Gabriel Ruiz: Army Veteran and SBA Award Winner
Army Veteran, CEO, and SBA Award Winner Gabriel Ruiz shares his advice for small businesses and how he strategically gained success in the federal marketplace.
Gabriel Ruiz served the U.S. Army for 26 years as a Communications and Technology Acquisition Officer until he retired in 2006 as a Lieutenant Colonel.
Right after that, he built his own company, Advanced IT Concepts, Inc., providing technology services and solutions as well as engineering, training and implementing complex systems for the federal government and the commercial marketplace. Since then, the company has delivered $70M+ programs.
Apart from that, he had also established “CEO Hive,” a little program where he and other established business owners help small businesses and subcontractors gain success.
“You don’t know which way the pendulum’s going to swing. Today, you’re a subcontractor. Tomorrow, you might be having the next Uber, so maybe you can reach back and pull others up.”
With all of this, he was recognized as the 2016 North Florida District Minority-Owned Small Business Person of the Year and the 2017 North Florida Small Business Person of the Year.
EXPERIENCE IN THE FEDERAL MARKETPLACE
Ruiz didn’t have any idea about being an entrepreneur but his experience in the military was the reason why his transition became easier. He was able to translate what he learned.
“In many cases, our military folks, especially younger folks, do not know what they really have. The ability to stand up in front of somebody, and talk to them, and do brave things, and develop strategies, and develop courses of action, and all this is innate into the junior leaders, and that translate perfectly into industry, and many times our folks, our military transitioning folks, are not aware of that, that discipline, that dependency, that we know they’re going to show up on time. It’s invaluable.”
However, in managing his business, Ruiz also encountered a problem in not having a credit line and access to capital. Although he was able to get loans from institutions like the SBA, Ruiz stressed that small businesses should get credit lines for their businesses even if they don’t need it yet because as soon as they grow, this will help them.
“Use the money wisely, and use it for growth, so it’s sustainable and you can repay your loans.”
Apart from that, Ruiz also made a mistake in not having a larger proposal capture business development team when his company is growing and he can no longer do the business development himself.
“We have to invest. I tell young companies, business development people are expensive, but you might want to bring the right people, and pay them half time or a quarter time, and they’ll find you the right opportunities.”
INITIATIVE FOR OTHER SMALL BUSINESSES
Due to these experiences, Ruiz wanted to give back to other growing businesses; so, he created CEO Hive.
Through this initiative, he and other business owners brought about 15 subcontractors and taught them about the things that they know.
They also helped them in developing their accounting systems, credit lines, and security clearances so that they can chase opportunities together.
“Anybody can win a contract, if they’re lucky, but it’s performing on that contract, and by developing these younger companies, we increase our chance of success by helping them get to that point.”
ADVICE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
For 8a small businesses, Ruiz wants them to pull back from the program if they are not ready yet.
Do your homework first before diving into such an opportunity. Remember that the 8a program’s duration is only nine years but you can’t get any contracts during that period if you don’t have the credit line, the security clearance, the past performance, and the relationship.
Then, for those who want to transition from working for other companies to building their own, Ruiz encourages them to have a roof over their head first and not just directly jump at the opportunity.
Lastly, he encourages small businesses to understand their customers and the regulations of the marketplace, get the right resources, network themselves and their business, and to never give up.
“For companies to be successful, the leadership, the owners, have to be persistent. Don’t give up, right? Nobody’s going to tell you yes on the first pass, or the second pass, or the third pass, right? Don’t give up. That’s key.”
If you want to watch the full video of the interview with Gabriel Ruiz as he shares how he strategically gained success in the federal marketplace, then be sure to click the link down below.
007: LTC Gabriel Ruiz –Army Veteran, System Integrator, Mentor and SBA Award Winner