Two weeks ago, Alex and I had the chance to attend the Lipscomb & Pitts Breakfast Club featuring Richard Montanez. Richard inspired us with his journey of becoming an executive at PepsiCo. The story was a riveting tale of a boy who dropped out of school at an early age because he couldn't read or write English who then grew up to become a janitor at a Frito-Lay plant in Rancho Cucamonga. The transformation into an executive? Hold on to your hat...
One day at the plant, all of the employees were called into a meeting to view a video sent to them by the CEO of PepsiCo. Richard recalled the CEO telling every employee that he expected them to begin thinking like a CEO. He was essentially telling the employees, "this is your business, so no matter your role, if we can do something better, tell us." Richard took the message to heart. He already had an outstanding work-ethic, for which he credits his family, but he saw this message as an opportunity to make PepsiCo better, even from his position as a janitor.
Richard immediately began asking the sales reps if he could ride along with them on his days off; he wanted to get a better idea of how the business actually worked. In exchange, Richard offered to help load and unload products for the rep each day. One day, as Richard was riding along with a sales rep, he noticed that the street vendors in the largely-Hispanic part of town they were riding through were selling corn seasoned with freshly-ground chili peppers. In Richard's words, "the ear of corn looked like a giant Cheeto!"
A multi-billion dollar idea was born.
When he returned to the plant, Richard grabbed some unseasoned Cheetohs from the production line and took them home to experiment. After perfecting a chili powder blend that he felt worked, he test-marketed the product on his wife's friends. Fortunately for Richard, they all loved it and encouraged him to pursue the idea further. Unfortunately for Richard he didn't know the best way to communicate his newfound product to his company, so where did he go? The CEO, of course.
Richard recounted a highly entertaining exchange between he and the CEO's assistant that I can't do justice through this medium. Suffice to say that Richard, a janitor at the Rancho Cucamonga plant, should not have been able to catch the CEO on the phone, but he did. Richard explained his product idea to the CEO and that he thought it would be popular especially in Hispanic markets. Unbelievably enough, the CEO said he'd be in Rancho Cucamonga in two weeks to see a presentation from Richard.
The rest is history. Richard pulled a marketing strategy together "copied straight from a textbook" he and his wife checked out at the library. From there, he drew designs for the product on blank Cheetos bags from the plant. When the CEO and his team of executives came for the presentation, they were greeted with these custom bags filled with Richard's new product. By the time the meeting was over, Flamin' Hot Cheetos, a multi-billion dollar product, were born, and Richard was rewarded with a pretty-substantial promotion!
Want to learn more about Richard's life? Grab his book, A Boy, a Burrito and a Cookie: From Janitor to Executive, and be inspired. For more info about the Breakfast Club, contact Jeremy Park.