Kelli Levey Reynolds, November 29th, 2012
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 everybodyâ€¦ 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 meâ€¦ 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.”