Richard Montañez: From Janitor to Vice President


This week on the Accolo blog, we thought it would be nice to feature some of the most inspiring business stories that we could dig up in order to…well, inspire you guys. It’s pretty easy to lose sight of the big picture in the day-to-day of your working life and you might even have forgotten why you got into your line of work in the first place.

It’s important to remember that you always have options and that there’s no reason why you can’t have the next 1 million dollar idea for your company. Just take the example of Richard Montañez, the one time janitor at the Frito Lay factory who invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetoes. Rather than powering up their executive search software, the powers that be promoted Montañez  to executive vice president of multicultural sales and community activation for PepsiCo North America.

This Cinderella story of upward mobility all started back in 1976, with  Montañez doing some off the clock experimentation with one of his favorite snacks: Cheetoes. Inspired by the rave reviews of his spicy Cheetoes from his friends and family, Montañez took a leap of faith and calls up the CEO of Frito Lay.

Amazingly, despite the fact that he was just a janitor without a high school education, the head honchos decided to give him a chance to pitch his product idea to upper management. After some feverish marketing research, Montañez and his wife prepared a presentation and sample bags of his spicy snacks to aid him in making the most out of his big break.

Amazingly, the idea was a wild success from the moment that he pitched it to this very day (visit any convenience store and you’ll see those Flamin’ Hot Cheetos on the shelf). As the article said, “The corporate power structure that could have ignored him or co-opted his idea instead saw his potential, mentored and promoted him. He has now met U.S. presidents and spoken at the United Nations, and he serves on several boards. And he teaches leadership to MBA students at a California university.”

If you have an idea like Richard’s, the last thing you should do is sit on it.

If you show that you have potential and that you’re valuable to your employer, there’s no reason that you can’t make the same sort of transformation to your own career as Richard did to his.


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