Starting with a single van in 2012, Taylor Chunn worked to grow his medical waste business from scratch. He drove around—in a suit and tie in Louisiana’s sweltering heat—pulling medical waste, handing out business cards and banging on doors.

Today, Chunn is CEO and president of Medical Waste Management, a burgeoning player that now handles more than 2 million pounds of medical waste annually. The firm is based in the New Orleans area and serves the Gulf South Region, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida. But as consultants they work with organizations across the country.

Medical Waste Management serves clients such as multi-tiered and single-tiered healthcare systems, surgery centers, nursing homes, funeral homes, jails and any entity that is a medical waste generator

According to Chunn, his company’s greatest asset is his staff. From the beginning, Chunn and his team have fearlessly pushed forward. “Everybody believed in each other. We weren’t scared of uncertainty and we knew that through hard work and commitment that we were going to cross any barriers. We weren’t scared to take that next step,” says Chunn.

“Taylor Chunn is a phenomenal leader, motivator and proves his hard work each and every single day,” says Nick Killebrew of Medical Waste Management.

Chunn was recently named a Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient. In this interview, he talks about how his company has gained a competitive advantage in the medical waste industry and what it means to be a strong leader.

Waste360: What services does Medical Waste Management provide?

Taylor Chunn: We specialize in an integrative cost solutions platform. That has been our niche. Through creativity, we can simply reduce costs or eliminate cost escalation through just generic inflation. We tell our customers that the reality is, the price of everything is going to increase so it’s our job to be creative and do our due diligence to find ways to save money whether that’s through the implementation of a recycling program or a waste reduction program.

We offer a wide variety of services, ranging from waste auditing to recycling platforms to pharmaceutical redistribution or destruction, to our sharps rotation service. We’ll go into a healthcare facility and eliminate the cost of sharps containers by actually handling that cost ourselves and servicing the containers throughout the facility.

Waste360: Did you have any education or mentoring that prepared you for what you are doing?

Taylor Chunn: You never hear in school that waste is a major industry with lots of opportunities. I’m an advocate for bringing more education to the potential opportunities for careers in the waste sector.

There’s so much opportunity in the waste sector and it goes unseen. To me, it’s the best hidden career secret.

Waste360: How has your company grown since you founded it in 2012?

Taylor Chunn: The starting was one single van and me, dressed in business attire (and yet we’re in south Louisiana and everyone knows how hot and humid it is here), driving around pulling medical waste, stopping and handing out business cards and banging on doors. That was the beginning when it was very difficult.

From the beginning our vision was to invest in our employees. It was my idea at the time that if we hired dynamic employees they would provide excellent customer service. You can say you’re going to provide good customer service but the reality is that you’re an extension of your employees.  So, our best asset was our employees.

At that time, we made the investment on some college kids who went to school with me and then we grew from there. We put a hub up in Shreveport  and grew it from there. It was your typical organic growth story.

Waste360: What gaps did you think your company could fill within this industry?

Taylor Chunn: The medical waste industry is heavily dominated by a major player and I felt that giving a different, personal touch would provide a competitive advantage. It’s allowed us to build long, lasting relationships with our customers. Out of 1,500 served customers, we’ve only lost one since we’ve been in business.

Waste360: What are the leadership attributes that you aspire towards?

Taylor Chunn: A good leader is an extension of your vision. A good leader is a never a boss. I define myself as an employee of Medical Waste Management. I am extension of the company; I am currently the CEO, but ultimately, I receive a paycheck just like everyone else.

A good leader needs to have and express the vision of the company to everyone within the company and hope that everyone will then clearly operate under that vision and really partake in a part of ownership. Every employee at Medical Waste Management takes ownership in everything they do. Our team takes pride in their work and they value the successes and failures and learn from them.

Waste360: What advice would you give to a young person starting out in the industry?

Taylor Chunn: The best advice I could give would be to not be too concerned with instant gratification. Focus on long-term goals and long-term objectives.

Successes are going to come through hard work. It’s a hard grasping point—to not see instant results for hard work—so we have to emphasize constantly that ‘you’re doing a good job and results are going to come.’ It’s not something that happens overnight.

We try to forewarn new employees so that they don’t get discouraged. It will come. The longer you’re with the company the more you start seeing results and growth. It does happen quickly yet when you’re brand new in the company, you don’t exactly see it.