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Former Mexican President Vicente Fox Challenges Corporate Leaders to Greater Commitment with the Hispanic Market

09/22/2011 07:55 am ET | Updated Nov 22, 2011
  • Lili Gil Entrepreneur, Multicultural Strategist, Cofounder, XL Alliance

"Instead of building walls, we should be building bridges" was one of the remarks former Mexican President Vicente Fox shared with top corporate leaders when asked about what message should we use to make business see and believe in the importance of the Hispanic market.

While many remember him as the former president of Mexico (2000-2006) during difficult times of drug-violence and immigration back-lash, Vicente Fox has a deeper story of personal progress and inspiration to tell.

Behind the politician and visionary there is a humble man whose dreams were bigger than life and whose family values and cultural pride remain at the core of who he is in life, politics and business.

Fox rose through the ranks at Coca-Cola where he started as a route supervisor, driving a delivery truck, to eventually becoming the President of Coca-Cola. As the President of Coca Cola Mexico, Fox helped Coca-Cola become Mexico's top-selling soft drink, increasing Coca-Cola's sales by almost 50%. After his corporate career, he made history in Mexican politics as the first one in 71 years to defeat, with 42 percent of the vote, the then-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Fox certainly has a unique story that combines struggle, perseverance and achievement; one to inspire Latinos and American corporate leaders alike.

This past August while at the Hispanic Retail 360 Summit, the former president addressed an exclusive group of hundreds of corporate executives and marketers in San Diego, CA as they gathered to share case studies, new trends and opportunities to reach the fastest and largest growing consumer segment in the U.S.; Latinos. Beyond advertising, the conference addressed concerns of retailers and CPG's alike wanting to win over the Hispanic shopper where it matters most; at the point of sale.

As the keynote speaker, Fox's authority as former corporate executive combined with his ability to manage the complexities of running a nation, gave him a unique level of authority to challenge a tough audience of 605 leaders including 150 VP and C-level executives. From candid remarks for a new NAFTA vision and his suggestions on ending the border drug violence to tips for renewed corporate leadership, Vicente Fox got down to business. In an exclusive interview produced by XL Alliance, he provided advice that is simple yet deep and insightful, presenting new challenges for executives wanting to truly differentiate in the 21st century.

Q. What kept you motivated as you rose through the ranks of Coca-Cola and then again to be President of Mexico?

A. What nourishes us at home and in school is what inspires us. When we get awareness and learn about the great potential that we all human beings have, we are able to discover our leadership, said Fox. People that don't do that exercise go through life being mediocre. We need to be aware of what we are capable of first and realize that if you place your dreams really really high, you do have the potential to get to that level..

Q. What purpose should corporations, retailers and brands live up to?

A: "I think one purpose is very clear among corporations and business leaders: make profits, deliver high return for stockholders, conquer markets, service consumers and create jobs. But in today's world demands from corporations and leaders are much more than that. We need to understand what people really want at the very end... it's not just a job or money. People want challenges, happiness and want to be successful. Is not just about providing a service but committing to those customers and communities", said Fox. This is why as part of some work Fox is doing with the Gallup Organization, corporations are being encouraged to create the role of CCO (Chief Cultural Officer) dedicated to the social commitment mentioned above. "That is exactly what the future is for corporations", said Fox.

Q. Beyond numbers, what message should we use to make business leaders see and believe in the importance of the US Hispanic Market?

A: "You have to believe in the Hispanic market", said Fox. He also shared his disappointment as he said, "this great nation has moved from globalization into speaking the language of isolation. Instead of building walls, we should be building bridges of understanding, trading, exchange... we should even be building bridges of love and compassion so that we can build blocks that are successful, competitive and enable us to accomplish the dream in this 21st century. This was the vision of the founding fathers..."
Vicente Fox currently serves as co-President of the Centrist Democrat International, an international organization of Christian democratic political parties. For more information about the 2012 Hispanic Retail 360 you can visit: www.hispanicretail360.com.

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