Secure Recycling Named Best Place to Work

Jul 8, 2024, 13:28 PM
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Arnulfo Moreno
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Mario Jurcic and his company Secure Recycling were recently recognized as one of Inc Magazine’s “Best Workplaces” which awards excellence in company culture. Jurcic attributes his success to being an authentic leader and having a culture of action and participation. ReMA News had the opportunity to talk with Jurcic about how he got into the industry, what the recognition of being a best place to work means for him and what the future holds for Secure Recycling.

Could you give me a bit of background on how you got into the recycled materials industry?

I’ve been in the recycling industry for just about 20 years now. In high school, we were required to identify and participate in a career internship/shadowing in order to graduate. At that time, I was dating a girl whose father was the owner of a local recycled material yard. I was always fascinated by waste and recycling and asked if I could shadow him, for which he agreed to!

I spent four days shadowing him as he conducted his day-to-day management of the yard and just sort of fell in love with the business; what they were doing and how they were doing it. The owner’s brother-in-law was one of the three partners and I had met him during the internship there and he said, “hey, when you get out of high school, we’d love to offer you an opportunity to come work for us.” I think one day after graduating high school, I got a call at home and he asked when am I coming to work? So that was the beginning of my time in the recycling business.

I went to college in tandem with working full time at the yard. I attended a local community college, played soccer, then played semi-pro soccer. I concluded my education at The Ohio State University where I worked at that yard about a year and a half or so before starting up my own business.

What is it that fascinated you about the industry as a whole?

I think I was unique in that I always played with junk growing up. There’s a town here just outside of Cleveland called Euclid, Ohio, and our backyard was a parking lot to a multi-unit commercial building. One of the units there was a commercial printer, and they had a garbage dumpster behind their building. When I was around 4 or 5 years old, I would frequently dumpster dive for misprints and excess paper and basically would just find junk in there that I could take home and play with one way or another. That’s as early as I can remember being in the recycling or we’ll say junk business. But yeah, I never shied away from jumping in and out of dumpsters as a kid.

Could you give a bit of background on your company Secure Recycling?

Similar to many folks within the electronics recycling sector, I started with virtually nothing. My starting line was $700 and the first month’s rent saved up. I borrowed a forklift and a scale and that’s how the business started; the focus was just on how I cover next month’s rent and survive.

We went from a hand-to-mouth mentality to starting the process of actually planning and budgeting and forecasting. Of course, this is over the course of 18 or 19 years. It was a very simple operation early on, focusing on data destruction and equipment dismantling. I flipped the switch about 10 years ago to get into the mechanical processing of electronics.

Now we have one of the most robust and state-of-the-art processes for electronics shredding and downstream separation that is available in the U.S. market. The focus started out early on quality and the focus continues to be on quality and of course, safety, those two really go hand in hand. As we continue to make bigger bets on our people, we continue to make bigger bets on state-of-the-art technology, because you could certainly have the best and the most state-of-the-art, latest, greatest equipment but if you don’t have engagement from folks, the equipment really is for nothing, in my opinion.

Congratulations on your company, Secure Recycling, being named a Best Place to Work by Inc. Magazine. Could you walk me through that experience a little bit? What was that process like?

Over the years, we’ve participated and won various awards and recognitions. I personally don’t care a whole lot for them, but I understand the value it brings to our team members and organization. One of those a while back was Inc. Magazine, fastest privately held growing companies, and we had been named I think once under 500 and another time in the top 5,000. I saw that they also had a best workplace opportunity for national recognition. Since the onset of my business, my goal has always been to do things differently. I’ve always approached things differently, and I wanted to bring other, like-minded yet diverse groups of folks together to participate and enhance and help build the vision.

When the best workplace opportunity came up, we applied, I think, three or four times. It’s quite an extensive survey for the employees. The first two or three times, we didn’t win but we actually received valuable feedback from team members The survey is anonymous, it gave us a lot of useful information to continue to improve our culture and workplace.

There was some cost associated with it, paying our team members to step away from their daily job or routine to fill out the survey, and we didn’t require anyone to take it; it was totally optional. But it certainly gave us some very robust data and information about the organization that has honestly helped make us a better company, even through those losses in those first several years that we had applied. That’s really the part of the secret sauce of what put us into a position to actually be recognized and win — we listened to what the team members were saying and put several things into action!

Having received this recognition, what is the next big goal for you and Secure Recycling? What does the future look like?

Well, first and foremost, the goal would be to continue to maintain it. My perspective on this is it’s certainly not a finish line, it’s a new starting line. The company culture and the organization as a whole is firing on all cylinders. This is the best team we’ve had in company history. Operationally, this is the best we’ve ever been running. There are all sorts of new ideas popping around the organization for process improvement, safety, culture and more.

But again, this isn’t a finish line. It’s not like we’ve got this recognition and we’re done. No, there was certainly some good critical feedback, even with a winning nomination here that we’re able to put into practice for the organization. Years ago we used to work on solving what I refer to as small problems or small organizational problems and now we’re getting all hands-on deck to solve large, complex problems.

This is unique because the entirety of the organization is involved in a lot of these big decisions. I think one of the questions on the survey was: Will this organization will be successful in the future? We had 100% of the respondents agree with that statement. To have 100% of anything is incredible.

We’re going to continue to trailblaze within the electronics and commodities management and data destruction business, just as we have been doing, and we’re going to do it better than ever.

Did you have anything else you wanted to add?

I always tell folks that what we do and how we do it is not necessarily the winning formula for anyone else. It works for us. I never suggest, “Hey, here’s what we look at or how we approach it,” because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s really about the core leadership of the organization and whether the leaders are operating authentically. If you’re going to lead inauthentically, people will see right through it, and you’ll never get the buy-in or participation needed for long-term success in the current and future marketplace.

We’re happy to be on this trajectory with ReMA. I love the rebranding; I think it’s fantastic. We’ve invested a lot of resources in trying to achieve the same goal as ReMA: changing the perception of our industry. We’re showing that it’s not necessarily dirty, chaotic, or unorganized. We’re bringing clean lines, high levels of organization, and sophistication to the industry, which in turn creates well-paying and rewarding career opportunities for people.

The beauty of the recycling industry is that we’re all dealing with the same economics, and there are so many different ways to approach it to create a winning formula. People shouldn’t shy away from that. If I had taken all the advice given to me along the way, I know I would be absolutely miserable, and the organization wouldn’t be where it is today because I would be operating in a completely disingenuous manner.

I’m grateful that every day I get to come to work and be myself, and the folks who choose to spend their time here with us get to be themselves as well. It’s a beautiful thing, and I hope many others out there have the opportunity to unlock that.

Mario Jurcic and his company Secure Recycling were recently recognized as one of Inc Magazine’s...
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