Richard Montañez had worked as a janitor at the Frito-Lay Rancho Cucamonga plant in California since 1976, but that all changed when he decided Cheetos needed an extra kick. Call it luck or a craving, but for Montañez it all began while eating a cup of corn. “I saw the corn man adding butter, cheese, and chili to the corn and thought what if I add chili to a Cheeto?”
It was an idea that would make him a legend.
So how would a janitor with zero-to-no English skills take a simple idea and turn it into a Flamin’ Hot product? We‘ll find out soon, but since then, the Flamin’ Hot line of products was born, including Flamin’ Hot Cheetos – which is Frito-Lay’s top selling snack.
Flamin’ Hot Cheetos influenced the future of ethnic food products and the first Frito-Lay Hispanic marketing team. Montañez also helped influence Hispanic products and marketing promotions for KFC and Taco Bell.
Today, Montañez is the company’s top Latino executive and leads Multicultural Sales & Community Promotions across PepsiCo’s North American Divisions.
He lives in Rancho Cucamonga with his wife of more than 30 years, Judy Montañez. He is the father of three sons and has four grandchildren. Richard travels the world as a motivational speaker, has been invited to the White House on many occasions and is quickly becoming one of the most vocal and inspirational Latino leaders in the country. He chronicles the details of his life in his autobiographical book, A Boy, A Burrito and A cookie, from Janitor to Executive.
Montañez says, “Latinos who have made it, like myself, have a responsibility to open doors to younger generations and teach them that they can do it.” Richard has been giving back to his community every day by providing college scholarships to young Latinos, as well as food, clothing, school supplies and other services to people in need as a part of his Kits for Kids and Feed the Children organizations.
He went on to say that, “Leaders have the unique ability to maximize the minimum and get the most out of the least. Some people live for a statement while others live as a statement. Don’t limit your possibilities to the visible. Don’t listen only for the audible. Don’t be controlled by the logical. Believe there is more to life than meets the eye”.
His philosophy is rooted in the belief that, “All young children test as geniuses in almost every way. But over the years, the slow accumulation of self-doubt, shame and resistance convinces us that we are less than our true selves. Very often geniuses are so advanced that the society of their day rejects their ideas; their status of genius is usually confirmed by future generations. A genius is just someone who sees what other can’t. Chances are you are a genius with world-changing ideas waiting to come out.”
He reminds people, “Keep in mind that as a genius, many times your ideas maybe taken as ridiculous”.
Based on his life experience he articulates, “The difference between successful leaders and those who are not is not in ability, but in mentality. Nothing outside of you is bigger than what is inside of you. Here’s a secret: it’s the invisible that produces the visible, all things are created first in the mind. What you plan in your mind is the invisible producing the visible. No one is born successful…but we are all born to succeed. Never let anyone mislead you into thinking that being born into a certain zip code determines your success. Wherever you were born is part of your destiny and success.
He is a favored motivational speaker nationally among the youth and uses historical allegories to get his point across; “Young Leader listen…I believe leadership comes down to two approaches: Pharaoh or a Deliverer.”
A Pharaoh is one who takes captives and holds them by force. Their style is “serve me first,” and they make it impossible for any of their people to experience growth. A Deliverer is one who brings a message of freedom and growth to all who can hear. Their strategy is to serve others first in the hopes they will experience growth.
In its truest expression, leadership is fundamentally about going first, and influencing others as much by one’s actions as by one’s words. From this perspective, effective leadership can be viewed as the ability to involve others in the process of accomplishing a goal within some larger system or environment. Leadership takes ordinary people and gives them power to do extraordinary things. What matters most is not what you do but how you do it.
There have been many defining moments in the lives of great human beings that changed their lives forever. These defining moments often set the course for the balance of their lives. There can be more than one, each pointing you down a path of purpose and success. Listen, the secret of a great life is often a person’s ability to discern the defining moments given to him/her, understanding them, and learning to walk in the path that leads to your ultimate destination.
“My disqualifications are the very things that qualified me.” I know that may sound like a negative declaration. Yet within it resides a powerful diversity truth. Sometimes the very thing that others think is a negative turns out to be a positive. Sometimes other people believe your difference hinders your ability to contribute. Often, that very difference provides you special insight to see something that others overlook”.
“It really doesn’t matter where you… start, or even how you start. What matters is that you start”.