Lupe Martinez Celebrates 50 Years with UMOS in Milwaukee
|President/CEO Lupe Martinez started working at UMOS on
May 5, 1969, two months before
Apollo 11 landed the first Americans on the moon.
people. I go to Texas and have to go to two different locations. We have
lunch or dinner with a bunch of these leaders and it turned out to be 75
here and 50 over there. That’s building social capital.”
Lesson Twelve – Be efficient with your time so that you can take care
of three items on your agenda at the same time.
It seems that Martinez is at many functions in Madison as well as in
Milwaukee. He makes the most of his time and wastes little of it.
“Every time I go to Madison, Juan José López will say to me, ‘So and
so wants to have lunch with you,’” Martinez said. “’So and so wants to
have dinner with you.’ We would arrange lunch with 2-3 people. And in
the evening, I might have dinner with 2-3 people. Juan says that I will
never be going to finish the long list of people who need to talk with
you. So what I did this last time and I wanted to have dinner with 4-5
people, 16 people showed up. I couldn’t fit anymore in there. Now what
I am doing is having a reception and I am having no less than 30
people there. Just about everyone if not everyone is a mover and
shaker. Then the next day, I’ll have a little breakfast to talk strategy.
Then there is lunch where I will be meeting with Christian and a few
other people. Then that evening, I was going to go to the Latino
Chamber annual meeting, but then they started filling up my calendar
with meetings in Milwaukee, so I had to get back to Milwaukee.”
Lesson Thirteen — Find work that you enjoy doing.
Martinez gets asked on occasion if he is going to retire with some of
his mentees waiting patiently to throw their hats into the ring whenever
that day arrives. Martinez doesn’t know when that day will happen
because he enjoys what he’s doing right now. Retirement might be a
“I think about retirement because people are asking all the time,”
Martinez said. “People who have been in the business for as long as I
have are either retired or have passed away. They said, ‘When are you
going to be close to retirement?’ I said, ‘I was talking to one of my
attorneys a couple of years ago and I asked him if he was going to be
my lawyer or was I going to have to go to one of their other lawyers. He
said no. I asked him when he was going to retire and he told me he
was a lifer.’ I like that little term. So when they ask me about
retirement, I say, ‘I don’t know. I feel I will retire, but I’m not sure when.
I just might be a lifer.’ Someone said, ‘Don’t you want to retire? You
could spend more time with you wife. You could travel.’ I said, ‘That’s
all I do.’ I travel all the time and I never travel anywhere without my
wife. There is nothing else that I would like to do. I don’t have any
hobbies. I don’t golf. I threw a fishing line into a lake the other day. I
didn’t put any bait on the hook. I didn’t want to catch anything.”
Why retire when you’re enjoying life right now?
Part 3 of 3
By Jonathan Gramling
It’s an incredible accomplishment when one thinks about it. While most people stay in the same job
for roughly five years these days, Lupe Martinez, the president/CEO of United Migrant Opportunity
Services (UMOS), has been in the same position for 45 years and worked at the agency for the past
half century. Martinez started working at UMOS on May 5, 1969, over two months before Neil
Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon. That is an accomplishment.
Martinez’s story at UMOS reads almost like a lesson plan for aspiring CEOs. Lesson Nine — the first
eight were in the first two parts of this story — Do favors for people when they have a need and
someday you will have proven yourself as a major player.
During the early days of W2, there was sifting and winnowing of service providers. In the Milwaukee.
“’You know that deal we talked about you taking over OIC’s two regions,’” Martinez said the state rep told him. “’Well we want you to take the two regions and all of
the grants that they are operating and put all of the employees on your payroll including the two regions that reflected tens of millions of dollars. When we get there,
we’re going to meet with their administrative staff. I want you to bring your administrative staff and we’re going to talk through the transition.’ I said, ‘My staff is
hyperventilating here. They don’t think six months is going to be enough time to transfer all of this stuff.’ ‘Oh no, we’re talking about Monday.’ I started to say, ‘This is
nuts. We can’t do that. Are you kidding? We hardly have time with six months.’ We went over it with management staff. The executive director said, ‘Anything you
need, just let us know. And our staff needs to get paid next Friday.’ I said, ‘Well that’s going to be a problem because our staff doesn’t get paid until the Friday after
that.’ I said, ‘We’re going to have to work over the weekend. Work out all of essential parts of this transfer that is going to take place. And we’re going to make that
as smooth as possible.’ The employees were going nuts. We worked over the weekend. By Monday, all of the employees were UMOS employees. By Friday, all of the
employees got paid. And then we synchronized the payrolls. OIC collapsed.”
Lesson Ten – Never burn bridges behind you unless you have no other choice.
Lupe Martinez is a very likable person.
“I always tell people, ‘You know what,’” Martinez said. “’As far as I am concerned, everyone is a friend. I like some people more than others, but I don’t hate anyone.’
When someone says, ‘What about this?’ I say, ‘I never tried to do any bad things against anyone. It might come back to haunt me again.’ I’m just not kind of guy. I’ll
walk through any one of our classes over here and everyone is very friendly. I remember one day we were having a meeting with the board of directors and they
said, ‘We’re concerned. Your relationship with the staff is so close. Your relationship with the members of the board of directors is so close. It’s not like a board of
directors. Everyone is your friend and you are everyone’s friend.’ They have a hard time saying bad things about me, not that they would find anything.’ Some people
say, ‘Well, I am going to check and see what skeletons are in your closet.’ My response is ‘I don’t have any closet. What you see is what you get.’ I remember this
federal administrator in Washington, D.C. would always tell people about me. ‘This guy is squeaky clean. We come in here looking for dirt and we can’t find any.’”
Lesson Eleven – An organization can never have too much social capital.
While UMOS is headquartered in Milwaukee, its service reach extends as far as Florida and Texas. It has gone where opportunity allowed it to go.
“Part of my longevity has to do with I am having so much fun that I lose track of time,” Martinez said. “After working for so many years, I have been courted to work
elsewhere. There was a time when the chairman of the board for an organization in Oklahoma came to visit. He said, ‘We want you to go down to Oklahoma City,
meet with the board of directors, bring your wife and we’ll have a really good time over the weekend. Our director is going to be leaving soon and we want you to
consider taking his position.’ And I did go there. And I said, ‘You know what, this isn’t for me. I want to stay in UMOS.’ South Florida in Homestead, there is an
organization that said, ‘We have a director who is going to be retiring soon. We would like you to consider being his deputy director for a few years and once he
phases out, you would be part of the succession plan. I considered that as well and said, ‘No I am happy here.’ Now I am partnering with all of those organizations,
but I am still here. What I will do is go to Florida 2-3 times per year. I host a lunch for them because we used to have lunch for six people and that grew to about 50