Andres Ruzo compares his journey through the business world to his recent 12-day trek through the Peruvian Andes.
"The journey was just like business," he told HispanicBusiness. "It had its ups and downs, hills and valleys. But it was well worth it."
Mr. Ruzo's company, Link America, is the top company on the 2012 HispanicBusiness Fastest-Growing 100 ranking.
The Peruvian native knows a great deal about the hills and valleys of the business world. Link America showed an impressive five-year revenue growth of 5,117 percent, from $4.1 million in 2006 to $213.91 million in 2011. But business wasn't always fresh air and mountain dew for the company.
It was on the verge of bankruptcy as recently as 2007.
Mr. Ruzo, 51, who holds an industrial engineering degree from Texas A&M, started Link America in 1994 as a manufacturing firm focused on refurbishing large switching systems for telephone companies. Later, it expanded into VoIP, broadband and wireless services.
That proved to be a dead end, however. Although the company had become a $12 million enterprise by 2001, Mr. Ruzo knew that he would eventually have to remake the company into something else if it was to survive.
In 2007, with the company $3 million in debt and having gone from 100 employees to five, he knew it was time for some big changes. Those changes transformed the company into one of the fastest-growing service companies in the country.
"We were what I call a 'skinny cow' company for a while," Mr. Ruzo says. "I wanted to turn it into a 'fat cow' organization. What ended up happening, though, made me simply say, 'Holy cow!'"
Mr. Ruzo -- who is "Peruvian by birth, Texan by choice" -- had an idea. Just as his company's name implies, he wanted to link the Americas from Canada to Argentina. That way, companies in the Americas could look to each other rather than to Europe and Asia for expansion.
"I believe in the Americas," says Mr. Ruzo. "I think the future is here."
The company is based in Rowlett, Texas, but maintains offices throughout the Americas, including Costa Rica, Columbia and Mexico. Link America collaborates with partners in Central and South America to help them become part of the linked-in network.
Link America now performs numerous functions for its clients, from warehouse management solutions, to shipping/network upgrades with such clients as AT&T and Verizon, to constructing critical communication networks for police and fire agencies.
The company can handle all aspects of helping its clients connect, from designing and engineering wireless and wireline networks, supplying electronic tracking and ordering systems software, and providing the ability to manage projects using Web-based tools.
The company is ISO 9000:2000 and ISO 9001 certified, and is striving to obtain ISO 14001 certification as well.
ISO 14001 relates to energy management systems and helps an organization minimize the negative effects its operations might have on the environment.
Being 'green' is important to Mr. Ruzo. "Making money is a byproduct of doing things right," he says.
A key to the company's success is following three principles: Increase incremental sales to top revenue; increase profits; and drive cost out of operations and selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A).
"We give our clients real-time solutions to help them make decisions that are both accurate and decisive," Mr. Ruzo says.
Although Link America's growth has been substantial, it didn't happen overnight.
"It has been tough," says Mr. Ruzo. "It took 20 years of planning to get where we are now. I feel very blessed and thankful to be where I am today."
As for the future, things continue to look bright. Mr. Ruzo projects company revenues to approach $260 million in 2012, and he envisions Link America to someday be one of the key agents in a 'linked' America.
However, he knows that he has to keep working hard and pursuing new technologies for his company to continue to succeed.
Most of all, he knows not to take his success for granted.
"I'm an immigrant," he says, "and immigrants don't take anything for granted."
That includes the beauty of the Andes and
the excitement of running a hot company. The journey is difficult and
strenuous at times, but the view from the top is