News Column

Executive Life

March 2005, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Leslie A. Westbrook

Valextra briefcase
Valextra briefcase

Personal Style
Ahead of Her Time
Technological advances have boosted many aspects of executive efficiency. But for Ana Ventura Phares, time management begins at a more basic level. "The critical part of managing time is being able to say no and delegating to responsible people," says Ms. Phares, the newly elected mayor of Watsonville, California, and one of only 36 Hispanic women mayors across the United States, 12 of which are in California. And for Ms. Phares – who gave up her Palm Pilot for a leather Day-Timer with two pages for each day ("So I can take notes on one side.") – managing time is crucial to meeting her obligations to the 50,000-member community 95 miles south of San Francisco. The 44-year-old created a flex schedule, cutting her job as an Equal Employment Opportunity officer for Santa Cruz County to 32 hours a week to accommodate new mayoral duties (where she earns $400 a month) that include tackling issues from land use and affordable housing to community development and pollution. So adept at time management has she become that the wife and mother of two still finds time for her family and two daily walks. Her efficiency extends to donning red power suits when required ("If you are tired, it wakes you up and brings more energy!") and adapting her wardrobe to her duties: "If I'm going to a controversial meeting, I wear pink – psychologists say it lowers people's anxieties." Time management also means looking ahead, and Ms. Phares already is thinking about her next steps after her mayoral term ends in 2006. Her goal is to run for supervisor or the state legislature, where she can effect broad societal change through policy. Says the efficient Ms. Phares, "I've got to start planning now."

Health & Fitness
Losin' It to a Latin Beat
Executive exercise doesn't have to be boring. Cuic Suarez, a dancer and choreographer who once performed with the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico, recently released LatinCardio ( The 60-minute workout is enlivened with merengue, samba, and salsa moves that not only trim but teach techniques usable at evening business galas where dancing is on the menu. "Everybody has rhythm," says the 41-year-old native of Mexico now based in Florida. The Ritz Carlton Hotel group thought enough of the video to place copies throughout its Florida properties.

Staying fit is vital: The American Diabetes Association notes Hispanics are at higher risk for diabetes than non-Hispanic whites, but the National Institutes of Health notes that onset of the disease can be prevented or delayed among overweight people by losing 5 percent to 7 percent of body weight through diet and increased physical activity.

SHHH! I'm Listening
Potential FCC rulings that would allow passengers to use cell phones inflight offer yet one more reason to pack a pair of noise-canceling headphones when you travel. Bose QuietComfort 2 ( have been cited No. 1 by high-ranking executives and airline pilots. Especially effective for noise cancellation at low-end frequencies, such as those at airplane cruising altitudes, the headphones fold to fit neatly into a compact carrying case.

San Francisco Style
With over 30,000 rooms for business and leisure travelers alike, selecting a hotel in San Francisco can be daunting. The Four Seasons Hotel ( in the Yerba Buena cultural district – close to Union Square, the financial district, and the Moscone Center – offers top-notch service and comfort, as well as free access to the 100,000-square-foot Sports Club/LA. Around the corner, the Hotel Palomar ( offers deep-soaking Fuji spa tubs in luxury rooms and suites, and is smoothly run by general manager Peter Koehler. Fluent in Spanish after managing the Hotel Villa del Sol in Zihuatanejo and the Mandarin Oriental in Mexico City, Mr. Koehler personally greets guests, making visitors feel especially welcome.

Dining solo? Town Hall (342 S. Howard, (415) 908-3900) in the SoMa district boasts a community dining table in the bar for dinner, drinks, and networking.

Non Pareil

The suit may make the man – or woman – but fine-quality accessories provide the finishing touch. Propelled by this growing recognition, Italy's legendary leather design house Valextra ( has enjoyed a renaissance. Refined, minimal design, the finest leathers and skins, inventive colors, and exquisite craftsmanship are the hallmarks of Valextra briefcases. As is exclusivity: Bergdorf Goodman in New York is the only store in the United States to stock the highest-of-high-end label.

In 2002, Valextra created a set of custom-designed luggage to complement the Lexus SC430.


Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters