2020 Top Florida Latino Lideres Award Recipient
Betty Viamontes, is a Latino Mover N’ Shaker from Tampa, Florida.
Latin Times Magazine: Where are you and your family from? What is your Hispanic heritage?
Betty Viamontes: My family and I are from Havana Cuba. My mother, my siblings, and I came to the United States aboard a shrimp boat when I was fifteen years old. This trip would reunite us with my father in the United States after almost twelve years of separation. We came with nothing, and I didn’t know English.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about what you do for a living and how you got into it
Betty Viamontes: After managing the finances of the nonprofit Tampa General Hospital and its subsidiaries for almost twenty-two years as its corporate controller, I decided to go to a smaller nonprofit organization. That would allow me to continue my work on the board of trustees of Hillsborough Community College and continue my personal goal of documenting the stories of the Cuban people. I am proud of my work at Tampa General, an organization that has helped improved the lives of so many in the Tampa Bay community by providing quality care. I am also very proud of my current employer, Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research, which provides the gift of sight to many people around the world in over 70 countries. I’m proud to serve as its Chief Financial Officer.
Latin Times Magazine: In your industry, what would you say separates you from your competition
Betty Viamontes:: Lions Eye Institute is leading the worldwide fight against blinding eye diseases by uniting the world’s largest eye bank, our cutting-edge ocular research center, and our foundation. In addition, we recover non-ocular tissue such as bone, skin, veins, and heart valves that are used in life-saving procedures.
Latin Times Magazine: During Covid-19, tell us about your Biggest Challenge/obstacle and how you overcame it/or are overcoming it
2020 Latino Lideres: During the Covid-19 pandemic, when elective surgeries were cancelled, we had to make difficult decisions in order to manage cash flows and reduce expenses, while trying to minimize the impact to employees and their families. When employees could not find toilet paper and other essential household goods, for example, we helped them by allowing them to place orders through us. Also, with the aid of PPP funds, we were able to pay employees who were unable to work due to the closure of surgery centers. We also took measures that would allow us to retain staff once the surgery centers reopened.
Our organization has worked diligently to help restore operations to pre-Covid-19 times. This has required teamwork, measures to enable a safe environment to our employees, and a cohesive leadership team that has worked cooperatively with employees, who are the heart of our organization, and with those we serve. The results of these efforts have been stellar. After posting significant losses from April through June, we managed to turn the organization around and make it even stronger, with July and August operating income exceeding prior year by 23%.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about your biggest achievement, and how you achieved it (Covid or non-related)
Betty Viamontes: I have been at Lions Eye Institute for about 18 months. During this time, we have transformed our financial operations in order to position the organization to meet future challenges. We analyzed every major expense category to reduce costs and maximize value, migrated to a paperless cloud-based accounting environment, and implemented a centralized-purchasing model. In addition, we implemented centralized budgeting, and for the first time ever in the history of the organization, introduced responsibility reporting. We are currently working on the continued automation of our billing processes. We also began to capture in the general ledger key metrics that have allowed to generate timely reports that allow us to make data-driven decisions.
Also, as stated above, the collaboration between every level of the organization has resulted in an increase in operating income during July and August 2020 of 23%, compared to prior year, during the same period.
Latin Times Magazine: What is next for you? What can people expect to see from you?
Betty Viamontes: I will continue to support Lions Eye Institute, an organization I love. You will continue to see me telling others about our mission and the work we do to help mothers and fathers see their children and children see the wondrous world.
You will also see me supporting HCC as long as I am needed. I have been on the board for about five years now, last year, as its board chair. The work they do is critical to our community.
Lastly, I will continue to tell the story of the Cuban people. My mother sacrificed her youth to bring her family to the United States. She wanted people to know what happened to our family. Even though she was not here to see it, I gave her a voice after her death through the books I have written. I will also continue to give others like my mother a voice.
Latin Times Magazine: What words of encouragement can you offer?
Betty Viamontes: I didn’t have a father while I was growing up and watched my mother raise three children alone in a communist country where freedom didn’t exist. I didn’t know English when I came to America with only the clothes I was wearing. I left my house when I was eighteen to start a life with my teenage husband and a baby that would be born a few months later. However, I manage to work full time and go to school at night and finish two master’s degrees. One can never give up. Life is not easy. It will challenge us time and time again. However, we must have an incredible power of adaptation and understand that our experiences help shape who we will become.
Latin Times Magazine: Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to share?
Betty Viamontes: It doesn’t matter where life takes us, we should always treat everyone with kindness and respect and help others. Always pay it forward. Do something to create a better world.
Latin Times Magazine: What is YOUR comida Latina favorita?
Betty Viamontes: Arroz amarillo con pollo y platanitos fritos.