Paul Ruggere – Partner, COO, & CEO, BioTrans

I started my career at a same-day delivery service in Boston in 1992. My first job was as a foot courier, which had me running about fifteen miles a day all over Boston. After about three months, I was promoted to dispatch, where I sat for about a year-and-a-half. The company ran about 800-1000 same day orders each day, which I along with two others had to coordinate and execute. We liked to think about us as the “organizers of chaos.” Looking back on it, this position was extremely pivotal to where I am today. This particular position prepared me for an extremely fast-paced environment, taught me how to be creative on the fly, and it taught me how to build relationships with my personnel as well as my customers.

I was promoted to operations manager after my stint in the dispatch room. In that role, I oversaw all facets of the operation: customer service, dispatch, drivers, walkers, and bikers were all under my supervision. This role once again played a very big role in my career. The on-the-job lessons I learned almost daily were, and still are, invaluable. I did move onto bigger and better things in 2004.

In 2004, I worked as an operations manager, which at the time was a competitor of my current business. This company was much more specialized in the commodities and freight they transported than in my previous experience. Again, a lot of on-the-job training and adaptation was needed. After two years, I was promoted to general manager, and three years after that, I was promoted to president.

How did Biotrans come about?
Biotrans came about pretty much out of necessity. There was an overwhelming need in the industry for a highly-specialized logistics company that understood the needs of the biotech/pharma sector. Gone were the days of using a standard courier service. We did our research and increased our knowledge regarding the transport of blood, platelets, stem cells, pharmaceuticals, and animals by attending conferences and networking. Based on the knowledge we gained, we came up with a model that surpassed what was currently offered by far and then sold the idea.

Tell me about the early days of the business.
Biotrans experienced extremely slow growth until 2015, when our revenue in 2013 was $900,000. In 2014, our revenue increased to $1.3 million, and in 2015, we increased to $3.5 million which landed us on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in the U.S. (#1624). In 2016, our revenue hit $12 million.

We had two offices up until 2015 with eleven trucks and fourteen employees. Today, we have nineteen offices across the United States, with over 100 vehicles and 125 employees. We are planning on opening offices in Germany, France, and Scandinavia within the next two years.

As far as marketing, we do not advertise due to the commodities we transport. However, we do increase our sales through word of mouth, attending conferences, and presentations. Relationships also carry a lot of weight in our industry.

How do you define success?
Tricky question. I could go on forever, but I will sum it up in a sentence or two. There is an old saying that success should be measured by not only how high you climb, but how many people you take with you, which I will agree with.

What is the key to achieving success?
Another one that I could go on forever with, but I will try to tackle it with a few:
1) Perseverance – This is a requirement for any entrepreneur, and in my opinion, the key to success in anything we do. Without it, doors that close can never be opened again.
2) Strategy – Without a solid strategy and six backup plans, shut the doors.
3) Personnel – A dedicated, trustworthy team is absolutely critical, especially when times are tough.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I would have to say it is learning you cannot do everything by yourself. You need a motivated team all rowing the boat in the same direction. Fortunately, I learned this lesson fairly early on and was able to adapt. I can remember sitting in a room, handling sales, operations, and financials for days on end by myself. On the surface, it sounds a lot easier than it is to learn for whatever reason. I see people making this mistake more often than you think.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” (This one is so true)
“Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, but make your absence felt.”
“Life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% of how we react to it.”
“Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”
“If you stumble, make it part of the dance.”

What are some of your favorite books?
The Art of War – Sun Tzu
Make Big Happen – Mark Moses
Rework – Jason Fried

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
There is one particular week that comes to mind:

Monday: I was notified that we had not been awarded a fairly large contract that my team had worked on for six weeks, and delivering that news was extremely tough for me because I had watched them put their blood, sweat, and tears into this particular bid for a month-and-a-half.

Tuesday: I was notified that one of my biggest customers had a hiccup in the accounts payable department and they were not sure if our payment was coming over on Thursday. At the time, we depended on this particular customer to cover our payroll. Starting to sweat.

Wednesday: I spent the whole day sweating it out and trying to secure a $70,000 loan/donation from anybody that would listen.

Thursday: You guessed it…no deposit. However, I did secure a $100,000 line of credit, with loan shark rates of course.

Friday: Was a good day because the deposit came in overnight, payroll was covered, and I did not have to pull the line of credit, but I probably cut six months off of my life.

When faced with adversity, what pushes me forward?
I have an unwillingness to relent and accept defeat. I actually utilize adversity and/or obstacles as motivation. I look at adversity as a situation that needs to be solved, so I actually like the challenge. At the end of the day, adversity is a part of any business, and if you hit those situations head on, you are much better off.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Be patient, but relentless, because success takes a long time. Put a great team together and then lead them. Hire based on character, because skills can be taught. Challenge yourself, as well as your team. Most of all, when the stakes are high, be all in.

Jason Navallo

Jason Navallo is the author of five books: American Dream, Thrive, Never Give Up, Success, and Driven to Succeed. He has an M.B.A. in Human Resource Management from Louisiana State University and lives in NYC.