Being a team player is key to Jason Pratt’s success in the waste industry. As region controller for Waste Connections, he fell in love with the company’s culture at his very first interview, and colleagues say he will probably remain there for the duration of his career.
“He will remain part of the Waste Connections family until he retires,” says Tammy Holtzman, district manager at Waste Connections of Canada. “He loves our people and industry. He will keep moving up in the company and mentoring everyone he [interacts with] along the way.”
Always driven and willing to train and mentor others, Pratt recently sat down with Waste360 to discuss his career. The Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient also mentioned his love of sports and his adventures as an expatriate in Canada.
Waste360: How did you begin your career in the industry?
Jason Pratt: Totally by accident, which seems to be the norm for financial folks entering the industry. I had finished my MBA and was working in public accounting at the time, but I knew that wasn’t my career of choice. Upon leaving public accounting, I had two offers—one from a financial services company and one from WCI [Waste Connections, Inc.] as a staff accountant. I remember being totally blown away by the interview with WCI, which emphasized company culture, people development and getting out of your office and working with other departments. I knew that was the right model and the right fit for me, and it has been a blast for the last 13 years.
Waste360: Describe your role as region controller for Waste Connections.
Jason Pratt: Very dynamic, and I have the opportunity to be active on the financial, people and business side. That’s a hallmark of WCI, where our controller teams are viewed as business partners—mini CFOs in the field—and we aren’t just responsible for the financial debits and credits. Fundamentally, I’m responsible for financial performance, financial people development and internal controls for our operations across Canada. This includes the oversight and partnership with 35 financial professionals across Canada and in the U.S. But, the bulk of my day is spent on people development and working to drive financial performance at our locations.
Waste360: What do you consider your biggest achievement within the industry?
Jason Pratt: At this juncture of my career, I’ve had an opportunity to work in the field, at our division level and now at region. But, I’d say my greatest achievement is seeing the financial professionals on my team develop. I’ve had the honor to hire, mentor and work with some great people, who have excelled at WCI in a variety of roles. So, seeing those individuals develop, grow and become successful in the organization is very rewarding because of the personal relationship with them.
Waste360: What keeps you motivated in your work now and moving forward?
Jason Pratt: It’s a great industry, and it’s a dynamic industry. I consider myself extremely competitive, and it’s the thirst for that continued competitive edge that keeps me going. At this point, the company is seven times the size of when I started, so there’s a culture at WCI of continuous development and improvement every day.
Waste360: What are some exciting opportunities that you see opening within the industry?
Jason Pratt: From a business standpoint, the continued stratification of the waste stream constantly brings about new opportunities and challenges. On the people front, I also see a lot of opportunities for financially oriented professionals in the industry. While not a dynamic shift at this point, we are starting to see more of our seasoned controllers at WCI taking an interest in the operations side, which is only strengthening our company. I see that as a plus for our team, as it gives our controllers (who possess both a strong financial and operations background) another avenue for growth and success.
Waste360: What is the Servant Leadership Culture program?
Jason Pratt: Simply put, it’s the foundation of Waste Connections’ culture. Ultimately, the leaders across our organization fundamentally believe if you take a genuine effort and interest in developing your team and getting to know them on a personal front, a strong level of commitment and accountability will be fostered. We pride ourselves on having honest, open conversations at WCI, and a big part of that is looking in the mirror on a daily basis and figuring out how you, as an individual, can improve in the support of your team.
Waste360: How did you establish it at Waste Connections?
Jason Pratt: As you might expect, this was a major change in thought process for several people in the organization at that time (late 2000s). But, to Ron [CEO and chairman] and the executive team’s credit, they saw this change in culture as paramount to us growing and evolving as a company. Today, in order to attract and retain the best talent, a company must have a culture that supports its employees first. If not, good people always have options, and one of the hallmarks at WCI is that we have an extreme emphasis on development from within the organization.
Waste360: What advice do you have for someone who is looking to make a career for themselves in the waste and recycling industry?
Jason Pratt: Give it a chance, and don’t be afraid to take the leap, as you’ll probably be surprised. Obviously, there are a lot of preconceived notions about the industry from the outside. Our challenge is to attract the best and the brightest that might only be considering an Apple, Google, etc. But, the growth and professional opportunities in this industry are tremendous, and once people get a taste of the industry and culture, they often find it to be very fraternal in nature.
Waste360: What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?
Jason Pratt: As an expat in Canada, I spend a lot of time on the road, visiting and seeing different parts of the country. Our Canadian team has welcomed me with open arms, and I’m very appreciative of that. So, from an activity standpoint, I still enjoy golf, watching sports and any number of other outdoor activities, but I’ve been focused on getting to know the entire country. Maybe next year it’ll be hockey and curling.