Business Resilience, Events & Activities, Thought Leadership

Lessons We Can Learn From Resilient Businesses: Todos Supermarket

By Laura Hennessey Martens-
lessons-we-can-learn-from-resilient-businesses-todos-supermarket

Resilience. Defined as “the act of springing back, or rebounding; the power or ability to recover quickly from a setback or other adversity; buoyancy; elasticity.”

In today’s global economy — in which policies and regulation, the financial landscape, the environment and so many other factors can drastically affect the operations and success of a business — organizations must be resilient in order to survive.

But what makes some businesses more resilient than others? And what are some successful traits and lessons shared by resilient companies, from which other organizations can draw?

This spring, the Darden School Institute for Business in Society hosted the 2015 Business and Economic Resilience Conference to explore these issues and to learn from Virginia businesses that have demonstrated resilience successfully. One such company is Todos Supermarket, a retail organization with stores in Woodbridge and Dumfries, Virginia.

Todos Supermarket   

“We became a center for information for our community, not only for groceries, and that gave us the strength to grow along with the community. We no longer cater only to the Latino community, but have expanded to become an entire neighborhood store in both locations.” — Carlos A. Castro, President, Todos Supermarket

As a grocer focused on providing foods that meet the needs of a primarily Hispanic customer base, the employees of Todos Supermarket found themselves in the midst of political unrest directed at its customers. In an area marked by Latino immigration, which has sparked a growing and often heated debate over the past decade, the Todos Supermarket leadership decided to stand up for its customers and community by getting involved in local civic activity. Todos employees actively participated in the debate about the Prince William County “Rule of Law” illegal immigration resolution and the 2008 directive that changed it.

This extended community debate was followed by the global economic downturn, which Todos Supermarket weathered well as they opened up a new 50,000 square-foot location, bolstered by the strong community support they had developed. “My constant and sincere participation brought us not only customer loyalty, but also employee support,” commented Carlos A. Castro, President of Todos Supermarket.

As part of their ongoing community outreach efforts, Todos Supermarket hosts adult education classes, English as a second language training, and also teaches employees to become engaged leaders in the community.

Carlos Castro Closeup at 2015 Bus & Econ Resilience Conference
Carlos A. Castro, President of Todos Supermarket, spoke as a panelist at the 2015 Business and Economic Resilience Conference hosted by the Institute for Business in Society at the UVA Darden School of Business.

Faculty Insight by Morela Hernandez

Todos Supermarket, in many ways, is a steward of the community it serves. Not only is Todos attentive to the dietary preferences of its customer base and in so doing, connect them to their cultural roots, but it also stands as an advocate for the needs and rights of its community stakeholders.

Paying particular attention to issues important to Latin Americans in the U.S., Todos is known for its commitment to development. Take, for example, its philosophy: “At Todos Supermarket, we believe that good people working toward a common goal may accomplish anything they set out to do”; this view represents their basic belief in people’s capacity to adapt, grow and flourish.

Having experienced firsthand the challenges of being an immigrant, with little to no resources, the founder Carlos Castro personifies this philosophy. For Todos, being a steward to the needs and interests of the community in which it exists encompasses not only a goal to provide great quality and service to its customers, but also thoughtfulness and effort toward its stakeholders’ struggles and accomplishments.

Morela Hernandez is an associate professor in the leadership and organizational Behavior area at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Her research is centered on ethical leadership and how cultural, racial and gender diversity impacts organizational decision-making.

To learn more about business resilience, read the full report, Ideas to Action Special Edition: Business and Economic Resilience; What Virginia Businesses Can Teach Us.