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“Too often, a family business is structured so that the family uses it as a way to employ other family members irrespective of their experience,” Silva says. “It can be frustrating because you may end up reporting to or supervising someone without the necessary qualifications and experience. Vallarta is not like that at all.”
In fact, what Silva saw when interviewing for the role in 2022 was exactly the opposite. The financial executive saw a family-run organization where, regardless of their familial connection to the business, family members have paid their dues pushing a broom, running a cash register, and otherwise grown into the company from the bottom up. Anyone in the family who has attained a higher role in the organization knows exactly what it means to be on the front lines of customer service.
Vallarta—which started as a single Van Nuys, California, meat market founded by Mexican immigrant sons in 1985—has blossomed into a grocery chain of fifty-six stores and counting. Silva was hired to help bring the business into a new era of expansion and prosperity, while also staying true to what made Vallarta great in the first place.
Silva hit the ground running, implementing a new Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP that went live in October 2023. The process, a massive undertaking for any organization, was completed in six months. On the heels of that success, the finance team upgraded its financial planning and analysis software along with hiring a new director to oversee it. At the time of speaking in late December 2023, Silva expected that software to go live in early 2024.
At present, Silva is most focused on the main reason he was hired: expand the current footprint by quickly opening new and profitable stores.
“Vallarta had only opened one store in the previous three years, and so the leadership here made it very clear during the interview process that we were intent on increasing that number significantly over the next three years,” explains Silva, who last spoke with Hispanic Executive in 2021. “They wanted someone who could wrap some discipline around that process; I’ve also been able to implement financial modeling and overall structure around the process of evaluating and selecting new store locations.”
The location of Vallarta’s new stores is about more than just their profit-driving potential. It’s about how much positive change the organization can bring to the neighborhoods and communities in which it operates. Department heads lead new stores, but virtually everyone else hired for the store is from the local community.
“We’re talking about 150 new jobs at a minimum for each new store,” Silva explains. “And because we’re growing, every new store opening means a head of a department gets the chance for promotion for maybe a larger department, or even an assistant director or store director position. The way that we run our stores takes years to learn, and so we take the internal development of our talent very seriously.”
Silva says that at the corporate level of the organization, turnover is incredibly low, a result of that focus on development and promotion from within. Vallarta is a place where a shelf-stocker or a cashier can build a long and lasting career if they want it, with mentorship along the way.
The CFO has made his own impact when it comes to mentorship, building out an internship program within the finance function in partnership with nearby California Lutheran University. Silva knew the dean of the business school, and after running into them at a panel discussion, the two curated an internship program that was up and running in only six weeks.
The Value of a Network
“It was just a spontaneous idea I had, and all of a sudden I had my first intern here,” Silva says, laughing. “I’d like to expand it to other schools, particularly ones that sit within our footprint so we can demonstrate just how much that collaboration can make the community a better place.”
In 2022 alone, Vallarta Supermarkets also awarded $240,000 in higher education scholarships for full-time and part-time employees and their dependents. The grocery chain is also a vocal supporter of the Children’s Miracle Network, Aisles of Smiles, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and a variety of nonprofit causes through its Gonzalez Family Foundation.
Silva came to Vallarta to help a family-owned business continue to expand and bring jobs, development, and opportunities to communities across California. Silva’s ready to build big, build smart, and celebrate nearly forty years of supermarket innovation.
East West Bank understands the fabric of the communities and customers we serve is diverse. For the past fifty years we have provided personalized financial solutions that empower our consumer and commercial customers to harness their economic potential and deliver for their communities. Connecting communities and amplifying their diverse voices has always been at the core of East West Bank’s DNA and our commitment to serve the underbanked. We build relationships and deliver an unmatched combination of customized financial expertise, deep community roots, and cultural insight to help our customers meet their evolving needs.