Our Speakers


Over the last year we have invited several individuals to speak to our Chapter. We are very grateful to all of them for taking the time to come to campus and share their experiences with us. Whenever possible, we have tried to include two speakers (an outside professional and an alumnus) and one topic in our meetings. Below you will find a brief overview of our speakers and some of what we learned from them. Please remember to check back regularly for more information on our speakers as this page will be updated often:

Nicholas A. Castaldo - Former President of Pollo Tropical
Business Management - 10/11/04

Mr. Castaldo has recently retired from the distinguished position as Pollo Tropical's President. He led a successful turnaround of the company, and during his tenure, Pollo Tropical doubled in sales and cash flow and ranked as the number one concept in average store sales and profit in its market segment. His career spans over twenty-five years in consumer products and service businesses including chain restaurants, banking, health and beauty aides, and retailing.

We enjoyed an hour long lecture, during which Mr. Castaldo told of about the varied experiences of his career and shared tips and lessons he has picked up during its 25 year span. He recommended starting one's career with larger corporations and moving into medium and smaller firms later in one's career when ready to handle executive positions. One of the key pieces of advice offered was to leverage one's skills when choosing firms or segments in which to seek employment. My Castaldo did this by selling his marketing background to the food industry which was not rich in marketing talent at the time. In essence by showcasing his talent in an environment that was thirsty for them it was easier to shine than in an environment where everyone was marketing savvy.

Everyone that attended the meeting came away with valuable lessons and had the chance to interact with Mr. Castaldo and ask him many questions. He proved a willing participant and did not leave until all were answered.

Mark S. Gallegos - Arencibia, Gallegos and Associates, LLC
Resume Writing and Career Path Advice - 02/10/04

Mark is a partner in the law firm Arencibia, Gallegos, and Associates, LLC. He's an established attorney in the areas of international finance transaction and securities law with extensive experience and connections throughout Latin America. He is a member of various Latin organizations and has represented many of them when dealing with various government agencies. Mark offered some key pieces of advice:

  • Always take advantage of opportunities to meet and speak with and in front of people in order to create relationships that may help your networking efforts.
  • Try to customize your resume to match what the specific employer is looking for in a candidate, use their words and industry specific jargon.
  • Putting something intriguing on a resume may make the recruiter look at it twice and want to ask you about it. Mr. Gallegos attended an Astronaut Summer Camp with his son and his resume states that he "was trained as an astronaut".
  • Join professional and social organizations in your field and the area where you live, as other members may hold the keys to your next position and some firms turn to the leader within those organizations for personal references.

Richard Ness - Zimmerman Advertising
Advertising - 11/11/03

Richard Nez was one of our most interesting speakers because he talked to us about a topic most of us had very little knowledge of, advertising. He spoke about figures and statistics that summarized what commercials cost and the technology that is used to produce them. He discussed the buying and selling of television and radio spots and how a single company can dominate the market through innovation.

Zimmerman for example, can produce and sell one type of commercials for a client like Maroone starting Dan Marino then, take the same concept to other markets and sell it to different dealerships with different celebrities. His company also created the Z-Track software which tracks advertising results through incoming calls. Through this sophisticated system they are able to collect so much information from the phone number that people call at the end of a commercial that the dealership can correlate airtime with call time and sales figures.

At an international level Richard shared his experience of filming and directing television commercials abroad, assembling and hiring a crew overseas and the cultural differences of what is acceptable on TV and print advertising. One of his experiences took him through the jungles of Central America surrounded by armed guards to protect their equipment. Then in Brazil, he filmed a steamy commercial (the type not suitable for US audiences) for a local soft drink manufacturer. His knowledge and anecdotes definitely gave us an interesting glimpse into the industry.

Ben Stoddart - Focus International
Entrepreneurship - 08/19/03

Ben, a fellow alumnus, worked in the Telecom industry a whole decade before deciding to go into business himself. He worked for Marconi (UK), Argus (Canada), and Telular (USA). By the time he started Focus International he had a solid industry background, was focused on the Latin American market, and had command of the Spanish language a combination that has proved essential for his success. Ben was very passionate about entrepreneurship and provided some important pointers for those of us thinking of taking a step towards independence:
  • Use the expertise you picked up through your career. Knowing your industry, market, and technical skills will make it easier when forging you own way.
  • Try to find flexible financing and make sure you can work with your investors. Angels and Venture Capitalists vary in what they are willing to give and what they want in return. Finding the right investors can be the key to survival.
  • Make sure to study the cultural etiquette in the countries you visit. Simple things like facial or hand gestures, business card presentation, or gift giving can make or break business relationships and subsequent deals.

Omer Zeyrek, Ph.D. - National Property Inspections
Entrepreneurship - 08/19/03

Omer, who is a construction engineer, wanted nothing more than to be a business owner and his own boss. However, he was weary of the risks associated with an unassisted entrepreneurial attempt. As a result, he decided to research the opportunities of a franchise and decided to start one with a protected territory in Miami. He made some points for the franchise's case:

  • The parent company conducts marketing efforts and market research for the entrepreneur at rates that due to economies of scale will be out of reach for a single location enterprise.
  • A successful business format is taught by the parent firm to the franchisee, making the start up phase easier and rookie mistakes avoidable.
  • The royalties due the parent company are well worth it considering the benefits received.

Hilda M. Vega - South Florida Professional Healthcare Consulting
Entrepreneurship - 08/19/03

Hilda is a Registered Nurse (RN) that had a job as a senior nurse in a hospital. She was tired of the hectic schedule and decided to go into business for herself using her extensive, industry specific knowledge of the healthcare industry. She is a now a consultant as well as an expert witness for plaintiffs suing the healthcare industry or the defending insurance companies, HMOs and other health care providers. She had some strong messages to convey:

  • Going into business for your self even though risky and a bit scary, is very rewarding personally and financially.
  • Doing the research ahead of time regarding financing, the market, and your own strengths and weaknesses may save your business later.

Henrique Bombonato - Bombona-Tech, Inc.
Import / Export - 05/16/03

Henrique was our first alumnus speaker. He was driven into import / export because he could not get some of the electrical components he needed for his engineering business in Brazil. He started importing parts and later, due to increasing demand by his colleagues moved to the US and started exporting components to Brazil for their firms. Henrique taught us some important lessons:

  • There is no magic product to import or export. To be successful, you must do something you know better than your competitors whether a product, a country, or both. You must have a competitive edge over others in the industry.
  • In a country like Brazil where currency fluctuation can affect your bottom line, you must hedge to account for any currency devaluation.
  • Organize your day according to world time. Start calling your clients in Asia in the morning and wrap up the day talking with clients in the Western Hemisphere.

Murat Tarhan - Parker Davis HVAC Systems, Inc.
Import / Export Logistics - 05/16/03

Murat Tarhan spoke to us about the importance and unique challenges of international logistics. He told us of simple things like the limited numbers of electrical jacks available at a port in Russia which would cause perishables to go bad if a vig (bribe) was not paid to local longshoremen. He also told us the story of getting a railroad extended in Bulgaria in order to ship Russian chemicals onto a waiting barge.

He also taught us about financing international transactions and the risk of extending credit across national borders. Murat started his own import/export business in Turkey and had clients in Russia that kept buying his goods at nice markups. They soon began buying on credit but when he tried to collect a part of the $80,000 they owed him, no one would answer the phone. He traveled to Russia only to find the factory closed and the client sitting in an empty trailer. When Murat asked for his money, the man put a gun on the table and said he could not pay at that time…Murat went bankrupt. Cash up front and letters of credit are the way to go…


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