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“Be an inclusive leader: Listen to all opinions before offering yours.” with Ozzie Godinez and Chaya Weiner

Be an inclusive leader: Listen to all opinions before offering yours. Listening is a key trait of an inclusive leader. Actively seek diversity in every aspect of the business and provide a space where it can thrive. Ensure respect and the intent to understand all perspectives and you’ll foster a sense of belonging and comradery […]


Be an inclusive leader: Listen to all opinions before offering yours. Listening is a key trait of an inclusive leader. Actively seek diversity in every aspect of the business and provide a space where it can thrive. Ensure respect and the intent to understand all perspectives and you’ll foster a sense of belonging and comradery throughout the office. Inclusive used to mean having one “diverse” person that you turned to as council for all matters related to minority opinion. But we know that isn’t true diversity. We strive to make it part of our culture and one of our points of differentiation while rebuking tokenism.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ozzie Godinez. Born in Mexico and raised on the south side of Chicago, Ozzie Godinez knows how to be scrappy — a word he often uses to describe how employees of PACO, where he’s CEO and Co-Founder, find solutions to the creative needs of clients. After finding success with several high-profile marketing agencies yet never quite fitting in, Godinez knew it was time for something new. And he knew he’d have to build it. His in-depth knowledge of the market and firm business philosophy led him to partner with Pablo Acosta, and in 2006 they founded PACO Collective. In 2015, Godinez rebranded the company and revolutionized standard marketing practices by incorporating a cross-cultural marketing technique. This cross-cultural approach gave PACO Collective a competitive advantage over agencies that only offer general, total or multicultural marketing and secured PACO’s position as the premiere cross-cultural marketing agency in the Midwest. Godinez has become the authority on marketing, advertising and public relations strategies. He serves as President and Executive Board member of Chicago’s Hispanic PR Association and is a distinguished board member of Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center and Alternatives, Inc., a youth-development agency. When Godinez isn’t changing industry standards for marketing, he’s rooting for his two favorite teams-the Chicago Bears and Chicago White Sox. Cooking gourmet meals is also a passion of his. Like any chef using the best ingredients, he always yields the best results…mix years of experience, a pinch of expertise, stir in key insights y listo!


Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Advertising and marketing gives you a unique opportunity and platform to drive influence, consumer behavior and ultimately impact sales. It’s as much a science as it is an art form and culture impacts all of this in ways that are incredibly profound. The idea of looking at a business issue (like a white canvas) is incredibly thrilling yet very challenging. And therein lies the love of the craft. In the end we are problem solvers. I love the impact that our craft has on consumers.

Moreover, I am a story teller at the core so I have always been inherently interested in advertising and marketing. I started PACO Collective, a leading cross-cultural marketing agency headquartered in Chicago, with good friend Pablo Acosta in 2006. As two individuals who realized the underrepresentation of minorities was something we were ready to change, we stopped working on one-dimensional Hispanic campaigns at other agencies, left our livelihoods and took a chance. We wanted to see more people of color and women in critical positions that drive decisions, so we created a space where that would be possible, creating a new kind of agency that doesn’t separate cultures based on their differences, but one that finds the commonalities between cultures while still celebrating what makes them unique.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

When we began, we didn’t have any clients. All we had was one borrowed laptop, a few hundred dollars and chilaquiles for every meal! We had to use our own proprietary research and insights to resonate with our changing audience. After months trying to find leads, spring and summer passed, we still hadn’t landed a client. Finally, we were given a chance to present to Harris Bank (now BMO Harris), and landed the account. Shortly after, we created a local campaign for Tampico. We were extremely nervous, but it turns out they loved it so much they used it nationwide!

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Every project that comes through the agency is exciting! We work with clients that share the same values as our agency, so every project in the pipeline is something we’re really passionate about. That passion, which exudes from every department, makes even the simplest assignment something special. Whether it be beautiful creative assets, copy writing or the organizational skills of our managers, each branch adds value and personality.

I think our agency itself is inherently helping people because the content we produce is multidimensional and accurately represents a variety of the New America.

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

I think this can be attributed to the workplace environment that a lot of these people are in. With the job market being so competitive, it seems like many employers know that, regardless of how poor the circumstance is that they create, someone is desperate enough to take the job and desperate enough to work hard. I’m not here to say whether that is true or not, I am just going to say that is not how I would want to live if I didn’t own my own business — so that’s not how I want PACO’s employees to live. Investing time and effort into your employees, rather than having them as just a name on your payroll, breeds company affinity and relationships that result in far better work and far happier employees.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

It is scientifically proven that happy employees produce better work and positively impact company culture. Unhappiness is often accompanied by feeling uninspired. Marketing and advertising depend on an inspired mind to conceptualize, design and write. When an employee is uninspired, their work is uninspired and no client is looking for a campaign with that descriptor. Low productivity leads to low profitability which results in a feeling of being unqualified or out performed.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

1. Be an inclusive leader: Listen to all opinions before offering yours. Listening is a key trait of an inclusive leader. Actively seek diversity in every aspect of the business and provide a space where it can thrive. Ensure respect and the intent to understand all perspectives and you’ll foster a sense of belonging and comradery throughout the office. Inclusive used to mean having one “diverse” person that you turned to as council for all matters related to minority opinion. But we know that isn’t true diversity. We strive to make it part of our culture and one of our points of differentiation while rebuking tokenism.

2. Form personal relationships: Take the time to get to know all of your employees on a personal level. This is especially true (and a natural outcome) in smaller agencies like ours. Knowing who they are leads to knowing what motivates them. Personal relationships also result in a feeling of comfort between employees with leadership, and throughout the office. I have 13 years of personal stories for this one!

3. Create and demonstrate a ‘Collective’ attitude: We are many but we come together as one team, small but mighty, one family & one collective. There are positions and teams and titles, but when it comes down to getting the work done, each employee must be ready to extend a hand. Although it may not be in the job description, understanding that we’re all here to help each other produce great work allows for collaborations and concepts to go beyond what they would normally. I have a saying that I share with our team often “check your ego at the door”.

4. Give back to your employees: Perks! Employees love perks and you will reap the benefits. When employees have unlimited paid time off and work from home opportunities, they’re in the office more knowing those options are there whenever necessary. Let them bring their dog into work, it’s convenient for that employee and boosts the moral and lowers the stress of those surrounding them. We have multiple office dogs; Lucky, Lincoln and Penny who come in often to brighten every PACO’s day. In the end we treat our team like human beings! They are adults in a professional setting and there is so much mutual trust that this is a perk within a perk.

5. Celebrate the wins: When you reach a goal, celebrate! It’s a morale booster and lets the office know that no hard work went unnoticed. Happy hours, catered lunches, or a retreat in Playa del Carmen, Mexico in PACO’s case, propels the agency into the next project or action item with the confidence we’ll succeed again. And yes, you did read that correctly. After reaching our stretch goal for the year, we brought the agency on a five-day trip to Mexico where we celebrated on la playa con mucho sol y un poco de tequila!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have to say there are two people that helped me stay on course. The first, certainly is Pablo Acosta. My brother from another mother. I am an account strategy and marketing guy. An extrovert with the gift of gab. Pablo on the other hand is a thoughtful, creative mind who doesn’t say much unless he has too. It was this balance, a ying-and-yang of sorts that allowed us to thrive. It’s not always roses also. Pablo and I have been through a lot of ups and downs and we fought and argued but never to the point of “separation”. To this day, the only employees at PACO that are allowed to yell at each other are Pablo and I. We have had a healthy work and personal relationship for over 15 years.

The second is definitely my wife. I know this sounds cliché but it’s the truth. She also pushed me to start the agency. I remember when I was at my last agency job which I hated — she told me to quit my bitching and quit, figure out what you want to do but don’t be unhappy at a job you hate. So I did and thus PACO was born. She is incredibly transparent and tells me like is, that type of honesty was hard at times but worth it in the end. She is good counsel and has been with me through all the growing pains at PACO.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

PACO Collective was founded with the vision of combatting the underrepresentation of minorities and one-dimensional campaigns, all the while attempting to speak to a rapidly evolving demographic. Through placing individuals of diversity and women in critical positions that drive decisions, PACO believes we have created a space that effectively identifies and helps work through the various social issues within our communities. We’ve implemented an agency wide volunteer program known as ‘PACOmmunity’, which provides employees with at least one opportunity each quarter to donate their time during office hours. Additionally, we work pro-bono for local nonprofits that have a mission we believe in, some of which we have volunteered with through PACOmmunity. We’ve put time in and also taken time off in solidarity for both “Day Without a Woman” and “Day Without Immigrants”. Who we are as people is integral to the work that we produce so we are constantly trying to make ourselves and our community better.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you are not doing what you love you are wasting your time.”

I tell people and our team often, that since starting the agency I haven’t worked a day in my life. We’ve grown this company from 2 people to almost 50 simply by doing what we love and sharing this with our team. Doing what you love also gives you great clarity and purpose outside of work. In many ways, it simplifies your approach to almost anything.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Tough question. We are living in very interesting times. It feels like we are at the crossroads of significant change. We’ve never had so much access to so much information. The advent of social media with all its benefits also has a tremendous amount of harm. Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace and constantly evolving.

I did a random test recently in Chicago on my way to get coffee — about a 15-minute walk. I made it a point to smile and say good morning to every single person I encountered. I came across 13 people. Guess what I found? Six had headphones on and their eyes were glued to their phones — so they didn’t hear me at all. Four looked at me like I was crazy and ignored me. Only three responded with ‘Good Morning.’ We are losing our physical sense of social connectivity. I’d love to have conversations and not over text. People need to talk, share and inspire each other. We need to build, genuine and authentic relations and not based on our social self but rather our physical self. Not sure this will happen, however. The pendulum seems to be swinging the opposite way.

Thank you for these great insights!

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