Hispanic Companies See Surge in Sales, Survey Says

THESE haven't been easy times for American companies: Many have downsized and cut back on expenses. Hispanic-owned and operated companies, in contrast, report that business has never been better. However, their owners minority status sometimes makes it tough for them to succeed.

A study released recently by the Gallup Organization for MCI Business Markets finds that nearly one-half of the 508 Hispanic businesses polled saw an average 28 percent jump in 1993 sales over those in 1992. But 49 percent of Hispanic business owners say they feel they are often overlooked and their products are underestimated.

``In spite of adverse conditions, [Hispanic business owners have] been able to market themselves effectively and demonstrate their capability,'' says Gilbert Colon, acting director of the Minority Business Development Agency in Washington. ``Yet we hear constantly that the most difficult thing for minorities is to get access to capital.''

Eight out of 10 of the survey respondents say they are treated no differently by suppliers and feel that they always receive the same price and equal service. ``The fact that Hispanics report a positive experience with their suppliers only says that minority entrepreneurs are not nearly the risk some would make them out to be,'' Mr. Colon adds. ``They are paying their bills and getting good service from their suppliers.''

The Gallup poll examined respondents' business cultures, trying to find out how Hispanic companies have assimilated into the overall business arena. While Hispanic business owners say they appreciate being approached in Spanish, 89 percent say they are just as happy to do business with companies that market their products in English. And a majority (89 percent) say they are confident doing business outside their own ethnic circle.

``If anything, being Hispanic is an advantage,'' says Jose Sanchez, president of the Vincam Group in Coral Gables, Fla. ``We have two large markets to go after and we feel comfortable in both. We can fall in and out of one language or culture easily.''

Though he agrees that new Hispanic businesses might be more comfortable doing business with other Hispanics, that is not the case for this 10-year-old company. ``We've been around so long, [our business] is not based on ethnicity but on service and our track record,'' Mr. Sanchez says.

The Vincam Group, an employee leasing company, has seen its revenues grow an average of 70 to 80 percent a year, Sanchez says. From 1992 to 1993, the company's revenues grew from $80 million to $140 million. ``Our business hasn't been any more or less difficult because of who or what we are,'' he says.

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