By Kent Kiser
By 2004, Brian Shine of Manitoba Corp. (Lancaster, N.Y.) was already an established volunteer leader in ISRI, with six years of experience climbing the officer ranks in the Empire Chapter and, at that time, the chapter’s newly elected president. That year, he heard the acceptance speech of incoming ISRI Chair Joel Denbo of Tennessee Valley Recycling (Decatur, Ala.) at the association’s annual convention. “He really caught my attention with his passion for ISRI,” Shine says. “I didn’t forget that.”
Fast forward to spring 2006, when Denbo spoke at an Empire Chapter meeting toward the end of his term as ISRI chair. “He talked at length about what being a national officer meant to him, personally and professionally,” Shine says. After his speech, Denbo took Shine aside and encouraged him to consider running for national ISRI office. Though the timing wasn’t right for him then, Shine says he appreciated Denbo’s vote of confidence. He continued his ISRI service with six more years of chapter, committee, and board leadership roles. By 2012, the timing was right, so he answered the call to compete for the national ISRI secretary/treasurer position. That election started him up the national officer ladder to where he is today, poised to become ISRI’s 16th chair in April.
Using the collaborative-management and continuous-improvement approaches that have brought him success at Manitoba Corp., Shine says he plans to build on the success of former ISRI chairs, with the “ultimate goal of creating an ISRI that, regardless of markets, continues to be effective and function at a high level.”
School Days and Scrap Days
Born Sept. 10, 1963, in Buffalo, N.Y., Shine spent his earliest childhood years much farther south when his father, Richard Shine—then on active duty in the U.S. Air Force—was relocated for training to Valdosta, Ga., and then stationed in Charleston, S.C., as a pilot. When his dad’s active duty ended, the Shine family returned to Buffalo, and his father became the third generation of family leadership at Manitoba Corp., which specializes in high-grade copper.
Though Shine admits he “didn’t apply myself all that much during school,” he was good in math and science, and he was an athlete, playing football his first two years in high school, wrestling through high school and college, and skiing for enjoyment. Shine’s leadership abilities started to emerge in high school as well, with his peers naming him captain of the wrestling team, homecoming king, and president of the Varsity Club, a group of varsity athletes.
Shine’s high school years also marked his first work experience in the family business. At age 15, in the summer between his sophomore and junior years, he worked in Manitoba’s warehouse, learning about scrap metals and how the company upgrades them. Despite the dirty, rough nature of the work, Shine says he loved it. “I liked working with the metals, and I enjoyed working with the people,” he says. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
With his career direction set, Shine enrolled at Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, Ohio). His father recommended he take a general business curriculum—rather than focusing on finance and accounting—to gain broader skills for the family business. Shine agreed, and his studies exposed him to everything from management to marketing to insurance. “At Bowling Green, you could customize your class work and still earn a business degree, and that suited me really well,” he says. Shine joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and continued to develop his leadership abilities by serving as pledge class president for a semester and as recording secretary for a one-year term.
As Shine neared graduation, he and his father forged a plan for him to intern for a year with a well-known copper broker named Harold Sacks in New York. Under the arrangement, Manitoba would pay Shine’s salary while Sacks taught him the copper trading business. Everything was set, but three months before Shine graduated, Sacks unexpectedly died while on a trip to London. “That ended my plans for outside-the-business experience,” Shine says. Instead, he received his general business degree on Saturday, May 11, 1985, and he started working full time at Manitoba that Monday.
Shine, who had shadowed Manitoba’s sales staff in the summers of his sophomore and junior years in college, began his career at the family company in account development. Six months later, the plant manager left, so he stepped into that role. He admits now that he was in over his head, but it was a great learning experience. “It really taught me the value of developing the people around me,” he says. “I knew I needed to count on the people around me to be successful.”
After a couple of years in that post, Shine returned to account development, rising to vice president in 1990 and president—his current position—in 2000.
Focusing on Continuous Improvement
When Shine’s internship plans with Harold Sacks fell apart, he made a promise to himself: He would find other ways to broaden his professional experience and make himself a more valuable asset. “If I wasn’t going to work outside the business, I wanted to have other experiences outside the business, both industry-related and non-industry-related, so I could learn, grow, and bring something back to the company,” he says.
A one-year program at the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, part of the University of Buffalo School of Management, “caught my eye as an opportunity to be around other business owners and operators and look at my business in a different way,” he says—“more in a big-picture perspective.” He found the experience so enriching that he has remained connected to the program, mentoring at least a dozen other participants.
Shine’s participation in that entrepreneurial program is one example of his pursuit of continuous improvement, which he also applies in his work at Manitoba. Lessons he’s gleaned from the management book Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring to Excellence, Learning to Let Employees Lead inspired him in 1999 to form Team Excellence, a seven-person group of Manitoba staff members given the mission of reducing the quality-related costs in the company’s operations. In its four-year existence, the group “significantly reduced” the targeted costs, demonstrating the “power of collaboration,” Shine says.
The team’s work provided the foundation for Manitoba to achieve ISO 9001 certification in eight months in 2003—an “incredibly aggressive and impressive” timetable, he says. Though the company disbanded Team Excellence at the end of 2002, immediately prior to its ISO work, “our quality management efforts went from Team Excellence to the entire company,” he explains.
Climbing the Association Ladder
Shine’s search for continuous improvement also has led him to ISRI and its predecessor associations, which have played a key part in his personal and professional development for more than 33 years, he says. Soon after joining Manitoba, he started attending meetings of the National Association of Recycling Industries and the Institute of Scrap Iron and Steel, ISRI’s predecessors. When those two associations merged in 1987 to form ISRI, Shine added ISRI’s annual convention to his must-attend events and started “showing up for meetings and getting on committees,” he says. “I realized early on that I wanted to be involved.”
That eagerness to serve attracted the attention of leaders in ISRI’s Empire Chapter, who asked him to become a chapter officer. He started his ascent in 1998, serving successive two-year terms as secretary, treasurer, vice president, and chapter president. After his term as chapter president ended, he continued as a chapter board member as immediate past president and took on ISRI national leadership roles, including chair of the audit and membership committees, co-chair of the copper/brass committee, and director-at-large on the national ISRI board of directors.
By 2012, Shine considered an invitation from ISRI’s Leadership Committee to compete for the national ISRI secretary/treasurer position against Howard Glick of Tri-State Iron & Metal Co. (Texarkana, Ark.) and Lois Young of Calbag Metals Co. (Tacoma, Wash.). The invitation intrigued him, Shine says, but he first had to discuss the opportunity with his wife, Lynne, and their three sons as well as his business partners—his father and his brother, Adam, who is vice president of Manitoba Corp. and of electronics recycler Sunnking (Brockport, N.Y.). As with his chapter service, this would be a 10-year commitment—eight years rising through the national officer positions of secretary/treasurer, vice chair, chair-elect, and chair, with a final two years as immediate past chair. By Shine’s calculations, he and Lynne would be empty nesters the year he became ISRI chair, so the timing seemed right. Plus, the offer furthered his personal and professional development, coming “at a great point in my career in that it re-challenged me, promising to expose me to new experiences every single day.”
Given those pluses, Shine agreed to run—“my first time running for anything since high school,” he laughs. Campaigning and self-promotion didn’t come easy to him, he says. He describes himself as a “relatively reserved and quiet” person. “I’m not particularly political, so I had to learn how to promote myself among the voting board members,” he says. Also, his speech prior to the election was “collaborative in nature—and I think that helped me,” he notes, as did the “incredible support” of ISRI board members such as Matt Kripke of Kripke Enterprises (Toledo, Ohio). After the first ballot, Young fell out of the running, and Glick and Shine competed on a second ballot to determine the winner. “I was a little surprised and certainly elated to win,” Shine says, thanking Glick and Young for their friendship and praising them for “putting themselves out there for the election and continuing to serve after the election.”
Making ISRI Safe, Sound, and Strong
As Shine has scaled the national leadership ranks these past six years, he has seen the recycling industry—and ISRI—shift from boom times to challenging times. The “rapid and accelerating pace of change” makes it “very difficult to lay out a plan a year or two ahead in our industry,” he says. “There are so many moving parts, and it’s changing so rapidly in front of us.”
Despite—or perhaps because of—the changing environment, Shine has a long to-do list for his administration, with safety at the top. “Anybody who is involved in this industry needs to have safety as their No. 1 priority,” he says. While he’s proud of ISRI’s “tremendous” safety programs and services, he sees “opportunity to redefine, streamline, and improve our delivery of safety services to create the best value and return for the benefit of members.”
Another top priority is fiscal soundness by returning ISRI to a balanced operating budget. While the association has enjoyed strong investment gains, its annual operating budget has been in the red in recent years. Rather than relying on investment gains to make up its operating shortfall, Shine wants to guide ISRI toward a balanced budget through continued control of expenses and a renewed push on boosting revenue. “I want to be aggressive and go beyond incremental increases in membership within our existing member targets,” he says. One way to do that is by merging with or acquiring other recycling-related associations. “By coming together, we can create more momentum and increase membership to enhance the message for the recycling industry,” he says. ISRI has a leading role to play “as an aggregator in the recycling area, where we can work together collaboratively to offer value to members.”
ISRI’s strength comes from its unity of purpose. Shine supports the “One ISRI” initiative, which seeks to forge closer, stronger bonds between ISRI national and its 21 chapters. His commitment to this goal predates its recent revival as part of ISRI’s long-term planning, tracing to his earliest days of chapter involvement, he notes. At that time, “there was an us-and-them mentality between chapters and ISRI national,” he recalls. “The chapters viewed national as operating in an ivory tower. I couldn’t stand that idea, and I was skeptical of what others were saying about that, but I didn’t know any better then.” Getting involved on the national level opened his eyes to the reality of the ISRI-chapter relationship, he says. “Until you get involved at national, you can’t appreciate the work and the effort ISRI invests to make the members and the chapters successful,” he says. “If more members were involved on the national level, they’d grasp that this truly is ‘One ISRI.’ There isn’t an us and them. It’s we.”
To promote the “we” mentality and increase member connections with ISRI national, Shine plans to shine a brighter light on ISRI’s sponsorship role and exhibit at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual Legislative Summit, which takes place in a different city each year. Shine participated in the last two NCSL events—in Boston and Chicago—and he encourages members from all chapters to join him at the 2018 NCSL conference in Los Angeles. Such events, he says, are “an opportunity for ISRI members, national staff, and officers to come together, working for the common good of our industry.”
Another way to build “One ISRI,” Shine says, is to draw more members to the quarterly ISRI governance meetings. Holding those gatherings in a variety of locations across the country—as Shine plans to do—will give more members a chance to easily attend at least one meeting each year. Another option is to hold some governance meetings in conjunction with chapter events, which ISRI will do this fall with the Southeast Chapter and in fall 2019 with the Pacific Northwest Chapter. Such joint gatherings give attendees a “twofer” experience without much extra time or expense and allow chapter members to “interface at national meetings so they can see what’s happening and get involved,” he says.
Of course, Shine—like previous ISRI chairs—plans to visit many ISRI chapters during his two-year term to strengthen their ties with ISRI national. To extend the outreach even further, he will ask his executive committee to attend chapter meetings as well.
The generational shift occurring in the recycling industry is another priority for Shine. He sees ISRI playing a key role in training next-generation workers and connecting them with each other as well as older-generation mentors. In addition to recognizing the ongoing work of ISRI’s Young Executives group and the sold-out Industry Leadership Training program in November 2017, he points to the Northern Ohio Chapter’s “Best Young and Brightest” event last July as an example to follow going forward. That event attracted 42 professionals age 35 and younger for two days of networking, learning, and socializing. Shine, who offered introductory remarks at the meeting, says he was impressed by “the passion, energy, and enthusiasm of so many young participants, and it made me feel good—as an older member of the industry—to see the youth coming up.”
Shine also is a strong believer in the “powerful combination of youth and experience,” which is part of the mission of ISRI’s new Century Club, established as a forum for individuals with 100 years or more of combined age and years of active involvement in ISRI or one of its predecessor organizations. That group, formed last fall, will hold its first events at the ISRI2018 convention in Las Vegas, including a panel discussion with the Young Executives group. “Putting the experience and the youth together is really powerful, and it bodes well for our industry and our association for a long time to come,” Shine says.
ISRI’s strength also comes from its worldwide standing as the “Voice of the Recycling Industry™,” and Shine plans to continue advancing ISRI’s profile on the world stage. “In our business today, even if you don’t export a pound, you’re impacted by what’s happening overseas,” he says, “so it’s critical that ISRI has a prominent seat at the table.” He credits past ISRI Chair Doug Kramer of Kramer Metals (Los Angeles) with stepping up ISRI’s international presence during his 2014–2016 term and thanks current ISRI Chair Mark Lewon of Utah Metal Works (Salt Lake City) for continuing that focus. Shine has seen the fruits of ISRI’s participation at meetings of the Bureau of International Recycling (Brussels), the Materials Recycling Association of India (Mumbai), and the Bureau of Middle East Recycling (Dubai). At those events, ISRI’s reputation and credibility are exceptional, he says, which allows it to effectively promote and protect members’ global interests. “It’s a small world, and we need to continue to focus on free and fair trade,” he notes. “That is and will remain an overarching cornerstone for us.”
Taking the Reins
On April 19, Shine’s 33 years of association involvement will culminate in his election as ISRI chair, a position he will assume with “a combination of nervousness and excitement,” he says. Nervousness because “you don’t know what you don’t know,” and excitement because his ISRI involvement to date has prepared him well for this moment, he says. “Going through the various chairs [of the national officer positions] really does expose you to what the role entails over an appropriate amount of time.”
He’s also excited—and grateful—because he knows he has the committed support of other ISRI leaders, the ISRI staff, his family, and his Manitoba colleagues. “The contributions of everyone in our company and the association give me the confidence to go out and do this activity,” he says. The ISRI chair job “is bigger than any one person—no matter how skilled or capable they may be,” he says, so success will only come from “working together and driving the process forward with the goal of continuing to improve the member experience and the value we offer to members.” And
if he achieves his ambitious to-do list, he adds, “it won’t be credit to me—it will be credit to all of the people around me.”
Kent Kiser is publisher of Scrap and assistant vice president of industry communications for ISRI.
The Life of Brian
Family: Married Lynne Rifkin, a mental health therapist, in July 1989. Three sons—Sam (26), who runs one of Manitoba’s joint-venture companies from Denver; Jake (22), who works in the finance industry in New York; and Drew (18), a freshman in the business program at the University of Denver.
My greatest personal achievement has been … raising three boys with Lynne to be the quality people they are.
Something about me that would surprise people is … I was a Division I wrestler in college, and I have a private pilot’s license, which I earned when I was a senior at Bowling Green State University.
In my free time, I like to … work out. I do a lot of spinning. I used to run five or six days a week, but I now run once or twice a week and spin the other days.
I’d like to improve my … public speaking ability and my comfort level doing it.
I get mad when … people don’t own their mistakes. I’d much rather have somebody own their mistake and work to fix it together so we can move on rather than waste time pointing fingers or ducking the issue.
A perfect workday for me is … when all of our employees work accident-free, we have good buying-and-selling action in the business, and we perform for our suppliers, our customers, and our employees. The most perfect experience is when I see employees stretch beyond their perceived limitations and when they feel good about their contributions to the business and are proud of their personal growth in the company. That brings me great joy.
A perfect personal day for me includes … going to a spin class in the morning, working at the office for four hours on a Saturday—when nobody’s there—so I can think and get a lot done, and then having a great dinner with my wife.
If I didn’t work in the scrap industry, I’d probably be … a teacher or a coach. I was a coach for my sons’ baseball teams from 1996 to 2007, even though I was an awful baseball player. I truly enjoy trying to help others grow and develop.
When my term as ISRI chair is over … I’ll be excited to see Gary Champlin [of Champlin Tire Recycling (Concordia, Kan.), currently vice chair] succeed me because he will be the first ISRI chair from a non-metals-based company. I’m excited to help Gary through that process, and I know he’ll do a great job as the next leader of ISRI.
After 33 years of involvement in ISRI and its predecessors, Brian Shine stands ready to become ISRI’s next chair, with ambitious plans to take the association to even greater heights.