At 37 years old, Mark McLaughlin is a 15-year veteran in the waste and recycling industry. He has sold more than 2,000 pieces of refuse equipment for McNeilus and is currently the company’s regional sales manager of a five-state territory in the northeastern U.S.
McLaughlin has held various positions at the company, including sales territory representative, refuse sales manager and fleet sales manager. He’s also represented McNeilus at various local and national industry events, including with the National Waste & Recycling Association, the Solid Waste Association of North America and the Future Industry Leaders Alliance (FILA).
But for McLaughlin, the best part of the job is the long-lasting industry relationships he’s built.
“Over the years I have known Mark, I have noticed that he doesn't use the word ‘customer’ very often,” explains Brad Nelson, president of McNeilus. “He refers to his customers as friends. In fact, when he tells a story about work or speaks about his job, you can hear how much he values the relationships he has with his friends in the industry. Mark considers these friendships to be one of the biggest perks of the job. He will tell you that when your friends (customers) have trust in you, they will look to you for guidance when seeking a solution to a problem or for advice on how to improve the way they are doing things. Mark's friendships and consultative nature also extend to his colleagues and McNeilus' suppliers. For Mark, this component is of paramount importance to a long and successful career, no matter where you work.”
Earlier this year, McLaughlin was honored with a Waste360 40 Under 40 award. He recently sat down with us to discuss the importance of being creative and adaptive in this constantly evolving industry.
Waste360: How did you begin your waste and recycling career?
Mark McLaughlin: After graduating college, I interviewed for a sales representative position to sell garbage truck bodies in the New England market area. After interviewing with different levels of management, I accepted the position. I started traveling to New England immediately Sunday through Thursday to cover the region.
The majority of the time, I was actually driving the garbage trucks on Interstate 95 through New York City to not only learn the product but also to demonstrate the trucks with customers. My goal was to have at least one truck sold by the end of each week and not have to drive it back. From there, I transitioned into my sales territory for eight years.
Waste360: Tell us about your role as regional sales manager for McNeilus.
Mark McLaughlin: When I started with McNeilus, I was a sales representative. Then, I became a strategic account manager. In 2009, I became a regional sales manager, and now my role with the company is as a national account manager. In this role, I’m working with our larger accounts on the East Coast, maintaining these customer relationships and providing any type of support. Customers know they can come to me for truck purchasing, parts and service, and any type of support that is needed with the product before and after delivery.
Waste360: What are some of the fleet trends you’ve seen recently? And what are you working on now to cater to the needs of the industry?
Mark McLaughlin: As an industry, we are all continuously improving the refuse value chain to ensure refuse is collected and processed in the fastest, safest and most environmentally friendly way possible. We’re doing more with automated side loader units and developing the most driver-friendly products on the street. Fleets are also focused more toward updating their fleets to compressed natural gas. At McNeilus, we were prepared for this and offer several options when it comes to equipping your trucks with alternative fuel systems.
We are also making the garbage bodies simpler and easy for technicians to work on. Simplifying hydraulic and electrical systems while advancing the technology keeps these trucks running and out working, not in the shop.
Waste360: Knowing it can be difficult for newcomers entering a new industry, were there any roadblocks you faced when you first started out? If so, what were they?
Mark McLaughlin: The roadblock is knowing that it will take a few years to become very comfortable about the products in this industry. Garbage truck bodies are never the same. Right when you think you know everything about a product, the industry changes into something new, and we need to be able to adapt quickly. You have to be prepared to introduce a new idea into the market at any time.
With this job, you get to spend quality time with the customers and listen to them. You report that feedback to your company so that you have the answers and solutions for them to stay ahead of the game. The great part about working for a company like McNeilus is that we really listen to customers. We host customers at our facility throughout the year and also have key personnel spend time in the field learning industry trends.
Waste360: What are some accomplishments in your career that you are most proud of thus far?
Mark McLaughlin: The 40 Under 40 award is a huge accomplishment for me because I was not involved in the award nomination process. I was selected by Brad Nelson, president of McNeilus. That was just a huge honor because I know most of the men and women awarded with the 40 Under 40 awards in previous years and to be recognized with them was important to me.
I am also a member of FILA. This is a core group of people from the waste and recycling industry that get together several times a year and share ideas and learn more about the business.
Also, being promoted to a national account manager was important for me. Taking on the responsibility of supporting our largest customers from the start to the end is a big accomplishment for me.
Waste360: What keeps you motivated in your work now and moving forward?
Mark McLaughlin: I’m motivated by having myself, our company and the industry succeed. I want to be able to sell as much product as I possibly can for my company, but also, it’s important for me to sell the right product to our customers—a product that is going to help them run their business. That’s what drives me—to sell what I believe is the best product to our key customers to help them support their best customers and be successful.
Waste360: What advice do you have for someone looking to start a career in this industry?
Mark McLaughlin: The waste and recycling business is an exciting industry. You have to be adaptable to change because that’s what this industry is. It’s all about safety and picking up trash the right and safest way possible. You always have to think outside the box and be creative for the customers. The best part of this career is the friendships that I have developed, not only within my own company but also with our customers.