Texas Border Business
By Roberto Hugo González
At the heart of the vibrant festivities of MXLAN held in McAllen, Texas, a unique gathering took place labeled as the Economic Summit International Panel. This wasn’t just a routine discussion about businesses and growth but an amalgamation of stories, challenges, and experiences. Among the panelists, Francisco Ochoa Jr. of the Palenque Group stood out as a leader of resilience and determination.
In an era of cutthroat competition and technological disruption, the Ochoa family presents a refreshing example of what collective hard work and harmonious collaboration can accomplish. At the helm of this family business is Francisco Ochoa Jr., who serves as CEO, working alongside his father, Don Francisco Ochoa Sr., or Don Pancho as he is better known, is the visionary entrepreneur who founded the enterprise. Under his leadership, the Ochoa family has transformed their special recipes into a portfolio of successful restaurant brands.
During a recent appearance at the MXLAN International Summit Panel, Ochoa Jr. emphasized the significance of team efforts, the role of institutions, and the vitality of relationships and networks in the family business.
A distinctive characteristic of the Ochoa family’s enterprise is their focus on recognizing every member’s unique contribution to the business. Ochoa Jr. ensures that the valuable roles played by his brothers and sisters; Charles, Omar, Lizeth, Flery, and José, plus a team of dedicated employees, don’t go unnoticed. Each team member undergoes constant training to keep the restaurant brands competitive and foster a sense of pride in the business.
Don Pancho serves as that institution’s anchor in the Ochoa family business. His strategic foresight and decisive leadership provide a stable framework within which the family business operates. Don Pancho’s significance transcends his paternal role; he is the glue that holds the organization together and the captain steering the ship through market storms.
Ochoa Jr. clearly points out that the foundation of the family business isn’t solely built on talent or hard work. The relationship dynamics within the family, as well as with external stakeholders, make a significant difference. Don Pancho has displayed expertise in building alliances that benefit the business. These relationships include suppliers, bankers, and competitors and they have been pivotal to the family’s continued success.
While acknowledging the solid foundation that has been laid, Ochoa Jr. is aware that the business faces the immediate challenge of institutionalizing its operations further. The aim is to build a structure that can sustain the family legacy while adapting to future market challenges. This includes ensuring each team member receives appropriate recognition and support to foster a stable, dynamic work environment.
Ochoa Jr.’s participation in the MXLAN International Summit Panel has broad implications beyond his family business. His insights shed light on the universal themes that family businesses encounter, such as the fair distribution of recognition, the need for institutional frameworks, and the irreplaceable role of relationships and networks in business stability and success.
Ochoa Jr. isn’t just another name in the business world. As the CEO of Palenque Group, he carries forward the legacy of a family business that has been curating restaurant brands since 1975. Their offerings, which include iconic brands such as Taco Palenque, Palenque Grill, Pollo Tori, and Casa Palenque, have become synonymous with quality, flavor, and unparalleled customer service.
The roots and rise of the Palenque Group, the Ochoa family began their U.S. journey with the inauguration of Taco Palenque on South 10th Street in McAllen in 1998. It wasn’t just the introduction of another restaurant but the fusion of the McAllen community with authentic Mexican dishes crafted from cherished family recipes.
This authenticity and dedication to quality propelled Taco Palenque’s success, not only in Texas but also in Monterey, Mexico.
Ochoa’s Encounter with Entrepreneurship and Education. Even as a young Monterey Tech College of Business and Finance student, Ochoa Jr.’s entrepreneurial spirit was evident. He opened his first seafood restaurant, juggling the challenges of managing a startup with the demands of college. However, recognizing the importance of education, he further pursued and attained an MBA from UTRGV.
Narrating his journey, Ochoa Jr. fondly recalled the lessons he learned from his father, Don Pancho Ochoa, a successful businessman in his own right. His father’s venture into the U.S. market, starting with Pollo Loco in LA, was full of challenges, but it underscored an important lesson – the essence of courage in business and the value of confronting the unknown.
For Ochoa Jr., the U.S. business landscape presented its own set of challenges, including cultural adaptations and language barriers. Emphasizing the importance of precise communication, he said, “In business, every word counts.” He also underlined the importance of understanding the U.S. regulatory environment, upholding ethical business practices, and, above all, keeping one’s promises.
Ochoa Jr. diving deeper into discussions about business, personal growth, and the future of the Latino community. As part of the Economic Summit International Panel, he researched the strategies that have shaped his business journey and shared insights on the wider Latino experience in the U.S.
Ochoa Jr. believes in consistency and trustworthiness when it comes to business success. The core of the Palenque Group’s strategy is to maintain the quality and standard of its products. For them, the customers’ trust is paramount. However, as they expand, they’ve noticed the potential dilution of their organizational culture and ethics. Their solution? Invest in education and training, particularly targeting their general managers. By empowering their staff with knowledge, skills, and a shared vision, they prepare for future growth.
Furthermore, Ochoa acknowledges the role of the U.S. banking system in facilitating business growth. The capability to leverage capital and expand is one of the advantages they’ve enjoyed in the U.S. market.
As a good businessman, he had reflections and advice for the younger self. The hypothetical journey back in time prompted Ochoa Jr. to share profound advice. He spoke about visualizing success 30 years into the future, then backtracking to create a roadmap to achieve that vision. Despite unforeseen challenges – be it a global pandemic or climate change – he emphasizes preparedness, resilience, and solid faith.
He also highlighted the value of persistence by referencing a film about a world without The Beatles. Knowing the worth of The Beatles’ songs, the protagonists persevered in sharing their music even when initial responses were unenthusiastic. Ochoa’s message was clear: Believe in your product or vision, even if others don’t initially see its value.
Expressing hope for the Latino community in the U.S., Ochoa sees a landscape filled with opportunities. With the Latino community growing rapidly and a culture richly intertwined with that of the U.S., particularly in states like Texas, the prospects for economic and social growth are abundant.
Ochoa’s dream is more than just business success. He speaks of a larger social integration, hoping for a day when the U.S. sees its first Latino president. Such a milestone would symbolize the merging of two cultures, recognizing the value and contributions of the Latino community.
As the session wrapped up, it was evident that the stories shared, especially those of seasoned entrepreneurs like Ochoa Jr., hold immeasurable value. They provide inspiration for emerging business leaders. The journey of the Palenque Group Ochoa’s personal insights and the collaboration of his brothers and sisters in the business underscores the importance of consistency, vision, and firm faith in one’s path.