Shortly before the Independence Day holiday, Mario Borgatello and Marborg scored a major coup when they agreed to buy South Santa Barbara County assets from longtime rival Allied Waste.
The move follows a series of victories by trash hauler Marborg in head-to-head competition with Allied and its predecessor BFI in winning franchise rights to collect trash in Santa Barbara, Goleta and Santa Barbara County. Now the path is cleared for Marborg to dominate trash hauling throughout the South Coast, except for Carpinteria, which is part of the trash empire of E.J. Harrison & Sons of Ventura.
Trash hauling and recycling are incredibly specialized businesses — they require access to capital, equipment and local knowledge. But the lessons from Santa Barbara-based Marborg’s victory over a national company with incredibly deep pockets are applicable to any company competing with chains. Here are a few of them:
• Execution is everything. Marborg’s major competitive advantage was its ability to service any customer on time and turnaround quickly if a pickup was skipped or a miscommunication took place. With gleamingly clean trucks and friendly staff, Marborg’s focus on execution won the hearts and minds of customers and politicians who signed off on long-term contracts.
• Green is good. Marborg is a longtime leader in recycling and environmental business practices, something that played extremely well on the South Coast. Its partnership with SoCal Gas Co. to convert its trucks to compressed natural gas earned it props from the public. Under leader Stephen McIntosh, rival Allied made valiant efforts to match Marborg but, in the end, Marborg was holding the greenest cards.
• It’s about your partners. Marborg built a very strong and community-connected team, including public affairs guru John Davies of Davies Public Affairs, several local banks and business leaders such as Hall of Fame honoree Pete Jordano. Marborg could count on its vendors and experts for objective advice and honest counsel.
• Family means strength. Members of the Borgatello family signal to politicians extending its franchises that the company has staying power for another generation. Family members have expanded the company’s services into special event pickup, port-a-potties and even fencing. By sticking to its principles, Marborg has succeeded brilliantly in a region that doesn’t always appreciate the importance of profits, corporate employers and well-paying jobs.
Against the odds, it has secured its long-term future.