How I Got Here: John LaRocca

Current Position: John LaRocca is the founder and president of LaRocca Integrated Solutions, Inc. His company is headquartered in Westlake Village, California and assists businesses from dry cleaners to restaurants (and everything in between) with merchant processing, credit card terminals, POS leasing and consulting in related services.

Buying In: In 1965, LaRocca’s father was presented with an opportunity by his accountant to purchase his way into the dry cleaning business. Upon careful consideration, the elder LaRocca began his career as the owner and operator of Budget Dry Cleaning in Riverside, Connecticut.

After raising four boys, LaRocca’s mother was ready to be active and involved in Budget Dry Cleaning. LaRocca said, “As soon as she took over, the business began to flourish, simply because of her wonderful personality and her ability to give service to people.”

Market Niche: A significant piece of Budget Dry Cleaning’s business was a service they provided called “Boxed Storage”. They would clean the customer’s winter clothes and properly store them in the off-season. LaRocca contends that boxed storage was a big hit on the east coast. When the coldness of the season ended, the customer would retrieve their garments from Budget Dry Cleaning and have their spring/summer wardrobe ready to go.

Getting More: During non-peak hours, the LaRocca Family hit the pavement in search of privately owned hotels that would be willing to use Budget Dry Cleaning’s services. This proved to be a lucrative income stream as well.

In an effort to expand its services to the rapidly growing customer base, Budget Dry Cleaning purchased a laundromat next door so they could more efficiently offer “fluff and fold” (wash and fold).

Family Business: LaRocca remembers how his parents used the financial profitability of Budget Dry Cleaning to benefit him and his three brothers. “It provided a good living to get their four boys through school, one of which was a lawyer.”

By working for mom and dad, the brothers all acquired knowledge and habits that never go out of style. LaRocca reminisces, “It helped us learn skills of customer service, patience with customers and managing the cash flow of a retail business.”

Biggest Challenge: “The luckiest thing that we had was the time that it took to find the right employees. Not easy!” LaRocca continues, “We found our best employees through referrals of friends who needed part-time or full-time jobs.”

Character Development: LaRocca’s experience in the dry cleaning industry would prove to be foundational to his personal success in future business endeavors. “It really set up a discipline for me,” said LaRocca. “Getting to work everyday, putting in long hours, patience, understanding and listening to people.” He saw these traits in his parents and did his best to emulate them. LaRocca recalls, “They taught me to cherish the importance of integrity, honesty and hard work.”

Formal Education: LaRocca is a graduate of Pace University in Brooklyn, New York. He has a degree in marketing and a minor in accounting.

Heading West: When asked what prompted his move from the east coast to California, LaRocca emphatically declared, “Winter!” He fell in love with the moderate, year-round climate of the Golden State and decided to plant his flag.

Other Careers: He would go into business with his cousin, Nicky Blair, who owned a famous restaurant on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood named Nicky Blair’s. This prominent eatery was a favorite among many prominent actors and frequented by celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, the Rat Pack, Clint Eastwood and Sylvester Stallone. LaRocca discovered it wasn’t the right business for him at the time and eventually moved on.

Subsequently, LaRocca accepted a position with Xerox Corporation and quickly rose to a top ranking sales executive, receiving the “Top Salesman of the Year” award in 1978.

His interests began leaning toward the television and film industry. After eight years with Xerox, he pioneered into new territory and became a Hollywood agent and created the “LaRocca Talent Group”. He was extremely successful in this transition and ultimately became known for his ability to single-handedly launch the careers of an impressive list of stars. As a manager and talent agent, some of his clients have included Michelle Pfeiffer, Demi Moore, Tony Curtis, Mickey Rourke, Brenda Vaccaro, John Amos, June Allyson and Sonny Bono. “I represented over fifty stars and I loved the business. It was made for me.”

LaRocca’s career as a Hollywood agent ran for 22 years. His father (Mr. LaRocca passed away in 2015 at the age of 93) encouraged him to get a “real job” and come back to Budget Dry Cleaning. “I loved California too much and decided to stay.”

Plastic Money: In 2006, one of LaRocca’s friends at Rotary introduced him to his son-in-law who was in the credit card processing business. They hit it off and became fast friends. LaRocca knew nothing at the time about credit card processing. However, LaRocca had a very large network of contacts from his careers in show business and the Xerox Corporation. “As a result, I took to the credit card business very well.” He went on to start his own company in the credit card processing industry. LaRocca Integrated Solutions was launched in 2013 and has numerous clients throughout the United States.

Vino: As a certified international wine judge, LaRocca has travelled all over the world to adjudicate in various wine tastings. This designation has brought him to the Los Angeles County Fair, the San Francisco County Fair, Canada, Italy and France.

Personal: LaRocca has been married for 26 years to his wife, Doris. They live in Westlake Village, California. Together, John and Doris enjoy eating at their favorite restaurants. They love bringing along clients and friends to help them discover emerging chefs and new dining destinations. For additional recreation and leisure, the couple makes time to travel. “We take about two trips a year. Most of them have been to Western Europe. We love wine country of course; mostly Napa Valley and Paso Robles.” The couple also takes in an occasional backgammon tournament here and there while also staying closely connected to family. “My mother is still alive at 91, back in Connecticut.”

About John Leano

John Leano can be reached by e-mail: Leano@BryansCleaners.com or Twitter: @JohnLeano or www.facebook.com/johngleano