J. Angel Ortiz Jr.
Company: ZITRO Construction Services
What they do: Commercial and residential construction
Address: 7516 Bluebonnet Blvd.
Revenue: $1.2 million
Next goals: Become one of the premier contractors in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas
In 2005, Angel Ortiz, the owner and president of ZITRO Construction Services, had been out of the construction business for three years. He was working in New Orleans as a pressman for a printing company when Hurricane Katrina hit. After the storm he returned home to help repair the break in the levee. “That turned into people saying, ‘Hey we need your help,’ so we started gutting houses, and I naturally got back into the industry,” he says. Hurricane Gustav brought Ortiz to Baton Rouge when contractors called him to help with the recovery. “I ended up meeting so many good people and the business community was so strong here, I decided to stay.” Ortiz ended up working as an independent contractor for six years, and in 2011 he opened ZITRO Construction Services.
In the wide world of commercial construction, Ortiz finds his passion in a market niche. Instead of going after big projects like apartment complexes or industrial plants, ZITRO likes to work with its own kind: entrepreneurs. “When I meet an aspiring entrepreneur, whether they are getting into business or expanding, I know how they feel,” Ortiz says. “I will lay it out on the line for an entrepreneur.” Ortiz says he enjoys experiencing the entrepreneurs’ business concepts. “I get to be the first one to go in to ensure that that project gets done properly so they can get started with their business,” he says. Some recent entrepreneur projects include CUT Fine Jewelers, two Subway franchise restaurants and Louisiana’s first Bullchicks franchise on Coursey Boulevard.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
For Ortiz, it is important for him to operate under his own values and guidelines. “There are a lot of good contractors out there, but the industry gets a bad rap sometimes, and rightfully so,” Ortiz says. “So for me, it was essential that I ran things the way I would want to run them.” Ortiz has two business strategies that have allowed him to survive and grow with little to no collateral damage: operating debt free and referral networking. “It takes a little longer, but I don’t owe anyone anything,” Ortiz says. Roughly 85% of his business comes from developing close personal relationships. “It is a slower process, but you are much more likely to get a solid job,” Ortiz says. “I always believed in a philosophy of being more patient, letting things take their natural course.”
Adaptability and a strong team is key to ZITRO’s success. The volatility of the industry forces Ortiz and his team to adapt to various challenges daily and sometimes moment-to-moment. “If you can’t adapt in this business, it will swallow you up,” Ortiz says. With each project, Ortiz’s main focus is having a good team and executing on time. “Obviously, I’m not the only contractor in town,” Ortiz says. “People work for other people, so finding quality—I call them ‘A-players’—to be part of your team and nurturing those relationships is a challenge because the work is going on while that is happening.” At times, he concedes, it is tough to find workers, but he knows they are out there. It is just a matter of finding them. “It can be difficult if you are not vigilant,” Ortiz says.