JJJ Floor Covering Inc.
Jose Gutierrez founded JJJ Floor Coverings Inc. (JJJ) in 1964 with two business partners. The owners named the business for their first initials, all J’s, and set about building a business with a strong focus on quality and customer service. Now, 50 years later, the company has grown significantly. Jose has since passed away and his widow, Maria Gutierrez, owns the business today. She works alongside Rick Barba, president of JJJ, overseeing operations and keeping the company growing.
Barba got his start in the industry working at JJJ during his summer breaks through high school. When he graduated, he worked full-time for several years before moving to Reno, Nev., in 1976. Barba returned to JJJ in 1991 and opened the northern California office where he worked closely with Jose; Barba continues to proudly build upon his predecessor’s legacy.
“We celebrated our 50-year anniversary at the end of April,” Rick notes. “In all that time, I am only the third president and I have been in the chair for around a year. Our longevity gives us a great sense of pride. Over the years, we have been able to build some strong relationships and we have great references. We have built and maintained a strong company, which is why we are still here, despite the state of the economy.”
JJJ performs approximately 95 percent of work in-house, subcontracting only when the company’s labor pool falls short for larger projects. “We have all our own installation teams,” Rick elaborates. “We are a union company and our affiliation allows us to take on larger projects. We do a lot of prevailing wage jobs, making us a good fit for public projects, including local and state governments, as well as public schools. We have also done a considerable amount of hospital work in recent years.”
The company has 15 employees working in the offices and warehouse with anywhere from 10 to 50 installers working in the field on any given day. “Our office staff has been with us for long-term,” Barba says. “Our newest employees have been here at least eight years, and as long as 25 years. This speaks to the heart of the matter when you have long-term, dedicated employees; it shows the quality of our people and the company.”
With locations in Pico Rivera and La Mesa, Calif., JJJ has built up a strong geographic footprint serving regional customers all over the state. The business owns 30,000 square feet of warehouse space to house all of the materials needed for flooring projects up and down the West Coast.
A particularly interesting job performed recently by JJJ required the team to convert a parking structure floor into a pediatrics suite at the Kaiser Mob in Bellflower, Calif. According to Barba, 16 tons of fill brought the substrate to the point of being able to lay JJJ’s 760 yards of Tandus carpet, as well as 2,600 yards of Armstrong linoleum in eight colors and finish with over 2 miles of seamheat welding on the linoleum. “We can’t say that the children were happy to be there, but we hope the experience was a little brighter for them,” he continues. “The project garnered several awards, including Gold and Bronze awards from Starnet Worldwide commercial flooring partners.
Building a network
JJJ is a relationships-based company, a quality that has helped the business remain stable even through hard economic times. Most of the company’s work comes through referral and more often than not, JJJ works directly for facility owners. Only about 20 percent of the team’s projects are for general contractors, although JJJ has worked with many local contractors on a repeat basis. These clients have come to know and trust the team’s capabilities. JJJ consistently turns over large challenging projects efficiently, tackling high-traffic flooring spaces with ease.
The company also places high value on relationships with suppliers and subcontractors. “We have a set network of strategic partners we work with,” Rick explains. “After 50 years in business, our subcontractors have become part of the family. We don’t step outside of the network we usually work with very often. Those relationships are important for us to maintain. The same goes for our suppliers – they work very well with us and we are loyal to them.”
While the business was forced to cut staff and streamline in the worst of the recession, Rick says things are starting to pick up. Support from Starnet Group and the American Subcontractors Association have kept the team in the loop, providing networking and educational opportunities that help JJJ stay ahead of competitors. “We have outgrown losing sleep over the challenges in our industry,” he explains. “It is onward and upward from here.”
Now the team is building up a backlog. While the amount of projects down the pipeline is not as large as Rick would like, he has faith in his team. The dedicated crew has taken on greater responsibility and Rick has seen the business strengthen coming out of the economic downturn. “We just got re-certified as a small minority-owned business,” he notes. “We are working on our woman-owned business certification. We are ready to keep moving, full speed ahead.” In the coming years, JJJ Floor Covering Inc. will stay dedicated to customer satisfaction while installing high quality flooring systems throughout California.
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