Frank Antonacci, chief operating officer at USA Hauling & Recycling, has been running his family business with the same core values his grandfather had at its founding.
The Waste360 40 Under 40 recipient grew up in the waste industry, driving a 15-yard truck to small dump and construction jobs throughout high school and college.
"I remember driving a container delivery truck in the morning, and then doing cleanouts and demo jobs in the afternoon and weekend," Antonacci recalls.
While he had plans to work on Wall Street after he completed his education at Boston College, Antonacci's career started in the stables running his family's horse racing business. Eventually, he made his way back to his roots at USA Hauling & Recycling.
Waste360 and Antonacci recently chatted about growing up in the family business and how he has seen the waste industry change and adapt over the years.
Waste360: What is it like being involved in a family business? How have you seen it grow over time?
Antonacci: We're about as true a sense of a family business as it gets, and I think it's a real key to our success. My grandfather was in the business in the 50’s, and then my dad, Frank, and my Uncle Jerry. I think they are amongst the best garbage men of their generation. They're unique because they have that old school kind of garbage man training and upbringing, but they've always been forward-thinking and have a pretty clear vision of the future. So, I was blessed.
We talk business all the time. Whether it's in the office or on vacation at dinner, family events, we never stop talking about the business, talking about the industry and working on it.
We've grown by family size; we've grown geographically, and we've grown through employees. Every which way you can measure growth, we've grown. It started with my grandfather and my grandmother, down to my father, uncle and now there's six of us in the next generation. We’re pretty blessed that we got six of us in this kind of third generation. I would say we’re uniquely talented in different ways, driven and have strong work ethics. It's pretty exciting to see that kind of horsepower within the family. As the businesses have grown, I think our talent within the family has grown too. It's pretty exciting stuff for us.
Waste360: What's the biggest thing that you've learned throughout the years from your father and grandfather about the business?
Antonacci: The biggest thing I've learned is to never underestimate your competition. There's no substitute for hard work. Customers have to come first and always treat people the right way. Also - pay attention to detail.
Waste360: How do you maintain a good company culture as the business grows?
Antonacci: I think that if you talk to the people here, they would say they feel like they're part of the family because we truly believe that they are and they're part of the success and a big reason for it. And that's what we always say – it's that everybody matters. Everybody's job matters. Everybody's bringing value to the company and their family and in our family, it's all shared success. We really hold that our employees, families, share their successes. We're all part of one greater family. We're blessed with a team that has been here for a long time and we see some employees, multiple generations of their families that are employed here. I think people here have a great sense of pride about the way we do business. The quality of the business – we try to operate the way we interact with the community, the equipment we run. We try to run the business in a really first-class way where everybody is proud of it.
Waste 360: What technologies have you seen impact the industry throughout the years?
Antonacci: The increased amount of automation is a big one. It’s allowed trucks to go from three people operating it to one, more highly skilled, more highly compensated person, which I think has been a big step forward for the industry. Single-stream recycling and the sorting equipment that comes with it and also some of the other waste sorting technology has allowed us to become more efficient on the collection routes. Another big one is onboard technologies, whether it's tablets or onboard computers. We're utilizing those and I think that's going to be an even bigger influence in the industry. And then there’s alternative fuels for the vehicles. We have a big natural gas fleet. That's obviously a big change in technology. There’s also the potential to move to even electric or other technology. And then there are things like enhanced fire detection at the facilities to increase our safety profile and lower risk.
Waste360: What do you think the future will hold for the waste and recycling industry?
Antonacci: I think there are a lot of challenges or perceived challenges around the environment. The industry is kind of uniquely positioned at the forefront of a lot of these conversations around sustainability and in how we interact with the environment.