Watsonville business woman makes a difference in her workers lives
By John Sammon
Santa Cruz Sentinel
November 1, 2009
Though her humanitarian efforts sometimes cause her to lose her own employees, Tila Guerrero believes helping others makes any community a better place.
"People often need just a little encouragement," she said.
The mother of four grown children, with eight grandchildren, Guerrero operates two McDonald's restaurants in Watsonville. She takes a personal approach to her employees.
"I've been running McDonald's since 1990," she recalled. "I was formerly with Bank of America for 32 years. I had a friend, a fellow banker, who became owner of a McDonald's franchise. He told me that with my energy and personality, I'd be perfect for that kind of job."
Guerrero changed careers, and from the beginning encouraged her employees to stay in school. The end result is that they often leave her employment and reach higher paying positions.
"We told our employees that if they would stay in school, we would reward them with $50 for courses taken in college or adult school, or $150 for taking three night courses," she said. "I promote into management as many as I can, but you only have room for so many managers. I consider jobs at McDonalds to be a stepping stone to move on in the world."
She advised the learning of English as a second language among employees and obtained a real estate license, helping workers and friends get ownership of homes.
"We haven't had any foreclosures," she added.
Elected to a national post to serve a three-year term representing women business owners in the area, Guerrero journeyed to Washington D.C. to attend conferences. She got involved with the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Pajaro Valley Unified School District in adopt-a-school programs that promote perfect attendance and reading among local school children. A separate community-based program she helped create with local residents titled "On the Same Page," brings renowned authors into schools to encourage children to read. One visit featured Victor Villasenor, whose book "Burro Genius" won national acclaim.
"We also buy books for the children from local book stores," she said.
Guerrero has won numerous awards for her community involvement including the Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year for 2000, Community Service Award from the Watsonville Association of Realtors, and the Elena Baskin Award from Santa Cruz County Schools.
Asked where she finds time for herself, Guerrero responded, "I have to be pretty well organized, but I still enjoy my vacations. My son joined me as owner/business partner and he runs the day-to-day operations at McDonald's. He's a great help, and just as meticulous as I am."
Guerrero added it's always been about people.
"We've taken in homeless people and find them shelter, some who had been living out of cars," she said. "You don't hesitate. You just do these things. Sometimes all a person needs is a little attention. If you can reach out and touch just one person's life, when you see their happy face, it's such a wonderful feeling."
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