How did you enter the recycling business? I was at Toshiba America Electric Components (Sunnyvale, Calif.). We produced semiconductors and would take our scrap integrated circuits to a precious metal reclaimer. I stayed in touch with the sales rep there, Andre Weiglein, as he started his own company. In 2004, the company I was working for was going through layoffs, and Andre heard about this and brought me in to discuss working at [AER]. I was excited and a little nervous, as I had never [worked in] the reuse/recycling industry. Almost 15 years later, here we are, and I’m serving as chair of the Recycling Industry Operating Standard™. It’s been a great experience.
Did you ever consider doing anything else for a career? Not really. I had always been interested in warehousing, logistics, and process controls. I joined the Army after high school and served in my hometown and in Germany. When I got out, I was going to college at night, so I found a warehouse job during the day. The more involved I got, the more interesting it became. I increased my knowledge by taking more specific industry classes, along with APICS [supply-chain management] classes and continued to learn more as I went along.
What do you like most about the recycling
industry? I like what it does for our communities, our countries, and the world as a whole. What we offer is a good solution—a noble effort to do the right thing and prevent bad things from happening.
What do you like least about the
industry? How some portray the industry as bad and irresponsible, which is partly due to a few individuals who try to make a quick buck.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your company? The unemployment rate makes it a challenge to keep employees. People are always looking to make more money, and the current conditions are allowing them to find it. Also, educating some customers on the real costs associated with proper recycling, the costs of maintaining certification to standards, and the controls in place to ensure it’s done correctly.
How would you sum up your business philosophy? Good staff, communications, services, and product. Be competitive and don’t fear taking risks. Understand what customers and staff need. Develop relationships so you have a good group of people involved in the solutions. Empower employees to take responsibility. Recognize employees’ accomplishments and areas of improvement.
What are the keys to success in the recycling industry? Have strong teams, whether it’s sales or operations folks. Take a continuous look at improving your processes and bottom line. Be honest and transparent with customers and employees. This will make you successful and let you sleep at night.
What lessons have you learned about business in your career? That it’s not always fair or right, and you need to be able to weather the storms that come your way. Also, if you’re not continually learning, that’s a problem. I’m always learning, whether it be new processes, different types of equipment, team building, or good communications.
What’s the strangest or funniest experience you’ve had in your career? Some of the strangest and funniest are what our customers deem electronics. You never know what you’ll get when you dump those Gaylords on the conveyors. We’ve found some unusual personal items along with ammunition and a training round that the military uses in their tanks.
How do you personally gauge success? By my sense of accomplishment. Coming home and feeling that I’ve made a positive difference. By the success of the team as they’re growing, developing, and learning, being able to experience their own success.
What are some of your greatest
personal achievements? I have a great family, including three beautiful kids—Josh, 26, Jamie, 23, and Travis, 10 months—and a wonderful wife, Ayka. I also coach young men from age 6 through high school in soccer. It’s such an achievement to hang out with them and see what great people they have become.
Which of your traits do you like the most? My openness and extroversion. I’m very passionate about what I do and wear my heart on my sleeve. People know exactly where I stand on something.
Is there anything about yourself you’d like to improve? I’d like to be a little bit more patient. I’d also like to improve my mile time to decrease my overall half marathon time. My son, Joshua, is a fantastic runner and usually gives me a hard time about my time and trying to catch up to him.
You’ve been a great supporter of and participant in ISRI over the years. Why do you think that’s important? ISRI is out there for us as the voice of the industry and helps everybody to do well. It’s very important and valuable to us that ISRI has an international presence due to our international facilities. From an educational standpoint, there are many things ISRI offers for companies to learn and be part of. It’s a great group that is seeing it through and making things happen.
What are your favorite movies? Young Frankenstein, Caddyshack, and National Lampoon’s Vacation.
Favorite TV shows? I enjoy watching the Discovery Channel, Ancient Aliens, and Bar Rescue. My all-time favorite would be Seinfeld.
Favorite foods? We do a lot of barbecuing. Since moving to South Carolina, I’ve been learning the nuances of South Carolina sauces and how they differ from others. They’re very tasty.
Favorite drinks? I really enjoy tequila. I prefer a nicely aged reposado or añejo. On each trip to our Guadalajara, Mexico, facility, I try to bring back a few bottles to try out.
Favorite places in the world? I have been to so many wonderful places, like Palawan, which is a beautiful island in the Philippines. Hong Kong; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Tokyo, Singapore, and Brazil are also on the list.
Favorite musical artists? I like all kinds of music. I’m an ’80s guy, so I enjoy a lot of the music from then. My overall favorite would be Rush. I also enjoy U2, Coldplay, and Metallica, but it depends on my mood. If I’m outdoors barbecuing, something tropical.
What are your hobbies? I really enjoy spending time with family [outside on] walking trails. I also like fishing for trout or hunting deer, pigs, and ducks. I have a chocolate lab, Maximus, who’s pretty awesome at duck hunting.
What’s your passion? I really enjoy getting together with friends and family for good food and music. Getting out there and learning how to hunt and fish a little bit better is always fun, too. Enjoying a hunting or fishing trip with friends is great, and so is making lasting memories to enjoy over a campfire.
What makes you mad? There isn’t much that really gets me mad. I don’t like it when people are inconsiderate of others, their time, and/or their views.
Is there anything you still want to accomplish in your career, or have you achieved your goals? At some point, I would like to have my own business. I love the sense of being an entrepreneur and the risk and reward that goes along with that. Hopefully I can build something to pass on to my family.
Do you have any words of wisdom for the next scrap generation? Family comes first. Stick to your passions, never stop learning, and be true to yourself and others.