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Roberto Ramírez

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Roberto Ramírez, 47
CEO, Tidy International
Lives in: St. Charles
Backstory: Ramírez was born and raised in Matamoros, Mexico, and arrived illegally in the United States when he was 14, eventually settling in suburban Aurora. By then, Ramírez says, he had been working odd jobs for more than six years, ever since his father, an alderman back in Matamoros, was murdered. Ramírez dropped out of East Aurora High School in 1977, and worked mostly as a janitor and a laborer until the day he made a daring bid: asking a foreman if he could clean up a 400,000-square-foot construction site for $4,000, basically a penny per foot. Ramírez would eventually earn his U.S. citizenship and turn that first cleaning job into a 200-person janitorial services company. Today, his Jesús-Guadalupe Foundation awards college scholarships to at-risk Latinos. “I felt that I had fulfilled some of my dreams,” Ramírez says, “and I wanted to help others do the same.”
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What is your necessary extravagance?
Shopping for clothes.

Favorite TV show?
Anything on the Discovery Channel.

Favorite magazine?
The Harvard Business Review or Men’s Health.

Favorite Web site?
I don’t sit at the computer that much—only to read my e-mails.

What CD is in heavy rotation right now?
Michael Bublé’s “It’s Time.”

Item of clothing you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing?
A Speedo.

Item of clothing you can’t throw away?
My Juárez soccer club jersey. It’s about 15 years old, but I keep it because it’s a team I played on until about three years ago. I keep it because it’s a reminder of when I used to play soccer and of the good friends I made.

How do you order your steak?
Medium rare.

What’s your drink?
Before dinner, I like to order a negroni. It’s gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. It opens your palate. After dinner, I’d order a Grand Marnier, or a grappa, or a Limoncello.

Use two words to describe yourself in high school.
“Humble immigrant.”

When it comes to dates, what’s your secret weapon?
Being an open book. There’s no hidden agenda. Whatever they see is what they are going to get.

What song would you sing if you were forced to do karaoke?
“La Cucaracha.”


Deep dish or thin crust?
Thin. I’m a health nut.

Describe your exercise routine.
Early in the morning, full-body weightlifting and abs for about one hour, and then I run for about 15 minutes to 30 minutes. I try to do three miles. And then abs again. If I feel that I don’t do enough, I go back to the gym in the evening and do another hour or so.

Favorite time of day?
Evening, when I get home and relax and get to read something or go to dinner with some friends. Or, early in the morning when I get my coffee and get to my office and start working.

Morning person or night owl?
A little bit of both. I get up at 4:30 in the morning.

How much do you tip?
Normally 20 percent. Sometimes I go to 25. If I see the person needs a couple extra bucks, I put it in there. I was washing dishes for a while myself.

Favorite bar in Chicago?
The bar at Carmichael’s Chicago Steak House.

I own too many . . .
Dress shoes.

What color is your bathroom?
A cream color.

Bad habit you wish you could break?
I like to keep things in order and very clean. Things have to be in order.

Ever been skinny-dipping?
Oh, yes, but not recently. I grew up on a farm and we’d go when we’d take the cattle to graze or when the parcels of corn and soybeans needed to be irrigated.

I could not date . . .
A woman who did not take care of her hands or feet. There’s a saying, if you don’t take care of those two things, you are not taking care of your heart and soul.

Cubs or White Sox?
I like them both. But my real team is the Chicago Fire. I’m a soccer player.

My idea of a perfect vacation is . . .
Africa, being in the jungle.

What’s on your nightstand right now?
A picture of my kids, a Bible, some note cards where I can write notes if I get up at 2 or 3 in the morning with an idea, and a phone.

Last movie you LOVED?
About Schmidt.

Favorite meal?

If you could have dinner with three living people, who would they be?
Halle Berry, Jack Nicholson, and Anthony Hopkins.

What’s a fun fact about you?
I’m a good cleaner. If you ask me to clean something, believe me, it will be clean.

Guilty pleasure?
Leather dress shoes.

How much was your last haircut?
$15, and there’s not much to cut.

At which store would you max out your credit card?
Neiman Marcus.

I can’t stand people who . . .

What do you do when you’re bored?
I go for a run, or I plant flowers.

If money were no object, I’d go back to school and become . . .
An attorney, because that would give me the platform to be able to help people.


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