Meet the CEO: Andres Ruzo of LinkAmerica
The telecommunications expert shares his strengths, weaknesses, and favorite TV show. (Spoiler alert: Criminal Minds.)
After founding LinkAmerica in 1994, CEO Andres Ruzo says his life was a lot like Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream in the Bible. “First, I had seven years of fat cows; it was very easy to make money,” Ruzo says. “Then after the dot-com bust and 9/11, it was seven years of skinny cows. It was very bad. My customers were either dying or being absorbed.”
By 2007, Ruzo was close to putting LinkAmerica into bankruptcy. Instead, he transformed the company from one that focused on the manufacturing of critical communications equipment to one that focused on providing critical communications services. The strategy has worked—in a big way. LinkAmerica generated $12 million in revenue in 2008 and $40 million in 2009. This year, Ruzo says, the company should rake in $120 million.
“It’s a story of faith,” he says.
Born and raised in Lima, Peru, Ruzo came to the United States in 1980 and earned an engineering degree at Texas A&M University. After working in Houston in oil exploration and then commercial real estate, he moved to Dallas in 1992 to pursue a career in telecommunications.
“I was following my vision of selling large-ticket items with repetitive sales—meaning repeat customers—and no competition,” he says. “There were only a few [original equipment manufacturers] at the time. I knew I could do it cheaper, faster and provide good customer service. I took a lot of market share very quickly.”
Ruzo says his new business model has allowed him to leverage existing partnerships and infrastructure. And because LinkAmerica does a lot of work with first responders, such as police and fire departments, he also feels good about the the role the company plays in bettering communities.
The entrepreneur says he doesn’t shoot for the fat cows anymore: “I want lean bulls.”
I worked in Bernardo, Texas, remodeling a house and digging sewer pipes.
I’m doing it now. I love it and would not change it for anything.
BEST PART OF YOUR JOB:
I believe we have a responsibility to use our God-given talents and take them to the max. My company is a reflection of that journey. If you can provide a service or product that helps people and at the same time make money, then you’re killing two birds with one stone. Why waste a stone?
Open-door, results-driven, inclusive, fair and just, and “call it like it is.”
In the business world, it’s persistence, commitment, charisma, and faith.
I’m a total Type A, and I’ve had to tame my drive. Sometimes my zeal scares people; I’m learning how to manage it effectively.
My wife Ana and I have an incredible marriage. My parents have divorced two times each; my grandparents have been divorced. But I’m still madly in love with my wife. We have four kids, from 16 to 23. They’re all exceptional. My oldest son was named the 2009 Outstanding Senior Man at SMU.
WORDS OF WISDOM:
I tell my children three things: First, choose your faith and live it on a daily basis, aligning your thoughts, words and actions around it; second, choose your spouse carefully, as that relationship will be the foundation for future generations; and third, make sure you surround yourself with the right people. Who do you want to take with you on your journey? You want people who will lift you up and be agents of positive change.
I love The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. It’s a great book.
I love Criminal Minds; it’s a great show and the only one I record.
Everything I do, I do with a lot of intent; and that applies to exercise. I ride my bike around White Rock Lake about four times a week and do pilates a couple of times a week. I also love to garden.
I love Dallas. It’s a great city. But in three to five years, I’d like to have the flexibility to work from different places throughout the world and travel. Work is no longer a place; work is a function. You can be in China working on a job in the United States, or in the U.S. working on a job in Argentina. It’s going to happen. I’m going to go global.