How did you enter the recycling business? I started working for my uncle, Kent Garvin, during the summer right after high school. I told him I wanted to be self-employed, thinking more along the lines of owning my own pizza parlor rather than a scrapyard. He told me to come work for him at his scrapyard and see what owning your own business is all about. I fell in love with the scrap business and started working for him full time after college, in 2003. In 2014, he sold the business to me and my brother, Marty. I still think about the pizza business occasionally.
What do you like most about the recycling industry? We’re in a unique industry where we see something different and interesting every day. It keeps me on my toes. We also get to go behind closed doors and into locations where most people do not. For example, the local power plant, which is one of our scrap accounts, just swapped out its turbine generator. That’s something we got to see up close and personal, that massive turbine, which probably powers a million homes, with its casing off.
What do you like least about the industry? I don’t like that there are still companies out there that don’t play by the rules and continue to break the law.
What is the biggest challenge facing your company? Our company is facing the same regulatory issues as everyone else, but our biggest issue is finding good people who want to work. We hire through a staffing company. We’ll get a guy who shows up for an interview on Monday, we offer him a position that starts on Tuesday, and by Wednesday he’s gone. I’ve heard similar stories from colleagues across the recycling industry. This can be a rough industry that involves working outside in the elements, and [fewer and fewer] people want to do that these days. That being said, I think we’ve got the best crew we’ve had here in a long time.
How would you sum up your business philosophy? I try to keep things as simple as possible. I think people try to do too many things. They overcomplicate their business with too many checks and balances, or by getting into an arena they don’t know anything about.
What are the keys to success in the recycling industry? I think the keys to success in any business are to do what you say you are going to do and to call people back promptly.
What lessons have you learned about business in your career? I learn something new every day, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to be up-front, honest, and fair.
How do you personally gauge success? Financial performance is an easy way to gauge success, but I feel better about myself knowing my employees are happy working for me and my customers like doing business with me.
What are some of your greatest personal achievements? My greatest personal achievement is marrying my beautiful wife, Susan, and raising our 2-year-old daughter, Blake. They are the world to me.
Which of your traits do you like the most? My personality. I’m pretty easy to get along with, and most people like me.
Is there anything about yourself you’d like to improve? I’d like to be able to read people better.
You’ve been a great supporter of and participant in ISRI over the years. Why do you think that’s important? ISRI has been extremely beneficial to my small company. Where else can a company with fewer than 20 employees get the resources in safety, transportation, environmental compliance, international trade, or lobbying on Capitol Hill, all in one place? I participate so I can be the best operator I can be.
What’s your favorite movie? Anything from the ’80s: Coming to America, The Thomas Crown Affair, For Love of the Game, Major League.
Favorite foods? I like all foods, but probably seafood, especially sushi.
Favorite drinks? I’ve been known to kick back a few Miller Lites. I enjoy a good Old Fashioned as well.
Favorite places in the world? I can see Longs Peak, which stands 14,259 feet above sea level, from my scrapyard. People move to Colorado for the view of the mountains, and I have that. But I would also be perfectly content looking at a cornfield or a lake in southern Minnesota, where I’m from. I get the same enjoyment out of it.
Favorite TV shows? Billions, Game of Thrones, and watching the Colorado Rockies play baseball.
Favorite musical artists? Everything from Kings of Leon to Jason Aldean to Gary Clark Jr. I listen to more talk radio these days, though, like NPR.
What are your hobbies? In the summer, golf and boating, along with visiting new [Major League Baseball] ballparks. In the winter, curling and working out at Orangetheory Fitness with my 5:15 a.m. crew.
What’s your passion? I’m passionate about the next big thing, upcoming projects, and looking ahead.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Drinking Mtn Dew in the morning. I need that kick to start the day.
What makes you mad? People who lie and people who are all talk.
Is there anything you still want to accomplish in your career, or have you achieved your goals? I feel like I’m just getting started. The industry has rebounded from a few years ago, and I’m excited for what’s to come. Outside of the scrap industry, I’m an investor in a small start-up company that manufactures a new type of wind turbine that can operate at lower wind speeds. We have two wind farms coming online in the next 18 months, one in Kansas and one in Romania, and we will have offshore capabilities by 2024.
Do you have any words of wisdom for the next scrap generation? I still consider myself to be the next generation in the scrap business, but I would say this to all the young people in the business: Get involved. Don’t sit on the sidelines. If you’re looking to better yourself, volunteer for your chapter board and start making a difference today. You’ll thank yourself later, and your business will grow because of it.