Manny Trujillo: How a Colombian immigrant made it in America
Two decades ago, Manny Trujillo came to the U.S. in hopes of becoming a successful entrepreneur. Today he leads one of Philadelphia’s fastest-growing IT service companies.
Before Manuel “Manny” Trujillo became head of one of Philadelphia’s fastest growing companies, he was living in an attic in Trenton with his wife Margarita after moving from Colombia to the U.S. He had no income and a 20-year plan to make it as an entrepreneur in America.
“When I came here to Trenton I sent probably 500 resumes,” Trujillo said. He explained that he mentally prepared himself for rejection, considering a “no” one step closer to a job offer. “I had confidence in myself that I could help companies to succeed,” he said.
Trujillo is now the President and CEO of Swain Techs, a technology system integrator that provides program and supply management, cybersecurity, data analytics and other IT services to private and government entities. The company is based in Horsham, Pa., about 30 miles outside of Philadelphia, and serves six federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and private entities in the metro area like Visiting Angels, a popular elderly home care provider.
Under Trujillo’s leadership, Swain Technologies was named one of Philadelphia 100’s Fastest Growing Companies by the Philadelphia 100 for three consecutive years, was among Inc 5000 Magazine’s fastest growing privately-held companies in the U.S. for two consecutive years, and Trujillo was named a 2015 finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year in Philadelphia by Ernst & Young.
Since Trujillo became head of Swain Techs eight years ago, he has transformed the company, embracing a mission to adjust and improve to meet clients’ unique goals. This has led Swain Tech to a tenfold increase in clients and revenue, and growth from five to 45 employees.
The company now has an impressive annual revenue of $7 million, greatly surpassing the average for Hispanic businesses in the Philadelphia region. The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce (GPHCC) reported in 2017 that only 3 percent of Latino-owned businesses nationwide have an annual revenue of $1 million or more. Trujillo said Swain Techs’ success is a result of the trusting, positive relationship the company has built with its employees and its clients.
“[We are] always challenging ourselves, even if we are doing good we always ask ‘how can we do better?’” Trujillo said, adding that “the key” to his company’s business is the “humility of always improving quality standards.”
Trujillo’s story begins in Medellín, Colombia, where he grew up in a middle-class family and received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Escuela de Ingeniería de Antioquia. He said he has always had a global view and known that if he wanted to build a successful business, he needed to operate in a larger market.
Trujillo went to the U.S. to pursue a Certificate of Special Studies in Administration and Management from the Harvard University Extension School, then returned to his native country to work for a Colombian IT services provider.
He came back to the U.S. a couple years later without a job and settled in the Philadelphia area to be with his wife, living off of the little savings he had. Trujillo lived in the Trenton attic for four months and kept himself motivated with his strategic goal to become a successful entrepreneur, studying for his MBA at the Columbia Business School in New York City.
Trujillo achieved the first part of his plan - becoming a leader in corporate America - within 14 years. He considered himself lucky to score a project manager position at General Instrument, acquired later by Motorola, within a year of moving to the Philadelphia area in 1997, working his way up to be director of project management and remaining with the company until 2010. Trujillo said he expanded Motorola’s market and global product activity, increasing the worth of its product lines from $40 million to $400 million in four years.
While Trujillo has independently chased his end goal, he also received help from a number of organizations designed to benefit professionals who are just starting out their U.S. education and small business ambitions. He praised and recommended to developing Latino entrepreneurs the resources offered by GPHCC, as well its parent organization the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, of which he is a member.
In addition to the chamber, Trujillo noted that the Hispanic Business Association, the Core Program through Leadership Philadelphia and the 10,000 Small Businesses program through Goldman Sachs have also provided him education, training, networking and financing opportunities.
A religious man, Trujillo said he has had faith through his journey not just in God, but in the potential for economic prosperity that the U.S. offers to immigrants. Aspects that drew him to chase a career in corporate America include lower taxation and regulations on small businesses, the value of merit rather than personal favors, and established organizations that are willing to invest and offer resources to minorities. These are the benefits many immigrants look for coming to the country, he expressed.
“People can make it in the U.S. with hard work, and study and some luck,” Trujillo said. “This country, regardless of who the leader is or whatever the positions are, people in the U.S., for the most part, have a big heart.
“There are many opportunities,” he continued. “It’s not a perfect system, but from my perspective, it’s one of the best systems.”