For Andres Ruzo ’83, starting companies has become more of a vocation than a hobby. He has been involved in 17 startups and four nonprofits, and he is involved as a partner in 20 other companies. He is the founder and CEO of LinkAmerica, a high-growth supply chain management and professional services solutions provider to network service providers, enterprise operators/users and their supply chains.

LinkAmerica CEO Andres Ruzo ’83 told Mays students, “You sink or swim, make lemonade or quit. Entrepreneurship is not for everybody… because it’s really hard.” (view more photos)

Ruzo shared his story recently with a group of business honors students at Mays Business School, and his wife accompanied him to visit the campus where they met.

Ruzo was born in Lima, Peru. In 1980, he came to the United States, with two bags and a dream. “At that time, America still was a country where you could make your dreams come true.” He graduated with an industrial engineering degree from Texas A&M University, worked in the oil industry and real estate in Houston, then moved to Dallas to continue pursuing his career as an entrepreneur.

He started LinkAmerica in 1994 in his son’s bedroom, refurbishing telecommunications gear and providing repair services and support to big carriers. “We went from nothing in 1994 to $12 million in sales by 2001. I call these my fat cow years — easy to make money.”

Then the dot-com bust and 9/11 hit. Ruzo sold the company but kept major stockholder status. “Starting in 2001 we rode for seven years downhill, but we never gave up. That is what entrepreneurship is all about. You sink or swim, make lemonade or quit. Entrepreneurship is not for everybody… because it’s really hard.”

During those years, Ruzo says he reinvented himself four times in seven years. “When I had a lot of cash I didn’t blow it, so we had a solid balance sheet. For six months I was not paying myself a salary just so I could stay in the game.”

Persistence, commitment and faith

Starting at the end of 2007, within two and a half years, the company improved 207 percent, and revenue increased from $3 million to $215 million. It has maintained double-digit percentage annual revenue growth from $12 million in 2008 to $215 million in 2011, and continues to grow. “Collaboration and innovation are in the DNA of my company,” he explains. “In my first 45 years, I pushed and pushed in everything I did. The last five years, I have connected to a higher energy that pulls me… There is a saying: “When you do a greater good, the universe conspires to help you.’ I really can feel that force.”

LinkAmerica was given a 2012 Aggie 100 award, ranking as the eighth fastest-growing company owned and operated by Aggies. Its growth rate was 129.22 percent.

In 2012, LinkAmerica was ranked as the 2011 fastest-growing Hispanic company in the U.S. out of 3 million Latino businesses (2012 – HispanicBusiness Magazine‘s “100 Fastest-Growing Companies).

Ruzo says the keys to his success are persistence, commitment and faith. He insists on being involved in his community, serving as a thought leader among Hispanics and actively expressing his faith. “We as business people have a huge responsibility to evangelize and touch a lot of people,” he says. “That’s why I love to be an entrepreneur. What keeps me up at night is the question, “How much value can I bring to my customers?’ I am rewarded often for having that kind of mindset.”

Categories: Executive Speakers, Former Students

In the latest ranking of MBA programs by Bloomberg Businessweek, the Full-Time MBA program from Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School is ranked 10th among public programs in the nation and 26th among all schools. This represents an upward move of one place among U.S. public institutions and four places overall.

The results were released nationwide Thursday, November 15. In the last ranking, released in 2010, the Texas A&M program was ranked 30th among all business schools and 11th among public programs in the nation.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked Mays 13th in “Best MBA Job Placement” and 28th in “Top B-Schools with the Highest-Paid MBAs.”

Mary Lea McAnally, associate dean for graduate programs at Mays, says the ranking recognizes the consistency throughout the program. “This is a fitting tribute to our faculty, staff, and students who consistently work so hard,” she says. “Our faculty members provide the underlying rigor our students need to be competitive as business leaders, and our career services group works with students to develop life-long career management skills. This latest ranking recognizes those core strengths of our program.”

Kelli Kilpatrick, director of the Full-Time MBA program, says several factors attract students to the program and contribute to their satisfaction: aspects such as a strong alumni network, small class sizes taught by dynamic faculty, and exceptional career opportunities after graduation. “We have the whole package here, along with the lure of the “Aggie experience’ of being based at Texas A&M University,” she says. “It is truly a special program.”

Bloomberg Businessweek’s ranking of full-time MBA programs is based on three elements: a survey of newly minted MBAs, a poll of corporate recruiters and an evaluation of faculty research output.

The MBA survey, which measures satisfaction with all aspects of the b-school experience, is combined with two previous MBA surveys. The corporate poll, which asks recruiters to identify the schools that produce the best graduates, is also combined with two previous recruiter surveys. The poll seeks information on the perceived quality of graduates and the company’s experience with MBAs past and present.

Finally, Bloomberg Businessweek tallies the number of articles published by each school’s faculty in top 20 journals and reviews of their books in three national publications. The total for faculty size is then adjusted and an intellectual-capital rating is assigned for each school. The MBA surveys and the recruiter polls each contribute 45 percent to the final ranking, with the intellectual-capital ranking contributing the final 10 percent.

Categories: Programs

Like most people at Texas A&M, Joshua Graham ’14 is at a crossroads in his life. His past, jam-packed with travels and remarkable experiences, has inspired a vastly different future that starts here in Aggieland.

Graham, who is hardly a stranger to any challenge, is blazing a fresh path through academia with the goal of creating profitable businesses to encourage economic growth and help the underprivileged abroad.

Joshua Graham '14 is combining studies at Mays and the Bush School with an eye towards bringing social entrepreneurship to the Middle East.
Joshua Graham ’14 is combining studies at Mays and the Bush School with an eye towards bringing social entrepreneurship to the Middle East.

He is working toward two certificates at Mays in Entrepreneurship and Business, while pursuing his master’s degree in International Affairs with a focus on International Economics and Development at the Bush School of Government and Public Service.

“At A&M right now you cannot apply for two graduate degrees at the same time,” Graham explains. “I have a habit of creating paths and avenues and opportunities where many don’t exist.”

Graham applied to numerous joint MBA/Masters of International Affairs programs, but wanted to come to Texas A&M despite the lack of a similar program. So Graham improvised, choosing the master’s program at the Bush School and selecting two essential certificates at Mays.

“The business education will provide me with the necessary skills to be a successful entrepreneur and have the basic business skills and education that are important to success in the private sector,” he says.

This is Graham’s second go-around at Texas A&M, having first attended the Bush School in the spring of 2003 for a graduate certificate in Advanced International Affairs. In the fall of 2012, Graham returned to Aggieland with a very unique goal in mind.

“I’m wanting eventually to do social entrepreneurship in the Middle East,” Graham says of his future. “I want to basically be in a capacity to build companies, hire locals, sell off the companies and use profits to build orphanages and schools in places like Gaza or the Palestinian camps of Lebanon, or the slums of Cairo.”

Specifically, Graham wants to bring Western technologies to the Middle East that are applicable in emerging markets. While working at the Office of Technology Commercialization at Texas A&M, he has been exposed to some of the technologies he’s thinking of. For example, a technology that can effectively remove harmful materials from water and soil could revolutionize agriculture in the Middle East and help spur economic growth in the area.

Joshua Graham: A Timeline
  • 1998: Graduates from high school in Seattle and moves to L.A. to go to school at Biola University to be a high school history teacher and basketball coach
  • 2000: Summer, visits Israel and Palestine for the first time
  • 2001: April, visits China during negotiations between U.S. and China after a Chinese fighter jet crashed into an American spy plane over Hainan Island.
  • 2001: September 11, first day of internship on Capitol Hill
  • 2003: Spring, getting a graduate certificate in International Affairs from the Bush School of Government and Public Service, gets to meet George H.W. Bush
  • 2008: Easter Sunday, spends the day in a hardened bunker after militia and terrorists figure out how to use Google maps to target facilities
  • 2008: Summer, heads to Nairobi, Kenya. Visits U.S. Embassy memorial there, meets some locals, and tours local orphanages, both in a nice area and in one of the largest slums in Africa. Climbs Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and goes on a safari.
  • 2012: April, returns from Beirut, where he was learning Arabic
  • 2012: Fall, starts master’s degree at Bush School and certificates at Mays Business School

Graham’s relationship with the Middle East is not just a future plan, but something that has been developing since his first visit there in the summer of 2000. The trip came three months before the half-decade long period of violence known as the second intifada began between the two countries. This and other experiences abroad gave Graham a new perspective on the world, and when he returned to the United States, he decided against his original plan to be a high school history teacher and basketball coach.

“I changed my career path and went to D.C. for an internship on Capitol Hill,” Graham says. “My first day on Capitol Hill was 9/11.”

That was when Graham’s interest in the Middle East intensified. Instead of moving back to sunny L.A. to resume his original life plans, Graham enrolled in the Trinity Forum Academy on the Chesapeake Bay in eastern Maryland.

“I researched the Islamic civilization, the Islamic way of war, [and] religion’s role in international affairs.”

From there, Graham worked in various roles for the government, including working for members of congress and serving side by side with the military in the Middle East. He has certainly come a long way from that first visit. His vision for the region at first seems out of place coming from a man who spent Easter Sunday in 2008 in a hardened bunker in Iraq instead of a chapel, but he hasn’t let all of the negative experiences cloud his perspective.

“It’s gone from kind of a pure frustration-fascination with the history, to a hate-love relationship to a love-hate relationship and then finally, one that wants to be engaged with it for my career,” Graham says about how his feelings towards the Middle East have evolved over time. “I can always learn from other people, no matter their background, their nationality, or their perspective. To serve your fellow man is a tremendous privilege.”

Categories: Students

Mays Business School will pause for a few moments Friday to present its Outstanding Doctoral Alumni award, recognizing a scholar whose work has had a significant impact on thousands of students around the world.

The 2012 award recipient is Satish Jayachandran ’99, the Francis M. Hipp Moore Distinguished Fellow and Professor of Marketing at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina.

Satish Jayachandran '99
Satish Jayachandran ’99

The award presentation and comments from the honoree will begin at 1:30 p.m., followed by a reception mixer 2:15-3:15 p.m. in the Cocanougher Special Events Center in the Wehner Building.

This award honors doctoral graduates who have achieved significant distinction in their field and serve as role models for current students. Among the characteristics demonstrated by current and past recipients of this prestigious award are: sustained research productivity and visibility in the field; service to the profession as editor of a major scholarly journal; recipient of major awards for excellence in research, teaching and/or service; academic and administrative leadership as dean or associate dean of a business school; successful career progression at a peer or aspirant school; and holder of an endowed position.

Satish’s research interests are in the area of marketing strategy. More specifically, he is interested in how marketing assets and actions influence firm performance. His research has been published in the Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research and other journals. With his co-authors, Satish was a recipient of the Harold H. Maynard award for 2001 from the Journal of Marketing and the Tamer Cavusgil Award for 2009 from the Journal of International Marketing.

Satish was nominated a “‘young scholar” by the Marketing Science Institute in 2003 based on research productivity and managerial interest in research. Satish has also taught graduate courses at Wirtschaftsuniversitat Wien (Vienna University of Business and Economics) in Austria, Tecnologico de Monterrey, Campus Guadalajara, Mexico and the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, India. He received the Alfred G. Smith Award for Outstanding Teaching from the Moore School in 2005.

Satish is a member of the editorial review boards of the Journal of Marketing and the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. He has six years of professional experience that includes information technology marketing and advertising.

He received his PhD from Texas A&M in 1999. His MBA came from the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta, India, in 1988. His B. Tech was from the University of Kerala, India, 1985.

Categories: Former Students

Jillian Netzel ’13 was awarded a seat on the 2012-13 American Advertising Federation-Initiative Future Board, a creative “think tank” designed to support rising stars in the advertising industry by providing them with hands-on marketing communication experience and exposure to top industry professionals.

Jillian Netzel '13
Jillian Netzel ’13

This year’s thought leader panel will be teamed up with mentors from Initiative, a global creative agency. Throughout the one-year appointment, teams will work together on a client project and will have opportunities to interact with industry executives, shadow employees, and interact with members serving on Future Boards in Europe and Latin America.

Netzel, a senior marketing major and advertising certificate student from Houston, was selected from a pool of applicants across the country. She submitted a video resume that described a creative achievement, explained her potential contribution to the board, and identified a creative and effective media campaign. University students from around the country applied for the 13 slots.

Netzel said, “I am looking to forward to working with Initiative’s Future Board members and gain advice on the industry based on their personal experiences. I am also just thrilled to be a part of this influential group of young people who want to learn more about advertising just as much as I do.”

Categories: Students

A Sugar Land couple created the Janet and Mark H. Ely ’83 Professorship to help attract and retain top faculty at Mays Business School. Their commitment of $250,000 will be matched by funds from Mays’ Center for Executive Development to create a total endowment of $500,000.

Janet and Mark H. Ely '83
Janet and Mark H. Ely ’83

Mark Ely, who received a bachelor’s degree in finance from Texas A&M, is president and CEO at EBR Energy LP, a Houston company that engages in crude petroleum and natural gas extraction. He says key faculty members at Mays impacted his personal life and business career in immeasurable ways. “In some instances, it took years for me to recognize the impact of those teaching professionals on my career and the reasons for the demands that they place on us during the educational process,” he explains.

Ely says he wants to aid Mays in recruiting and retaining talented faculty members who are dedicated to teaching and preparing students for the challenges they face in life and in the business world.

He says he and his wife were inspired to give the gift after a recent discussion with new faculty members at Mays. “Our hope and prayer is that, through this gift, Mays Business School will be meaningfully impacted in achieving the strategic priority of recruiting and retaining talented faculty at Mays Business School. With that goal in mind, we are confident that the students of Mays will return one day and honor Texas A&M and those talented teaching professionals in their own meaningful ways.”

“Mark and Janet Ely’s most generous commitment to our school will positively impact our students and programs,” said Mays Dean Jerry Strawser. “The appointment to an endowed position is the ultimate honor a faculty member can receive, and we appreciate Mark and Janet’s generosity in allowing us to recognize our outstanding faculty in this manner.”

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. Its mission is to create knowledge and develop ethical leaders for a global society.

Categories: Donors Corner, Former Students