GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two brothers took their small business and grew it into a successful Grand Rapids company.
R&R Mechanical, which does commercial and residential heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration work, was founded in 2008 by Rolando Ramos. He fell in love with the HVAC field when his school counselor pushed him to pursue it, his brother Ruben Ramos said.
Ruben Ramos said between the two brothers, who are twins, Rolando Ramos had always been the leader.
“I came into HVAC because he was in the HVAC,” Ruben Ramos, the managing partner at R&R Mechanical, said. “He called me over, he said ‘Hey, come on over. I have a company that I already named R&R.'”
Shortly after the twin brothers were born in Chicago, their family moved back to Mexico, to the Sierra Madre Mountains in Durango. Later, when they were teenagers, the family came back to the United States. Ramos said though they are U.S. citizens, they felt like immigrants.
“We had to learn the culture, we had to learn the language,” he explained.
The moved to Grand Rapids in the early 1990s for their dad’s job and have stayed in West Michigan ever since.
“This is where we went to school, we played and now we get to work and this is our community. This is our stomping grounds now,” he said.
When they started R&R Mechanical, it was a small business focusing on the residential Hispanic and Latino market. The business has since grown and now employs between 35 and 40 people, though they brothers faced barriers along the way. As they were starting out, Ramos said they had to “work twice as hard” to prove themselves.
“I feel a lot of times, especially those first few years when we started our company, was having to prove that we were able to do the task and that we knew what we were doing,” he said.
They also had a difficult time recruiting. Ramos said they had to resort to hiring people without experience and training them — which led to them finding “tremendous talent” and loyal employees. Ramos said he now strongly believes in giving people opportunities and that taking the time to train someone who may not have otherwise had a chance to get into the HVAC field has been rewarding.
“I didn’t know that at the time that I was going to enjoy that, but I do. I really love growing our family, adding team members to our team and training them and coaching them along,” he said.
He said training their own talent was “a win in the long run.”
Along with being a family-owned business with a focus on creating a good work environment, Ramos said it was their upbringing that ultimately led to the success of their business.
“I think it was our drive, our hunger to go and conquer what we were doing. We come from a family of immigrants who — we weren’t dirt poor but we were not well economically,” he said. “(There were) a lot of things that we couldn’t have growing up and everybody else could. And so I think that is just a little chip on our shoulder that we had and we just needed to make something for ourselves. So I think that that drive has made us push through many barriers and helps us continue to move forward.”
His advice to new small business owners and to new Hispanic small business owners is to find their ‘why.’
“Learn and identify who you are as a person,” he said. “What is your internal why? Why do you want to do this, what is your real reason? And once you identify that, use that as your drive. Because I think that it is very important that you have drive, that you have that willpower to withstand and overcome any and all barriers.”
He also encouraged finding a mentor, adding he wished he found one earlier in his career.
“I think it would have made things clearer at … a much earlier time in our business if we would have just had somebody to listen to,” he said. “I probably would have avoided a lot of hard lessons that we learned.”
Hispanic Heritage Month ends Sunday. Ramos said it’s “vital” to take the time to celebrate the month and what businesses like his add to the community.
“We’re celebrating our Hispanic Heritage month, our richness, the richness of our diversity and the culture that we add to our communities here in the U.S.,” he said.
News 8 is featuring Hispanic-owned West Michigan businesses this week in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. Click here to read all five stories, and catch our Hispanic Heritage Month special Thursday at 7 p.m. on WOOD TV8.