One on One: Jeremy Miller Wm. Miller Scrap Iron & Metal Co. (Winona, Minn.)

Sep 25, 2019, 19:55 PM
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September/October 2019

How did you enter the recycling business? My brother and I are the fourth generation to be involved in our family scrap recycling business, so I grew up in the industry. Beginning in middle school, I would ride my bike to work at our downtown aluminum can shop. I worked Saturday mornings during the school year and more full time during the summers.

One on OneDid you ever consider doing anything else for a career? After graduating from high school, I couldn’t wait to leave town. I left Winona to attend college in Denver to study sports, entertainment, and event management. I wanted to pursue a career in professional sports, but after a couple of semesters of classes and working at a professional sports arena, I realized that it wasn’t a good fit for me. I moved back to Winona, started working full-time at the scrapyard, and attended Minnesota State College Southeast, where I earned a degree in accounting. I’ve been here ever since. In addition to my role at Miller Scrap, I volunteer in the community, and I’ve been serving in the Minnesota State Senate since 2011. It’s definitely a balancing act!

What do you like most about the recycling industry? Recycling helps keep our environment healthy and our economy strong.

What do you like least about the industry? Like in other professions, there are some bad actors within the industry, and sometimes this small group puts a negative spotlight on the industry.

What’s the biggest business challenge your company faces right now? Global and domestic scrap markets have been challenging. On the flip side, this forces us to think differently, which isn’t a bad thing.

How would you sum up your business philosophy? Today’s world is extremely competitive, and if you want something, you have to go after it and figure out a way to make it happen. For me, this means hard work, determination, and something I call “patient persistence.” Most things worth accomplishing don’t come easy or fast, so it takes patience, but at the same time, you have to be persistent in order to get things done.

What are the keys to success in the recycling industry? Our top priorities include providing quality service and competitive pricing to our customers and suppliers, taking care of our employees, and supporting the community. This has been the foundation of the Miller Scrap philosophy for more than 100 years.

What lessons have you learned about business in your career? Many of the lessons I’ve learned go back to when I was growing up and my parents taught me the values of hard work, respect, and honesty. As I got older, I learned the importance of developing strong relationships and being good to others from my father, and about perseverance and following my instincts from my mother. I’ve also learned not to make things more complicated than they need to be; to surround yourself with a core group of people you trust and who will challenge you; to listen more and talk less; to be true to yourself and others; and perhaps most important, simply to do the right thing.

How do you personally gauge success? Hitting sales and volume goals are ways to gauge success, but success is more than numbers. Success is about being happy and helping make a positive impact in the lives of others.

What are some of your greatest personal achievements? My greatest achievement is marrying my beautiful wife, Janel, and being a father to our three sons, Drew, Luke, and Tom. Janel and I celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary in May!

Which of your traits do you like the most? I’m extremely focused on finding positive solutions and getting things done.

Is there anything about yourself you’d like to improve? Between my responsibilities at the scrapyard and my role as a state senator, I’m away from my wife and kids more than I’d like. When I’m home, I’ve been making a strong effort to spend less time on my cellphone, e-mail, and social media and spend more time with the family. And it’s been fantastic!

Professionally, I would like to continue to get better at delegating responsibilities. Early in my career as a manager, I had a tendency to micromanage. Over the years, I’ve worked hard on becoming a better manager and less of a micromanager. I’ve been focusing on hiring good people, providing them the tools they need to be successful, and allowing them to thrive.

You’ve been a great supporter of and participant in ISRI over the years. Why do you think that’s important? As the voice of the recycling industry, ISRI provides a tremendous amount of information and resources, including environmental compliance and sustainability; the importance of health and safety in the workplace; issue advocacy on federal, state, and local issues; and networking opportunities that are second to none.

What are your hobbies? Running is my favorite hobby. It’s a great way to temporarily escape the chaos and rejuvenate. I think of some really good ideas when I’m running, but the problem is, I forget them by the end of my run!

What are your favorite movies? Rocky IV and The Greatest Showman.

Favorite food? Pizza.

Favorite drink? I enjoy an occasional Moscow mule.

Favorite places in the world? The MissisĀ­sippi River or a sunny beach in the Caribbean.

Favorite TV shows? Shark Tank. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Robert Herjavec at ISRI2019 in Los Angeles!

Favorite musical artists? I like a variety of music, from country to rock ’n’ roll to ’90s hip-hop to island music.

What’s your passion? I’m passionate about helping make a difference in the lives of others, whether it’s through volunteering, charitable giving, or working on legislation in the Senate.

What’s your guilty pleasure? I’ve been cutting back, but I love Diet Coke, especially with a splash of Grenadine.

What makes you mad? When people are dishonest.

Is there anything you still want to accomplish in your career, or have you achieved your goals? I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I started a baseball card shop when I was in fifth grade, and my entrepreneurial spirit has been strong ever since. My wife and I are involved in a few business ventures, and we are in the process of launching a new startup company that involves a couple of my passions: hats and charitable giving.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the next scrap generation? Bringing change to a long-standing and more traditional industry like scrap recycling can be challenging, especially in multigenerational family businesses. But most things worth achieving don’t come easy. There are many exciting opportunities on the horizon for the scrap industry, and I encourage the next generation (me included) to continue thinking about and educating the industry veterans with new ideas on how to do things better, more safely, and more efficiently.

One on One:  Jeremy Miller  Wm. Miller Scrap Iron & Metal Co. (Winona, Minn.)
  • 2019
  • Sep_Oct

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