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Archive for October, 2010

Somos Houston

By: Oscar L. Orias

Latino Heritage/History month ended this year with much fanfare and Hispanics being under the microscope politically. Arizona’s proposed new laws raised many question about Latinos integration within American society and how they are compared with other immigrants of the past. In Houston, their presence is felt in all parts of the city. They are our cities political leaders, entrepreneurs, teachers, doctors, and business leaders. Latinos make up almost 45 million people in this country and the fastest growing minority group. Even with such large numbers and integration into American life and business many Latinos still face racial discrimination and other barriers in this country. Even in Houston where Latinos make a large percentage of the population they still fight for their place in proverbial political and economic table.

How Latinos Changed the Face of Houston
My father arrived to Houston in the early 80s; he described it as a mostly Anglo town with a strong Texas flavor. Houston by many was considered a backwater city with little to offer and no real diversity. Things have a lot changed over the last 30 years in this city due in part to Latin immigrants coming to this city. Much of those changes have a very visible Hispanic imprints on them.

The Spanish language one of those visible imprints. It has become the second primary languages spoken in the city of Houston and in some section it is the predominant language. In many businesses, especially the service sector, Spanish has become a must in order to serve customers. Talking to people in their language isn’t enough anymore, businesses are having website information, commercials, and marketing materials in Spanish. The language has also served as a lightning rod of discrimination against Latinos and in some ways an economy handicap. Studies have shown that Bilingual Spanish speakers earn much more than their one language counter parts.

Another visible imprint into Houston culture is the popularity of Latin American festivals and holidays. Celebrations like Fiestas Patrias, Cinco De Mayo, Cuban/Puerto Rican Festival, and Chicano Day have become an integral part of the city’s traditions. These celebrations bring all Houstonians together to relax, learn, and enjoy the regions culture and food. These festivals and celebrations also introduce new cultural ideas that will later be blended into the general culture.

Latin owned and styled companies have made a deep impact in Houston’s landscape. These firms aren’t just confined into just one section or one part of the city, they are found in different types of neighborhoods and Suburbs. More than 1/5 of all businesses in the city are owned by Latinos, much higher than other ethnic groups in the city. 19 of the largest 500 Hispanic run businesses in the nation are based in Houston.

Open for Business
Hispanics open businesses to cater to the underserved Latino market and to tap into their large purchasing power. Companies such as restaurant, food markets, grocery stores, financial firms, and clothing boutiques cater to the market well. Increasingly many of those companies have expanded their market to the rest of the general public (i.e. Fiesta Supermarket and Ninfas Restaurant). The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce estimates there are 75,000 Hispanic-Owned businesses in the city. Those firms aren’t just found in the service industry, they are visible almost every sector of the local economy.

Why does Houston have such a large amount of Latino-own businesses? Much of it has to do with the culture of the town and Hispanics. The laid back attitude and the hungry for the city to expand have allowed immigrants from all walks of life to settle here. Texas also has a very independent culture and spirit that actually encourages people to take risks and become their own boss. Entrepreneurs are celebrated for being risk-takers and pioneers. This is reflected in the state’s business friendly tax-codes and public policies. The historically inexpensive housing market also allows for new comers especially with no real monetary value to live in the city on a limited budget. Inexpensive housing helps free up capital for a start-up business down the road.

Latinos come to this city in search of new opportunities, financial and political independence, and a stable place to raise a family. Citizens face a lot of barriers when opening industries in Latin America. These barriers range from the large amounts of administrative red tape to corruption in obtaining business licenses. Inhabitants see their own governments as a liability not an asset to start-up businesses accord to a Gallup Poll done this year. According to the poll 2/3 of residents say that government doesn’t make getting permits and paperwork easy to obtain. The next reason cited is the lack of businesses being fearful of making profit without government intrusion. This highlights the tension and distrust between private business and nationals governments.

Nuestro Futuro (Our Future)
The outlook of the Latino in this metropolis and country depends on them flexing their political and economic muscle. Until now they have been an important swing vote but not really an influential voting block. They are an important market but not a market shaker or changer. This new generation of American-born Latinos still faces obstacles like discrimination, culture clashes, political legitimacy, and poor education. The dropout rate for Hispanics in High School still stands a whopping 18.3% according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This number is alarming because education today is the key for social mobility and economic success. This statistics and other factors must change if this country is to succeed in the long-term. The future of the Latino and the future of this country are indissoluble.


Don’t forget to add me in Linked in: http://www.linkedin.com/in/oscarorias


How To Use Social Network to Find Jobs and New Employees

As a young professional trying to get into the tight-knit medical industry I know looking for jobs and importantly making connections is never easy. With the recession reaching the 3 year mark, looking for a job has been a long, difficult, and at times an emotional process. With that said, jobs are still out there but many companies been relying increasingly on employee referrals and social media. I got this article (you guessed it) off of Linkedin. I hope this article brought to you by Danny Brown of Bonsai Interactive Marketing will serve my job seekers around the country well.

Using Social Media for Your HR Needs

According to the LinkedIn press centre, 1-in-20 of all LinkedIn profiles are held by recruiters.

Additionally, Oracle’s Chief Finance Officer Jeff Epstein was headhunted for the position via his LinkedIn profile.

And with 80% of companies using LinkedIn as a recruitment tool, it’s clear to see that social media (at least from LinkedIn’s side) is a great tool for any recruiter or human resources department to find their next employee (or for employees to find their next position).

But what about the other main networks and platforms? How could you use them as part of your employee needs, current and potential?

Because of its instant conversations and weekly chats, there are a ton of ways that Twitter could be used as a recruitment tool. Think of some of the ways you operate your HR team or recruitment agency offline:

•You check resumes.
•You make phone calls.
•You place job ads.
•You interview.
•You cold-call potential clients (more from a recruitment agency point-of-view).
Now, flip these around and see how Twitter could replace them (or work alongside them).

•You see how people act online and what they’re discussing (resume checking).
•You have conversations with folks you’re interested in (phone calls).
•You share a link to your latest offerings (job ad placement).
•You talk and get a feel for people directly (interview).
•You use Twitter Search to look for keywords of company hiring needs then make contact through your tweets (cold calls).
Same needs, different approach. You also have a ton of weekly chats that you can participate in – there’s a great and ever-growing resource on Google Docs if you need to find one in particular.

A different platform with a frequently different mindset, Facebook is still a great outlet for your HR needs. And as the platform continues to evolve into a business-friendly one, it’s a platform that offers a lot from a recruiting angle.

•Build a company Facebook Page and have a dedicated tab for your latest positions.
•Use your page to show the culture of the company and why people would want to work there.
•Set up a dedicated Facebook group purely for job-hunters. Make it a resource on best practices for interviews, career progression, etc.
•Go to Facebook Search and type in “jobs” – you’ll find a huge amount of companies and people on various pages, groups, etc, sharing and looking for work. Use these existing resources to find your next superstar.
•Build a Facebook widget that can be added to a user’s profile and shared with others. Update this with your latest jobs, news, careers, etc, and update interested parties as soon as your position goes live.
There are also a bunch of other ways you can use Facebook as both job hunters and employee seekers – these are just some of the immediate ones.

This should be a given, but you’d be surprised how many companies don’t advertise their latest positions on the company website. Instead, they’d rather rely on external ads and agencies to do the hard work for them.

Fair enough – but wouldn’t it be better to be the source of information about your company to a job seeker as opposed to them getting third-party reviews? Again, there are a few ways you can start to use your site now.

•Like your Facebook Page, have a dedicated tab or area that not only has all your latest positions, but also positions recently filled. This shows interested parties that, while they may have missed out this time, at least you’re occasionally looking for their skill sets.
•Add an HR blog and have your employees tell their stories. We all love stories – it’s how we connect best. Have your people share why you’re great to work for is a huge way to humanize your business.
•Offer an HR newsletter sign-up to alert folks when you have a position coming up. By giving them “first refusal”, you’re immediately building rapport because you’re looking out for those that are really interested.
•Have a client services section, that shows what roles and what companies your new employees would be part of. Seeing the scope of project can help make someone’s mind up if they’re unsure of career growth and fulfillment.
Again, these are just some of the ways your site (or blog) can be adapted to be more beneficial to potential employees.

You don’t need to stop there, either. These are just the main outlets you can use. Think of other ways to share your HR needs. It might be a YouTube channel where you give insights to the company. Or it could be a niche community or network you sponsor that’s tied into your current and future needs.

The main point is, you want the best. So are you making sure you’re presenting yourself as the best?

Work Cited:
Brown, Danny, “danny brown.” Using Social Media for Your HR Needs. 10/13/2010. 10/18/2010. (http://dannybrown.me/2010/10/13/social-media-job-hunting/)

Don’t forget to add me in Linked in: http://www.linkedin.com/in/oscarorias

Hip Hop: A Phenomenon 32 Years in the Making Pt.1

By: Oscar L. Orias

Houston has been known for a few things throughout it’s history but over the last 20 years it has become famous for it’s underground hip-hop scene. Hip-hop has become part of the Houston youth culture regardless of race, location, and economic status. It is seen in clothing, slang, attitude, and even what businesses people decide to open. Houston is never short of up and coming rappers, entrepreneurial record label owners, Hip-Hop event promoters, urban clothing stores, and music studios.

This series explores how hip-hop went from playing at a park in South Brox to being played on the streets of Houston:


Many call it an art form, a way of life, and a voice for an otherwise voiceless youth. Many others think it is one of the sources of western decadence, bad rhythming, or just don’t understand the appeal of it at all. At the end of the day it is still one of the most controversial forms of music and culture that exists in this country. I look at and dissect the good, bad, and ugly of rap.

It is no surprise to anyone that I am a huge hip hop fan and I’ve been a fan since I heard Nas on the aggressive yet introspective hit song Hate Me Now and Tupac’s soulful, social-conscious song Brenda Got a Baby. From then on I became hook on this genre till death do us part (Seems like that is truer than ever). For my peers and I growing up rap music was a voice, something they could relate to, something that was passed down from older sibling to younger sibling like some revered holy text.

Today Hip Hop seems more ridiculous than ever. Rappers these days come and go and the skills to rap have greatly diminished. It seems like having a criminal record, bullet wounds, and bling has overshadowed making music that connects to your fans. Even in this era, Hip Hop still churns out great music and artists (Lupe Fiasco, Z-Ro, Joell Ortiz just to name a few). Is hip hop in its last gasp to stay relevent or is it on the verge of experiencing a major renaissance?

From the Bronx to Beruit
To understand hip hop you must understand its beginnings and the climate that shaped the genres. Hip-Hop started in South Bronx in 1978 (with major influences from the west coast). A community trifed with poverty, gang violence, drugs, but more importantly a vibrant, proud community with lots of rich history. These children of residents and immigrants of South Bronx decided to create rhythmic beats by sampling current hit songs. From those rhythmic beats came the explosive new genre of hip-hop. It quickly became a creative outlet for youth energy and frustrations by doing things like dancing (B-Boying) and rapping. This allowed the youth to compete not with guns or gang violence but with dance and rhythmic verses.

Soon the culture took root and it expanded very quickly. By the late 80s it had gone international and hit the mainstream with super groups and rappers like Run-DMC, NWA, Public Enemy, Rakim and Eric B, and Slick Rick (master of story-telling). Hip hop soon became a conduit of inner city teenage frustration and expression around the globe. The same thing was seen around the US with different regions having their verison of hip hop (ex.: NWA in the west and Geto Boys in the south).

From B-Boying to Shock Value
These differences in regions also tell a story about the problems and plights facing youth in their sections of the US. NWA for example, did songs against law enforcement because they felt it was the only way they could combat police oppression was to voice their feelings and views to the rest of the world. It was no secret that the LAPD was notorious for corruption and heavy handed techniques that lead to the injuries and even deaths of many Blacks and Latinos. NWA simply channeled those frustrations into songs that their audience could image and even sympathize.

In F**k Tha Police NWA vividly describes LAPD’s attitudes towards youth, “A young n***a got it bad cause I’m brown/And not the other color so police think/they have the authority to kill a minority”. Whether the claims of the songs are true or not, it did raise questions about police treatment towards minorities and questions about racial profiling. Something that black and Latino residents of South Central LA said they experienced time and time again for decades. NWA brought to the attention of the world how they and Compton to a degree felt about how racism, classism, economic inequality, and police brutality. Yet most of their claims and feelings about police were for the most part swept under the rug. Those sediments coupled with the beating of Rodney King reappeared during the violent LA riots in 1992.

By voice their frustrations on the airwaves they also discovered something else that would change hip-hop for good: shock values sells records. They quickly discovered that their kind of rap was selling records, hundreds and thousands of records and making them very rich in the process. This small group out of Compton was becoming a very big international sensation and garnering much attention in the US. They even got a letter from the FBI warning how their music would entice violence against law enforcement. Straight Outta Compton was the first CD that had a parental advisory sticker which added to its taboo. Even with little radio play the CD managed to go double platinum. Quickly other rappers started to exploit the taboo label rap was given, which led further led to America’s fascination with hip-hop. New rappers started embracing shock value as a way to get attention and sales. This was seen in Nas’ debut on Live At the BBQ “When I was 12 I went to hell for snuffing Jesus……I wave automatic guns at nuns”. From then on much of raps appeal, themes, subject matter, and even language were partly based on shock value.

In part 2, I will discuss why it is so taboo in the first place and how it ended up hurting itself in the road to popularity. Please leave your thoughts and comments, all thoughts are welcomed. Be respectful of others opinions though. Here is a music video by the Houston rapper, Scarface talking about the socioeconomic conditions he had to endure growing up in southside Houston.

What are you personal thoughts of hip hip? Love it, hate it? Is rap music taboo by design or does society make it so? How has it changed America? Hit ya boy up!

Don’t forget to add me in Linked in: http://www.linkedin.com/in/oscarorias

Oh Uh! Woodforest National Bank Forced to Repay $32 Million To Customers

By: Oscar L. Orias

The Woodland’s based financial company Woodforest National Bank get hit with a $32 million fine from federal regulators. The regulators charge that Woodforest Bank changed excessive overdraft free against certain consumer segments. These fees make it difficult for consumers made it difficult for consumers to have their accounts current and to pay off the fees. New, continuous fees aside from the overdraft penalties kicked in when the account remained overdrawn for more than 7 days. Consumers were forced to pay these new continuous fees aside from the overdraft just to try to keep the account from being shut down and reported to ChexSystem (banks and credit unions send info to this company when someone doesn’t pay back overdraft or other fees). Once reported to ChexSystem a consumer may be prevented from opening another bank account for 5 years.

Woodforest Bank marketed these accounts as low-cost and a good fit for consumers that had trouble managing accounts in the past. According to regulators, the bank however, failed to inform consumers how expensive the overdraft protections could become and what other fees were tact on after 7 days of not paying off the overdraft fee. Woodforest is now forced to repay $32 million to defrauded consumers while paying a civil penalty of $1 million.

Long-Term Consequences
Consumer and national trust in the banking industry has taken a huge hit during the recession. From creative new fees to the stimulus package banks have been seen as a corrupt entity trying to gain money and power at the expense of the people. The problem has been made worse by banks not loaning out as much money as they did before the recession. There have even been calls to nationalize for-profit banks or to outlaw them all together.

Woodforest National Bank has been thrown into the lime light with these new allegations of defrauding consumers, especially vulnerable consumers with poor financial records. Many consumers will see the actions taken by the bank to fix this issue as purely a reaction to the government investigation and fines. The actions Woodforest takes now to address the issues and help customers will be scrutinize and questioned.

Bad customer service has very danger and long-term effects for all industry. A study by Technical Assistance Research Programs Institute from 1979-1986 shows that 95% of customers will complain about a company to other people but not to the company themselves. Those dissatisfied consumers will tell on average 9-10 different people. That same study also concluded that 70% of consumers would do business with a company if the resolution was solved. If Woodforest is to repair its damage image from these fines it has to do it quickly and carefully.

Actions Woodforest Can Take
The bank has the opportunity to gain these customers back and repair its image by following some important actions. Woodforest has to first assure customers individually that their problems are being heard and addressed by the company. One of the ways it can do this is by informing all staff about all the recent fines by regulators. An informed staff gives the impression that the company is on top of the situation and ready to address the issue. Give additional training to staff to handle any distraught customer that may ask about the fines. Invite these distraught clients individually to speak face-to-face with staff to address their complaints and concerns. A well trained staff will be able to negotiate the customers’ expectation and concerns. Come up with solutions and options so that these customers can retain their accounts with the bank. These steps may seem easy and logical but when faced with a customer service crisis like this, many companies try to sweep it under the rug and hope not too many clients or prospective clients notice. Sweeping it under the rug may seem like an easy, short-term solution but in today’s multi-media age with easy access to social networking sites and blogs bad, news can spread like quickly like wildfire and damage a company’s brand.

What other Solution can Woodforest come up with to address customer concerns and to repair it image?

Don’t forget to add me in Linked in: http://www.linkedin.com/in/oscarorias

Hospitals Celebrate Unsung Heroes

By: Oscar L. Orias

Lets the Celebrations Begin
The Texas Medical Center along with other hospitals around the country are celebrating Supply-Chain Management Week (Oct 4-10). This was a week created by AHRMM (Association for Health Care Resources and Materials Management) as a way to congratulate the tireless efforts of material managers and their staff. In a time of shrinking budgets, growing demand, and government intervention in medical industry hospitals are turning to their supply-chain for cost savings and efficiency solutions. Material costs are only second to labor costs in the hospital so controlling the flow of materials and bringing down costs has become imperative. The task is not any easy one for supply-chain managers and their staff. Hospital departments traditionally are very silo and tend not to cooperate with other departments and the corporate level.

Importance of Supply-Chain
The advent of material management has made hospitals much more centralized and has lowered the cost of buy goods. Now medical facilities have a whole department dedicated to getting contracts, purchasing, and monitoring supplies. In a complex hospital environment that can be very difficult to do. Another variable that adds to the complexity of a hospital is that they can’t reject customers that need treatment. Any other industry can afford to exclude a segment of the market if it feels it the cost and resources will outweigh the profit. Hospitals’ don’t have that luxury since countless lives depends how well it delivers services. For example; hospitals routinely loses money on Medicare and Medicaid patients since the government has very strict sets of payments. If a treatment cost more than what the government says it will pay then it is up to the hospital has to absorb the cost. This is one of the reasons why supply-chain management has gotten more attention over the last decade.

Even with the extra attention the tiring job of material management staff doesn’t get easier. The supply-chain is continously under pressure to have materials always on-hand, increase the fill rate, lower costs on supplies, expedite orders quickly if needed, resolve legal matters, and work with staff to solve materials issues. As one director of a hospital put it, “Job security isn’t guaranteed. You are only as good as your last fill rate.” This puts the stress on the value-chain to perform at the highest level at all times and to do it on a shrinking budget.

GPOs and distributors like Owens & Minor also share in the stresses of the medical supply-chain. They work hard to hammer contracts with manufacturers, bring down material cost, match the right orders with the facilities, quickly resolve any backorder issues, expediate supplies quickly if needed, and work with medical facilities on improving its material management. It takes the combined effort of many different people and companies to make sure that resources get to medical staff in a timely manner and those hospitals get the necessary items at the lowest price.

Tipping My Hat Off to Them
Doctors, nurses, and other practitioners work endlessly to deliver the best care to their patients but there is another group of administrators also doing the same. There job may not be glamorous nor visible but they make sure that doctors get all the resource they need to take care of you. Supply-chain management serve as bridges that makes sure the needs and goals of clincians and the hospital are both aligned and met. In a time of economic uncertainty especially in the medical industry they are the first and best line of defense in delivering effective, affordable care for all. Next time you are in a hospital and you run into an employee with a badge that says Materials Management take a second to thank them and if you can tip your hat off to them, I know I will.

Don’t forget to add me in Linked in: http://www.linkedin.com/in/oscarorias

Hello Earthlings!

Hello world, what’s happening?

By: Oscar L. Orias

It is a cool and beautiful Wednesday evening in Houston, Texas. It seems like those 100 degree days that have been dogging us for the last 3 months are a thing of the past (finally). It seems like fall is in full affect and Houston is having a blast out there.

I decided to make my grand entrance into the blogsphere world and chime in my 2 cents. I also recognized that Houston had a void when it came to business news that directly impacted the city. There are so many innovative businesses that few in Houston know about. Heck the Houston Chronicle in order to save paper and cost associated with materials combined the Business and State new page together. One minute I’m reading about Baker-Hugh expanding it facilities in Houston, the next column talks about Rick Perry’s hair. I for one find it quite annoying.

Who Am I
I’m a recent college graduate and a fledging business administrator just trying to make sense of this transforming world and economy. In reality this is what the recession is about, businesses going bankrupt because of poor management decision and refusing to adapt to this rapidly changing world. To me this isn’t just a recession; it is an ongoing global metamorphosis that is changing the way businesses and economies function. I’m fortunately enough to live in a city that is actively involved in this global metamorphosis. Houston in itself is also remake what it is and trying to find a new identity (I will cover that in another blog).

For now this is Oscar Orias chiming in his two cents and analyzing the city around him. Hopefully within a few days I will have my first blog ready.

A Video intro of Houston, enjoy!