Time to Decido


The March 5th cover of Time Magazine has headshots of 19 Latinos with the title, “Yo Decido.” Yo means “I” and Decido is a Spanish Twin meaning “Decide” (day-SEE-doh). I decide.

The Spanish phrase is a first in Time’s history. Never before has Time had a frase en Español on the cover. It’s also the first Time they bungled the job of collecting 20 headshots of Latinos. Turns out the dude under the M on the cover is half-White and half-Chinese – zero Latino.


Only 19 out of 20?

C’mon… There are 50.5 million Latinos in the US. Time couldn’t accurately photograph 20? I am typing this from a Starbucks in Schaumburg, Illinois and I think there are 20 Latinos in this pasty joint.

Anyway, the subtitle is “Why Latinos Will Pick the Next President.” The article is a bipartisan piece. It describes how both the Republicans and Democrats are doing their best to tick off this huge and growing voting bloc. But I have 0-Cero-Nada interest in discussing politics here. I encourage you to read this piece and consider the impact Latinos will have on your construction-related business.

Consider the following points in bold. The same forces that make Latinos capable of determining the next resident of La Casa Blanca are also capable of growing your business. Or killing it.



“Demography is Political Destiny.”

Demography is Construction Destiny too. Walk any jobsite in America and you’ll find Latinos working. Decades ago demographers referred to The Hispanic Smile – the swoop across the US that extended from California to Arizona to Texas to Florida and up to New York. Chicago was ignored because including it would totally ruin the snazzy moniker that was making demographers, a relatively somber bunch, quite happy.

The Hispanic Smile days are over. Hasta luego. Vaya con Dios. Buena suerte Sonrisa Hispana. The Hispanic population boom is affecting just about every state in the country. (As in official US government reports, the terms Hispanic and Latino are treated as synonyms here.)

The Latino growth rate over the past 10 years outpaced the White population by a factor of 10.

25% of all newborns in the US are Latino.

These demographics become destiny. If it hasn’t affected your business yet, it’s only a matter of when, how and how much.

Latinos will account for 74% of labor force growth over the next decade.

This number may be too low in the construction industry. Latinos will work jobs that others don’t want. I have heard of few Latinos emigrating and quickly landing at Ernst & Young, swiping the job from some 5th year Accounting student from the University of Illinois.

Latinos work jobs with openings. If you don’t mind physically re-lining sewers – there are jobs available. If you don’t mind roofing in the mid-day PHX summer heat – there are jobs available. If you don’t mind manually hanging 36 sheets of drywall per day – there are jobs available.

As more and more construction jobs become specialized, the jobs few enjoy doing, say… humping 9’ metal forms around all day, represent new job openings for Latinos.



“When it comes to voting, one issue obscures all others: respect.” 

Regardless of ethnic background, people want respect. Seems obvious. Yet the Time article cites a Univision survey that found 27% of Latinos felt Republicans were “hostile” towards them and 45% believed Republicans “don’t care much” about them. (Democrats didn’t fare much better.)

What would Latinos – inside and outside your organization – say about you?

Are you hostile? I mean, would anyone be hostile towards customers?


A friend of mine manages several Minnesota branches of a retail construction supply company. He told me over the past 5 years his walk-in customer base has transitioned from about 20% Latino to now well over 50%, closer to 75%.

He understands this shift represents an opportunity to serve a large and growing customer base. His competition is ignoring this shift. And he admits he is also. An obstacle for him is the employees that got him here won’t get him there. He told me how he witnessed one of his retail managers openly antagonizing a Latino customer.

The customer brought in a screw and was basically using sign-language to ask for another box of the same. He’d quietly say “tornillo” – Spanish for “screw.” My retail manager acted like he didn’t know what he was saying. ‘You gotta say it in English, amigo! Say “screw.” Say it to me! I don’t know what a tornillo is…. Gotta speak-oh the English here.’


I asked him what he did about it.


Nothing. He’s a few years from retirement and I’m not gonna fire him. This guy isn’t gonna change who he is.


If he doesn’t change, his customers will. Disrespect customers long enough and they’ll find somewhere else to buy. This customer doesn’t want to feel screwed every time he needs to buy screws.

You may not like the changing demographic landscape of America. You may not like the changing demographic in the construction industry. But you better respect it.


General Eric Shinseki said it best: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like Irrelevance even less.”   

Bradley Hartmann is founder and el presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a Spanish language training firm focused on the construction industry.

Categories: Jobsite Leadership

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