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Media Mogul Nely Galán, on Succeeding Through Diversity

David J. Parnell

forbes.com

Mar 13, 2015

As technology advances and data builds, access to both becomes increasingly more affordable, feeding globalization and increasingly diversifying client bases across all industries. And where homogeneity of fundamentals such as attitudes, values, and motivations are necessary for an institution’s success, now, more than ever, heterogeneity of experiences, points of view, and personalities are vital ingredients in the success equation.

Today I speak with Nely Galan, an Emmy award winning producer and former president of entertainment for broadcast network Telemundo. Her extensive media career includes launching 10 television channels in Latin America, producing 600 episodes of programming, creating and executive producing FOX’s reality makeover series The Swan—where she sat as the program’s in-house life coach, and wrote the bestselling companion book, The Swan Curriculum—and lastly, being the first Latina to appear on The Celebrity Apprentice.

Outside of media, she sits on the COUNT ME IN Board and the Coca-Cola Company’s Advisory Board, and is an Emeritus member of The Smithsonian Board. And most recently, she founded the Adelante Movement, which is a digital platform and tour that seeks to elevate the entrepreneurial spirit, skills, and positioning of Latinas.

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As a female and first generation immigrant, Galan has experienced and overcome a host of challenges. And with education as the foundation of her movement, she has learned a number of lessons from her own experiences that she seeks to impart on those that might benefit from them. See our exchange below:

Parnell: Networking is an important piece of the success puzzle. But, being that it is a big subject with a bunch of moving parts, it can difficult to achieve. Can you talk to me about networking in general, and the role that it played in your success?

Galan: Sure. Being a specialist at something really makes networking easy, as people tend to come to you. When I started in the business world, I realized that. In the pain of being a Latina immigrant, I understood Latinos’ pain better than most. So when I went into Latino media and focused on that, after a few years people knew I was the “go to” person, and they came to me, and I cultivated those relationships.

I think my Latino culture also helped me with that, because we are not raised to have transactional business relationships, but really deep friendships for life. I am still deeply friendly with most of my mentors and friends that I have met through business. But in the later years of your career, your track record networks for you.

Parnell: Credibility is an entirely necessary attribute for success. What, in your opinion, or experience, are the components necessary to be considered credible?

Galan: Credibility is something you earn over time. The most important things are completion and execution. Many people can talk about something, but very few can actually close a deal and then execute it properly; by execute it properly, I mean create value and profit and good work. All of this, for me, has to come in a package with integrity, honesty, and clarity.

Parnell: In an androcentric industry like media production, at a macro-level, how did you achieve advancement?

Galan: I know that what you are asking is true, but I can’t focus on that. I can’t focus on why being a women or a Latina has been difficult. Being a Latina in the U.S. is the best of both worlds; double the business, double the opportunity. Have many obstacles gotten in the way of that? Yes. But none too great to kill my spirit. Remember: I am grateful to be here, even with the obstacles. What would have been my obstacles in a Communist Cuba? Or in Latin America, India, or China?

Parnell: What does your professional/personal life balance look like? How much down-time do you have? How do you rejuvenate? Can you talk to me about that?

Galan: I think, for many years, there is no professional/personal balance. Then you re-evaluate and become the architect of your own life. But something’s gotta give. You can only achieve this when you ask yourself, “How much money is enough money?” And when you prioritize the value of time over money. But you have to first make money to have such an existential crisis. It’s a very high class problem to have.

Parnell: In your most difficult times, can you talk to me about your inner-dialogue? What were some of the things you told yourself to keep yourself going? How did you keep yourself going?

Galan: I pray to God. And I get mad at God, and ask “why?” a lot! But, I persevere. I always do! I keep myself going and I don’t quit because my parents did not bring me to the U.S. and give me the privilege of being a Latina in this country for me to quit. There is nowhere in the world where I could have achieved what I have achieved as an immigrant woman. And I am not throwing that opportunity away. I will think that way until the day I die: That every day is a privilege and an opportunity.

Parnell: What are some of the most impactful books you’ve read over the course of your life? What lessons did you learn that changed your thinking?

Galan: First one is Rich Dad , Poor Dad by Robert [T.] Kiyosaki, because I believe it is the combination of the good values of the cultures we come from, along with the financial brain power of this country, that creates the American dream. The values and work ethic of Immigrants and a financial system that works and constantly grows produce the American Dream.

Also, Gloria Steinem’s Revolution From Within. This book is not a business book, but every business person should read it. I admire Gloria Steinem as a woman, a pioneer, an advocate, and as a person who has found her authentic voice, and has done the work inside-out to figure out the “why” of what she does and how she did it. It is powerful!

Lastly, Start with Why? By Simon Sinek. I love the simplicity of Simon’s message: Let’s peel the onion and figure out the “Why?” of this business, and in turn, your mission.

Parnell: Who are the top 1 or 2 or 3 business people that you most admire? What lessons have you learned from them?

Galan: Jerry Perrenchio, a billionaire who owned the first television station I ran and who thinks no one should ever try to get publicity and promote themselves; that it just makes you a target. It is very counter to popular social media belief, and I certainly never listened to him. But as I get older, I think he was one of the wisest business people I ever met.

Warren Buffett is another, because although he is as American as apple pie, his values are exactly those of my Cuban immigrant parents, and I admire [those values] for grounding me in what truly matters.

And also Sherry Lansing, who was the first woman president of a movie studio, and then a successful producer. She made enough money to leave while she was at the top, completely re-inventing herself as an extraordinary philanthropist, focusing on stem cell research. To me, she is an actualized, complete woman, on top of being a lovely person. I am in awe of her.

Parnell: If you could talk to yourself at 18 years old, what would you tell yourself? What lessons would you impart?

Galan: I now know there is no prince charming. I am it. I think when women or men stop expecting someone else to fix their lives, and they take full responsibility for their own lives, everything works perfectly. Then your lovers, husbands, wives, or bosses, are the icing on the cake, not the saviors.

Also, I believe in “ownership;” engaging the entrepreneurial muscle in some way, early. I was 25 when I decided to “go get my own chips.” If I had to do it over, I would start at 15 to get my own chips in some way! I learned from my bosses and mentors to make money, then invest my money and have it make me money while I sleep, which, at the time, I had no idea what they meant. But I found out, listened, and now I tell women, “don’t buy shoes, buy buildings!”

Importantly, I now know that ”in your pain is your answer.” The worst things that happen to us and sometimes traumatize us are guiding us to the work and the businesses we are supposed to create.

Parnell: If you had $1M given to you, and you had to invest in a business or market that you’ve never invested in before, what would it be?

Galan: Micro-lending to entrepreneur women in emerging markets around the world. I believe in women because we are driven by a greater motivator than greed, power, and fame: our children. Women want to pass on a better torch. I will bet on that value any day of the week.

Parnell: You have given a lot back to the Latina community with the Adelante Movement. Can you talk about that? What are your hopes for entrepreneurial Latina’s in the next 5 years or so?

Galan: The Adelante Movement is a digital platform and national tour that I founded in 2012. I am on a Coca-Cola advisory board, and they told me that Latinas were the emerging market and the fastest growing entrepreneurs. When I heard that, I felt that at this point in my life, what could be more important than creating a private sector approach to creating economic opportunities for the women in my community, which, in turn, would change the economics of the Latino family. When I decided to do this, I was blessed to have the Coca-Cola Company step up and say they wanted to participate. They already had an initiative around the world called “5 by 20″ to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs by the year 2020. And Adelante partnered with them in the U.S.

My goal is to train 30,000 Latinas by the year 2020, and to create an entrepreneurial business in the home of every Latina going forward. I am a woman that believes in ownership and entrepreneurship as the way for most women to have financial freedom and become actualized.

Email: dparnell@davidjparnell.com

Books: The Failing Law Firm: Symptoms And Remedies ; In-House: A Lawyer’s Guide To Getting A Corporate Legal Position

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