LUIS TORRADO, 46, of Old City, owns Torrado Construction Co., a general contractor in Port Richmond. Torrado worked as a subcontractor on three local projects for a Texas-based construction-management firm that manages Barnes & Noble College Bookstores' construction accounts. Torrado, a North Philadelphia native, started the firm in 1996.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the biz?
A: While I was a student at Community College of Philadelphia, I got a part-time job with an electrical contractor in Center City who was working on Liberty Place I. Later, I worked for a contractor who [mentored] me, but he died unexpectedly and the business closed. I later decided I could start my own company.
Q: How would you describe the business?
A: We are a general contractor and do projects with the city and some private work. But what we specialize in, on the subcontract level, is demolition, carpentry, concrete, masonry and painting. We may do some of each or all of each.
Q: What percentage of the biz is subcontracting?
A: I'd say 80 percent.
Q: How big a business?
A: We did about $5 million in revenue last year. The goal for 2014 is around $7 [million].
Q: How many full-time employees?
A: We average about 20, but we fluctuate between 15 and 50 based on the number of projects we're working on.
Q: How many active clients?
A: Probably 30. It's pretty steady, but it's evolving, sort of like out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new mentality, and who fits projects we focus on.
Q: Who's a typical client?
A: A large general-construction management firm that does lots of high-volume business and we work as a subcontractor.
Q: You recently completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Community College of Philadelphia. What did you learn?
A: It helped me get out of that tunnel vision and assess my business without being stuck in it. I took a class on negotiating new business opportunities and was in the middle of a negotiation with a general contractor who was trying to get a little extra out of us, and I stood my ground and said this is my best price. I got the job for the number I wanted.
Q: What's next?
A: We're going to start selling an admixture product, Xypex, that you put in concrete to waterproof it. It's made in Canada but not marketed well here. We'll be their sales rep, distributor and installer. We haven't finalized the deal but we're close. I anticipate this could boost our annual revenue by about $500,000.