Three decades ago, Ruben Diaz Sr. and his four brothers started a family landscaping business, Diaz Brothers. It was always Ruben’s dream to go into business with his sons, Rafael and Ruben Jr., who had worked for Diaz Brothers since they were very young. The drive home after work was always a time when Ruben Sr. and his sons could laugh and reflect on the day. “So, one day on the drive home, I told them, ‘If you finish college, I’ll start our own company with you,’ ” he recalls.
After both sons finished college in 2007, Ruben Sr. made good on his promise, and together they formed Diaz Group LLC. The trio started out with a dump truck, a pickup truck — and plenty of ambition.
Ten years later the full-service Chicago-area landscaping company has succeeded beyond what Ruben Sr. could have ever imagined. Today Diaz Group employs 60 people, and it recently purchased 29 new John Deere G-Series Skid Steers and a Compact Track Loader (CTL).
Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this. We’ve come a long way, and I’m so proud of my family.”
—Ruben Diaz Sr.
La Importancia de la Educación (The Importance of Education)
Ruben Sr. immigrated to the United States from Mexico when he was 16. “When I first started out in the landscaping business, I had a push lawn mower. That was it. We didn’t even have an edger or a blower to clean the sidewalks, just a broom. Back then we’d visit six jobsites a day. Today with the new John Deere compact equipment we can visit 60 sites. It’s a different world.”
Rafael, who is now vice president of Diaz Group, recalls growing up in the family business: “My brothers and I loved working with my dad. It was fun; it was family. We learned what it takes to make an honest living. I loved my upbringing.”
Going into business with their father provided Rafael and Ruben Jr. with plenty of motivation to finish college. “It gave us a goal and a sense of purpose,” recalls Rafael. “We were really excited about having our own company.”
Their education provided a solid foundation for the new business. “College really opened our eyes,” says Ruben Jr. “It gave us a vision of what we could truly become.”
We worked every weekend with Dad — for some teenagers that would have been punishment. For us it would have been punishment not to work with him. It was our time to bond with him and learn the business. ”
The brothers knew the production aspect, but they wanted to learn more about horticulture, as well as the business side of things. “It was a new world for all of us,” says Rafael. “Every day, we’d get home from school and show Dad what we’d learned. We’re lifelong learners. I think that’s been a big part of our success — always being willing to learn everything we could. And we try to pass that love of learning on to our employees.” In fact, it is company policy that if any employee asks for additional training or education, the company will pay for it.
Nuestra Familia (Our Family)
Family means everything to the Diazes. Every night, the extended clan still gathers around the table as Ruben Sr.’s wife prepares a huge home-cooked meal. “We’re very family oriented,” says Rafael, who now has four young children of his own. “And we try to make that part of our company’s culture — that we provide a home for all the people who work here. We want them to feel that they are part of something and that we’re happy to have them. That they are family.”
Diaz Group’s office is in a Hispanic neighborhood, enabling the company to give back to the Hispanic community. “We’re in a poor part of town,” explains Ruben Jr. “One of our main goals is to try to help out our people by providing jobs and opportunity. They see us succeeding and think, ‘If they can do it, why not me?’ The community has been great to us, and we’re grateful they’re here to support us.”
Rafael attributes much of the company’s success to its employees’ positive attitude and willingness to go the extra mile. He and his family experienced that same pride when they toured the John Deere Dubuque Works and received a Gold Key to one of their 30 new G-Series machines. “It was a very proud moment to be at the John Deere factory and see all the hard work the people there put into the machines we were buying. The people at the plant really love what they do, and it shows.”
“The Gold Key demonstrates how John Deere really values its customers, and they invest a lot of time and effort to make them feel appreciated,” added Ruben Jr. “We chose Deere because of that commitment to us. When we were starting out, they didn’t treat us like a little guy. They put a lot of effort into demoing their equipment and offering flexible financing through John Deere Financial. And the dealer support we get from West Side Tractor Sales is beyond compare. That flexibility and support really helped us out and made Deere really stand out from other manufacturers.”
Diaz Group LLC is serviced by West Side Tractor Sales, Naperville, Illinois.