Ricardo González began his session titled “The Intersect Between Cultural Leadership and Business Growth” by showing the audience pictures of Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson. González, the founder and CEO of Bilingual America, recounted how Rickey signed Robinson to a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers, making him the first African-American player in the Major Leagues. “Why did he do it? Because it was good for business,” González said. Robinson was a talented and exciting player who could help the team win — and put fans in the stands. “The bottom line is the bottom line because you are in business, right?”
Of course, the ripple effect of the move on the game of baseball was enormous. Robinson opened the door for other players of color, and the influx of talent revolutionized the game. “When you break down cultural barriers, big things happen,” González said.
He pointed to the influx of Hispanic and immigrant laborers in the roofing industry, and urged contractors to create cultural breakthroughs of their own by tapping into the power of their workforce. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do and it’s good for the bottom line.
“When you embrace cultural leadership, it will improve your business and make you more money,” González said. He summed up his message this way: “Leaders who properly identify, manage and create their work culture enjoy a more productive and profitable business model.”
Culture can be hard to define, noted González, but its power is undeniable. He likened culture to the wind, noting, “You can’t see the wind, but you can see its effects.”
“Culture is internal. It’s a set of beliefs. It’s a set of values,” he said. “A culture forms over time when a certain set of beliefs, values and actions are consistent. You can’t change your culture overnight.”
González urged business owners to understand the culture of their companies, fight to keep what’s working and improve what isn’t. “Real cultural leaders identify their present culture, envision a preferred culture, and create the environment for the preferred culture to solidify,” he said. “We create our culture, or we let our culture create us.”
With a Hispanic workforce, language barriers and cultural differences can make forging unity tougher, but improving communication at all levels of the company is essential. “You have a vested interest in the people who work for you. When they are successful, you are successful,” he said. “We cannot lead people to the highest levels until we know them at the deepest levels.”
According to González, the key is creating an atmosphere in which everyone is working in harmony. “Create an environment in which everyone can thrive,” he advised.
Cultural leadership can lead to business growth for several reasons, including:
- It’s easier for successful companies to recruit like-minded talent.
- A harmonious staff works together more effectively and efficiently.
- There is less employee turnover.
- A healthy culture reduces the risk of litigation because it does not produce animosity.
- Creativity flourishes in a healthy environment.
- Sales increase because happy people are passionate about improving the organization at all levels.
“There is a direct intersect between business success and cultural leadership,” González said. “I’m hoping today that we can start a movement in this industry based on cultural leadership, not just to be do-gooders, but because it’s good for our people and good for our businesses.”