MEXICO.- At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fidel Calva had five employees, three truck drivers and two administrative personnel, that right off the bat they resigned to receive the unemployment check issued by the United States government.
So this entrepreneur was left alone in Oakland and San Diego with his small debris collection and construction companies. “They told me they weren’t going to continue and that’s it,” he recalls.
A year and a half later, he has 50 employees. In addition to those who do operational work in California, people for sales, customer service, advertising, marketing, collections, administration, logistics, business administration, human resources and developers for their companies Dbuild Group and Calsan Brise Removal.
The difference between the before and after was made by a simple and complex reason: he opted for Mexican talent for those jobs where physical presence is not necessary. He did it in a moment of desperation because even with the coronavirus lurking, customers kept calling him and he had to do everything: find clients, answer calls, drive the trucks …
Through social networks, mainly Facebook, he began to offer employment among his acquaintances in Hidalgo (the state where you emigrated in 1998). The requirements were those necessary to be able to work remotely: basic computer skills, applications, and management and leadership skills.
“There in Hidalgo remote work is not very popular and less so for other countries and less if it offers them employment through social networks, but many were encouraged and began to ask and trust,” says Fidel Calva.
The first to be convinced was her sister Hilda Calva, who had a small two-year-old son and the telecommuting or homeoffice modality suited her like a glove when her migrant brother offered it to her even though she is not fluent in English.
It was the first step of this family towards a binational trend that is explained by the ties of blood, friendship, and understanding between countrymen and their loved ones, but also by the opportunity that the pandemic gave to give workers votes of confidence to do from anywhere their duties.
“I’m going to stay with this way of teaming up,” Fidel Calva said in a telephone interview with this newspaper.
Bain & Company, a company that serves global clients in the areas of strategy, operations, technology, organization, digital transformation and mergers and acquisitions, recognizes that companies can save between 15 and 30% the cost of real estate by implementing telecommuting by reducing travel expenses, rent and services of the work center.
In a study he conducted this year, he acknowledged that The home office increases employee motivation and motivated collaborators are three times more productive than their dissatisfied colleagues.
“A model strategically aligned to remote or hybrid work has the potential to achieve significant improvements in the productivity of 80% of the workforce, through greater efficiency in working times and costs,” observed the consultant.
Despite these advantages revealed during the pandemic, this modality in Mexico will only be maintained by some of the largest companies, according to a projection by the Bank of Mexico in which the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi) agrees.
In the most recent survey conducted by Inegi on the impact of Covid-19 on companies, it revealed that only 5.7% of businesses will keep teleworking as an option for their workers, a decrease of 1.9 percentage points in the proportion of organizations that indicated in the previous survey that they would offer remote work.
“The pandemic has accelerated the possible viability of remote work in our country; however, the trend indicates that companies want to return to pre-pandemic models or they will begin to implement hybrid schemes with one day of work from home, at the most, ”said Alejandra Martínez, head of Business and Labor Market Studies at SherlockHR Mexico.
“It is in the area of more technological or financial companies where the objective of gradually migrating to a possible 100% remote scheme is best appreciated, putting talent and their needs and expectations for professional and personal development at the center.”
Both Dbuild Group and Calsan Brise Removal, owned by Fidel Calva, are small companies but their owner sees no impediments but rather advantages in remotely managing their companies with Mexican personnel as call centers with bilingual personnel with returnees and many others have done for many years. .
In the case of the construction company and the collector, the majority of their workers have never emigrated and, nevertheless, they have the technical and language knowledge or they learn it very quickly, as Calva has discovered with pleasant surprise: “We have a great talent in our country and sometimes we underestimate it ”.
Fidel Calva studied business administration at the London-UCLAH Educational Consortium of
Pachuca, when he realized that his father no longer had enough money to pay for the studies of the three brothers.
The family, originally from the rural community El Cerquital, Hidalgo, had many conflicts to support themselves and educate the youngest. “I decided to go to the United States to support my father with work and for my sisters to follow the path.”
Another tragic event was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Fidel to pack his bags: the arrival of criminal groups to collect the floor and robbery of Hidalgo businesses.
Fidel had an American clothing business and he was very affected because one day on the highway the Zetas stopped him, took the merchandise from him and forced him to give him 100,000 pesos (about 5,000 dollars) to let him go. “It was very demotivating,” he sums up.
She took to the streets of Nogales to meet her dad, who worked in construction, in California. He joined. “I have always admired his ability to work even though he has a disability, he does not hear well. However, he gets everything done, even with the difficulty of the English that he does not speak ”.
They worked in San Francisco together, firstborn and parent, for six months until the project was finished. and they started from scratch. They bought an old truck and stopped on a corner, the kind in which immigrants waiting for contractors are formed.
The intention was for them to be used to clear yards. The son realized that they had to be proactive if they wanted something more. He went to the Homedepot to print business cards that he distributed among the windshields of cars. Little by little they began to call them for gardening and to put stones and bricks between grasses, trees, bushes, flowers, fruits …
They were there when Fidel Calva observed something else: that the Chinese and Vietnamese always had problems removing their rubble.
He convinced his dad to use their savings to buy a truck and with that they started. “That truck was so old that it left me lying around every so often because it broke down,” he says of that first investment that allowed them to buy four more.
Over time, he partnered with an American contractor and thus was able to create the two companies that operated with five workers until the pandemic arrived and they were left without them and the threat of disappearing if not because teleworking and remote costs pushed them to seek relief in Mexican work.
The United States lived through the coronavirus and aid checks a phenomenon of lack of employees. In August 2020, a record 4.3 million American workers quit their jobs, the Labor Department pointed out, the majority because they did not want to return to the offices, the risk of COVID-19 and help from the state.
In the meantime In Mexico, the corporate culture prevailed suspicious of the home office modality. Ramón Jiménez, an employee of a talent scouting company in CDMX, told this newspaper that his bosses do not trust him to actually invest the eight hours in teleworking. “They believe that if you are not in the office, you start doing personal things.”
Fidel Calva, on the other hand, has this mistrust under control with electronic work measurement systems and specialized applications that he discovered on a day-to-day basis, in the need to make remote teams and to delegate. “I work all remotely and with freelancers hired through a platform and through social networks. I also use the W8 format ”.
The W8 Ben Certificate is a format issued by the State Department for foreign workers. Through this, the contractor declares that he is not of United States nationality and that
it is not taxed under an income tax treaty. Thus, the worker is released from the tax obligation in the US, not in his country, in any case.
Mastering the remote employer scheme was a process that Fidel started with his family. Hilda Calva, who finally graduated in information technology thanks to the support of her brother, is currently the general manager of the companies and manages everything from Pachuca, without difficulties, while seeing her son believe that he is four years old.
At the beginning he was in charge of everything: selling, the operational part, executing and leading, but little by little he has created a marketing team and a sales team. At 28, he directs and focuses on those responsible for making decisions in the company. “I do not speak English but our teams are bilingual and it is an advantage.”
On other flanks, Margarita, the second sister, is in control of the logistics of the debris collection routes in Oakland and San Francisco also from Hidalgo while Betsaida Marín, who studied business administration at the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey campus Hidalgo, coordinates sales from the community of her native home in La Bella Airosa, as Pachuca is known.
“I finished my degree in December 2019 and I started working for Fidel in April 2020 because a friend told me about the project, that is, I have never worked in an office and I don’t feel like it: that’s how I want to continue,” he says on the phone.
“When the internet fails me or I get tired of being at home, I go to a cafeteria or a coworking and that’s it.”
In the most difficult times of the pandemic, Bethsaida’s father and brother also worked and studied at home, but when economic and social openness was allowed, they returned to their office and school activities and she continued in the same modality. “I’m happy for that”.
Bryan Bravo, collaborator responsible for business development at De Build Group, also does remote work for software development, applications and e-commerce. He and Fidel Calva do not know each other personally because the former lives in Mexico City and physical contact has not been necessary.
They met because previously Bravo, through his own company, was dedicated to detecting projects on which he could contribute value, such as experience, contacts, technology and resources (capital). In one of those projects (Protein World) he met Paul, the person who invited him to Fidel’s project last March.
“We made a very fast match … I spoke with him on a Thursday and the following Monday he was already working on his team,” acknowledges this entrepreneur, founder of Grupo SBS, who in 2014 came in third place among more than a hundred companies that participated in the competition of the Ministry of Finance Reto SAT Móvil, for creating a digital service that facilitates tax obligations.
The idea of Fidel Calva is to develop platforms with Bravo’s company is to help other entrepreneurial migrants to take advantage of talent in Mexico and gradually achieve what the Free Trade agreements did not do: integrate workers more equitably into the region and thus erase, in some way, the annoying border.
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