As I dialed the number to ask for an interview, I didn't know what to expect, which is the normal anticipation that I feel when asking the president of an important company to spare some of his time to answer my questions. Much to my surprise, it took me no time to secure an interview with Mario Borgatelloof MarBorg Industries. During our rather informal meeting, I was able to hear, see, and understand how it is that this family has been able to work together, grow an incredibly prosperous business, and be so appreciated by their employees and by the community at large - including many who live in the Goleta Valley, where MarBorg is the primary trash and recycling service.
Mario, as he prefers to be called, explained with pride: "My father, Mario F. Borgatello, raised us on responsibility, respect, work ethics, honesty, and integrity. That's all you need to live a good life." He said as much with a wide, sincere smile that set the mood for the rest of the interview.
What's your family history?
My parents were immigrants who came from the north of Italy to the United States. Due to the terrible discrimination in those days, it was impossible for my father to get a job. My parents were very poor. Picking up trash was the only thing that my dad could do to earn some money. In 1936, he started this business. There's a picture of my father next to his first truck, with his brother Charles and their friend "Shorty." Did you see it as you came in? My uncle served at the Marine base, which used to be where UCSB is located now.
My parents lived for years in what we know today as the "Noleta" area, where my brother David and I were born. This business is what I have always called my job. When I was 13, I was already working on it! I did have, at times, a second job as a valet parking at the Coral Casino and for private parties in Montecito. David had a couple of other jobs before joining the family business in 1973. As time passed, other family members joined us.
How many members of the Borgatello family work in the company?
Well, let's see. It is David and I, and my son Brian, who brought recycling as an integral part of the business in the early '90s. You see, when my father started his business, there was no formal recycling in the horizon; however, he was already recycling potato sacks, bones, and silverware. My other son, Anthony, was the one suggesting the addition of liquid wastes. David's daughter Kathy Koeper, my daughter Theresa, and her husband Derek Carlson share the administrative responsibilities, plus my other 240 family members [meaning his employees].
Things have worked pretty well in this organization. What's the secret to be able to work with family members in an efficient way?
Communication and respect is the key to running a successful family business or any other endeavor, call it friendship or a marriage. I've been married for 40 years and my wife and I don't always agree in everything. [He giggles.] In our company, we all focus in what's best for the business.
Last week was the official opening of the ABOP (antifreeze, batteries, oil, and paint) and Electronics Collection facility. The ABOP recycles these items at no cost to the public, but there's a cost that will be absorbed by MarBorg Industries. What's in it for you?
The community is important to us because that has been one of my father's main teachings. He's always told us, "Never forget what has brought you to where you are." We exist because of the community and we have to serve the community.
We do it as a thank you to all our customers and residents of the Goleta Valley, but we also do it because we care about the environment. These materials are no longer acceptable in the landfill. Legislation means nothing without the necessary infrastructure to ensure that the law can be applied.
What are your plans for the next five years?
If there is an opportunity for expansion we'll take it. When a business rests on its laurels, it dies. Conversely, a business with a vision can always prosper. Our business is local and it is not controlled by Wall Street, but by Main Street. Whatever the need is out there, we want to meet it. We have the ability to adapt quickly to the ever changing needs, to make this a better place.
Tell me one thing that you don't like about your business.
Having to fire an employee who I know has a family to feed. When I do that, it is because I have tried everything else and nothing has worked, but this doesn't make it any easier.
What drives you?
What drives me is the thought that our family started in the '30s with nothing. It has been very gratifying to see our business grow in the spirit of honesty and integrity. To see that one can offer a service, be fair to our customers and employees, and still make a profit is very inspirational.
What's the last thing that you think about before you go to sleep?
I thank God for the example that I was given by my parents, and for the one I can give to my children.
One last thought?
Unequivocally, there has been a tremendous amount of hard work in making this business what it is today, but we have passion and love for what we do, and we enjoy it! That's why, under no circumstances, regardless of how much money someone offers, our business is not for sale. We simply love what we do!
Learn more about MarBorg Industries at marborg.com.
Silvia Uribe is a freelance writer with a Latina perspective.
Cross-posted at the Independent.com