Interview with Mr. Marquez
Edmund Marquez: Oh, where did you get the cassette tape recorder? You got a freaking cassette tape on your smart phone. I feel like listening to Van Halen right now.
Stephanie Bermudez: It’s the Recorder app on my iPhone. Easy download from the App Store. I will send you a mixed tape of the interview.
Edmund Marquez: Mixed tapes remind me of going steady. That’s sweet!
Jennifer Wong: This interview is for Tucson Young Professionals. We have started doing post CEO Roundtable interviews with featured speakers. You are the first to be interviewed for a series we’re calling CEO Close-up. We hope to reach those who were unable to attend CEO Roundtable and also those who attended but are interested in learning more about you. Let’s dive-in!
Edmund Marquez: Alright, I’m very open and ready for anything.
Were you born and raised in Tucson?
Yes, born and raised in Tucson at Saint Joseph’s Hospital on November 18, 1973.
What was it like growing up?
Being born was amazing. I remember that vividly, it was dark… Nah, I’m just kidding. I think growing up in Tucson was great. I think it puts me more in touch with the desert, for sure, more in touch with the sunsets and the sunrises. I say that as a cyclist because I watch the sunrise every morning. Then I just remember the days of me roaming around the desert as a kid. I remember the smell of the desert after it rains. I feel in touch with Tucson. Those are my mountains right there. I mean, no matter where I travel in the world, I always come back to those mountains.
Did you always live on this side of town [northwest side]?
Yeah, pretty much. I grew up on the Craycroft/River area so I always stayed east. And even though my wife and I are even talking about getting another house, it’ll probably be within two miles of where I am today. That’s kind of my area. That’s where I feel at home. That’s my home. So, growing up in Tucson was cool, though. It’s been interesting to watch it expand and grow. It’s had growing pains. It’s had lots of victories. It’s still probably not where it should be. You know, I think most people would agree, you know politically or via infrastructure or job creation, but I think it’s an amazing, amazing city. I mean, if you talk to Joe Snell at TREO [Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities] and what do we have to sell that’s our number selling point is our weather. That’s a beautiful…I mean I can cycle like 360 days a year. It’s just beautiful out so yeah, we’re spoiled here. We’re spoiled. It’s a great place.
Have you lived elsewhere?
No, I mean the closest to living elsewhere was I was a water ski instructor in Lenox, Massachusetts for two summers in a row so I lived out in Lenox in Pittsfield, Massachusetts but it was in the summer so I would say, “Oh, Massachusetts is so beautiful,” and they always say, “Well, you’ve never been there in the winter,” so yeah, it was beautiful. That’s about it. I know I’ll live here forever. I’ll never move. This is it. I’ll die here.
When did you realize you were an entrepreneur at heart?
Gosh, I grew up around entrepreneurs. I don’t think I ever “realized” it. My dad was thirty-year Allstate agent, starting from scratch, working out of a Sears booth in Sears. My grandpa was really the big entrepreneur. My grandpa, I won’t go too deep in the story, but he uh, we’re from Clifton, Morenci, Arizona, that side of the family. My grandpa owned a tortilla factory, a Mexican restaurant, a barbershop, a Kirby vacuum cleaner store and an insurance agency. And so, he kind of owned the businesses on the one street because his dad wouldn’t allow him to go work in the mines where the rest of his friends are working. As a Mexican-American, everyone worked in the mines because it was a quick paycheck, you were immediately at a certain income level and you kind of had the life. But people were also dying of emphysema or dying in the mines or treated unfairly in those years, so my grandpa was an entrepreneur. So, I just kind of grew up that way. As a kid, my sister and I, we’d invite neighbor kids over and we’d have our own little carnival and we’d charge them twenty five cents to bounce the ball into the bucket or whatever. My buddy, Kevin Bruger (spelling?), had a great game room at the house so we’d charge the kids to come over and play in the game room. Yeah, so we were always entrepreneurs. I always loved making money.
What was your first business venture? I guess that would be the carnival, right?
That’s close to it. The first business I got to operate was, I mean, I went to go work early. I worked at Little Anthony’s as a bus boy was I was fifteen. I had a blast. I was head of the bus boys within months because I just worked my butt off. I would just enjoy it. I use to challenge Tony Terry, the owner. I’d go in on Sundays when no one really showed up, the restaurant was pretty slow, and I’d clean it to the best of my ability. Then I’d go to the office and give Tony the challenge to find something wrong in his restaurant. That was kind of my first taste of it. And then I worked at the pool and turndown (?) at Ventana, but then the first real taste was, I graduated high school and I had bad grades. I had like a 2.3, I played sports (or didn’t play sports?), and then I went to my dad and basically said, “Can I go work at your Allstate agency.” And he said, “Sure.” And that was the first taste because he didn’t let me do much at first but after a while, I caught on pretty quickly and he pretty much handed me the keys and was like, “You run the agency while you go to college.” And I did, me and my high school quarterback, we ran my dad’s Allstate agency, but we got him Agency of the Year, two years in a row because we sold a ton. We just had fun with clients. We just goofed off. So, from there I became the Director of the Cedric Dempsey Cancer Center Run at U of A. We had a huge running event that benefitted the cancer center and we had 6,000 runners and raised half a million dollars on a Sunday. So it’s huge, it blew it out of the park. And then, I went to go work for Eegee’s. They gave me a job offer and uh, yeah, I got to be creative at Eegee’s, but I realized at Eegee’s that I’m not good at having a boss. One day, Bob Greenberg, one of the owners, I love the owners, I don’t bring up Bob Greenberg, long story short, my boss, my immediate boss, had a heart attack while we were having lunch one day and we were able to save him with CPR but I ended up running the whole marketing department my senior year of college and one day, I’m working my butt off. I mean, I’m going boardroom, classroom, boardroom, classroom, you know, Colorado Rockies, U of A. I mean, I was dealing with everybody, still going to school, trying to take tests and one night, I’m working late, the office is closed. It’s just me and the owner. Bob Greenberg comes and leans against my door and just kind of looks at me and goes, “Kid, you scare me.” I’m like, “I scare you?” And he’s like, “Yeah, you got tons of energy and you’re running all over,” and he meant it in a nice way, but at the same time, I took it like, if I’m working my butt off and I’m going a million miles an hour and that scares the owner, that should excite the owner. I said, I don’t need to have a boss. So after that, I quit my job, had resumes out there, had a job offer from Warner Brothers in Burbank. Passed that up, stayed, became an Allstate agent at age 22. And then, boom, crazy from there. If you want to hear entrepreneurship, I said this when I spoke to the group, but at one time, I owned ten companies. I opened Allstate, starting hitting their bonus level and crushing it. I started making too much money for a 23 year old. I was good with it, I was very conservative with it, but I ended up buying my dad’s agency, that’s still Allstate. Then I bought his building, still not a business, but still an Allstate agency. Bought a car dealership. Bought three Chevrons, an Arco am/pm, then opened up a finance company, a warranty company, a real estate development company, and I’m forgetting something. Nah, I don’t remember the other one. But yeah, so I just expanded huge. I was running ten companies at one time. That’s too much for anyone though. I mean, even though, like four or five, like you can group four and four together and you’re kind of vertically integrated within the group, it’s still just a ton of running around.
Was it just you or did you have partners?
I had a partner in the dealership, automotive repair, the finance company, warranty company. My sister was my partner in the gas stations. And then, it was just me on the real estate development and the Allstate agencies.
What was your most interesting job?
I learned the most from the car dealership. My god, I mean, gas station was just like, gas stations were just pay a million and half or a million, two for a location, pay people minimum wage and sell beer and cigarettes. I mean, there wasn’t much to that. I mean that was just kind of a ridiculous business. That’s why you see so many shutting down. It just doesn’t make sense anymore. The car dealership taught me a ton because I came over from Allstate pretty cocky. I was pretty cocky because I’m like, I’m 23, I’m number 2 producer in the country for auto. I’m just crushing it. And, I didn’t really understand business yet, I was just like cocky. Because at Allstate, you just sell and you service and they send you a paycheck. And that was kind of it. The car dealership was a totally different dynamic, where you would start at zero every single month. There is no renewal income. And then there’s an inventory. You have to control inventory. So, I fell on my butt numerous times at the beginning just trying to figure it out. I had to learn a P&L (profit and loss) and a balance sheet. I had to figure out the business. But ultimately, we did figure it out. We grew from a small, independent to a Suzuki store, which was kicking butt. The dealership was jamming until the economy turned. And then, the economy turned and like I said at the meeting, I got my butt kicked. I mean, the car dealership went from making tons of money to losing a hundred, hundred fifty thousand a month. And it just kicked our butts. And then we closed it and we were okay, but then Suzuki kind of screwed us there. And Suzuki, eh, they didn’t try to, they weren’t trying to be malicious, but they had so many dealerships that were failing at the turn of the economy. Because you think about most dealerships that went from independent to Suzuki had just put in a ton of money to do so because you had to invest to become Suzuki that they had so many cars coming back, they took our brand new cars instead of just buying them from us at what we paid for them, they rolled them through the auto auction, getting pennies on the dollar. So I went from owing just a little bit of money to owing millions and so, it bankrupted me. So, bankrupted me, lost my house. I mean, I got my butt kicked, went back to my agency and that’s when the defining moment came and that’s when I went back to what I consider nowadays a small agency. I owned the building, but at that point, I could have fired my one staff that I had left and my dad and I could have gone in there and run the small agency or I could starve for the year and I can keep my one staff and starve for a year knowing that after a year, I’m going to ask Allstate to buy another agency. That’s what we did. And so, since that first year, I think I told the story at the meeting, I remember a defining moment going to the grocery store and I remember seeing this tall, beautiful, blonde woman pushing her kids around in her cart and I remember, I just got done owning a car dealership, being on TV and owning a Ferrari to I couldn’t buy all the groceries that I wanted to buy. It was a rough freaking, I mean I literally I remember I had like fifty bucks in my account and I couldn’t buy all the groceries because I still had five more days until payday. I was like, Holy crap, what a reality, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was like clarity. It provided clarity in my life to…what do I truly want? I want my kids and my wife to spend time with me, to have quality in life, to have a roof over their heads, to have transportation, to be involved in my community, to be well-rounded and overall, to just have fun and be a good person. And that was so much clarity to me, so I kicked ass for that year. Long story short, I was able to buy another agency and I thought I was done at that point, so I bought two, my dad’s and that one. And then I kicked so much butt, long story short, I bought six more after that. So now, I’m a mega agency. I’m the largest Allstate agency in Arizona. We’re pretty huge. We have three locations and life’s good and I have a lot of fun. So, it’s a good time. I love my clients and I love my agencies and I’ll never go buy another business. You can record that on your cassette, I will never go buy another business. So, maybe down the road, I may invest in small ways in other things, but I’ll continue to…Jim Click’s taught me to just continue to invest in my own business.
How old were you when you started making money as a business owner?
As a business owner I was 22, which you think about it nowadays, that’s freaking young. I’m 41 now, I was 22 and by 23 I was making a lot of money. I don’t drink alcohol, while my buddies would go to Dirt Bag and drop freaking $200 on a Saturday night. That was a car payment for me, I had a nice car. It was nice, yeah.
You don’t drink alcohol at all?
What made that decision for you?
I’ve never really been into it. I’ve drank twice; once in High School on my Senior Trip. Ah, in college a couple times as a fraternity boy but I just never enjoyed it. I’m pretty realistic with myself, I analysis myself a lot. I try and stay really well rounded. Even to this day emotionally to physically and mentally, with alcohol I don’t see an upside. I think people tend to do stupid things. They tend to have excuses for the stupid things that they do because they say they were drunk. I don’t like the lack of control. I just always considered it a level of stupidity.
Did you ever get any peer pressure in high school or in college about that?
Noooo… not really. To me, I always liked being different and everyone was drinking. They’d offer me a beer like, “hey man here’s a beer” and I would respond, “I don’t drink, man” and they’d be like, “oh, really? cool”. I was always the designated drinker. I am still always the designated driver. Like my wife likes to drink freaking wine with her girlfriends and I will be the D.D. I have been the freaking D.D. forever. So here’s something to learn about my personality, if I do something I want to do something to the best of my ability. So, my Senior year drinking on my senior trip I got a little to wild and crazy that night and then in college I did 21 shots on my 21st birthday. So, if I do things, I do them to the best of my ability so I know to stay the hell away from it. I have never seen most of the drugs out there and I hope I never take any because if I took any, I would do it to the best of my ability. I just stay away from it. So, I become addicted to things like, cycling or traveling or I just put myself, you need to understand your own personality and my personality is “go hardcore if you do it”. So, I just stay away.
When did you realize that was your personality and you became ok with that?
Um, I don’t know, I think as a kid. Even to this day we’re all still trying to get in touch with who we are. I get a lot of that from cycling and being alone. Right now, my ride home is without my team and I love that time because I am alone and can think of details. As a kid and even in college I had this routine where I would go ride my bike at night. I had this routine where I would work and go to school, you know, study my butt off; I’d come home, change, get on my bike, I’d go do the same route and it was a tough route because we lived in the mountains, in the hills. So, I would do the same route everyday and I’d come home and have a chicken breast, I’d have some rice and I’d have some green beans every single night. I am very repetitious. So, I find myself on the ride and then my parents, we lived in a 3 story house on top of a hill so I’d go sit on the roof and just stare at the city and think about life. As I said in the meeting the other day, some people think in the past, some in the present and some in the future. I am straddling the present and future, I am already half way thinking here and already half way thinking about where I am going next. So, I am always trying to move somewhere. Another thing that drives me alot is that I firmly connect with the fact that we get one shot at this life. You get one shot and that’s it. You’re on this planet once and it is not very quickly. So, I want to make the most of it. I want to make sure that I live the best possible life that I can possibly live while I’m here. Look at like, Dave Murray who just walked past who is 72 years old, he was a UA Track and Field coach for 35 years, he’s an in the Hall of Fame; he’s at 72 and he still shows up to freaking ride every morning because he’s holding on to life because he understand that as soon as he stops, his body will begin to adjust and change and age. So, there’s a difference between aging and growing old. You can continue to age but do you want to grow old? I mean, he’s 72 and he keeps up with me. I’m 41 and I’m a pretty good cyclist but it’s amazing that you can age at the rate that you choose. It’s based on what you eat, how much you sleep, how much you work out. You know, eating is half the battle. People that continue to eat the things that they know are bad for them it’s that they don’t take the time to get to know themselves. When you take the time to get to know yourself and stop doing what the majority of people do everyday, you have to be aware “I don’t like that, I don’t want that, that doesn’t feel right, I’m going to stop doing it”. So, I am pretty big on that.
If you were a super hero what super power would you have and why?
Oh, man fly. I want to fly so bad. I have dreams about that. I would go Superman. Fly! I just want to fly so bad, it’s freedom. It’s funny, I just took this Tony Robins thing yesterday, I love Tony Robins. He sends email things with questionnaires so that you can get to know yourself and to think and feel your deepest thoughts. One of the questions was, where are you at today and where are you going to be in 3 years from now. I wrote down, I just want to continue to be free and that’s what I want. As I said in the meeting, Warren Buffett said, “the meaning to success is, go where you want, with who you want, when you want.” That’s just freedom, to do what you want. I would fly! To walk out there and stand and just take off, I would be all over that. I would be all over that.
Every hero has successes and downfalls. What would you say is the greatest achievement and biggest come back?
I would say my greatest achievement are my kids. Oh, it’s so true and amazing! I am still blown away by the fact I met a girl when I was 19 and dated her, it’s one thing to date somebody. Then the got engaged to her and the whole world knew that I had attached myself to her, while I was a sophomore in college and she was a junior. Then, you marry her in front of all your family and friends; that’s something to, when you make a promise in front of 500 people. Then, it’s something to create other human beings with her, that just blows me away. I mean, no matter what we can create with our hands or business wise; to create some freaking human beings and to live with them and watch their personalities grow and try to prepare them for the world… that is pretty freaking cool. My biggest comeback, you already know but I will say that getting knocked on my ass was the greatest thing to ever happen to me. Best thing. Because if not, I would be 40lbs heavier than this, I would be unhappy, I’d be lost, I wouldn’t see my kids very much. That is where I was headed, that is what I was doing. I was just busy and eating badly and not working out and thought I was the man because I was making a lot of money.
Would you have done thing differently? If so, what would you have done differently?
Gosh, first of all, I would hate to have to do it again. It’s funny enough that I told my wife this the other day, “you know as much as I enjoy the experiences that we’ve had, you know, the journey we’ve been on, I would not want to do it again”. I move forward, to me it’s like taking your Monopoly and moving back 10 places. I wouldn’t want to do it over again. If I had to do it over again, gosh, I would hate it because I wouldn’t be where I am today and doing what I am doing today and I’m exactly where I want to be. So, that’s tough to answer. If anything I would go back to freaking May of 2000 when I opened a car dealership and I’d open and buy here, pay here lot, that’s the difference; instead of doing retail and I’d be kinda a scummy car guy with but here, pay here with cheap cars on the South side but I’d have made a ton of money. But, that would’ve just fed the issue, I’d still be an empty suit. I’d have a ton of money but who cares, you know. Funky answer, I guess.
What advise would you give to today’s young professionals?
Ah, young professionals, god get involved in your community. Join aboard, join a networking group, you know, get involved. We’re splintered as a community; there’s the democrats and the republicans, there’s the neighborhood, there’s the businesses, we’re splintered as a community. The thing we don’t realize is that we’re all on the same team and it’s not Tucson vs. Albuquerque vs. Austin vs. San Diego. We don’t get it. We’re so busy fighting, it just drives me crazy. If you’re a young professional in the business community get involved in the community and have a voice. Don’t just be the neighbors be the crazy ones that get up and say something at a supervisors meeting. I mean have a presence as a business owner or a business person. Get involved and have a voice to so that we’re not always say no in the City of Tucson. Just get involved. Don’t just sit in your cubicle and pray to god that you get your paycheck on the 5th and 20th. Make a difference in your community, get involved and make sure Tucson is the best it can be, really. Financially, work your ass off; show up early, leave late. Get your education, go to University of Phoenix if you have to and continue learning. Always keep learning and find yourself a mentor. I have 3 really, really freaking strong ones; Jim Click, Rob McCallister, and Peter Marcus those are mine, they’re my elders. They’re the guys I go to when I have a problem, an issue or need a strategy. They’ve all been there before, to learn from the people in their 60’s or 70’s, because they have already stepped on that crap and they will tell you where not to step. It’s amazing, I don’t have to go figure things out, I just go to guys who often times may be smarter than me or have experienced more than me and say, “what do you think about this” and it’s amazing the answers you’ll get. A lot of it is because they have fallen on their butts already. So, definitely get a mentor.