“I live my life that way and I think my employees do as well,” Ruffalo says.
RuffaloCODY, a Cedar Rapids-based company, works with nonprofits and educational institutions, including the University of Iowa, on fundraising, enrollment, and marketing. It started in 1991 as a small operation and has grown into a $100 million company with 550 fulltime employees and approximately 5,000 student employees around the country and abroad.
Prior to entering the business world, Ruffalo used his educational administration degree as a teacher and principal in Cedar Rapids. He says the skills he learned in the College of Education and in his career in education are a major influence on RuffaloCODY.
“I learned how to think creatively and how to manage,” he says. “Managing a classroom or managing teachers is no different than managing a big organization like we have. My background in education taught me how to manage with compassion.”
Ruffalo, former CEO and now Executive Chairman of the Board at the company, says it’s important to him and the other company founders to keep their successful company based in Iowa. More than half of its fulltime employees are based in Cedar Rapids. Others live as far away as Australia.
Joe Cunningham has worked with Ruffalo since 1987 and recently retired as RuffaloCODY’s chief financial officer. He says he learned a lot from Ruffalo.
“When we talk about solving a problem or designing something new, he’ll rarely say, ‘Okay, let’s do it that way. That makes sense,’ It’s always, ‘What about if we did this? What about if we did that?’ He’s not only constantly learning himself, but he’s teaching me and others around us that there are other ways to do things that may be the right way,” Cunningham says.
Ruffalo says all of his work is guided by the tenants he’s defined for RuffaloCODY, which are PRIDE (Passion, Results, Integrity, Dedication, and Entrepreneurial spirit).
“I have 500-some people who assume I’m going to make good decisions so that their livelihood is intact,” Ruffalo says. “I’m truly attempting to build a better life for them.”