Born: Jan. 10, 1952, in South Bend, Ind.
Education: I attended the University of Pennsylvania as an anthropology major for two years from 1970 to 1971. Then I transferred to Texas Wesleyan University, where I earned a BA in political science in 1977. I had such a lengthy college career because I was playing professional baseball at the same time. I took classes in the fall and played baseball in the spring, serving as a pitcher for Texas Rangers minor league teams. So I finished college one semester at a time.
Family: I married Becky Shands in 1976, and we have two children—Richie, who runs Balcones Resources’ plastics business, and Annie, who is a stay-at-home mom in Austin. We also have four grandchildren who range in age from six months to 13.
Q: When and how did you enter the recycling industry?
A: My father and brother had started a company named All Wastepaper Recycling in Dallas in the mid-1970s. After I graduated from college, I worked in the commercial banking business in Texas for 10 years. In the late 1980s, I joined my father and brother in the family recycling business, in part to help them prepare to sell the company to Waste Management. My brother and I went to work for Waste Management, while my father retired. I worked there until 1993 when my wife and I moved to Austin and started Balcones Resources.
Q: What was it about the industry that prompted you to build a career in it?
A: The banking business in Texas was terrible in the late 1980s, and it ceased being fun. Plus, my father wanted to sell the recycling business and retire. I joined the company to help him do that, but I also always thought the recycling business was a fascinating industry. I’d been around it for a number of years, just not directly involved.
Q: What have been your most rewarding professional achievements?
A: Celebrating Balcones Resources’ 25th anniversary last year was certainly a milestone. Today, our company provides recycling services to commercial and residential customers, with facilities in Austin, Dallas, and Little Rock, Ark. In addition to paper, we handle plastics 1 through 7, glass, and household ferrous and nonferrous metals.
Q: Personal achievements?
A: My wife and I owned the gym where gymnast Mary Lou Retton—the 1984 Olympic gold medalist—trained. That was an extraordinary time. We owned the gym and were in business with gymnastics coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi. My wife ran the administrative side of the gym and did some coaching, and I was involved on the board of directors.
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: I’m passionate about following the five stones in our business—a reference to the five stones David carried to fight Goliath. Our five stones are employees, customers, the environment, share, and wow. The first three are self-explanatory, but share means we share in the risk with our customers on the commodity side of the business and wow means we like to do things differently to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. Our five stones are the pillars of our company, and it’s what we try to live by day to day.
Q: Tell us something about you that would surprise people.
A: I’m an avid fly fisherman. I have several friends who like to go on fly-fishing adventures a couple of times a year in different places around the world.
Q: If you could improve anything about yourself, what would it be?
A: I would improve my patience. As I get older I find myself becoming impatient about meaningless things, so I recognize that I need to become more patient and more tolerant.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I could be described as a workaholic, so I need to dial that back a few notches, relax a bit more, and take more time away from the business. When I do take time off, I do things with my family, go on fly fishing trips, and coach Little League baseball.
Q: When and why did your company decide to join ISRI and the PSI Chapter?
A: We’ve been members off and on for years, but we become more engaged in the past 10 years or so. We were not as in tune with what was going on in the industry in the United States and around the world. ISRI has been a great tool for us to meet people, gain different perspectives on our industry, and better understand the changes that have taken place over the past 10 years. Without ISRI and PSI, our business would be more challenging than it already is.
Q: What are the major challenges facing your company and the overall recycling industry today?
A: The overall recycling industry is undergoing a tremendous amount of change, and it’s an ongoing challenge to explain those changes to people not involved in the industry, such as customers and politicians. And it will remain a challenge until we get more stability in the marketplace. For the 25 years that Balcones has been in business, I can’t recall a time when we’ve experienced such a severe and lengthy downturn in the market. What we’ve tried to do in recent years to prepare for these times is to develop other revenue sources, and I think our members needs to be creative in that regard. We can’t be 100% dependent on commodity prices for our well-being. We’ve got to develop other revenue sources with the same assets that we have in order to prosper in the future. The times they are a-changin’ and we need to be able to change with them