Embodying the third generation of his family's waste hauling business, Patrick Winters is on track to take the reins of Winters Bros. Waste Systems at some future point. But Winters—son of company Co-owner and CEO Joe Winters—is intent on earning that spot, not having it handed to him.
In his role as the Long Island, N.Y.-based company's sales and marketing vice president, Winters, 25, regularly steps up to take the lead on complex projects, such as the launch of Winter Bros.' new website and the design and construction of a new building in West Babylon, N.Y., which will serve as the company's container repair shop.
"Patrick is a young leader who gets recognized not for who he is but rather for the work he does," says Winter Bros. Vice President Will Flower. "He's focused, caring and passionate. It doesn't matter if he's helping a customer, laying out a new office design or negotiating with a contractor who's pouring concrete, Patrick is focused on the task at hand. He's a total team player who's always willing to help others. He cares about communities and people, and he'll ensure that this company's legacy continues to shine bright on Long Island."
We recently talked with Winters, a 2019 Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient, about growing up in the waste industry, his leadership philosophies and his passion for community involvement and for helping people with autism.
Waste360: You grew up around the waste business. What kind of impact has your family's long involvement in the industry had on you?
Patrick Winters: The two sayings my dad drilled into my head growing up are "Hard work pays off" and "Never forget where you came from." My family has been in the garbage industry for over 50 years, dating back to my grandfather and great uncle. Three generations continuing a family business is difficult, so we're lucky to say we've been able to do that. What's even more special are the stories and experiences shared over time. Starting with one truck and a single route, I take a lot of pride in knowing where my family has come from to where we are now and where we want to be.
Waste360: What has been your most rewarding learning experience in your time working with Winter Bros.?
Patrick Winters: Having the opportunity to work with my dad and learn from him, not just about the garbage industry but life in general. That's something no college degree can get you, so I'm thankful to have the relationship I do with him.
The biggest thing I've learned is how important the team aspect is. There are many variables to this business, and every part is crucial and reliant upon one another. We wouldn't be where we are today without our drivers, dispatchers, mechanics, sales and customer service representatives. Without the team and their constant hard work, none of this is possible.
Waste360: What has been your most difficult learning experience?
Patrick Winters: The past year has been challenging, not only for us but for companies nationwide, due to less reliance on foreign export markets for recycling. Costs have risen, and with that comes adjustments and new concepts to maximize our efficiency.
Currently, I'm one of our sales managers, so I have daily interaction with our customers. There are many types of businesses with different variables—different personalities, what they're disposing of, how much they're disposing of, etc. No day is the same. It's challenging but fun.
Waste360: You were involved in the design and construction of the company's new container repair shop. What's the most important experience you got from that project that you'll carry forward with you?
Patrick Winters: The repair shop was a great experience for me because it was an area that we felt had room for great improvement. Our image is important to us. We want to make sure our customers have clean, high-quality containers. We also wanted to maximize our production of container repairs. I had the opportunity to connect with a few companies in our region and see their shops, how they operate and the type of equipment needed. One of the most important investments we made was a paint booth. That will allow us to increase our production time, use less paint and create a cleaner look for our containers.
Waste360: I understand you've had some close-to-home experience with autism. How has that affected you and the work you do for Winter Bros.?
Patrick Winters: Having a brother with autism has taught me many life lessons. My family and I have been lucky to live the lives we do, and the number one priority for us is to give back to the community and spread awareness as much as possible. At Winters Bros., we've started to build a foundation to create jobs for young adults with autism so they're able to enhance their quality of life. They're some of our hardest-working employees and a joy to be around. And in the future, we hope to build a center where they can expand their work and life skills even further.
Waste360: You've been active in the waste industry for about 10 years. What do you envision yourself doing in the future?
Patrick Winters: From my dad taking me on trucks when I was a child to now, I've been around the industry my whole life. I hope I get to share the same experiences I've had with my grandfather, dad and uncles with my kids and the next generation. I have many goals to grow and be successful in this industry for years to come. I just have to continue to work hard to make sure we can make that happen.