Matthew Nelson, vice president of finance and investor relations for Advanced Disposal Services, started with the company in 2015. With his background in finance, Nelson was brought on to manage the process required to successfully launch Advanced Disposal’s initial public offering (IPO). The process spanned multiple years of preparation, and his responsibilities now include managing financial analysis and institutional investor relationships.
At Advanced Disposal, Nelson has gained a reputation for having an entrepreneurial mindset. He was recently named a Waste360 40 Under 40 recipient, and he spoke with Waste360 about what makes the waste industry and Advanced Disposal, in particular, attractive to investors.
Waste360: In your role as vice president of finance and investor relations, what types of investor clients do you work with?
Matthew Nelson: When I started in 2015, we had publicly filed debt, so we were required to do financial filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission as if we were a public company, but we just didn’t have public shares. We would do our earnings calls, but it was mainly debt investor focused.
We went through the IPO process in October 2016, and I got to be an integral part of that. Going through an IPO process meant we were essentially selling a portion of our private equity owners’ shares to public investors, so we were essentially marketing the company to public investors. We did that in October 2016, and our private equity investors sold a portion of their shares as part of that IPO process. Then, there were three additional selldowns between October 2016 and May 2018.
The big part of the investor relations role has been facilitating those sales of shares, and then meeting with investors, telling our story, making sure we are transparent and clearly communicating our strategy and reporting on how we do financially, so that investors can make informed decisions about whether or not to buy our company.
Waste360: Part of your role is educating people about why Advanced Disposal is a good company. Why is this a good company and industry to invest in?
Matthew Nelson: The two go hand-in-hand. You have a number of investors that you’re educating just about the waste space in general, so you have to get them comfortable with the idea that this is an attractive sector with strong pre-cash flows and predictable, repeatable types of income streams. Then, from there, it is explaining why we think you should invest in Advanced Disposal as you are looking at investments within the sector. You have other investors that know the sector well, so for them, it is just focusing on the latter piece [why invest in Advanced Disposal].
Waste360: What makes Advanced Disposal special?
Matthew Nelson: First and foremost is looking at our assets. We own or manage 40 landfills across 16 states—so that would be really difficult to replicate. We have some very well-positioned assets in different markets. If you wanted to start a waste company, or if you wanted to try to run a landfill, you wouldn’t get them anywhere near where we are—we have over 70 transfer stations that expand the reach of those landfills and about 90 hauling operations.
We think we have done a good job with market selection. We have been really thoughtful around market selection, and we think our assets are pretty well positioned.
Another thing that I think differentiates us is that culturally we still give a lot of autonomy to our local leaders. While we have good controls around what they can do from a compliance perspective, our goal is to be the employer of choice for people who are fairly entrepreneurial and want to run the business closer to how they would run it if they owned their own business. We think our relatively flat organizational structure and the autonomy that we give to the field is a differentiator for us.
Waste360: Since you were new to the industry, what is something that maybe surprised you about the waste industry?
Matthew Nelson: One thing that maybe surprised me a little bit was just how tightknit the waste industry is. When you are around, especially the operations team and Richard, our CEO, all of these guys know everybody else in the space really well. There has been a decent amount of consolidation in the industry over time, so a lot of folks have worked together with others in the space, and it seems like it is one of those industries where once you have done it for three or five years, you don’t see a lot of people leaving the industry. They might change companies, but it kind of gets in their blood a little bit. I was surprised a little bit with just how tightknit the space and this industry is because I wasn’t necessarily expecting that.
Waste360: For young people who may not be considering a career in this industry, what advice might you give to them to take a look at the industry as a possible career path?
Matthew Nelson: I think it’s a really attractive industry, broadly. We provide an incredibly important environmental service to our nation. We are disposing of waste in an environmentally sensitive manner.
Second, this industry is one where it is tough to outsource it. It has great sustainability over the long term. There is always a risk of some type of disrupter, but the risk of offshoring just really isn’t there. It is going to continue to be local people who collect waste and dispose of it properly. I think that piece is attractive in a constantly changing environment.
The third piece goes back to what I was saying earlier, which is that it is a group of professionals that is pretty tightknit, and I think that is an interesting experience to get to be a part of. I feel incredibly blessed to be with Advanced Disposal. We have a phenomenal leadership team and folks who have taken me under their wing and have really been generous with their time and helping to develop me. I definitely appreciate that. I love the culture and love the company. I tell people I am a proud garbage man.