How Diversity Can Help Business Owners Innovate And Expand

I had the pleasure of interviewing Manuel Solis, The Managing Director of The Alternative Board — St.

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Manuel Solis, The Managing Director of The Alternative Board — St. Pete’s. He has held several positions with large multinational corporations in Sales and Marketing capacities. His 20 years of career success are based on developing unique options to maximize business opportunities.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I grew up in a bi-cultural environment. My mother is originally from Illinois, and my Dad is Mexican. I was raised fully bilingual. In fact, I do not remember learning one language over the other, it just happened at the same time. As I grew up, I remember being very interested in learning about other cultures and understanding their similarities and what made them different. I’ve found that in most instances, cultures have more in common than they have differences. This interest is what drew me to pursue my MBA from Thunderbird, The American School of International Business. The main focus of their program is to understand how to conduct business across cultures different than one’s own.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

In addition to my work with The Alternative Board, I’m a Senior Partner with On Brand Media. I’m currently helping the company evolve to meet the evolving demands of the current business landscape.

Currently, there are two major shifts changing the way we do business in the US. One is the development of digital technologies. It has dramatically changed the way brands communicate with consumers. Advertising has gone from a one-way communication style to a two-way dialogue between brands and consumers.

The second shift is generational and demographic. Millenials are now taking over the consumer market. And they are not only young; they are diverse. More than half of millennials are Hispanic. It is now up to brands to communicate their value and establish an emotional connection with the young, Hispanic consumer.

My current passion project is working with On Brand Media to help client’s position themselves for growth in the new disrupted world.

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?

There are several people who, at one point or another, had a significant impact on my life.

For example, my swim coach Margarita Nolasco had a great impact on my professional career. She taught me that importance of ambition and dedication and that self-awareness can help you accomplish things that other people might consider impossible.

I had several managers at Essilor and Transitions that exemplified the type of leadership I continue to follow.

I’m also grateful to my life-long friend, with whom I co-founded, Viendo por Su Salud. We also had a lot of support from Juan Carlos Aragon in making that venture successful.

This is the main reason I got involved with The Alternative Board. Throughout my career, I have been extremely fortunate to have generous people in my life who were there to help me succeed. The Alternative Board allows me to pay that generosity forward.

I love sharing my experiences with other business owners. I also get tremendous satisfaction finding business owners like myself that want to learn from others and at share their experiences so we can all can benefit from them.

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

During my tenure as Multicultural Marketing Manager at Transitions Optical, I was able to have a positive impact raising awareness among ethnic groups. When I took over our efforts, we conducted a survey to understand the perceptions of Hispanics and African Americans about the importance of eye care and whether their ethnicity would put them at higher risk for certain eye diseases. The same survey was conducted a few times after and we saw a positive impact in the results showing that awareness had increased through the work we had been doing.

I currently serve on the regional board of Prospera, an organization that helps and supports Hispanic business owners start and grow their businesses. In addition to financial support, they also provide owners with knowledge and resources in key areas.

Can you share the top five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

At Transitions, we assembled a Diversity Advisory Board. We had experts in Hispanic, African American and Asian culture, in addition to eye care professionals representing optometry, ophthalmology and opticianry. This group helped guide our efforts and make sure that they were relevant and accurate to the ethnic groups we were trying to reach.

With their help, we developed a toolkit that included educational brochures to help eye care professionals (ECPs) educate their patients on different risks and how to protect and maintain the heath of their eyes.

The toolkit was developed in the form of a website that housed resources to help ECPs identify what ethnic groups were represented in the vicinity of their practice, how to do outreach to bring them into their practices and better serve their visual needs.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

“Whether you believe you can or you can’t, either way you are correct.”

This is personal to me. As I mentioned, I grew up as a competitive swimmer. In recent years, I have taken up endurance sports. This type of mindset, in sports and in life, holds true.

“If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.”

I truly believe that learning is a life-long endeavor. There is always something to learn and people to learn from. It’s another reason why I became involved with The Alternative Board.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

Des Linden or Meb Keflezighi. Both are incredibly accomplished athletes. The have also had their share of difficult times throughout their careers. I am sure they have taken away some incredibly valuable lessons from those challenging times. I would love to hear their stories and learn from them.

Jilea Hemmings CEO & Co-Founder of Best Tyme. She is running a series on how diversity can increase a company’s bottom line.

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