An Appreciation of my Mentor, Carlos Figueroa - Blog

During my career I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with visionaries and people that do not take no for an answer. Carlos Figueroa is one of those individuals; he was a paratrooper during WWII and a successful real estate broker in San Francisco, financially literate and disciplined, which allowed him to retire young.

After retiring he has dedicated himself to mentoring entrepreneurs and for the last 11 years guiding his pet project, the Greater San Jose Chamber of Commerce (GSJCC), a new and very innovative chamber of commerce in San Jose, CA, the heart of Silicon Valley.

I remember the first time I realized he was a leader and visionary; he did not bother to ask but told me we were meeting at 2AM for a strategy business planning session. For a few minutes, I though he must be high or crazy, but I had know him long enough to realize he does not smoke, drink or takes any mind altering substances, with the exception of coffee. My disdain for the early meeting was apparent and people know I am not an early morning person. The concept makes sense if you want to break old habits once must break from established methods; meeting at 2AM to plan the future of an organization was definitely setting the tone for what was to come.

Carlos Figueroa, the current CEO and visionary, of the Greater San Jose Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, came to me with the idea of starting a new chamber and ask me to be part of the effort. The initial meeting took place in my office in 2000. The goal was to provide an alternative for Hispanic Entrepreneurs to expand their networking activities beyond the brick and mortar businesses in the Bay Area. We needed to provide business owners another venue to network locally and globally.

However, there was a big problem, there was already a San Jose Hispanic Chamber of Commerce with a long history. And as I expected, the reaction of their leaders and some members of the existing chamber were not very positive.

After considering his vision and the political fallout from the old guard and establishment, I decided the status quo was no longer an option, therefore I accepted his offer.

The established San Jose Hispanic Chamber, which claims to be over 100 years old, called our actions “divisive,” but as we know complacency leads to stagnation and competition leads to innovation. My involvement made some powerful people very angry and it made me unpopular in some circles. Although it was very difficult at times, I do not think it has affected my career or businesses adversely.

I became the founding Chairman of the Board of the new Greater San Jose Chamber of Commerce when I was 30 years old. I served from January 2003 to January 2004 and it was a very rewarding experience. The organization has done a lot of good and positively impacted the lives of many businesswomen and men in Silicon Valley and Internationally. I am one of those individuals. The Chamber gave me the opportunity to lobby Congress on behalf of the White House for the successful approval of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. During the lobbying effort I visited the White House, Congress, State Department, Organization of American States, and met a number of Ambassadors. I had the honor to meet President Bush, President Clinton and Collin Powell but most importantly I spoke with countless members of congresswomen and men over a six-month period, to ask them to support CAFTA, which passed by a few votes.

As a professional or business owner, you should seriously consider joining the GSJCC. I cannot guarantee you will visit the White House or Congress but you never know! You will definitely start thinking locally and globally.

Should you have any a questions please email us [email protected].

To your success. – Miguel Palma, CEO, Palma Financial Services Inc.