About 15 years ago I consulted for a company in the Cleveland market. On a trip to one of their stores the frustrated owner remarked to me "What am I to do?" His customers were speaking Spanish and he was losing business. In my mind it was a simple solution—hire Spanish speaking salespeople or teach the ones he had Spanish. This same problem occurred while I was doing training for another store in Ohio; the store was disturbed that a Hispanic grocery store was opening next door and the flooring store was getting many customers who did not speak English. Again the cry was, why can’t they all speak English? I guess the answer is: because they don’t. According to the research firm HispanTelligence, there area bout 40 million Latinos who make up 15% of the US population with a purchasing power of about $1 trillion by 2010. That’s a pretty big target market.
As I surf my TV channels, I see there are more Spanish speaking language channels than ever before. Having traveled abroad it appears to me that in other countries residents speak multiple languages, it’s like going to kindergarten, you just learn. In the United States, it’s my experience that somehow we think that everyone should speak our language. Sure it would make it easier but maybe it’s what’s called globalization — not elitism or that the world rises and sets on the United States.
Do you have to speak English in the U.S. to succeed? The C.R.I. publishes their specifications for installers in Spanish.
At the turn of the century, immigrants tried to assimilate to America. And language was a big part in the assimilation process. So a lot of immigrant families had an English-only rule. My mother spoke Italian with my grandparents but would not teach me how to speaking Italian—what a waste. My grandparents spoke English but when they didn’t want the grandchildren to understand what they were saying they spoke Italian.
I was speaking with my accountant the other day who was explaining he had to pick up his three year old daughter from language school; his adopted daughter is of Chinese origin—at this point she is fluent in Chinese as well as English. About as fluent as a 3 year old can be with any language. What was interesting was his desire for her to learn her native language and understand her heritage.
What we’re talking about is marketing, knowing who your customers are and then what influences them to buy. There was an expression: when in Rome do as the Romans do.
Speaking of being Italian
Several years ago I got the urge to be Italian. I mean, I am Italian but I mean real Italian. I started by holding Italian Night dinners— where everyone has too much to drink, too much to eat, someone spills wine on the white table cloth we eat too much garlic and kiss everyone. The men all cook, and somebody even makes candy.
Did I mention the women do the dishes and the men smoke cigars?
The night became so popular that non-Italians wanted to attend. I’m planning my next one but you have to have been before, know someone or been to Italy to come. I’ll also have lots of photos of all my Italian friends. So the event is getting bigger, and that’s what an Italian family is about, lots of warm people with those deep set brown eyes that seem to go on forever.
I also joined the local American Italian Museum in Albany, New York after running into my cousin Nicholas Cozzolino in the Italian market. I hadn’t seen him in about a year but he has his own Italian “food mates,” studies Italian and has been to Italy several times. Boy am I behind.
I recently found out there is a trans-fat-free cannoli. Instead of frying the shell, it’s now baked.
Go delve into your heritage, video some conversations between you and your grandma or grandpa if you’re lucky to have them around. Part of what makes you special are the traditions in your life and your heritage.
Hey, write me some notes about your family.
"As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round." -Ben Hogan 1912-1997, American Golfer