Luis Torrado

Faces of Latino Success

  • Company Name: Torrado Architects
  • Year Founded: 1996
  • Industry: Architecture
  • Location: Providence, RI

Company Overview:
One of Rhode Island’s leading full service Architectural Firms, providing services which include: feasibility studies, program development, master planning, conceptual design, schematic design for project approvals, design development, construction documents, and construction administration.

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One of the earlier lessons that I learned was when we first came to the United States especially to Rhode Island. I knew more math than what they were teaching but I sunk without the English. Nothing was possible without the English, that summer I learned English and that was a huge lesson for me. Not only about life but about being in the United States. You have to assimilate as quickly as possible, to a huge extent the American dream is still alive. My father told me there are two decisions you are going to make in your life that are going to determine whether or not you are happy. One is who you marry the other one is what you do for a living and he said do pick something that you would do for free. Not only will you be happy but you will be successful but I went into not thinking about the money but because it was a passion, I really loved doing it. What I was doing for this firm was realizing what I always wanted to do, the bigger projects, more responsibility.

It was just so exciting to go from meeting with a client, trying to get their vision, starting to sketch things out and eventually walking through that thought; the physical experience of going through the space that you can see. We specialize in doing educational facilities, we have done in the last eighteen years more schools in Rhode Island than any other firm in Rhode Island or out of state firm. And there is a lot of opportunities, we have an office in Puerto Rico which through the incredible depression in Rhode Island sustained us for a couple of years, that was really good. We have averaged twelve employees for the last eighteen years.

I know having survived what Rhode Island has survived is only going to make us stronger, it’s only going to make us better. Certainly the people who came, when my parents came in 1970 and they were here in Central Falls for them to see successful Hispanic businesses and elected officials who are Hispanics, its amazing. With that comes a lot of responsibility, that now we are given the opportunity to do it, we have to. I have great hope for my family for my firm but also for our community.

The Challenge

My biggest challenge was receiving our first commission. When I started the business, I had to balance the financial commitment of buying equipment and hiring staff without having a definitive project. I understood that a client, particularly in the public sector, would be reluctant to hire a firm that did not have adequate staffing, equipment and insurance to perform a sizable project.  It is difficult for a public building committee to award a contract to a firm for whom this is their first project. It would be impossible for them to justify the award unless the firm showed that they had the capacity to perform all the required aspects of the project. I knew that if I wanted to be considered for large public projects, I had to make the financial investment prior to obtaining any contracts, as risky as I knew that was.

We committed all of my family savings and resources on establishing an office, buying computer equipment, and hiring staff. The architectural field is very competitive; there are numerous established firms with whom I was able to compete against after having made this commitment.

Uncovering Best Practices

Although I believe that the “American Dream” is still possible, I recognize that sometimes it is not a level playing field for minorities. I feel the best antidote to combat discrimination is excellence. A culture of performing beyond the client’s expectations is always our goal.

Company Achievements

My work has received awards from the American Institute of Architects, The Providence Preservation Society, The Rhode Island Historic and Heritage Commission. My work has been published in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine and American Schools and Universities. We received the award for Best Minority Enterprise from Governor Lincoln Almond and Best Small Minority Business Enterprise from SBA and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

My biggest achievement is having successfully practiced architecture as Torrado Architects for the past 19 years.

What opportunity did you perceive in the marketplace that motivated you to start your business?

There was legislation passed in the mid 1990s that required public projects to include fee proposals as part of the architectural selection criteria. I knew that I could submit competitive bid fees and that having an objective selection criteria would offset the traditional method of the awarding of public projects.

What realities did you face in the marketplace?

The challenge is always getting the jobs, having sufficient staff to meet deadlines, and getting paid on a timely basis.

What are you sources of inspiration on a daily, frequent basis?

God is my strength.

What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?

I was told by a mentor that the hardest thing about starting a business is deciding to do it. When I started my office, I did not have any projects and my wife and I were expecting our fourth child. It was a difficult decision, but one that I never regretted. My advice is to make the decision, prepare yourself to succeed and have faith.

What is your vision for your company in the next 5 years?

I am fortunate to have two sons who are in the process of completing their architectural education. I look forward to them becoming an integral part of Torrado Architects.

What information do you recommend entrepreneurs, in general, to integrate into their thinking? Do you have specific books or articles that you would recommend?

I recommend that entrepreneurs network with professional groups and develop relationships with state, city and community resources. There are specific publications for each business type. A good general source of information is the Providence Business news.

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