Juan Antonio Angulo Jr. believes in doing the opposite of what everyone else does. He thrives on innovation and re-inventing the wheel, but he also knows when the wheel does not need to be re-invented and he pauses, thinks some more, and then takes action.
It is just such characteristics, as described by his daughter Jacqueline, that demonstrate the Crown Leadership qualities of this second-generation owner of Superior-Angran, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and his role in the success of the distribution company.
But that success is no accident; it has come as the result of a great deal of perseverance through hardship, commitment to his industry “family,” and his personal beliefs and fortitude.
JOURNEY FROM CUBA
Angulo’s family came to the United States as political refugees to escape persecution and seek freedom. In fleeing Cuba at the age of 8 with his mother and sister, Angulo at first found it hard to understand why his father had chosen to trade a life of wealth for a life of economic struggle. Angulo wondered why he had to be separated from his father, his home and the environment into which he was born and raised. But he began to understand as the family experienced the abuse of Castro’s military regime at the Havana Airport. “All our belongings were taken away and we were searched; they even made us go through the humiliation of having to take off our clothes,” he said.
So when mother and children arrived in Miami, they each had only a small bag of clothes and $5 in their pocket. The family began its life in the U.S. through economic assistance, food stamps, and a home in a public housing project — for which they were very grateful. Four months later, they relocated to Puerto Rico to join his father, first sleeping on the floor in the house of a friend of his parents, eventually being able to rent a house they shared with another family.
Having first accepted a position selling pesticides for a local agricultural products distribution company, Angulo’s father then founded Superior-Angran in 1972 (the company was formally incorporated in 1977), with Angulo working part-time while he attended the University of Puerto Rico. Through it all, Angulo said, “We also carried with us a suitcase full of love for life, a heart filled with optimism, a mind full of dreams and a soul filled with passion.”
When Angulo was 15, his father became an American citizen. At that time, because he was a minor, Angulo was eligible to request citizenship immediately. But, he said, “My father said no. He believed that to become a citizen of the greatest country in the world where liberty was the most precious thing, it was a privilege. He wanted me to make that decision myself.”
So, two days after he turned 18, Angulo said, “I pledged loyalty to the United States of America and was granted the privilege of this citizenship through my own personal choice.”
Angulo continued working in the company, eventually taking it over with his wife, Sylvia, and expanding the business throughout the Caribbean, and creating success through strategic planning and diversification. “My favorite part of the business is developing strategies,” Angulo said. “I firmly believe in imagination, planning and creativity. We are innovators; we believe in creating strategies.”
In creating those strategies and diversifying the company, Jacqueline said, “He has been fearless! With the product lines that we already had, we made a selection of what would fit in other segments in the pest control market, and from there we expanded.” Superior-Angran currently distributes products and equipment for the pest control industry in structures, turf and ornamentals, golf course, agricultural, retail and irrigation markets.
“It’s hard to change,” she said. “It is imperative that a leader — without losing his conviction, postures and strengths — is able to be flexible and adjust. My father has always gracefully been able to adjust. Without it, Superior-Angran would not be where it is today.”
Nouveaux Pest Solutions COO Christopher Donaghy sees similar attributes as having led to Angulo’s success. “Juan is a visionary, and that is a key trait of any successful entrepreneur,” he said. “Juan’s other strong trait as a successful leader is that his word is a promise, and he keeps his promises.
“Although Juan is generally a quiet man, he is very firm in his convictions,” Donaghy said. When Juan speaks his words and thoughts were balanced and meaningful, and he could sway the direction of a conversation, he said, adding, “Juan lives by a moral compass that includes loyalty, fairness, generosity, professionalism and leadership.”
HIS INDUSTRY FAMILY
Throughout his career, Angulo has treated customers like family, extending a helping hand to fledgling pest control businesses whenever possible. He is active in the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and United Producers, Formulators & Distributors Association (UPFDA), and his company’s own Corporate Social Responsibility Program. Angulo created the initiative to involve Superior-Angran employees as well as its customers in helping others. The company selects a few non-profit organizations that help children in need in Puerto Rico, then donates money and other items that are needed.
As a family-oriented company, “we strongly believe in the value of service and in personal relations, but most of all, in honesty and fairness,” Angulo said.
“I believe in people and in helping the young people with new ideas to succeed,” he added. “So, when we discover potential in people, it is our duty as Christians to return the blessings we have received. We have to take on risks with people; one cannot stop being who one is just because some people failed you. Possibly, sometimes, we could be more selective, but if it is in your power to help them, you must do it.”
Angulo lives what he speaks, and it is just such beliefs and actions for which he is held in high regard by his industry peers. “There is a word I seldom use when describing people ... gracious. Juan and his wife Sylvia are truly gracious people,” said Primera Interim CEO Keelan Pulliam. “They are kind, gentle, helpful, always thinking of others and put others first. Whether a customer, a supplier, an employee or even someone working in a restaurant they are so thoughtful and appreciative. While extremely successful they have worked hard and overcome so much.”
“Juan is a highly respected business colleague of mine; I’m honored to call him my friend,” added Gardex Chemicals President Karen Furgiuele, citing Angulo’s years of commitment to the industry and his involvement in associations such as UPFDA, ASPCRO and NPMA, and his honesty. “Not only is Juan highly professional in dealing with everyone, he is a very dedicated family man,” she added. “Family comes first.”
A FAMILY MAN
Angulo’s commitment to family is a sentiment reiterated by UPFDA Executive Director Valera Jessee. “Frequently a person’s greatest obvious achievement is their children,” she said. “Jacqueline is a beautiful woman of integrity, class and excellent business acumen — learned from her father and polished by her mother. I have always been impressed with Juan’s courtesy and good manners. There is never a conversation with Juan or his family that does not begin with a genteel interest in you and your family. And, every conversation ends with a sweet farewell to you and your loved ones.”
Though now retired from the business, Angulo’s wife, Sylvia, remains involved. She worked with Angulo from the beginning, then as the company grew, took on the role of collections manager, which she handled for 20 years.
Also very involved in the arts, Sylvia has influenced Juan in this area as well. And he has learned life lessons from it; Jacqueline remembers the first time he took her to the Guggenheim Museum at the age of 13. The two were contemplating a colorful Mondrian, when she asked, “Dad, what is so special about a bunch of black lines that are vertical and horizontal and that he uses primary colors to fill the inside of those boxes? Anyone can do that… And how much does that cost, millions of dollars? I can do that.” His reply: “Have you ever thought of doing that? Because no one else thought of it, that’s what makes it original and different.”
“With no art background, he got it,” Jacqueline said. “After my bachelor’s and two masters in architecture…I have never forgotten that answer.”
While he takes an interest in art, Angulo is most passionate about world travel and his farm, described by his daughter as “100 acres of beautiful green slopes.”
The farm, El Castillito (“The Small Castle”), was named in memory of his grandfather who, he said, “was stripped of his farm by the communist regime and who died in Florida with the hope that one day he would recover his beloved farm.”
Not only is the farm Angulo’s “small heaven on earth” (see photo at right), it provides jobs for very humble people, Jacqueline said. “He loves to interact and to help his ‘Finca’ friends and employees. One of my son’s best friends is a ‘Finca’ friend.”
Angulo will always be thankful, professionally for “friends and mentors” Blanton Whitmire, Bill Broome and Malcolm Stack, who “taught me to be different and that by being different I would be successful.” But it is his family who has had the greatest impact on his personal life. “We were able to immigrate seeking freedom, and with a lot of willpower and the help of the Greatest Nation in the World, we definitely succeeded,” he said.
A BELOVED BUSINESS
Superior-Angran has been called the “First Family” of the Caribbean pest management industry not just because of the success of the firm but because of everything Angulo has done for the industry. “My dad is a gentleman and my mom is a lady, and when you hold an office that holds a lot of responsibilities people seek these qualities in the people that run it,” Jacqueline said. “I believe their peers respect and trust them for having these qualities. I think the people in the industry feel a sense of security and understand that their interests are being addressed fairly.” That belief was validated by Angulo’s peers. “Juan has been the face of the pest control industry in the Caribbean,” Pulliam said. “He has helped numerous pest control operators start their businesses and has provided financing and training to ensure they were successful.” Angulo expanded his business to meet the needs of all the major Caribbean islands: he changed his business model to meet the growing needs of the island, moving into turf and ornamentals, irrigation and, eventually, agriculture chemical inputs, Pulliam explained.
Having worked with Angulo on the Speckoz Board of Directors for several years, Agri-Turf Distributing CEO Lon Records said, “He is a true industry leader in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, but his wisdom and judgment has helped many of us in the industry nationwide. Juan has a beautiful family and is a most deserving recipient of this prestigious award.” “Juan and his family have been members of UPFDA for more than 30 years,” Jessee added. “When Juan Sr. retired, it was a seamless transition from one honorable man to another. Their company represents integrity and good business. Juan’s example of kindness and community support has lifted the persona of our industry.” THE LAND OF THE FREE “I am completely sure that, if you strongly believe in something and work hard for it, eventually it will happen,” Angulo said. “I believe in The American Dream. From ground zero my family was able to get back on their feet thanks to the land of opportunities, the United States of America. I am very proud of everything I have achieved, and I am proud to have become an American, by choice. I want to remind everybody that freedom is not free.
“Never, never take liberty for granted!” he said.