Follow the rules and live by your word.
That is the key to success from a man who knows plenty about being successful.
Fernando Cuadra has seen it all in his 60 years on this planet. He has seen his massively successful boot company, Corral Boots, grow into a worldwide empire of boots, shoes, jackets and belts – an entire lifestyle brand of Western Wear products – from his home in Leon, Mexico. He has also seen the lowest of lows when the destructive 2004 tsunami in Indonesia wiped out his entire factory on the island of North Sumatran and, with it, more than 1,500 employees.
All of it gone in a few disastrous moments.
While he could have given up following such a devastating catastrophe, Cuadra refused to see his life’s work washed away and instead went to work regrouping and, eventually, rebuilding.
Today, that business is once again thriving as Fernando, along with his three sons Fernando Jr., Cristian and David, continue to make a name for themselves in both the business world and on the race track. And he did it all through the old adage, treat others as you would wish to be treated.
A message he is now passing on to his sons.
“You have to live by rules. The kids will say, ‘just a little relaxation of the rules’. No. It’s yes or no. No middle ground. No more or less. It’s yes or no, black and white. That’s it with me,” Cuadra emphasized. “You want great children to leave for the future? Somebody once said, ‘why don’t we leave a good Mother Earth for our children?’ I say, ‘why didn’t you produce good children for our Mother Earth?’
“We need to teach children respect. Do what you have to do in your work. If I tell you yes it is a yes and no is no. I don’t need lawyers or to sign contracts. Today’s environment, it requires a lot of lawyers and contracts. My kids and I go back to principles. Did you promise something? Then keep that promise. Did you make a mistake? Fine, learn from your mistake and don’t do it again. That is how they are doing it and that is how we live.”
But kind words and nice sayings will only get you so far. Instead it was hard work and a laser-focused work ethic that brought Cuadra’s business back to where it is today.
“That island where we were located disappeared completely along with the entire population, including my 1,500 people,” Cuadra said. “For three years after, all of my competitors left and I stayed there alone for three years because nobody believed that it could be something again. It cost me 15 years of my life to build that business and to recuperate it took me only three years.
“But staying there was not simple. There was no electricity for almost a year, so I needed to bring in generators. The temperatures were extreme. There were no ice makers. So once we recovered the business, my sons got to the age where they realized that we can do all of this together.”
Today, that tragic event has brought together a family closer than ever before. After helping their father rebuild following the disaster, the Cuadra family was able to return to a passion that existed well before there was ever talks of fashionable footwear.
Away from the business world, all four Cuadra men are also accomplished racers. The eldest of the clan, father Fernando, returned to the ranks of Pro Stock last year after a 14-year hiatus away from the class, while sons Fernando Jr. and Cristian join their father in Pro Stock and David competes in Top Sportsman.
Cuadra raced in NHRA Pro Stock in the early 2000s, before being forced to sell his entire operation to help in the recovery of his business following the 2004 disaster. But in Houston last year, the 60-year-old returned to the class with the help of car owner Ken Black and the support of KB Racing drivers Greg Anderson, Jason Line and others.
So what was it like returning to the seat after more than a decade away?
“You know, a lot of butterflies in your stomach,” Cuadra said. “I was expecting and hoping that I would have a second chance in my life. We got it and my sons have helped me tremendously. They told me, ‘dad, we can help you setup the cars, clutches, you just need to be with the right team.’ That team is the KB Summit guys.
“They have helped me to come back and be decent at driving and have better rounds. It has also been important for my sons. I told them one year ago if everything goes nice and smooth we can go to the second Pro Stock. If you finish school and do well, you can have your Pro Stock.”
Fernando and his sons, Fernando Jr. and Cristian, all have starts in Pro Stock this season, even lining up alongside one another a few times in qualifying. And while they are competing, the other son is working on the cars as he too focuses on his own driving career.
Just last month in Denver, all four family members had an opportunity to race at the same national event.
While the impact on their dads return to racing has proven vital during race day, it proved even more important in the months leading up to his return to a class that has seen a lot of change during his 14 years away.
“It was complicated at the beginning because I was a carburetor racer. Suddenly it’s fuel injection. But my kids grew up with the technology, so they were instrumental in my return,” Cuadra said. “One of them is a mechanical engineer. The other one is an industrial engineer. The other one is in business. So now, all three together, they figured out how this thing works with the support, of course, from Chris McGaha. He had suggested he wanted to help my kids and show them how this thing works.”
Coming full circle, that mantra of treating others with respect proved important in his return to competition in generating support from other racers. The Cuadra family are well-known throughout Mexico where they have seen great success, but in venturing into the United States, they knew they would need allies.
“We have all had success racing in Mexico. Cristian is the current champion right now in Monterrey in the upper class, a series like Top Sportsman that they call Super Pro. He said, ‘can we now try the States?’ So he tried and won his first round in the United States three or four weeks ago,” Cuadra said. “So he said, ‘can we try Pro Stock?’ Suddenly Chris McGaha and his team are helping us with the engine and tuning and all of those things. Then Modern Racing, which are gurus with electronics, have helped us tremendously to put the car together.
“I owe them big time, and that is all Chris McGaha. Thanks to the people that helped me when I needed it most. That’s where we are.”
Of course, one of the most important friendships Cuadra has struck up in recent years has been that of Ken Black. He recalls meeting the famed car owner at a banquet in Las Vegas and specifically remembers telling him, “one of these days I’m going to race on your team.”
Those words proved prophetic.
Thanks to a partnership with KB Racing, Cuadra was able to immediately step into competitive equipment as the veteran looks to go some rounds after a not-so-successful first stint in the class in 2003 and 2004.
“You know, I just treat people how they wanted to be treated. Like Rob, Jason and Greg. All three of them and the crew, they have received me well and are always asking what we need and then coming through,” Cuadra said. “They said, ‘you want to race with us, these are the rules.’ We get to race out of their camp because we are respectful and they respect us. And we have built a friendship more than anything.”
But it still hasn’t been easy. While the father-son team have found some success, for the most part it has been a struggle on race day. But after working so hard to get back to this point, Cuadra is determined to put in the time necessary to turn this team into a winning combination.
“I think it becomes expensive and complicated, but everybody wants immediate results like popcorn. And this is not microwave popcorn,” Cuadra said. “You need to work and learn how this thing works. Like this car. It is brand spanking new. The newest technology. We are trying to figure out how to make it run. So it’s not as simple as saying I have a nice piece, I’m going to race and set the ET records.
“My son is running very good. He outran me the last race, so he did a hell of a job. But every race is different.”
And it is that competitive spirit that drives Cuadra. He specifically recalls asking his sons about racing against one another, and they were matter-of-fact in the fact that they did not want any special treatment. They wanted the best from their father as they try to hone their skills on the track.
“They say, ‘don’t give us any chance to show how to make it better. Don’t give me any room.’ So I said, ‘are you sure?’ And they agreed, ‘no favors, just go out and beat me,’” Cuadra said. “They say otherwise they aren’t going to learn. It is just like in business. Cristian, he’s already doing his own business in a shoe factory. He’s doing consultation and he’s 20. He started that two years ago when he was 18 and he started the business with me when he was 13. So, because I truly believe that we pass that information to them at an early age, they will do better in life.
“You do not need to wait until they become 25 or after they finish college, they can continue practicing at any age. Show them the value of money and how to produce it. The same goes for learning to race a car.”
It is a true rags to riches, to total destruction, back to riches story.
Today, Cuadra’s business has grown to employ more than 7,400 people at 24 plants in Mexico with customers in 27 countries. And racing is at the heart of it all.
In addition to his on-track venture, Cuadra also does business with other racers. Jerry Savoie, an alligator farmer from Louisiana and competitor in NHRA’s Pro Stock Motorcycle class, is a major supplier of Cuadra’s business and even purchased a ranch in Mexico where Cuadra is from.
Between races, Cuadra, a pilot, makes stops at retailers and partners throughout the United States, mixing business with pleasure whenever possible.
Ultimately, Cuadra hopes to expand to a race team that includes multiple Pro Stock cars and a handful of Top Sportsman entries, but for now he is enjoying life racing alongside his sons in a scenario he never could have dreamt a decade ago.
“Everything happened for a reason. 15 years ago, with my major disaster, you would think that was the end of the world. But when you have kids like mine that support you in that very bad situation, it is incredible,” Cuadra said. “Now they are working together as a team. Brothers helping others and helping me. It means a lot to me.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019