Posted by Bob Fangmeyer
Having been born and raised in Dallas, Texas, I don’t think that the late, great blues artist Stevie Ray Vaughan had any affiliation with Puerto Rico, but after spending several days in Puerto Rico with a number of people who are very passionate about their homeland, Stevie’s anthem to his wife keeps playing in my head.
BLUES: You see, like much of the United States, Puerto Rico has been hit pretty hard by the current recession. Stalled construction projects, increased unemployment, decreased job growth, unexpected closing of well known businesses that have been around for generations, and a negative population growth—due in part to people leaving for better opportunities on the mainland—have caused some to feel helpless and start singing the blues.
PRIDE: But not Carmen Marti and her dedicated friends and co-workers. They have seen the troubles facing their beloved Puerto Rico and know that they have the answer. It’s pretty simple really, all they have to do is get their small business community to embrace the Baldrige criteria and concepts and their economy will not only rebound, but achieve levels never seen before. Wait a minute, don’t scoff so quickly. They are not alone in this belief. Puerto Ricans are proud of their heritage and their island. There are a lot of people, professional associations, and government agencies that want to help. In fact, that is why my co-worker, Millie Glick, and I were there.
Thursday, January 20th was the kickoff event of the Alianza Competitividad Global (Alliance for Global Competitiveness) which intends to transform Puerto Rico’s economy through the use of the Baldrige criteria for performance excellence. The Alliance consists of 5 diverse professional organizations supported by a number of local and national programs, including the Small Business Administration (SBA), Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC), ASQ (formerly the American Society for Quality), and the Puerto Rico Department of Economic Development and Commerce. After listening to representatives from many of these groups, as well as the President of the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico and the Interim Governor and Secretary of State of Puerto Rico, promote embracing the Baldrige criteria and concepts as key to their future economic success, one begins to believe they might just be able to pull this off.
JOY: By the end of the day, a formal alliance was established and signed between the various professional associations dedicated to the advancement of this effort and approximately 250 small business owners and operators were clearly intrigued by the offer before them: participate in an 8 month program that will give them training in the Baldrige criteria and related tools along with advice and consultation from Baldrige Examiners and Award Recipients… for free! Space will be limited to 50 participants and they are committing to a long term relationship which requires, among other things, the tracking and reporting of some key measures which will be used to evaluate this endeavor.
This Alliance and its educational effort are off to great start. This is the fruit of a couple of very passionate Baldrige Examiners who created an idea, spread the word of its potential, and nurtured its growth over a number of years. For all of you out there who think that there is nothing you can do to help solve the challenges of your community, I hope you will look to the example of Carmen Marti, and her Baldrige mentor, Lyani Valle as inspiration for what can be accomplished with passion and commitment. Another great example of a similar vision and impact can be found in the Missouri Baldrige Performance Excellence Groups (BPEGs) started by Larry Potterfield, CEO of MidwayUSA, a 2009 Baldrige Award Recipient.
[Carmen is the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Small Business Technology Development Center. Their organization is funded through the SBA and is a part of the ASBDC. Their primary function is to help fledgling small businesses hit the ground running through loans and consulting services.]