Jonathan Groot, senior vice president of Groot Recycling & Waste and Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient, grew up with a family of waste and recycling workers. His grandfather, John Groot, set a milestone in 1989 when he was inducted into the Waste Hall of Fame and his father, Lawrence Groot, has been the CEO of Groot for more than 40 years. Influenced by their accomplishment, Groot got his start in the waste and recycling industry at a young age doing odds and ends for the company.
Jonathan’s first real role at the company was a waste helper, and from there he moved on to become the lead operations manager at the age of 24. As operations manager, he streamlined 30 commercial routes by creating route density and enhancing the technology on the individual trucks for accountability. Just two years later, he was promoted again to general manager, where he led more than 100 employees in an emerging market. At the age of 28, Groot took on the role of senior vice president, where he has helped lead the company in two sizeable acquisitions, expand the company’s 17-year-old MRF, design and plan a new large-scale transfer station and expand the company into the Milwaukee market.
“Jon has the unique ability to look at a current operation, break it down, identify the areas that need improvement and figure out how to improve them,” says Groot’s coworker Josh Brandsma. “He has an operational look on situations and is able to quickly decipher what is right and wrong with any operation so that the operation can resolve those issues and become as efficient as it can be. Because of this unique quality, Jon has the respect of all of his peers and employees. This is a main focal point in his leadership ability.”
Groot recently spoke with Waste360 about the family business, his proudest career moment and his roles and responsibilities as senior vice president.
Waste360: Groot is a family business. Did you always want to be a part of the family business or did you have a different career path in mind?
Jonathan Groot: I first started working for the company in the summers when I was in my early teens. I helped with odds and ends, and I knew the company was something that I wanted to be a part of. Growing up around the shops, recycling facilities and transfer stations helped me develop an interest for the operational side of the business.
I ended up earning a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Mich., and I have been able to integrate both what I learned in school and at the company into my career to help me excel.
Waste360: Tell us about your role and responsibilities as senior vice president.
Jonathan Groot: My responsibilities are pretty fluid because there’s a lot of moving parts in the business. I oversee all of the moving parts, which include corporate planning, future infrastructure planning, acquisitions and mergers and making sure that each individual home owner gets taken care of each day. I also have a strong management team that I work with on a daily basis to ensure that every part of the company is running smoothly. It’s all about the fine details.
Waste360: How did you expand Groot into Milwaukee?
Jonathan Groot: It was actually a pretty natural extension for us because it’s a major city close to Chicago. Fortunately, we were able to take over a good team up there and bring some of our management in place to help integrate everything. Milwaukee is one of several acquisitions that we have made in the last couple of years, and it has worked out very well for us.
As a company, we are always looking for new opportunities, both in our market and other markets. We’re a really well-capitalized company, and we are in a great position to grow both here and outside of the Chicago and Milwaukee market.
Waste360: What are some of your goals for 2016?
Jonathan Groot: I think our goals are in line with most businesses. It really comes down to just becoming better every day. We also are focusing on the areas of safety, service and business growth.
Over the past couple of years, we have been working on integrating a lot of new technology into our business model and trying to find new ways to improve our customer experience. We also plan on continuing to explore new technology options for the business.
Waste360: Can you highlight a moment in your career that you are the most proud of?
Jonathan Groot: I would have to say two things: I’m really proud of being able to be part of a fourth generation family business, and I am proud that I can continue the 40-year tradition of treating our employees to a yearly trip to show them how much we appreciate their hard work. I don’t think that’s something that many businesses get to do regardless of their industry. To me, that is a big accomplishment, not just for me but for my family and our entire team of employees as well.
Waste360: What advice would you give to someone entering the waste and recycling industry?
Jonathan Groot: It’s a very competitive industry, and it’s full of a lot of very passionate and smart people. Everybody that I have met in this industry loves it, and I think my advice would be that you have to love it 100 percent because if you don’t, there is someone right behind you that will.