“Everybody wants to win; you just have to nurture it from that point of view.”
How does one become Regional Vice President of the year, not once, but twice? When we spoke with James Romero, a seasoned Regional Vice President at the TMX Finance® Family of Companies, he shed some light on the moments where he truly felt like a servant leader and how he has maintained a successful team within the Company since his start in 2014.
“Throughout my life, my career has been very successful. It goes back to my strategy to be there for the people. Everybody wants to win; you just have to nurture it from that point of view.“
“When I joined the Company and realized I was going from overseeing 300 stores to 50-60 stores, I thought I was going to have a semi-retirement! That was not true, though. It was very clear that I had the chance to know everything about every one of those stores. I needed to know the details. I needed to know the processes.“
“What impressed me the most on my first day at work, and this has never changed, was every customer that came in– the employee knew their names and their kids’ names. You could tell building rapport was in their DNA. I learned about processes, but it always comes down to the people and making them feel important.”
Jim, as most of his colleagues call him, isn’t new to the multi-unit leadership field. His experience in retail dates to the 1980s and he has met plenty of people along the way who have turned into personal mentors. One of his most memorable moments in leadership happened right after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, a devastating storm that brought 40 inches of rain, causing most of his market to be completely flooded.
“When we were hit with a hurricane and the whole city flooded, I knew I would have employees in trouble. I pulled my leadership team together and said, ‘We have to be the calming effect.’ We knew we must get our people together and find out how to get them help. We had several stores that couldn’t open for weeks. Corporate provided tremendous support, but myself and my team were in the stores with jeans and tennis shoes cleaning up as soon as the roads were clear. If employees couldn’t drive, we picked them up.”
Jim’s commitment to serving and helping others started during his days as an altar server, where he would help the priest every morning present mass for the sisters. He was born in in Santa Fe, New Mexico and grew up in the historic village of Agua Fria. Next door to his abuelita and abuelito, who had purchased the land and started their own grocery store business, he lived in a one-room adobe with his mother, father, sister, and brother.
“I grew up not speaking English for a long time and when I went to school, it was more difficult because I had to transition into a different language. Our adobe only had one room and one kitchen. I had to learn how to make adobes and we eventually built two extra bedrooms, a living room, and finally got indoor plumbing. It was a very downscaled type of situation. I wouldn’t say we were poor, but I also never knew the difference. I only felt love and security from my family. There was a great sense of pride about my culture built into me from my family.”
Family, religion, and helping others still play a big part in Jim’s life. He has a daughter, three sons, 11 grandchildren, two great grandchildren, and one more on the way. According to Jim, the strong values and tight-knit bond he instilled in his family came from the culture in which he grew up. Jim has no interest in slowing down anytime soon; outside of work, he enjoys tennis, fishing, and riding his bike around the 110 miles of trails around his neighborhood. He now serves as a Eucharistic Minister and when he retires, his goal is to be even more involved in his church and community.
What is a little-known fact about you?
“I like classical music. I’m usually seen as the ‘macho guy’, but when I get in my car, I like to listen to something very soothing, soft, and relaxing.”
What has been your proudest career moment?
“Throughout my career, the number of people I have helped to develop their careers. It’s to the point where I may get an email from someone I haven’t talked to for years and they will quote something they heard from me that helped them. I like to help people.”
What does Hispanic heritage mean to you?
“I was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s a very Hispanic culture. I go back to how I grew up. The grandparents. The hugs and kisses. [My] parents were very strict, and my siblings and I just protected each other. We lived in the village, but we were a global family, from that respect.“
“Hispanic heritage means family. The father is the security, the mother is the heart. The respect you have for your parents and elders is number one.”
What advice would you give to emerging leaders?
“From my experience, fall back. Respect the employee. You’re dealing with a human being, not a number. You’re working with people who want to enjoy things—get them there. Find the button that helps them get to that cause.“
“You have to be mindful of the shadow you cast. Represent your company, represent ethics. Be approachable. If you’re not approachable, then you won’t understand what the business and the people need.”
What else should we know about your journey to success?
“Always look for talent. Recruit, recruit, recruit! I have a tremendous amount of success because of the people. When you’re in the people business, your number one priority is about recruiting, then recruiting more.“
“I don’t make the Company any money, it’s the people in the stores that support the Company. My job is to support them. It’s the people who are the success, not the building. We hold people accountable, but my job is to make sure the people feel important. I want to make sure we have a culture of support and respect. I see the glass half full, not half empty.”