98 Know Your Value: Veronica Cool on Leveraging Opportunity and Asking Your True Worth
Veronica Cool took the leap from Corporate America to entrepreneurship when she realized she was giving away valuable advice on how to engage the fast growing and affluent Hispanic American market. CEO and founder of
Cool & Associates, she now helps entrepreneurs and F500s alike bridge the gap to cultural gap and take advantage of a $1.5 trillion opportunity.
Melinda Wittstock: Veronica, welcome to Wings.
Veronica Cool: Excellent Melinda. Thanks for having me.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m so excited to talk to you because I am inspired by women who worked in corporate, found themselves delivering tremendous value, but not necessarily taking from it their true worth and deciding that they’re just going to take the leap out on their own, put on their wings, fly into entrepreneurship, and you did that. What was the aha moment? What was that moment when you said, “Okay, enough. I’m just going to go out on my own”?
Veronica Cool: It was a long, known trend, or unnoticed trend and then an a-ha moment. A little epiphany. A little unbelievable experience. Number one, I’m Dominican. I’m Hispanic, and I’ve been in corporate banking for 20 years and because I’m a unicorn, you know, you have a Hispanic woman with a professional background, I got invited to tons of committees and nonprofit boards and at every board, every quarterly board meeting, every monthly committee meeting, people would lean over and whisper at me and ask me questions about engaging the Hispanic community. [inaudible 00:11:58], “Hey, should I translate this? Is Google translate good enough?” “Hey, well what’s a good Hispanic event?” Always answered the question, and then I would fast forward to another quarterly meeting and ask back, “Hey Melinda, how was the event?” And I would always get a negative review.
“Oh, it was bad. No one stopped at our booth, no one said hi,” and I would ask a follow-up. “Did you have Spanish materials? Did you have bilingual staff?” And they were shocked. I would refer Maria over to get hired and I would ask, “How was Maria?” “Oh, I had to let her go. She wasn’t very good.” “Did you train her differently? Did you onboard her differently?” After 10 years of this same very subtle feedback, I realized that they didn’t know the steps to engage my community. That’s swirling in the background.
The big, big moment where I was hearing angels singing was 2013, December. It was end of the year, use the vacation time or lose it, and the kids were at the cusp of not believing in Santa Claus anymore and they didn’t want to travel because they weren’t sure if Santa could find them for their gifts. We opted to stay home and just do a stay-cation. We were changing the rooms around from baby rooms to young adults. They were 10 and 11, 10 and 12. My 10-year-old son, my nine-year-old son at the time, said, “Mom, please don’t get rid of my Hot Wheels. I like them. I know they’re toys, but I want to keep them.” I looked at my baby and said, “Of course. Of course, no problem sweetheart.” I let him be. A couple hours later I go back upstairs and I look in his room and he’s on the floor spread out with his Hot Wheels all over him and he’s doing the race that all little kids do with their toys.
I had a moment of joy. Utter joy filling my heart, my soul. That was a moment out of a movie. The thought popped into my head as to why my life wasn’t like this all the time. Why wasn’t I fulfilled? Why wasn’t I joyful? I realized, it’s because I’m in a box.
I went back to work January 3rd, put two and two together between all the questions from the community, everybody asking me about the Hispanic piece, and this lack of joy and fulfillment. I resigned. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a company, but I wasn’t able to launch anything because of my loyalty and my commitment to the corporate environment. Being freed, being done allowed me to just start fresh and have a clean slate and start leveraging all these questions and all these problem that people were coming to me for with seeking solutions for.
It was a trend that I missed for a little bit, and then just looking at my children and realizing I’m supposed to have a more fulfilling life than this. I definitely heard angels sing.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s so beautiful. What a wonderful story though, of taking that inspiration from your kids and that sense of joy and play and fun and when they’re really in the moment. One of the things about entrepreneurship is my God, you’re never bored. I mean, there’s always something.
Veronica Cool: Yeah. Oh my gosh, yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: Right?
Veronica Cool: You are never bored.
Melinda Wittstock: There you are, you’ve quit your job, you’re in your house and you’re thinking okay, so what do I do now? Tell me the story.
Veronica Cool: Oh Melinda, if I tell you, it’s the funniest thing. I quit, I don’t have a job, I don’t have an offer, I don’t have anything. Everyone thought I was lying. That I was going to another bank and it was hush-hush and I was taking a little break. I had call after call after call, and I didn’t have a job. I had a moment where, I think I was watching the Oscars or the Grammys, and I was alone in the living room watching the TV show and I started to freak out going, “Oh my God, I have no income. I gave away my income. Oh my God.”
I’m looking at my phone and I’m trying to find something to get my thoughts away from this revelation that I have no more, and I had about five, six, seven voicemails from people that wanted me in my expertise. I didn’t have a master plan. Obviously dealing in business banking, I know operations, I know finance, I know how to structure a company. I know all of these things. It’s what I did for customers, right? I knew how to do these numbers and operations and process and business plans. But to apply that to yourself is a very different animal.
To hear these voicemails, and every one of them was, “Veronica, I’m not sure what you’re doing, but I’d like to talk to you about doing this for us for a little bit.” “Hey Veronica, can you try this project for us?” “Hey Veronica, we’ve talked about the Hispanic piece. Can you come in and do this? Maybe we try it out as a project. How much do you charge? Give us a call.”
The opportunity hit me over and over and I built the company around the opportunity. I think having the years of banking, having the years operational strength, having the people skills to talk through it and go, “Melinda, this is new for us. Let me think this out for a second. How about this? How about that? How about you pay us this way? How about you charge us this way?” That evolution, I mean, the story I tell today with my staff is that we’re flying a plane that we’re building simultaneously.
Melinda Wittstock: Ah, that’s what …
Veronica Cool: We’re up in the air. Go ahead.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, that’s what Kara Goldin, the CEO of Hint Water advises.
Veronica Cool: Oh My Gosh. Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: You’ve got to be building it as you’re flying it.
Veronica Cool: Oh, absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: As women though we tend towards perfectionism.
Veronica Cool: Yep, yep.
Melinda Wittstock: We think that we have to plan and we can’t do it until it’s perfect.
Veronica Cool: Yep.
Melinda Wittstock: We don’t speak until we think we have it all figured out, and that just doesn’t work when you’re starting a company.
Veronica Cool: Well it goes back to fearless. I have no fear. I have reservation of course, I’m rather conservative, but I have no fear of failure because I know I can pivot, I know I can tweak it. If we start with one thing and it’s not evolving, don’t you think we’re smart enough to talk it out and figure it out? I’ve had this relationship with my clients, my staff, my partners. I have no problems laying out clear expectations and expecting the same, but talking through things. If I sense that you’re not happy, if I sense that we … Well we offered A, B, C, and we’re only on A, we talk it out. Oh, obviously there’s something here. Let’s figure this out.
I’m not afraid of pivoting and learning from my mistakes. I make mistakes, of course. Things get better. It is an evolution, and it is absolutely building this plane as it’s up in the air 20,000 feet. It’s insanity, but hey, I think that’s the rush that I was meant for.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. Well you mentioned something about building your business around opportunity, and being open to seeing the opportunity is one of the first steps for anybody wanting to launch a business. How did this work for you? When you’re really good at doing something, right, you have all this expertise, 20 years of experience doing what you were doing, right?
Veronica Cool: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Melinda Wittstock: You have all this expertise, so you’re really good at doing it. How do you transition then to building a business that’s scalable that gets other people doing the thing that you’re good at doing? This is one of the challenges that so many women face.
Veronica Cool: Yeah. Yeah, no. The first thing I do is I carve time out to think. I try to be very, very strategic. I belong to a Shift Collective, which is a group of CEO leaders that meets monthly and has different activities to force strategic thought and planning. I move at the speed of light, which isn’t good. I just do things sometimes without thinking how they fit into the first plan or to the master plan.
To answer your question, I try to be strategic. I try not to just do things. I actually build goals. I want to do so much. I want so much growth. I want so much income. I want so many clients. I want so many this. I want to finish my book. I want to finish my children’s book. I want to have a Hispanic technical assistance group, like a Spanish version of our CEO Collective. I have goals, and I work backwards on how I’m going to fit them in.
I’ve actually become almost clinical about saying no and I say no a lot. People are inviting me to things, get on this committee, do this project. I don’t deal with clients that don’t fit the mold. If I get a negative vibe or, that’s one of the perks of being an entrepreneur. You don’t work with people you don’t enjoy, so that’s a big thing.
I can tell you that super strategic, I do have a master plan. Not always on paper, definitely in my head. One of the things we’ve done over the last two years is build structure. I have no problem investing money in things that make our life easier. We’ve invested energy around a project management tool so that we can track our work and our deliverables better. We’ve invested some energy around a CRM so we can track our prospects, our clients, our opportunities so we’re not leaving things on the table because you and I may have talked about providing Spanish content on your website and doing a training, and sometimes what happens is I do part A, you’re happy, I’m happy, we’re happy, and I forget to go back to part B because I’m so busy. I just left a nice little check there with you, not even thinking about it.
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]I don’t deal with clients that don’t fit the mold. You don’t work with people you don’t enjoy. That’s one of the perks of being an entrepreneur. #WingsPodcast #WomeninBusiness @verocool[/tweet_box]
I would tell you that very strategic, I do have a master plan, and I invest money and time and energy on infrastructure. It may take a little longer. Something that I could spit out in five minutes, I’m allowing it to take a week because I’m actually building a system so it can be replicated later.
Our goal right now is we provide the Spanish voice for multiple organizations. If you see, let’s make it up, the American Heart Association and they’re on Facebook and Instagram and website and newsletters, beautiful content to educate people on the American Heart Association. I mean, we’re doing this for the Alzheimer’s Association. That’s a better example. We’re their Spanish voice. Under the helm of the Alzheimer’s Association online, we’re them. Everything to engage our community in Spanish, the events, the activities, the resources, the tools, and my goal is to get 10, 20, 30 of those. I’m building the systems where we have writers, content developers, editors. We have the software that will allow the process to be less manual, more automated. I’m willing to take my time with a couple of our initial clients so that as I grow, it’s flowing and it’s not killing my staff and I’m not losing folks because we overwhelm them.
That’s the long answer to the question of scaling. Be strategic, have a goal, invest in the resources and the tools. Logically, don’t just throw money up in the air. Make sure that they fit you. And say no. I mean, I am not kidding. I say no much, much more than I say yes. [inaudible 00:23:49] being selfish.
Melinda Wittstock: Well that’s so smart, because I think we all start out in the beginning and we’re hardwired as women to do this, is to try and please everybody and we end up putting ourselves last. I’ve arrived at the same conclusion. If it’s not a hell yeah, like I’m really into it, then it’s a no.
Veronica Cool: Yep. Yep. I’m with you. I don’t have any guilt about it. I don’t know, I’ve put my white male pants on. I’m probably going to offend people. I go back to my days in banking and I looked at my colleagues. I would do 1,000 volunteer hours to help the community and no one would know or acknowledge or do anything. I wasn’t doing it for acknowledgement, but it was a lot, and I worked my butt off and I was … It was a horrendous amount of work. Then they would do nothing, other than their basic job. And they would get more money than me, more attention than me, more accolades, more promotions, and I’m thinking, I’m missing something here. They never accepted extra projects that didn’t benefit their pipeline. They never accepted anything extra that didn’t benefit them somehow. They were well received and well compensated.
Not that I’m at that extreme where I would say no to my community any my fellow woman. No, of course not, but there has to be a happier medium than giving it all away for free and working for the world and starving at home. There’s a fine line. I don’t have to say yes to everything. Absolutely not necessary.
Melinda Wittstock: Well also, if you give so much away and you put your value, you end up putting your own value so low, that there’s nothing really left in the tank in the end to be able to continue to provide that.
Veronica Cool: Yep.
Melinda Wittstock: Wait, so I’m just going to say that again. I’m sorry. Beauty of tape. Yes, it’s interesting because we’re giving by nature, so we want to give, but if we give so much that there’s nothing left for ourselves, it’s sort of like we’re not valuing ourselves and then it’s hard to create value for anybody else.
Veronica Cool: Well you can’t build a legacy by not being selfish. That’s a very sensitive statement, because if taken out of context it implies that all I want is me, me, me, me, me. Going back to the airplane analogy is, if plane is crashing, you have to grab the oxygen mask for you first before you help anyone else or else you pass out or you die and you didn’t help anyone.
If I don’t have food on my plate, if my children don’t have food, if I don’t have the income to pay for my mortgage, if I cannot sustain myself, how am I going to contribute to the next huge presidential campaign? How am I going to vote on my elected officials? How am I going to host a dinner with the next [inaudible 00:26:48]? How am I going to do anything? Without the funding to pay for continuing education, conferences, travel so I can learn, softwares, educate my children, how will I ever get better?
There’s a tie to that, and we don’t talk about wealth as women. We’ve been conditioned that that’s inappropriate. Why the hell not? Why the hell not?
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness, yes. We should talk about money.
Veronica Cool: All the time. One of the things I’ve learned from a couple of my groups is they don’t get involved in projects unless they discuss the budget. Period. This stuff that we women do that we start talking about working things and meetings and addressing and spending hours, no one has said, “How are we paying for this?” We don’t even talk about gas money. Most men discuss a project and a budget very first meeting. We don’t do that.
I discuss money. I discuss a budget. One of my first questions, and I offend a lot of people because they’re thinking I’m going to be passive and they feel that I’m all about the money, but I always ask, “What budget do you have in mind for that?” That doesn’t mean I don’t participate if there’s no budget. Maybe if it’s an event, maybe it’s the right thing, may be the right PR, maybe it’s a feel good, all the right reasons, that’s different, but I’ve become exceedingly frustrated with people that dismiss us because we’re charging.
I had one particular mainstream radio organization, media organization, that had asked two of our community leaders, our Spanish community leaders to launch a Spanish radio station for free. They declined, they came to me, and as I’m listening to this conversation I’m asking, “So you want to launch a Spanish language radio station in this market. What’s your budget?” There was a pause. Then I repeated. “I mean, it’s a product launch. It’s an expansion of your services. You’re expanding into a new market. What’s the budget you carved out for that?” Radio silence. “I’m sorry, so let me just understand. You do have outreach, marketing, product development. I’m sure you’re doing a feasibility study and market research and you’re asking Hispanics what kind of radio they want to hear, right?” Dead silence.
Their expectation was that my expertise was free. That I would sit there pro bono, help you launch your project so you would make money. I was offended. I’d say, “Here’s my proposal.” They came back with a, “We can’t afford it now.” “Oh okay, well good luck launching that then.”
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Veronica Cool: Money’s a conversation that needs to be had.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. This comes back to knowing your value. Right?
Veronica Cool: Oh, yes.
Melinda Wittstock: We talk on this podcast a lot about the connection between mindset, mojo and money. Being in the right mindset about money, having the mojo to talk about money, is necessary to being able to manifest it. Then we have all these weird limiting beliefs, often, most people, around money, and particularly around women that somehow, deep subconsciously we think we don’t deserve to ask for the full price. I see so many women, and I have been guilty of this as well, full disclosure, underpricing my services or my products or not asking for enough money when I went to fundraise for my startups. That sort of thing.
Veronica Cool: Right. Yep.
Melinda Wittstock: How do you tackle that? Have you come across times in your entrepreneurial career where you thought, wait a minute.
Veronica Cool: All the time.
Melinda Wittstock: I should be charging more than that.
Veronica Cool: All the time.
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Veronica Cool: All the time. All the time. I’ve had a couple situations where after the project was done and you come up for air and you realize that you actually made $1.50 an hour. [inaudible 00:30:54], but you’re sitting there going, “Oh my gosh. Did I actually do that?”
One of the first things, and I have an undergrad and a Master’s in finance, so you would think that this is inherent, right? No. Again, we move too fast, but knowing your numbers, doing your financial statements and understanding your profitability before you embark upon a venture. I’ve seen multiple companies, and I don’t want to say mostly women, but definitely mostly women in minorities, that go out of business despite having a huge pipeline and having huge topline revenue. They have no concept of their expenses and their profitability, so they’re bidding on things without understanding their cost.
First thing is, know your numbers. How much do you want to make? What’s your hourly rate? Because obviously not every hour is billable, but what’s your hourly rate so that I make that a part of my proposal? You want my expertise engaging Hispanics, engaging people of color, media, community, all those, so how much time would that take me? Now, I do not charge for my time per hourly because one phone call, I fill a room with people. Whether it takes me a three-minute email and I get 50 people in a room, you think I’m only billing for three minutes? Of course not. We got to add our expertise and our value. That’s 30 years of branding and goodwill and exposure where my name carries weight in my community. That’s a worth.
There is value, so if I hired someone to do what I can do in three minutes, what does that look like? I blend my pricing around that. I blend the expertise, the media, the costs, and I work a proposal backwards. Then I throw a margin on that. Of course you don’t always get that and you negotiate. I have no problem negotiating, and it’s always less than you proposed, but if you start high enough, then you get a semblance of what you’re due.
Veronica Cool: Knowing your numbers, and the other piece is I learned from, I’m going to tell you again, men. Two particular men that have come back and increased their pricing on me, they were vendors providing services to me, because the scope changed. How they approached me and how they put a stop to the work, and there was no drama, there was no bad blood, there was nothing difficult, but in my wildest dreams I did not know that you can just say, “Okay Melinda, you said this was $5, but I’m actually doing more and more and more and more, so it should be $10. I’m just going to bill you $10.”
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Veronica Cool: It worked every time. It made sense. Despite having a contract, despite having an initial conversation, they’re very comfortable addressing performance, scope of work, deliverables. On top of knowing my numbers, getting an extreme handle on what the deliverables are. How much does it take to deliver X? And not being afraid of a change order, a modification.
Money is a very, it’s a delicate conversation. I get it completely, but when asked, because the other thing that’s really difficult, Melinda, is women tend to be brutal to one another. There’s things we say to each other or things we demean about each other that we don’t do to other genders or other, we just don’t do.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Veronica Cool: The challenge I see is I’ve had women push back dramatically, and you got to have the cajones to push back and go, “No, no, that’s my rate. I’m willing to potentially throw this in, but no more discounting. My worth is my worth.”
Melinda Wittstock: Well here’s the thing I find about that, with women selling to other women. Really when women are quibbling about the price or trying to take it down, they are in scarcity and it really says more about them and how they value themselves. If they don’t value themselves, I think what we do when we’re in that mode, we undervalue everybody else as well.
Veronica Cool: [inaudible 00:35:16].
Melinda Wittstock: If I don’t think I deserve it, then that other chick over there doesn’t deserve it either. Right? I think that’s the dynamic.
Veronica Cool: I completely agree. I think it’s a real issue where we project our issues onto other people. We have got to be intentional as women about how we do what we do and how we lift up. I spend an insane amount of time ensuring that my community gets recognized for their work and fellow women get recognized for their work, whether it’s referring the next person for you to interview on your podcast because they deserve attention and visibility, whether it’s recommending a couple of Latinas that are under the radar for mainstream awards so that the rest of the world sees Maria and Josefina get attention.
We have got to be intentional in lifting ourselves, and every single thing I do incorporates partners that are going to get paid. I don’t need to do it all. If I do a translation, what partner can I bring on board to work on it? Of course they get paid. If I do an event, we do a lot of Hispanic meet and greets where we’re connecting the two communities. I make sure there’s a Hispanic caterer, Hispanic music, Hispanic printer, Hispanic [inaudible 00:36:37], Hispanic wine, so that they grow. They’re surprised by that. I’ve had women come back and go, “Alright, here’s the musical act. You can call them. They’re waiting for your call.” I go, “What’s your fee? Did you put that in the invoice for brokering the musician and the agent?” “Oh, well I’m not going to charge you for that.” You don’t think that’s a service? I texted you and in two minutes you had a musical act that was vetted, you scheduled them, you booked them. You negotiated the price for me. You don’t think that is a service? Slowly but surely our community, our fellow women, are learning that their work has value.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Well you are living and breathing the very mission of Wings, which is really women lifting other women up. Right?
Veronica Cool: That’s awesome.
Melinda Wittstock: You’re doing that with your community, which is amazing and so inspiring because I think we all have to help each other to see our own value.
Veronica Cool: Oh, yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s easy for entrepreneurs when we can get so easily, we can slip into this kind of isolation when we’re so busy working on our business and all of that, that we can forget sometimes in the toughest moments, in those kind of heart-stopping moments where you think, oh man, do I have cash flow, or something unexpected happens, and we can kind of go to ground and go and internalize and not reach out to people, so to have those mentors and other people that you know are seeing you, even when you don’t want to be seen, and reminding you like, “Hey, you could be charging for this,” or “Hey, have you thought about that?” Really being proactive in mentoring other people as well as we ourselves need to be mentored.
Veronica Cool: Oh yeah. You couldn’t have said it better. I completely agree. We do work in a bubble sometimes and it’s a balance between the selfishness, the self-centered of, I mean, you have to focus on the company, you have to focus on some things, multi-tasking isn’t real. You do have to focus to get things going, but there is no reason you can’t lift as you’re doing that. One of the things I’ve focused on in my life probably in the last 10 years or so has been to unite all of my worlds. I mistakenly thought, maybe it was even unconscious, that I had to be Hispanic in one bucket, I had to be a mom in another bucket, had to be a business owner in another bucket, had to be a philanthropist, a social justice person in bucket, bucket, buckets. You can’t compartmentalize your world into that. That doesn’t work.
I became involved in different things that would satisfy all the buckets. Right now, one of our clients is the Alzheimer’s Association because my dad has dementia. I see it, I breathe it, I live it, and my community doesn’t know that resources already exist in Spanish. The Alzheimer’s Association reached out to us because the data shows that Latinos are 1.5 times more likely to have Alzheimer’s. 34% are most often undiagnosed. All these gaps. Here it is, my dad has it, my community needs the service, the organization needs me, and then they have a fundraiser called The Memory Vault Dancing With the Stars, where I committed to dancing with the stars, taking lessons, raising $25, $35,000. It’s going to be streamed live, 1,000 people.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that’s awesome.
Veronica Cool: I committed to this insanity because it satisfies my community, my need to serve my community, my need to support my family, my need to educate, while growing my business. We do have to be multi-dimensional and we have to be strategic about how and what we do with our time.
Melinda Wittstock: Well I love what you’re saying about being strategic because what you just described there was leverage.
Veronica Cool: Yes ma’am.
Melinda Wittstock: Knowing the value, I mean on one hand knowing the value of our time from a money perspective, but being conscious of the choice of our time. Money you can always manifest. You can always find a way to make money, but you can never get time back. I think one of the most important lessons for women in this entrepreneurial game is to make our time count, so like do one thing that has multiple impacts. That’s what I hear you saying, which I think is so important. And hard, a hard lesson to learn for women who are so much action and doing and serving focused. We think we have to do it all ourselves.
Veronica Cool: No. I don’t think that. I know I can’t. I let things slide, all the dishes are not done, all the laundry’s not done. Things are not all done, and my children and my husband know this. We run out of underwear. We run out of socks. They come and ask, “Mom, I’m out of underwear, I’m out of socks.” Oh wow, that’s bad. You know? Okay, it won’t happen again, will it?
Melinda Wittstock: God, my house is similar, because I realized when I was doing my own kind of financial calculation about my time, okay, I’m a single mom and I’ve got an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old. Let’s see, what’s the value of creating a new line of my business or increasing the value of the IP, say, at Verifeed, or bringing on a strategic or getting an investment or just even the Wings of Success Summit that’s coming up really soon and creating that. What’s my value? As you were saying, all the kind of like 25 years of experience across all these different things, so what’s the value of that compared to the value of me doing the laundry?
Veronica Cool: Right.
Melinda Wittstock: Should I be charging my $1,000 an hour rate to do the laundry? It doesn’t really make any sense. That’s when you start to think okay, well I should just get a lot of virtual assistants, hire a neighborhood kid to come over and do the laundry, or moreover, get my kids to do it. Right?
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]I say no to a lot of things so that the things that pay the bills and allow me to grow get done first. #WingsPodcast #WomeninBusiness @verocool[/tweet_box]
Veronica Cool: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Agree. I agree, it is time value of money. There are some things that don’t get done. I mean, we do a lot of contracting work, bring in a lot of freelancers, and I do prioritize things that are going to generate revenue so that I can keep going. It is, again, clinical. I say no to a lot of things so that the things that pay the bills and allow me to grow get done first. Sometimes that’s works, sometimes that’s home, and priorities. It’s all about priority. Of course my children are loved. Of course we’re spending time together, but I’m not worrying about the toilets. I’m not worrying about the laundry being pristine. I’m not worrying about the socks not matching.
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Veronica Cool: I’m not worrying about things like that.
Melinda Wittstock: Well exactly. It’s the experience, it’s the time that you spend with your kids and it’s the quality time, right?
Veronica Cool: Agree, yep.
Melinda Wittstock: If there are dishes in the sink or those sorts of things, you know, at the end of the day kids, husbands, partners, assistants can help with so much of that.
I want to transition a little bit, Veronica, to talk about what you do and what you’re doing for the Hispanic community and moreover the rest of the United States of America to understand the massive opportunity that they are missing not understanding this community.
Veronica Cool: Sure.
Melinda Wittstock: The value of the community, I mean we’re talking billions of dollars, right? We’re talking huge opportunity, and yet there is this need for a bridge, which you were building, and I want you to be able to share all the amazing work that you’re doing and what some of these statistics are, because they’re really quite interesting and I think a lot of people are unaware.
Veronica Cool: No, absolutely. Thank you so much. I want to start with the shocking statistics, because I think need to understand that first and why we even care. First of all, one in six people today in the United States is Hispanic. One in five millennial is Hispanic. One in four kindergartner is a Hispanic. There’s 131 Latino births per hours in the United States.
Melinda Wittstock: Wow.
Veronica Cool: Then to add to that, you have a million Latinos that turn 18 every single year.
Melinda Wittstock: Wow.
Veronica Cool: You have a ready-made consumer base, whether you’re selling phones, insurance services, books, whether you’re hiring, and think about the aging community. Who’s caring for this aging community? It’s like a two to one ratio. Latinos are coming into the workforce as the non-Hispanic community is retiring. Who supplements your social security? The Hispanic community.
You have these hugely changing demographics, and there are some serious differences in the cultures as consumers. Number one is language. We’ll talk about that. More importantly is acculturation. If I moved you to Italy, it would take you about 10 years to speak Italian, to know where to park your car, to get the kids registered, to know the ins and out of your community, to be comfortable being Italian. 10 years.
It takes a Latino in the United States 20 years to acculturate because of technology, because of language, because of the way we are. 20 years. Twice as long. Depending on where that Latino is on the acculturation spectrum, impacts how we communicate with them. I want you to buy my widget, so if you’re early on in acculturation, that means it’s probably Spanish. Very grassroots, very community-based, very Spanish media-oriented.
If you are targeting a Veronica, me, I’ve been here 30, 35 years. I’m fully acculturated. I respond in English, I process in English, I negotiate in English, but culturally appropriate messaging, make your imagery a little darker, add a couple of Hispanic grandmas and grandpas. Add a couple of kids to your videos and your creatives so that I realize, wait, that’s for us. Add in a couple words in Spanglish. 70% of Latinos in the US speak a combination of English and Spanish known as Spanglish. Then I know, hey, I think they’re talking to me. It’s a subtle way of engaging this market.
Along with the booming demographics, there is an economic driver. The affluent Latino, those making above $100,000, has grown by 200% in the last decade. Then you have a $1.5 trillion purchasing power. It is a consumer base that is more invested in entertainment, in family activities, and it’s a younger and larger family dynamic. Whereas Americans and non-Hispanics are 2.1, 2.2 family members, Latinos are 3, 3.2, 3.4. You have a larger family. Younger by eight years, so the average Latino is eight years younger than the average non-Latino. The longer life cycle of that consumer is greater. Engaging them early on, so again remember, one in four kindergartners is a Latino. If you’re not talking to them now, from books, to advertising, to vitamins, to widgets, you’re missing them. How are they going to come and apply for your job if you’ve never talked to them? We have a recruiting issue and a retention issue.
Melinda Wittstock: And marketing. And a marketing one.
Veronica Cool: Oh my God, girl. Absolutely. HR. One of the biggest gaps we have, Melinda, is having non-Hispanics in leadership roles not understanding the subtle differences in the culture. We often have problems with recruiting because you’ll hear an accent, or you don’t understand that we don’t know how to dress or we don’t know how to speak, because we’ve never been exposed to a professional environment, so you dismiss us at candidates.
I’ve often had people hear my accent and they assume somehow my intelligence is impacted. I hold advanced degrees. I mean, I have outperformed entire states by myself. I am well read, exceedingly articulate, but when you hear an accent, unconscious bias comes out and you assume that somehow my intelligence is impacted. That’s not everybody of course, but there is a subtlety there, so we actually provide cultural competence training, communication training, conflict resolution for the non-Hispanics so that they understand what you’re getting when you get Latinos in your workforce, when you’re engaging Hispanic patients, voters, students, consumers so you keep them.
We have offensive advertising campaigns. You throw a sombrero on something and you think Latinos will come. Come on. Come on. We don’t do that. We don’t throw barbecue at every Texan because they’re from Texas and they have cowboy hats.
We do the training. Number two, we service the voice for messaging. Between what words you do include in your media campaign and your social media, we build brand campaigns, communication strategies; we engage the media for earned and unearned or paid media activity. We’re your Spanish voice, and one of the things that we do exceedingly well is community engagement, so events, meet and greets, the community influencer. Latinos are 33% more likely to follow an influencer. An influencer is not just J.Lo, not just a soccer player, not just a huge celebrity, but the pastor of the church, the local DJ, the local newspaper journalist. When these guys say, “This is the best restaurant. This is the best cell phone. This is the best X,” we jump. We identify the influencer for you in your industry, widget, market, region, and we make the connection and because we have the trust of the community because we are of the community, we build that bridge in an accelerated fashion. If I let you do it by yourself, it would be years before the church pastor would take a meeting and understand you and trust you and talk about you and refer you. We abbreviate that.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, you know it’s so interesting what you talk about with influence because I think Hispanic Americans really are leading this trend of word of mouth influence from sort of like regular people, non celebrities.
Veronica Cool: Yep.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s certainly a trend of all Millenials and now almost everybody, and so really on point not just for … Sorry, I’m just going to say that again. Veronica, I think what you are teaching people about the power of influence in engaging the Hispanic community is so vital for engaging all communities in the way that we do marketing these days.
Veronica Cool: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. Latinos have been trendsetters in adapting new technologies like WhatsApp. We had WhatsApp. We had Facebook before Facebook was a thing. We have all of these things that we adapt earlier, and it is all word of mouth growth.
One of the biggest opportunities for American entities is Facebook. Over 75% of Latinos in the United States use Facebook actively. When you talk about influence, Melinda, we use Facebook not for posting what I had last night for dinner, but to network. Things like, “Hey, I know the kids are going back to school this fall and they need a special vaccination. Where do I go with them?” “Hey, guys, my son needs a job. What’s a good place hiring for graphic designers?” The community chimes in.
We’ll talk about you in Spanish. Let’s say a hospital is hiring. In Spanish we’ll say, “Hey, I know that hospital XYZ is hiring nursing assistant folks. Is that a good place to be?” The community will chime in and say, “No, they’re racist. No, they don’t treat people right. No, they’re this. No, they’re that. The managers suck. The hours suck. The pay sucks.” If you don’t have a presence online in Spanish, or at a very minimum in Spanglish, you don’t have a way to defend yourself. It may be totally misperceptions, but because there is no positivity to combat, it just goes off.
The influence of the community, the word of mouth activity in Spanish is a tremendous opportunity for the non-Spanish speaking community to kind of jump on. We do a lot of social media for our clients. A lot of Spanish, a lot of Spanish interaction and engagement because of that.
Melinda Wittstock: This is wonderful. I can see so much value in what you provide, Veronica. What a better opportunity than to ask you to explain how people can find you and work with you?
Veronica Cool: That’s awesome. Thank you so much. We can be found obviously on our website, CoolAssociatesLLC.com. Twitter, you can find me or the company. My Twitter handle is @VeroCool, Spanish for Veronica, V-E-R-O-C-O-O-L. We’re very active on LinkedIn and Facebook, both the company and myself. Cool and Associates, LLC and Veronica Cool. We can share tons of content there.
One of the things I recommend to folks in terms of engaging us is we have some choices. We can start with our Hispanic toolkit, which is typically used during Hispanic Heritage month. It’s a how-to engaging, September 15th to October 15th, to honor and acknowledge Hispanics. We leverage the fact that that’s the month where the world realizes we’re here, so we give you step-by-step instructions. We understand that it’s the tip of the iceberg, so we give you what you ask for. Then we give you the rest. Number one, we offer the toolkit. It’s an incredible tool, very, very robust. You can find that at HispanicToolkit.com.
Number two: Often our clients come in through translations. We call them “trans-creations”. We don’t just translate literal meanings. We actually spend time ensuring that your meaning comes across. A perfect example is we had a client talking about, “Take a walk on the wild side.” That implies just be a little different. Maybe take a walk with nature, have some fun. In Spanish, that translates into, “Take a savage walk.” That’s not what you meant. If we would have done what you’ve asked, you would have lost the Hispanic community so we translated it or trans-created it to, “Take a fun walk. Enjoy nature.” Obviously it’s not literal, it’s not sexy in English, but it came across beautifully and resonant in Spanish.
Number one is that Hispanic toolkit, number two is let us do your language services, your trans-creations, your newsletters, your social media. Let us be your Spanish voice. Number three, and hugely valuable, is training. Let us train your team to understand our community. We do a Hispanic 101 piece where all the nuggets I dropped throughout this interview are formalized, very industry specific. If it’s healthcare, if it’s nonprofit, if it’s construction, if it’s legal services, we educate you on what the opportunity is and what the hurdles are so that the team is aware. Often from that, we implement … Excuse me, Melinda. We implement recruiting strategies, we implement onboarding strategies, we implement messaging.
We have a lot of fun, but at the end of the day I’m super proud to say that we’re changing lives. We’re getting people incredible jobs with great money and benefits, we’re helping companies serve an entire market. Especially in healthcare, it is life and death. If you don’t understand a patient because your staff is not culturally aware, you have people coming in with illnesses. We’re proud of the connections and the bridges we build, and we’re here to continue to build them and all of our work is customized.
I’m interested and open to supporting any one of your listeners in their fields, and that benefits my community so it’s a definite yes.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that’s wonderful. Well thank you Veronica for being so generous with your time, putting on your wings, and flying with all of us today. Thank you.
Veronica Cool: Melinda, thank you so much for the opportunity, and congratulations on being such a trendsetter. This is great. Thank you.