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Success Story: Fernando V. Galaviz, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Centech Group, Inc.


By Marjorie Robertson (marobertson@starpower.net)

photo of Fernando Galaviz



Fernando Galaviz was born in Mexico City. His father, an attorney and social activist in Mexican labor law, and his mother, a senior official with the Secretary of Education, provided a foundation of love and faith. Equally important, two traits-his ability to adapt and cope with changes in his environment and a residing faith in himself, in God, and, well, in life-have been constant threads, serving him well throughout his life.

As a result of assassination attempts on his father's life, nine-year-old Galaviz and his family moved to New York City, but his father remained in Mexico, wishing to remain in his homeland and continue with his activism. When he was just 11 years old, doctors told a partially blind Galaviz that he'd be completely blind by age 16. But he wasn't. And by the time he was 16, doctors told him that he'd be blind by his early twenties. But he wasn't. Thanks to two surgeries in intervening years, Galaviz is still visually impaired, but has not entirely lost his sight.

Galaviz attended Public School-14 where he was placed in sight-saving classes and studied until he graduated from high school in 1954. He was offered a partial scholarship to attend Pepperdine University, but turned it down for lack of resources and reader assistance at the college level. Instead, he took a job as a janitor for the May Company in New York and quickly moved his way up to stockboy, head of stock, and finally salesman, a position almost unheard of for Hispanics at the time, especially one with a disability. He credits his persistence and coping abilities for the quick rise on the job. He was assigned to men's ready-to-wear first, but had trouble reading the sizes on the tags, and subsequently was transferred to the housewares department.

The department had a history of high managerial turnover and, out of desperation, appointed Galaviz temporary manager. It was Christmastime, 1956, and to save time and effort, Galaviz decided to bring all merchandise, which was stored in the basement, upstairs to the department floor, against store practices. He would've lost his job if, because of his decision, it hadn't been the biggest day in sales the department had ever seen. Coincidentally, that time period marked the beginning of mass merchandising in the retail industry.

Galaviz left the May Company to become a manager at Fedmark (now Costco) and around the same time, the seeds of activism began to sprout in him, leading to his involvement in civil rights and economic development opportunities of minorities. In the 1970s Galaviz left the retail industry for the manufacturing industry until the 1974 energy crisis forced him in another direction. The Department of Commerce brought him in as an expert consultant on an economic development project, which was followed by additional work for a private sector awards program and a national database to identify minority businesses. Soon afterward he held senior-level positions in the government until moving into the government contracting business. In 1988 he formed The Centech Group.

The Centech Group

Today, Galaviz is CEO and president of The Centech Group, a supplier to the public and private sectors of a range of products and services in logistics, technology, program management, and engineering and manufacturing. The company exemplifies Galaviz's belief that an individual's "success" is made from the effort of many people-parents, teachers, colleagues, as well as the individual. Therefore, the company is committed to supporting the long-term financial and professional growth of its team members (employees), who work with him and not for him. He believes that his emphasis on people is how Centech distinguishes itself within the industry. (The company has one of the lowest employee turnover rates in the industry.) Managers are empowered to make decisions, and an entrepreneurial approach is encouraged, which is evidenced in several programs. For instance, the Entrepreneur Assistance Program assists team members in establishing businesses of their own. And every four months, the Team Member Recognition Awards Program rewards team member initiatives and performance, thereby contributing to a positive work environment. As Galaviz says, "Nobody accomplishes anything alone."

Community Activism

Galaviz is actively working to better the lives of people with disabilities locally and nationwide. Among other projects, he and Gabriel Rubalcava, a Centech Group team member, have been working with the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia to establish a web site geared toward helping people with disabilities find work in the mainstream workforce. The site (www.adajobsonline.com) is accessible by the sight-impaired and posts, for example, jobs, advice, resumes, and information for employers on the advantages of hiring people with disabilities. The site is robust-able to handle heavy traffic and eventually the demands of a national rollout. They are also working with the center to help them attain access to documentation about everything related to disabilities on the Internet.

On March 13, 2002, Galaviz and Rubalcava gave a presentation about the site to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce to encourage businesses to post jobs on the site, emphasizing the great potential of an estimated 21,000 people with disabilities in Arlington County alone. They hope to make the same presentation throughout Northern Virginia. (The Centech Group has created the site and will cover hosting costs for one year pro bono.)

Philosophy

Galaviz believes that each day is a complete lifetime. Whatever is happening right now will never happen again. He's learned not to be discouraged but to appreciate the challenges of each day and to realize that they are only one part of life. As final evidence of his coping abilities and solid faith, his advice to Hispanics with disabilities is this: you may have a physical disability, but that does not mean you also have a disability of the spirit.