When Loren Franklin began his career as a certified public accountant, he had no inkling he’d enter the solid waste industry, much less that he’d get in as deep as he has. But within a few years, Franklin joined Allied Waste Industries’ tax department, and he stayed on through the company’s merger with Republic Services.
On the way to his current position as Republic’s director of procurement and supply chain management, he would lead procurement and strategic sourcing for $350 million in spending around compressed natural gas (CNG), fueling infrastructure and construction, among other areas.
Today, Franklin oversees a team of field managers who support procurement and strategic sourcing to the corporation’s facilities and hauling divisions across the country.
Michael Hindman, vice president of procurement for Republic Services, describes Franklin as a passionate person who puts his team members first. “Loren is constantly looking for ways to significantly improve himself, his function and Republic as a whole,” he adds.
His former employee, Ashley Foss, category manager for Republic Services, says, “Loren was a tremendous leader and continues to be a great mentor to me. He is always the first person to jump in and help, and I’m thankful for all of the guidance he has provided to me over the years.”
Earlier this year, Franklin received a Waste360 40 Under 40 award. He recently sat down with us to discuss how he got to where he is now, the key to making smart investment decisions around CNG and how he works with his team.
Waste360: What were you doing when Allied Waste merged with Republic, and what career path have you followed since?
Loren Franklin: For some time before the merger, I was a senior tax analyst and supporting all aspects of the corporate tax function. After a few years, I had the opportunity to transition to the finance department as a finance manager, and it was shortly after this transition that Allied Waste Industries merged with Republic Services.
As a finance manager, I had the opportunity to work directly with the operations, fleet, procurement and recycling departments, helping them develop and implement new organizational strategies.
I then moved laterally to the procurement department, and then ultimately moved up from manager to senior manager. Most recently, I became procurement director. In total, I have been with Allied, then Republic, for 14 years.
Waste360: What led you into your current position? What skills and knowledge did you pick up along the way?
Loren Franklin: As I was supporting the procurement department as finance manager, I started to see procurement as a good career path to explore, which would entail getting into areas like supplier negotiations and strategy development. In discussing the possibility with some of the existing leadership, we decided that this would be a great transition, and many of the skills I had learned over the years would be a good fit in what became my next role: procurement manager.
In my support role [in finance], I had learned to develop and maintain relationships across many different functional groups, and that relationship management experience has been very useful in working with suppliers. Finance develops strong analytical skills and skills in process improvement, as well as in financial modeling—all of which play a key role when negotiating with suppliers and developing the right solutions.
Waste360: What financial decisions have you made around CNG and fueling infrastructure? What have been your considerations in making these decisions?
Loren Franklin: In my new role as a director, I don’t support the CNG and fueling infrastructure directly, but in my prior roles, I partnered with the corporate and field teams and worked closely with our CNG supplier to evaluate different fueling infrastructure opportunities for all fueling modes and then recommend the best solution for implementation. When evaluating these fueling modes, we look at the market fit, financial impact and environmental impact. Then, we use a balanced scorecard approach to make a decision for that market.
Waste360: What has changed over the years in the CNG/renewable natural gas (RNG) market? How have you seen that affect Republic’s business decisions?
Loren Franklin: The CNG and RNG markets have seen a significant number of changes, but one of the biggest changes relates to RNG. In the early years, RNG was a very small portion of the available fuel supply for CNG vehicles, which limited its ability to be scaled across the fleet. Over the last few years, changes in regulation and improvements in the supply and demand balance have allowed Republic to significantly increase our utilization of RNG in our CNG trucks. Without those changes and the development of a few strategic partnerships, I wouldn’t have been able to recommend the current RNG programs we have been able to roll out.
Over the last four years, Republic has increased its CNG utilization by 8 million gallons, going from 18 million CNG gallons in 2014 to 26 million gallons in 2017. During that same period, Republic also expanded its use of RNG in its CNG fleet, so now 93 percent of our natural gas trucks in California run on RNG.
Waste360: What is your management style?
Loren Franklin: Whether it is leading a team of one or two, or now a team of 10, I have always strived to empower and encourage my employees to take ownership of their projects. I don’t want to micromanage them, but I will offer my knowledge and expertise to help them accomplish their projects, when needed.
Given my finance background, I am not afraid to jump in and help my team with a detailed analysis, but, ultimately, I want each of them to be successful, and if doing some of those detailed tasks helps them, then I’m all for it. In general, I want to help set a clear strategy and vision on how to accomplish goals and give each member the confidence to achieve those goals.
Waste360: How do you include employees in decision making? How does including them benefit you and your department overall?
Loren Franklin: I try to include my employees in key decisions whenever possible and often run my proposed solutions by them before making a final recommendation. Working with them this way looks different for each project and team. In some cases, they might provide a unique expertise or experience, but in others, they are just great sounding boards to help think through the right solution prior to execution. One of many examples that comes to mind is when we were experiencing inventory and stock-out issues with a supplier and I leveraged my employees’ expertise and experience to develop a better overall solution for the company.
Waste360: What do you most like about your job and why?
Loren Franklin: I love having the flexibility and being empowered to create meaningful programs for my company and employees. The ability to understand the employee need, develop the solution and see it implemented is one of the best work experiences you can have.
Waste360: What’s hardest for you in your work?
Loren Franklin: It’s hard to wait for the changes you’ve implemented to start generating the positive outcomes that were expected. During that period of uncertainty, you don’t know if you made the right decision or if you need to make adjustments to the program going forward, which makes it hard to work through.
Waste360: Where did you see yourself going when you began your career?
Loren Franklin: When I started my career in public accounting, I envisioned being a partner at a large CPA [certified public accountant] firm. After two years in public accounting with BDO Seidman, I decided to explore other career options, which is when I landed in Allied’s corporate tax department. I certainly didn’t think I would be in procurement, but that is what makes this so much fun for me—seeing where your career journey might take you.