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Alton Butler | Los Angeles | Know The PLAYERS!!

I grew up dirt poor in Anniston Alabama, a small town where I pursued a career in professional football. After a dream shattering injury, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. I had some success, but what I had most, was drive. On set, I began to see a real business opportunity in production rentals, so I started Line 204 out of my garage in Studio City, renting production equipment to LA commercial units. That drive took me where I am today, employing over 120 people, renting stages, lighting, modern props, production equipment, and more. And, in 2019, we're scheduled to break ground on the largest studio complex to be built in the LA area in 25 years!

What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business?

I’m always reevaluating Line 204. We listen to the industry and do our best to fill the voids and make them better. That could mean bringing someone new on, or when something’s not working, cut our losses and move on. I’m not married to anything, except my wife!

How did the idea for your business come about?

At the time I started Line 204, I knew I could do it better than the next guy. In fact, I told people that if they didn’t like the equipment or the service, they didn’t have to pay me. But, they always came back, and those same people still rent from us today!

What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?

I think the first big hurdle was lack of space. We were always busting at the seams. We outgrew my garage first. Most recently, we had to expand to our 110,000-square-foot warehouse. Every time I expand, things get easier. Of course there are growing pains, but there’s room to breathe and see the change unfolding. It is much better to have room to grow than run out of room while growing!

Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?

My family and friends work for the company and if they don’t, they definitely reap the benefits. We’re a family operation here. My sister is our controller. My wife leads the event division. Two of my childhood friends hold prominent positions here: Jerry Gibbs is VP and John McQuay is head of operations. Without family we would not be where we are today! That goes for our employees too. Some of them have been with me for over 15 years. They are my family as well.

How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?

Maybe surround myself earlier on with CEO mentors. My Young Presidents' Organization (YPO) group has been integral in the company’s growth. Once I started leaning on them, I felt more empowered as my own breed of leader. What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success? Owning my property. I can’t say it enough. You can always fall back on the land. I didn’t start off with much. But what I did have, I invested in the land and then the company.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?

Again, find a group of people you can bounce ideas off of. Don’t be ashamed to ask for advice. You’ll find everyone is going through their own version of the story.

What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?

Do your research. Know the players. Stay in your lane. And drink a lot of water.

Stan Tall!

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