The dirt on Waste Industries is that it conducts business with clean hands. The company was founded in Raleigh, N.C. by Lonnie Poole, Jr., now Waste Industries’ chairman, in 1971. Poole, who had worked as an engineer for two different Fortune 500 companies, and was an aviator in the U.S. Army, grew weary of moving from place to place for work and longed to return to his hometown and start his own business.
Jim Perry, Waste Industries’ current president and CEO, was the company’s first employee. Perry, who like Poole earned an engineering degree from North Carolina State University, came aboard after working as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Launch Officer in the U.S. Air Force.
Together, Poole and Perry worked to create a niche in the waste-hauling field and built a business that would later become one of the top 10 haulers in the nation, expand through seven southeastern states, and generate an estimated $290 million in revenue.
Waste Industries provides trash removal and recycling services for residential, commercial, and industrial customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi. For its industrial and commercial clients, the company offers hauling services and supplies specialized containers that aid in Waste Industries’ cost-effective, environmentally sound waste solutions. These solutions are devised through a waste audit, in which the company works with the client to determine what goods and services would be best for its particular operation.
Waste Industries’ thousands of residential customers, which are contracted through individual subscriptions or as part of municipal or homeowner association contracts, also receive specialized service, including fully automated curbside collection, bulk item collection and recycling services.
The company also offers recycling services that go beyond the collection of bottles and cans. It is dedicated to providing training and education to its customers to ensure that they know all the benefits and laws pertaining to recycling. In addition, Waste Industries also operates landfills and transfer stations that make garbage disposal more safe and efficient.
In order to build Waste Industries’ current clientele, Lonnie Poole and Jim Perry had a unique strategy: thinking small. Instead of competing with the larger waste companies for large clients, Waste Industries went after the smaller markets first to establish its client base and business reputation. While the big names in garbage disposal went after the big city contracts, Waste Industries got its hands dirty in rural areas and smaller cities. Because few companies would bid on those contracts, Waste Industries was able to build itself up by becoming a big fish in small ponds. Gradually the company was able to fill in the gaps between these small cities and reach its goal of becoming one of the top providers in the small markets.
Waste Industries’ corporate mission, as written in its 2003 annual report, is “To grow and prosper through efficient and responsible utilization of our resources while providing our customers with cost effective, responsive and environmentally sound solutions to their solid waste management needs.” What Poole and Perry created was a business climate based on their bedrock of honorable professional ethics. One of Waste Industries’ ethics, “to conduct our business affairs with honesty and integrity,” is accomplished by providing services the customers need while adhering to stringent environmental protection standards.
These standards are embedded in numerous federal and state regulations that are so complex Waste Industries has a staff that sorts through the laws and ensures that the company complies with the laws. The consequences of breaking these laws can be severe, from citations to closing down the operations of businesses that fail to comply. Although the demands of environmental protection legislation become increasingly complex because the company operates in different states, Waste Industries has been dedicated to meeting this challenge and doing business by the book. The company believes that environmental safety is paramount. “Outside of the fact that it’s the law, it’s the right thing to do,” said Bill Hanley, Waste Industries’ vice president and general sales manager.
Partnership with customers is one of Waste Industries’ biggest priorities. Sometimes a business doesn’t know exactly what products and services would work best for its operations and Waste Industries partners with the client to come up with the most appropriate solutions for its current needs. As these needs change, so does the client’s customer service plan.
Although the company is steadily growing, Waste Industries still maintains a “mom and pop” feel. As part of its continued dedication to customer service, Waste Industries has created a separate “company within a company” to address the needs of one of the most challenging markets in the waste industry: construction. Because of the unique needs of the construction and building industry, Waste Industries has created the Contractor Service Group, which is exclusively dedicated to this market.
These customers are idiosyncratic because in the construction trade, contractors cannot continue work on a job until their waste is removed. They often need service right away, and with the financial clock ticking, there is no time to wait for a scheduled pick up. Waste Industries realized that it was not equipped to handle these customers – but knew this market was too important and profitable to lose – so it developed the Contractor Service Group, designed specifically to handle these customers’ needs, often on short notice. Waste Industries understands how contractors work, and because of that, it has created a buzz among construction companies. “Now these contractors are finding use because they heard what it is that we do,” said Hanley.
One of the ways Waste Industries keeps its customers happy and continues to expand is through its use of technology. “We are on the cutting edge of communication with our customers,” Bill Hanley explained with pride. “Our utilization of technology is second to none.” Waste Industries is staying on the leading edge by creating technology that will give its customers even faster access to its top-notch service. The company has recently implemented a Web portal that gives customers almost instant access to its services. By logging onto the company’s Web site, customers can send an email to initiate a work order that Waste Industries responds to within 15 minutes. Additionally, customers have access to e-billing to further make customer service fast and easy.
Thanks to the dedication of its leaders and employees, Waste Industries has made a name for itself as a clean company in a dirty business. The company has thrived because of its values and dedication to its customers.