TxCDC Consultant Armando Ruiz Offers One-Stop Shop that Helps Clients Find Property and Obtain Financing
Armando Ruiz loves to travel. One of his annual trips is to Las Vegas where he enjoys trying his luck at the casinos. However, it’s his clients who have all the luck when he helps them with locating and financing their business locations.
To make sure that he’s not gambling with his customers’ livelihood, Ruiz has focused on being able to effectively and efficiently serve the many needs of small business owners. The Austin native can help owners find the property that best fits their needs and then assist them in qualifying for an SBA 504 loan to finance the building. Through it all, he provides wise counsel to help his clients make appropriate plans as they start or grow their business.
Those qualities make Ruiz a valued member of TxCDC’s team. “Armando’s deep knowledge of commercial property, businesses and SBA 504 lending brings great value to his clients,” said TxCDC President Suzanna Caballero. “He represents his clients’ interest throughout the decision and implementation process and delivers what they want, whether it’s advice, financing or support. We are happy to have him on our team.”
Committed to Learning and Economic Development
After initially dropping out of high school, Ruiz got his life back on track after he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After earning a GED diploma while serving as a soldier, Ruiz used the G.I. Bill to earn a degree in accounting from St. Edwards University in Austin.
Most of his career since graduating has focused on economic development. His first job after college was as a business analyst for Austin Minority Economic Development Corporation. In that role, Ruiz helped local businesses with financing and provided business counseling in areas such as procurement. After a four-year stint as an auditor for the Texas Railroad Commission, Ruiz transferred to the Texas Department of Commerce where he worked with U.S. and international businesses that were considering expanding into the state to identify financing and to develop the necessary infrastructure in communities to support the relocation. During his 10-year tenure, Ruiz did $300 million in infrastructure and financing for businesses around the state. When he was the state agency’s director of financing, Ruiz helped start a state-wide certified development company.
Venturing Out on His Own to Help Entrepreneurs
In 1995, Ruiz started his own business, The Ruiz Companies Inc., to focus on assisting business owners with real estate and financing. “Ever since I started with Austin Minority Economic Development at the local level, I saw how business owners were struggling and how my influence and my knowledge would help them,” Ruiz said. “That created a very high energy for me to be able to provide them with quality service.”
Ruiz has become a one-stop shop for his clients. Business owners often come to him when they are starting to search for commercial real estate property. “I help them find the property and then work with them to structure a 504 loan to get the financing done,” he said. This process can take many months, thus allowing Ruiz to build strong relationships with these business owners.
Ruiz views his business approach as an opportunity to teach small business owners about the SBA 504 loan program. He finds that most small business owners’ first step when seeking to expand their business is to contact a lender, who then dictates the type of loan. However, because he helps his customers find the real estate, he is able to educate them about the benefits of the SBA 504 loan and then he presents the deal to the bank. “The 504 is a wonderful tool,” Ruiz said. “In my opinion, the SBA 504 loan is the most secret program around when it comes to businesses.”
He also offers counsel on issues related to expansion to his clients who own medium or small businesses. “They’re concentrating so much on making a profit in their own industry that they sometimes do not know what needs to be done in implementing an expansion,” he explained. “Because I’ve done so many projects, I know the hardest thing in an expansion is new construction. There’s a lot more risk because there are so many moving parts. A project can be off budget and there are a lot of things the owner needs to know in advance before he starts the construction project. These are some of the things I advise them on – what to look for, what not to do.” Ruiz’s clients appreciate his counsel and seek him out again when they begin to consider other expansion opportunities.
Since starting his business, Ruiz has focused on enhancing his knowledge of both real estate and financing in order to better serve his clients. In 2000, he became a Texas real estate broker. Ruiz obtained the Certified Commercial Investment certification in 2003. To achieve this national credential, Ruiz had to have $5 million in transactions, participate in classes and pass an eight-hour test. He added the title of Certified International Property Specialist in 2009, which is awarded to people who have completed transactions with international clients and who have participated in an intensive educational program and passed a stringent exam.
A Good Partnership with TxCDC
Ruiz started working as a consultant for TxCDC soon after forming his business. In that role, he has done more than $200 million worth of SBA 504 loans all over Texas. He currently serves the Laredo, Austin and Houston areas.
The consultant believes that TxCDC’s commitment to superior service sets it apart from other CDCs. “Texas Certified really has been able to deliver good customer service. TxCDC’s consultants have their relationships and we obviously would like to keep those relationships. The only way that you can keep them is being able to provide individualized and personal customer service,” Ruiz explained. “Texas Certified has allowed us to do that, which differentiates them from other CDCs who get too bureaucratic in the process and don’t have that personal touch. Their focus on volume often leaves the customer behind. TxCDC’s approach has been to focus on the customer and we’ll get the volume.”
Ruiz’s attention to his clients has resulted in the creation of a professional family. “They call me up any time and say, ‘Armando, what about this? Or what about this?’ Plus they call me for help when they are ready to do another expansion,” he said, adding that the favorite part of his job is getting a project completed and watching businesses open their doors. “I get referrals from my clients – that’s the rewarding part. Nobody’s going to refer you unless you’ve done a good job. It’s a good sign.”
Written by Dorian Martin