Ruben joined the United States Army in 1996, a South Texas kid who wanted to serve his country.
Twenty years later, he signed his discharge papers and retired from a job he’d had more than half his life. He’d deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe. He had five children – all under the age of 20 – who he’d seen between deployments, but hadn’t had much of a chance to raise. He’d been at home maybe a year in 16 years.
“It was time to get out and succeed as a parent,” he says, just a bit ruefully. “My wife is a hero. I owe her a lot.”
It was an adjustment. His family wasn’t used to having him around; he wasn’t used to the daily challenges of parenting. He needed a job, but wasn’t sure where to apply his skills. He even tried teaching, but gave up when he realized that teenagers weren’t a great fit for a guy who was used to order, discipline, and showing up on time.
When a friend he knew from the service called and told him about an open job at an independent tire company, he took it – and jumped in, learning everything he could about the business, its customers, its rhythms, its challenges.
He liked the business. He was good at selling tires, good at keeping customers happy. He’d served his country proudly, and loved serving people in this new context. But a few things didn’t track with Ruben’s mindset.
“I didn’t like the way they were running their business,” he says bluntly. “If there was an issue with the product, I couldn’t make it right. I couldn’t stand by everything they were selling. Some customers I was serving were independent businesses, trucking carriers who needed the product to work or they were screwed – and if it didn’t, I couldn’t fix it. Not my business, not my authority.”
It was jarring. For the first time in his career, he couldn’t trust his own promises. “I tell you I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it,” Ruben says. “And I couldn’t do that.”
The true meaning of “service”
Ruben had met two men who felt the same way, including the friend who’d brought him into the business. They became partners, and launched a new independent tire company together a year ago, making their commitment to service explicit.
“Our motto is ‘Old School Beliefs’. Respect. Honesty. Integrity. Treat everyone like you’d like to be treated. Simple, but rarer than I thought it would be,” he says. Now, he could make promises, and keep them. He could help out loyal customers; he could build trust, build relationships. He could deliver the customer service he always wanted to give.
“We’re always going to sell you something that works,” he promises.
“When I first started, I was going 100 mph”
It worked – almost too well. It was easy, he says – business was everywhere, everyone needed tires. The hardest thing was pacing himself. “I had to learn to get to know my customers, to not jump on every opportunity. I can’t do good for everyone – but some are good investments for my time, and the company’s time.”
The key to finding those investments? Referrals. “The best service that I get from my clients is word of mouth. If they referred, I know it’s going to be a successful relationship.”
Around six months in, he knew he was still going too fast, too hard. There were still adjustments; sometimes, he still retained the expectations he had from the service, where people meant what they said, where there was a clear chain of command. He wasn’t spending much time with his family – the reason he’d retired from the service in the first place. He needed to find a better balance.
“I was going 100 mph,” he says. “It wasn’t sustainable. I sat down and revised my plan, got some help, said no to more jobs.”
Next, he called us.
“No surprises. They just do it.”
From the beginning, Ruben’s company was hamstrung from serving bigger customers, the kind who pay 30 days later and buy a lot of tires. For that, he needed financing – and like everything else, he asked for a referral from someone he trusts. One of his customers recommended Far West Capital.
“Without Far West Capital, I probably wouldn’t be where I am now. I couldn’t take on a customer with more than 10 trucks without them,” he says.
David Phillips, Sr. Vice President at Far West Capital, personally championed funding Ruben’s capital needs. They understand each other, two family men who bet on themselves for their family’s future.
“My hunch about Ruben was right,” David says. “His M.O. is undercommit, overdeliver, and he has done that and more in just six months.”
“They don’t BS,” Ruben says. “Far West Capital tells you exactly what they’re going to do. No surprises, they just do it, and they explain why they do it. I love it. I even love the newsletter! I sit down and take notes, every time it pops up in my inbox. I always learn something.”
“Your first battle is getting your family back.”
We asked Ruben to give his best advice to others coming from the service, others who might want to make the switch to entrepreneurship.
“Don’t hesitate,” he says, firmly, no hesitation whatsoever.
“A bunch of us have great ideas, but we hesitate to make the jump – because we’re scared of failure. It’s okay to fail. Learn from your failures, and try again.”
“It’s a switch,” he points out – “and it will be a hard adjustment, to your family, to civilians. Civilians might not be precisely on time. Your standards for paperwork will be…” – he pauses, laughs – “a bit higher. Your family isn’t used to having you around. It may drive you a little crazy.”
But he’s clear about priorities, and Ruben’s priority is his family. That’s why he came back. That’s why he’s doing this. And weeks like this one, when he gets to stay home for the first time with a sick kid, to be just Dad – that’s what keeps everything in perspective.
“It’s better when you work for yourself,” he advises.“That transition will be easier than working for corporate America.”
“Find a partner, an advisor, a buddy to help. Do your homework, do your studies. You don’t have to jump in right off the bat; you should treat it like you’re going on a mission – because you are. Everyone has a great idea; if you have the ability to do it, to execute your mission, go after it. “
“Your first battle will be getting your family back. Once you get that, jump into everything else. Keep fighting the fight! There’s a lot of help for people like us – for entrepreneurs who have served.”
It’s been a year, and Ruben’s still finding the perfect balance, but it’s clear he loves this. He’s thriving. He’s playing baseball with his 14-year-old; he’s sending his oldest off to college, even if it is a bit further away than he’d like. He’s rediscovering his marriage. And with capital from Far West Capital, a few great hires, and a shipshape office (“if your office is messed up, everything will be messed up!”) he’s feeling confident about the future.
“It took me a long time to get to where I am,” he says. “I can’t work for nobody else. I love it. This is what I’m meant to do.”
Far West Capital is in the business of funding the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here, and we’ll give them a call.