With three business interests and a life split between Washington, D.C., and Park City, Utah, Ron Trowbridge’s model for 2017 is simple:
“Just say ‘no,’” he said. “I’m not going to get more involved. My job is to play!”
In 2008, Trowbridge took a step back from a decade of fast-paced, hard-hitting work with RS Information Systems, where he was executive vice president. RSIS was one of the fastest-growing companies in the country during his tenure, and it landed on the Washington Technology’s Fast 50 eight years in a row.
After that company sold in 2008, he established The Trowbridge Company, LLC for executive consulting services related to federal engineering and IT contracts.
“At this time, I am involved with three business thrusts: Blackwatch International, a government IT professional services company; Paisano’s pizza franchising; and real estate development projects in the District of Columbia,” Trowbridge said. “In each case, I am working with and leading young, smart entrepreneurs who are willing to take risks to succeed. It’s rewarding working with these young men and women.”
He still refers to some of his work with RSIS as among his career highlights. RSIS grew from a small company with annual revenues of $10 million to one employing more than 1,800 professionals nationwide in less than 10 years. All the growth, he said, was organic. By the time it sold, the company was seeing annual revenues exceeding $360 million.
Trowbridge said a strong value system that focused on clients and employees greatly contributed to its success along with a “high degree of trust, risk-taking and decisiveness at the executive-management level.” Many RSIS executives went on to be major leaders with other successful corporations.
“We built a very effective ‘business development’ machine that maximized our probability of win in the then-current ‘best value’ marketplace,” he said.
Under his leadership with partner Rodney P. Hunt, RSIS won several large government contracts, including a $425 million systems integration contract in 2003 with the Energy Department, followed by a $1.2 billion, 7-year contract with DOE. Trowbridge said he and his partner didn’t have an interest in taking the company public as it grew out of the small business market and into the full and open arena.
“So we decided to sell/merge with a bigger entity—Wyle Laboratories,” he said.
When Trowbridge was growing up in northern Wisconsin on a 160-acre dairy farm he helped run, he had entirely different career aspirations. Most professionally successful role models in the community were teachers. He planned to follow suit and teach high school science, but ran out of money before he could finish college.
“So I quit school for a short time and went to work for a computer company,” he said. “I was the administrative assistant to the director of education, Sperry Univac. I finished my college degree and went into the professional ranks of the company teaching computer programming.”
That move spun his career in another direction—one that would eventually land him on the pages of Newsweek Magazine along with other up-and-coming executives. Soon into his career, he was chosen by United Technologies Corp. to represent it in attending the Charter Yale Executive School of Management Course, which was featured in the magazine.
“I was one of 50 representatives from major corporations around the world,” he said.
His previous experience includes executive positions with Sperry Corp. and United Technologies as well as ownership positions with small businesses AmerInd, Inc., and Research and Data Systems, Inc.
These days, Trowbridge acts as a “sounding board” for his daughter Karen’s business Trowbridge and Trowbridge. He is not the other “T” in the name.
“We started that name on a lark, I was never the other Trowbridge,” he said. “It was ‘T&T—a dynamite company to work for.’”
Calling his daughter “a pretty amazing success story,” he said they at times have differences of opinion, but “in the end, we refer to her judgment.”
“She has a great executive team and is well positioned for the ‘full and open’ marketplace,” he said, noting the company is expected to exceed $100 million in sales this year.
Trowbridge said he became involved with Paisano’s through friends who along with Trowbridge were offered exclusive franchising rights for nine stores in D.C.
He also has a controlling interest in Blackwatch International, Inc., a $10 million-per-year federal IT services company.
His next goals are to get all his “projects” in better operating condition so he can get away from work and focus more on fun.
Asked what led him to move to Park City, Utah, Trowbridge said he’s an avid snowboarder and skier and also enjoys golf, fishing, hiking and camping in the summertime. He said the town has the “greatest snow on Earth” with mild summers and no humidity.
“There are about six or eight direct flights from the Washington airports into SLC, and the commute to my house in Park City is only 35 minutes,” he said. “We live in a 7,500-acre luxury community with two championship golf courses and many other amenities.”
He also plans to set up scholarship opportunities for high school graduates in his hometown who aspire to be entrepreneurs.
What is something most people don’t know about Trowbridge?
“I have a ‘white hot’ temper, but it dissipates quickly,” he said.
He and his wife Pati have a blended family with one son, four daughters and seven grandchildren. They have lived in the Washington, D.C., area for 35 years until recently moving to Park City.