Faces of the Industry: Gabriel Marquez Jr. - National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Faces of the Industry: Gabriel Marquez Jr.

Gabriel Marquez Jr. has been in the industry ever since he was a child. His father was born in El Salvador and came to the U.S. as a teenager. He started Gabriel’s Landscaping, Inc. in 1984. Now, Marquez is the president of Gabriel’s Companies, Inc., based in Palatine, Illinois.

“I realized it was more than just a job when I was quite young because I saw everything my dad had to do to make it run,” Marquez says. “I saw bigger companies and I said, ‘Why can’t we do the same thing and get the point where we’re a full-blown corporation?’”

Marquez worked with his father while he was growing up, but he also went off and worked some other jobs for a period of time. He had an interest in commercial construction, so he majored in construction management and worked for the construction firm Gilbane for a few years before deciding to come back and help the family business.

“I always knew that I wanted to be a part of this, but I did want to get some other experience,” Marquez says.

Marquez says his time with Gilbane helped him organize and structure their own company.

“Seeing the way they operate helped a lot,” Marquez says. “I did also go back to school. I went to DePaul. I got my MBA, and I got my master’s in finance. And that’s helped me a lot in helping manage and structure our company.”

Professionally, Marquez has been in the landscape industry for 12 years now. His favorite part about working in the industry is working with his father and brother in running the business. He also enjoys that he is always doing something different every day.

“With Gilbane, I’d get stuck on jobs for two to three or four years at a time on one job,” Marquez says. “That’s what made me realize it’s not what I wanted to do. Now here I go on jobsites, I run stuff in the office and every day is different.”

Gabriel’s Companies is composed of three divisions: Gabriel’s Landscape, Gabriel’s Construction, and Gabriel’s Tree Care. They split their focus on the divisions evenly.

Each family member has their own role. His dad has stepped back somewhat, but he helps train employees and maintain company culture. Marquez says he handles the overall operations and financials. He oversees the construction division.

Meanwhile, his brother runs the tree care division. His cousin runs the landscape division. Marquez said they brought on his cousin when they bought out his company and merged it with their own landscaping operations.

“It’s been actually a lot of fun working together,” Marquez says. “We’ve always worked pretty well. We have our arguments here and there but at the end of the day we always are looking out for the best interest of the company and what we’re looking to accomplish.”

When Marquez came back to the family business, he says it was a pretty smooth transition. He says the first year was slow but by the second year, they were on a roll. He had worried his dad would try to control everything and not give him the opportunity to do his part, but that hasn’t been an issue.

Marquez says he earned the employees’ respect as they’ve watched him grow up in the company and know he isn’t afraid to pick up a shovel and do the work. He says it has been hard proving himself to his dad as he always has high expectations.

“It’s tough because it’s your dad, you want him to be proud of you,” Marquez says. “You want him to be excited for what you’re doing.”

Marquez says while they’ve been fortunate not to have a lot of turnover with their employees, one of the biggest challenges has been finding people to step up into management roles.

In the next five years, he sees himself still running the company. He hopes to get away from the day-to-day work and focus on bringing a bigger picture to the company.

“I think once we can get away from the day-to-day, we can find better opportunities for the company and for our guys,” Marquez says. “I think every year that we have a little more time to ourselves, we end up finding better things out there for the company, in terms of work and in terms of customers.”

Marquez says there are quite a few things he’d like to change about the industry but the main one is making it more professional. He acknowledges that a lot of work has already been done to fight the stigma that landscaping is a low-knowledge industry.

“It’s always been looked at as a very, low education type of type of industry, but it’s really not,” Marquez says. “It’s a business. It takes a lot to make it run properly.”

Marquez has been reaching out to high schoolers and attending career fairs to let more people know about the career possibilities in the industry.

“If people get a better view of what we do and who we are I think more people can get involved,” Marquez says. “There’s a big opportunity for high schools to put our industry as one of the trade opportunities.”

Marquez is part of NALP’s Young Professional Network.

“I always thought there was a huge opportunity for the next generation to be part of something a little bit more professional and bigger in the coming years so I think seeing other people in my age group doing it is pretty cool,” he says.

This article was published in the May/June issue of the magazine. To read more stories from The Landscape Professional magazine, click here to subscribe to the digital edition.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the content manager for NALP.

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