John Hernandez knows first-hand the importance of a strong work ethic and a good education and he’s hoping to impart those principles to the next generation.
The new president and chief executive of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce started working in his father’s upholstery business in San Antonio at the age of 14. He left school after the eighth grade and worked in the oilfield as a roughneck. A factory job at fiberglass company Vetrotex Certainteed prompted him to get his GED. The company later encouraged him to pursue a bachelor’s degree and offered to pay 100 percent of his tuition with the condition he continue working a 40-hour a week schedule.
“Education is more important than ever in the workforce and in our community. I am only the second person in my family to complete an advanced degree,” he said.
Hernandez graduated in four years from Midwestern State University, where he participated in an exchange program at Tecnologico de Monterrey in Chihuahua, Mexico. He was then promoted to the office and shortly after, transferred to Dallas.
He was accepted to Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University in 2001 and completed his MBA in 2004.
“I recognized early on the advancement expectations that still exist today. If I wanted to have a better life, I needed to diversify my skill set and educate myself as much as possible,” Hernandez said. “I have heard and read about many people’s hardships and triumphs and these stories have inspired me to do and be better. I hope my story will do the same for others.”
Hernandez was hired by Bank of America’s Private Bank in 2003 to serve markets in North Dallas, Highland Park and Fort Worth. In 2006, he transitioned to Fort Worth where he eventually joined J.P. Morgan as a vice president in the wealth management group.
Hernandez owned a small business for seven years and has served on the chamber’s board of directors twice. He took over the chamber’s top post on July 6, succeeding Asusena Resendiz who resigned at the end of May.
“When I look back, I am very thankful for my experiences – school dropout to MBA, ‘Corporate America’ to small business owner,” he said. “At times in my career, I’ve been inspired to follow a leader and then asked to lead a team. I think my experiences and life’s transitions have prepared me to lead this great organization into the future.”
What is your vision for the chamber?
My vision is to be the organization that creates opportunities for Hispanic businesses and the community. And we will accomplish this vision by creating and further enhancing business and economic development opportunities; being an effective and consistent resource for the local business community and our members; promoting training and education for all of our entrepreneurs, workforce and community; and being a strong advocate for members and our community.
What are the greatest challenges the chamber faces in the coming year and how will you overcome those?
The business climate is constantly changing and advancing. In Fort Worth, there is a high expectation to have a more diverse and educated workforce and business community. We, at the chamber, need to embrace those changes so we can incorporate those enhancements into everything we do.
FWHCC needs to continue to ensure our organization is informed and involved. We need to continue to formulate aggressive business and economic development programs, and we need to continue to collaborate and share business best practices with other organizations.
How will your experience in the banking industry help you in your new role?
My career in the banking industry has instilled in me the importance of effectively directing, managing and operating within teams to achieve a goal; working with a diverse client base, including small business owners, CPAs, physicians and corporate executives; working with dynamic, entrepreneurial clients; clearing hurdles to find solutions; focusing on providing the right ‘fit’ for a client and the company; achieving aggressive business development and production goals; and how finance factors in to all business decisions.
You started working at an early age for your father in his business and later you owned your own small business. How have those experiences prepared you for your new role at FWHCC?
He was my first example of a true business developer. My father’s lessons were the complexity of a one-man operation, the value of quality and hard work, craftsmanship and the importance of an honest trade.
The lessons I learned as a business owner are that communication and trust are key to long-term client retention and business longevity. Challenges business owners face every day are both internal and external (economic factors). You must have persistence and mental toughness.
Describe your leadership style.
Broadly focused with some tactical bearing. Comfortable delegating authority and details. Fast moving and impatient for results. Inclusive and team-building. Focused on getting things done quickly, on time and correctly. Diplomatic.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Run. My goal is to run 2-3 miles, five days a week. I also design classic cars. I provide hand-drawn renderings for people building a classic car.
Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
1327 N. Main St.