Jose Martin is the owner of Load N’ Go, a complete landscaping and building materials supply company located in Lawndale, CA near LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). Whether it’s natural stone for a garden space, pavers or brick for a graceful walking path, or artificial turf to create a drought tolerant ground cover, Load N’ Go has been the main source of landscaping and building materials for contractors and homeowners in the Southern California market since 2009.
Tell us about your business?
We started four years ago as a landscape supply company. We have grown from just two employees to eight full-time employees. We started out with one truck and now we have five. We are also one of the best-known companies because we have one of the most diverse and extensive selections of exterior and interior applications in California.
How did you get started with your business?
I worked my whole life in the landscaping and building supply industry, and after working in the industry for 25 years, I went into business with a partner of mine. We owned a building supply company in another part of Los Angeles for 15 years. We had a falling out, so I decided to open my own company. This was nothing when I started it. I started this from scratch. I felt I had enough knowledge to try it. Almost immediately, we started to attract customers.
How did you fund your business in the beginning? Have you taken on any additional funding?
We funded the business through traditional financing — a small business loan.
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Running the Business
How did you learn to run your business?
My first job out of high school was working for a construction materials company. I did everything. I started out working in the field. After that I started helping customers with loading and securing their materials. Then I went on to become a truck driver, delivering material literally all over Los Angeles. I then moved up into sales and then I moved into management. I learned this business from the ground up. I’ve done everything from loading to back office bookkeeping.
Who was your first customer?
When I first opened the business, I was very fortunate because one of my first customers was a neighbor down the street. He bought a pallet of stone from me. That was the very first day I was opened. After that, I had a pretty good inclination that the business would work.
What’s the smartest thing you did in the first year?
The smartest thing I’ve ever done was hire really good people. Providing the customer great service is what really separates us from our competition. The other really smart thing I did was to find a perfect location in a city that supports small business. We are near the freeways, and we are in a very active residential area. We couldn’t have found a better location.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running your own business?
The most rewarding thing about my business is also the most challenging thing: I am always getting up in the morning trying to figure out how to bring in more customers. I am always looking for more ways to bring customers in. Whether it’s service, more selection, bringing in special order products that other yards don’t want to deal with. I am constantly working at expanding my customer base. Like I said, it’s the most rewarding thing and the most challenging thing.
Also, I pride myself on doing lots of research. I am constantly learning. If there is a new product out there, I educate myself on the various materials. If a customer asks me about something, I make it a point to research it so when the next customer comes in, I can say , “Oh yes, I know about that material— here’s the best place to get it and here’s the best way to use it.”
What’s the most surprising thing about running your own business?
We’ve been in business for four years and I’ve been very surprised at how fast we’ve been able to grow. We started out very, very small, and now we are a major supplier to contractors and landscapers throughout Southern California. The growth has come from a combination of things. Like I said, we couldn’t have found a better location and we’re in a great city that supports us. The second part is the employees we have are just outstanding. They make our customer service the best in the industry.
I should also say that another difficult thing about my business is trying to manage when to bring in more and when to expand. The economy has been very difficult, and at times it has really hard to get a grasp of if we’re actually coming out of the bad times or are we going to slip back into the same place again in two weeks. I’m optimistic, but it’s a slow climb out.
What business owner or entrepreneur do you admire most? Who is your role model?
I admire all business owners. We all have a similar spirit. We are the same breed. I admire every small business owner in the country.
What I’ve Learned
What advice, based off of your own experiences, can you offer to other business owners?
Make sure you hire good people. Finding the right people is a huge part of success. Your employees are the key. I really stress this to my employees. The product is available anywhere and price will be very competitive, but we can compete on service. If you treat the customer right, they’ll come back.
What do you wish you had known before you had started your business?
Since I started working in the industry when 18, I pretty much knew all of the skills necessary to make this successful. I was always confident I would be successful.
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