“Everyday People, Make the World Go Round” Spotlight:
Name: Yoel Gutierrez
Company: Mosquito Joe of Miami
Major City Where You Work: Miami, FL
City Where You Live: Miami, FL
Please, share your personal and cultural background with our readers.
My older sister, younger brother and I were born and raised in Miami, Florida. My mother is from Nicaragua and my father was from Cuba. We were lucky to have both Cuban and Nicaraguan influences growing up. Needless to say, we always had great food around. I’ve been able to visit Nicaragua a few times and still have family there. I can not say the same for Cuba.
Please share with us a current typical day or week in your everyday personal life.
I wake up, get in my morning dose of information, (which I’m trying to get away from), and have a productive morning not spent looking at emails. During the week, I will head to the office early and start running my business. If it’s the weekend, I’ll spend Saturday doing either house chores or relaxing with my wife. On Sundays, I have another business which I spend most of the day working on developing.
Please share with us a current typical day or week in your everyday professional life.
At this stage of my business, I have been able to put the right people in place to do most of the things I used to do. My main duties now consist of financial forecasting, working on our marketing efforts, and trying to grow the business. I also attend various networking events regularly. I also sit on the board of directors of a non-profit called, Be Strong International.
Tell us why you do, what you do, for a living.
I am an entrepreneur at heart, mostly due to my parents. Since the moment I was born, until my father passed away when I was 15, everything I knew about “work” was owning a business. My father owned his own construction company and that’s what I thought work was suppose to be like for me. I never thought about having a “job”. Unfortunately, after he passed, I was forced to get a job. But since then, I’ve always striven to make my parents proud and own a successful business of my own.
After several “learning” experiences trying different businesses and failing, one stuck – Mosquito Joe. My father’s name was Jose, but he was known in the community as “Joe”. I think that was the universe just trying to tell me something. I also learned from my father how I wanted to run my business. The business is meant as a vehicle, not just to employ, but to teach and motivate. I also learned tenacity and perseverance from my mother. Watching her deal with her husband’s passing while taking care of 3 children, opening several businesses, and killing it at real estate. It was just amazing to be a part of that story.
How did you end up in your line of work? Was it accidental or were you strategic about it?
I guess a little of both. I always knew I wanted to own a business but I definitely didn’t know it was going to be a franchise that kills mosquitoes. Honestly, I’m very happy with how it all turned out. Business is great. I have great pride in our employees and what we do. We are in public health so we protect the community, and we also make it more enjoyable to be outdoors in Miami. I have very clear memories as a child when my father would fog the backyard for mosquitoes whenever we were going to be back there. So I know that my father would have been my very first customer if he was around. Our service is a necessity to be outside in South Florida.
Tell us about the factors that shaped your career and business aspirations.
Most of my professional career has been spent working in the IT field. I worked for several large corporations. From DIRECTV Latin America to Univision and Sandals & Beaches. I believe those experiences helped me immensely, utilizing that training, methods and procedures, and applying them to my small business. I knew I always wanted to own a business, but didn’t quite know what that business was going to be. My business partner, prior to opening our business, was a good friend and he asked me to go into business with him. We didn’t know what we wanted to do, so we figured a franchise would be a great place to start.
The franchise model for me was great due to the fact that I was able to pivot my professional experience without having to go through either years of additional schooling or much additional training at all. We were able to purchase the franchise, have a few days of training, and we were “off to the races.” Not saying that starting the business was easy, far from that. In order to make sure we were successful, we left our full time jobs. I sold my truck in order to pay for my bills at the time. Worked 7 days a week for about 3 years straight.
My wife was forced to pay all the bills, so we had to pull back on all expenses. It was not fun at all. But that’s part of the process and I definitely don’t regret it. It made us who we are today. I also have to say that without my wife, we would not be where we are today. She helped when times were tough, and believed in me enough to trust that we would come out of it better than we were before.
Share how you balance the work-life challenges…what have been the rewards.
Being a small business owner, and having my wife work with me means that work/life are basically the same thing.
Fortunately my wife and I have been together for over 20 years and are able to turn it off when we get home. But business is always on my mind. It’s my life and my hobby. We consider all our employees family and try to instill that with everything that we do. I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.
The biggest rewards for me is having my business support my family 100%. Even better is that we are able to support 15 other families, most of them with children. This really gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment. Almost everything I do as a business owner is for my employees/family.
What advice would you have for other Latinos in the business sector trying to make it day after day?
Don’t give up! Every failure is an opportunity to learn. Take your lessons and apply them to future endeavors. Apply for minority certifications with your city/county/state. There are a lot of opportunities for Latinos that know what they are doing and can provide excellent products or services.
Pride yourself in the customer experience, from A to Z. Your customers should feel that they had a pleasant experience with every interaction with you or your company. This will solidify you as a company that your customers will want to do repeat business with.
Do you think you have ever truly “made it” in life?
I think just being alive is enough to say, “I’ve made it”. But, if we’re strictly talking about business, there is always room to grow. One of my biggest goals in life is to be able to help other small businesses reach their full potential. I love helping others and sharing what I’ve learned through my journey in life/business.
I try to put myself in situations where I can meet the most business owners as I can. I also take marketing courses and business courses, and utilize networking events as an opportunity to connect and grow. The best course I’ve attended thus far, and one that I refer to other business owners is, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program. If I can give you one piece of advice as a business owner, it would be to never stop learning, and this program is a treasure trove of information.
Did your ethnicity create any obstacles for you? Any advantages? How so?
With Miami being such a diverse city, and mostly Hispanic, I don’t think we had any of either. Being bilingual though, did help. The obstacles we face as Latino employers is finding employees that are bilingual as well. Oddly enough, it is not as easy as it sounds. We have a few employees that are out on the road that don’t really speak Spanish. At times, it is difficult for them to communicate with customers. But luckily, we have a great team and they make it work. I’m proud to be part of the Latinx business community.
What inspires you in your work life? What turns you off?
What inspires me is being around like minded individuals that care, both about other people and about themselves. I feel that if you love yourself enough to continue to learn and grow, you will succeed no matter what.
What turns me off is, people that give up and people that complain without making any effort to change their circumstances.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“Focus on learning everything you can. Stop procrastinating. Don’t give up, nothing in life comes easy.” I realized this in my mid 30’s, and that is when my life turned around. I could have done much better earlier in life if I would have just stuck with my other businesses and seen them through.
If you could have dinner with any Latinx person—living or dead–who would it be? Why?
Honestly, my father. I would love to understand his views on business and life in general. How he was able to accomplish everything he had at such a young age. Mind you, he passed away at 42 and I thought he was super old at the time! I’m currently 37 and now know how young he actually was when he passed.
What is your favorite quote/saying? Give us your own personal quote to commemorate at LBT.
“Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now and do it.” – William Durant
“It’s cheaper to retain a customer than to gain a new one.”- YG.
Anything else you would like to share.
In a world where customer service is just about non-existent, make sure that you do what you can as a business to show your customers you care. Without them…you don’t have a business. Put yourself in their shoes, you know because you’ve been there before as a consumer yourself. We also can say, “they should have done this…or that”….well as a business owner, you now have the opportunity to rise above the rest and stand out with exceptional customer service. Treat everyone with compassion and empathy, no matter what their name, title or ethnicity is.
This is key for the Latinx business community.