How Immigrants Help Business

Diversity Symposium speaker identifies “6 Skills that Enable Diversity in Your Business”

How Immigrants Help Business

Glenn Llopis, founder of the Center for Hispanic Leadership and keynote speaker for Johnson’s 3rd annual Diversity Symposium, spoke about the advantages immigrants have in the business world in his presentation, "The Immigrant Perspective on Business Leadership: 6 Skills that Enable Diversity in Your Business.”

Hosted by Johnson’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and co-sponsored by the Black Graduate Business Association, the Latino Business Students Association, Out 4 Business, the Women’s Management Council and Cornell’s undergraduate Minority Business Students Association, the 3rd annual Diversity Symposium took place Oct. 27 at the Statler Ballroom on the Cornell campus. Over 200 students, alumni, staff, faculty, corporate sponsors, and professionals attended this year.

Llopis explained that his father graduated from Cornell in 1940 and although he isn’t an alumnus himself, he has always felt like he is a part of the Cornell family — particularly because of how Cornell has embraced diversity, and continues to embrace it at a time when it is most crucial.

In the current economic environment, Llopis explained, U.S. businesses are falling behind, while BRIC (Brazil Russia, India, and China) economies are thriving. This, he believes, is because of the role that diversity plays in the marketplaces all around the world. “It’s not about the number of people you hire when it comes to diversity. The immigrant perspective holds the key for business growth,” he said.  

Leaders in the U.S. are concerned for their businesses because their businesses no longer naturally connect to the changing face of America’s consumers, Llopis explained. “By 2050, 54 percent of the U.S. will be minorities,” he said. “And there are not enough resources and infrastructure to enable this demographic shift.”

The way to fix this issue, he said, is to embrace an immigrant perspective and the six skills that will enable diversity in a business: seeking opportunity, anticipating the unexpected, being passionate, possessing an entrepreneurial spirit, having a generous purpose, and embracing an individual’s cultural promise.

Seeking opportunity, Llopis explained, is not entirely unique to immigrants, but immigrants see opportunity in a very different way. “We come here with nothing but hope and love and we see opportunity everywhere. Often, they’re opportunities that others don’t see. This is important because opportunity is the true mother of success,” he said.

Immigrants are also particularly good at anticipating the unexpected, because many have dealt with multiple crises in their mother countries, and have to face hardships all the time. “We have an innate ability to see around the corners and know what’s up ahead,” he said.  

Being passionate, potent pioneers who blaze paths for others is also an immigrant characteristic, Llopis said. It is this passionate pursuit that allows immigrants to open doors to new possibilities.  

Llopis also explained that immigrants live with an entrepreneurial spirit, because in developing countries, there isn’t much of a choice. “You must be an entrepreneur just to survive,” Llopis said.

The generous purpose that immigrants possess is invaluable in the business environment as well. “It’s in our nature to give,” Llopis said “and this is great because it allows us to think about other’s needs as much as our own.”

Finally, Llopis spoke about the importance of embracing cultural promise, and treating everyone like family. According to a recent Harvard Business School study, Llopis explained, family firms take time to look at the longer-term approach to business. “Family-controlled firms outperform public companies by 6 percent,” he said, “And one-third of the companies in the S&P 500 index are run by families.”

These six skills, Llopis explained, are all interconnected and will no doubt make a difference for any business. Though the economy hasn’t fully recovered, Llopis believes that employing an immigrant perspective will make a positive impact. 

“After Castro’s Cuba, this economy is a cake walk. We immigrants come with a perspective that allows us to thrive in an environment like this — a perspective that everyone can benefit from,” he said.

—    Maria Minsker ’13


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