As my dad used to say, ‘No man ever drowned himself in his own sweat!’ In order to succeed, we must be proud of our culture, of our language, and of ourselves. We must believe that we are as good as anyone else. When we believe it, we will be comfortable with ourselves and able to mix beautifully in both the Latino culture and the American culture. No. 3: The Latino value of humility can be a powerful tool for success.
Infórmate DFW: How can Latino neighborhoods (Pleasant Grove, Oak Cliff, Webb Chapel, East Dallas, etc.) revitalize their business areas?
E R: It is very simple really. It’s all about economic development. However, do you attract new business or grow the ones already there? Address crime and education. You have to make businesses and their employees feel safe and the communities must offer a work force that can read and write. It starts with parents getting involved in their children’s lives via the PTAs, school activities, etc. I realize that it’s easier said than done. Many parents have two jobs and don’t have the time for participating in those programs but to me, that’s still no excuse. I believe that parents can do whatever they need to do in supporting their children. I’m not sure we have yet acquired the full appreciation for an education. As a community, I would also seek what programs (federal and/or state) are out there for our returning veterans. Through helping them, we’re helping our own community. As Latinos, per capita, since the birth of this nation, we have been awarded the Medal of Honor more than any other ethnicity. And lastly, the Hispanic chambers in those areas should offer what the other chambers don’t — ‘bridge commerce and culture.’
Infórmate DFW: What is your favorite “dicho”?
E R: Esta Raza No Se Raja!!
w Any last words of wisdom?
E R: The most important area that you really work at is communication. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Latino or you are from Mars. You must be able to listen and communicate clearly, identify the issues, and then articulate your response. Your ability to communicate and your effectiveness in conveying ideas and concepts is critical to your success. We have to stop talking about Latinos as a moral obligation and start selling ourselves as a business asset. You have to divorce yourself from the idea that somebody owes you somethin
Some people say: “If you’re a minority, you have to work 150 percent harder because you’re already behind.” That may be true, but the fact is that successful people do work harder than everybody else anyway.
You have to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything. Be smart enough that know that ‘trial and error’ doesn’t work. Sometimes, panic can be a healthy thing. Leave behind friends, not enemies. You can never become one of the ‘good old boys.’ Never forget where you came from. Accommodate without compromising your integrity. It’s important to understand that some people are never going to be your friend, not that you would ever want them as friends, and some of their attitudes just aren’t going to change. My father’s favorite phrase was ‘You’ve got to beat them at their own game.’ which means, you’ve got to understand the game, number one, then you’ve got to figure out how to win.