When Richard Montañez stood in the middle of the stage at Fresno City College’s Old Administration Building auditorium, he spoke from the bottom of his heart, like if all those present were members of his own family.
Montañez, who spoke about dreams and how revelations create revolutions to loving yourself and becoming visionaries, connected with the audience that attended the college’s Speakers Forum on Oct. 28.
“All you need is one revelation to create a revolution,” he said.
Montañez, an innovator and corporate leader who is best known for creating the popular and lucrative Flamin’ Hot line of products, told people that he came from the barrio, picking grapes. And, that he will never forget where he came from because it makes him the person who he is today.
And who he is today? One of the nation’s top Latinos executives.
Montañez is not ashamed to say he never went to high school, or that he doesn’t even have a GED diploma or attended an elite university.
“But understand this, I want you to know this. Even though I don’t have an education I am a firm believer of getting one,” Montañez said, who began his career at Frito-Lay in 1976 as a janitor. “Look how far I’ve gone by without one. Just imagine how far you can get with one.”
“My story comes from the barrio, the fields. My story doesn’t come from a former education. But want you to understand this, even though I didn’t go to school I say this. I am probably the most uneducated brilliant person you would ever meet,” he said when talking about leadership.
“I read a book a week,” he said adding that he tells people, especially younger people when they read a book it does two things, stimulate his intellect and stimulate his spirit – two things that they would need to be successful.
He had talked to scientist about innovation, about passion, about vision.
“It doesn’t mater what you are innovating, innovation is innovation,” said Montañez, adding he love his life with passion that one of the things he thanks God is “that he made me Latino.”
“God is an innovator. He made who you are. Everybody in this room is directed, that’s innovation,” Montañez said, adding that he thanks God for women – because of his grandma, mom, and wife and their leadership that had influenced his life.
Montañez shared a story of how when he was a child, he was selected to go to a school across town, away from the barrio and how his mother’s leadership helped him to see his potential.
Montañez recalls that he had to take the ugliest, green bus to school and as a child who didn’t speak English, he felt embarrassed when people stared at him for the lunch his mother packed.
He recalls going home and telling his mother that he didn’t want to be different. That he wanted to lunch like the other kids, but his mother told him no.
The next day Montañez went to school with two burritos his mom had prepared – one for him and one to share to make a new friend.
“The leadership of a woman. She was a marketing genius,” he said adding that on Wednesday he was eating burritos by myself, on Thursday he was sharing burritos with a friend and by Friday he was selling burritos for 25 cents apiece, which prompted people to laugh and applaud.
“Here is what happened – a revelation,” Montañez said of his first revelation as a little boy. “That as much as I wanted to fit in, I wasn’t going to fit in. I was created to stand out.”
“You need to understand that. You are not created to fit in. You are created to stand out,” said Montañez, who eventually worked his way up the corporate ladder to become vice president of multicultural sales and community activation for PepsiCo Inc. North America. “Let me tell you this. I hope that you all love me, really, I do. But if you don’t, it’s OK. You know why, because I love me. Fall in love with yourself, because when you fall in love with yourself, there is the freedom to be yourself.”
Montañez admits that something that he is not proud of is quitting school.
“It was not going to work out for me. I am a visionary. And the problem of being a visionary is that you are so far ahead that everything else,” he said, adding that after he quit school worked different jobs from being a gardener to a car wash to finally landing a factory job at Frito-Lay, a dream come true with a good paying job.
“To me it was like graduating from a university,” said Montañez of the place that opened its doors to him.
Montañez recalled that once he got the job as janitor, he shared the news with his parents and grandfather, who gave him the best advice that he still lives by it and the reason of being successful.
“When you mop that floor, you make sure that it shines so people know that a Montañez mopped it,” he said of his grandpa’s advice. “That was my love and motivation. I don’t do it for them, I do it for my last name. Your last name is your legacy.”
“The value that you bring to humanity you are never going to get paid the value that you are worth,” he said, adding that even when he was a janitor, he made a difference that people notice and asked for the janitor’s name doing that work.
Montañez said there is no such thing as being just a janitor, or just a waiter or such thing as just anything, “when you believe in your heart that you are going to be the best.”
Montañez said a message from the CEO gave him the opportunity to act like an owner of the factory that changed his life even more.
“You just got to believe it,” he said, adding that something people wants to be great but feel the need to have someone’s permission to be great.
As a visionary, Montañez answered the CEO’s call to see the company as if they were the owners.
He took initiative and went out with the sales executives to learn how things work when another revelation came to him.
“He couldn’t’ see it because he was an expert, don’t become such an expert that don’t see things anymore,” Montañez said, adding that the revelation he saw was the spice racks near the products the company sold at stores.
Realizing, “we don’t have flavor,” he said, adding that making something with Cheetos for people who like spices.
Montañez said after his wife Judy, who has been an inspiration to him, help him make some samples that they both tested at their work place, she encouraged him to call the CEO of the company and the rest is history.
Montañez said he is always reminded “of who I am but continue look at the mirror and tell yourself that you love yourself.” “Never be offended when someone mistake you for a worker,” he said, adding if you get offended, you just offended the waited or that valet parking attendance or that gardener. “How could I be offended for looking like a gardener, nothing wrong with that. That could be my dad, my grandpa.”
Montañez has also helped develop the first Frito-Lay Hispanic marketing team that helped promote items in KFC and Taco Bell.
His story will soon become a major motion picture directed by Eva Longoria.