Ryan Brandsma, executive vice president of Groot Recycling & Waste, was born into the waste and recycling industry. Groot, which was conceived in 1914, was started by Brandsma's great-grandfather and is now run by third- and fourth-generation family members.
Brandsma earned a business degree from Calvin College in Mich., and got his start in the waste and recycling industry at Republic Services, where he participated in the company's Management Trainee Program. After two years, he decided to return home and work at his family's business.
At Groot, Brandsma started off as the lead operations manager at the young age of 25 and was promoted to general manager of his own division just a year later. In this role, he facilitated the acquisition of a company that was twice the size of his operation and created many synergies to turn the old, non-profitable company into a large, profitable operation.
In 2013, Brandsma continued his growth efforts by expanding Groot's 25-year-old MRF with a $17 million investment.
After five years, Brandsma was promoted to executive vice president, where he currently works alongside his partner Jon Groot to oversee the company's hauling and transfer operations, material recovery operations, sales and marketing efforts and any acquisition opportunities.
For the past three years, Brandsma has led Groot into an aggressive growth initiative. With this initiative, he has spearheaded strategic acquisitions, expanded the company to the Milwaukee market and earned himself a Waste360 40 Under 40 award.
"Ryan has the natural ability to lead people by acquiring their respect and trust in his decision-making abilities and his knowledge of the industry," says Josh Brandsma. "This unique ability teamed up with his personal ambition is a guaranteed recipe for success in the waste industry."
Waste360 recently sat down with Brandsma to discuss his career journey and the company’s goals for this year.
Waste360: How did you help Groot expand out of the Chicagoland area into Wisconsin?
Ryan Brandsma: We have worked on that effort on two separate fronts. First, we started moving into southeast Wisconsin the old-fashioned way by going to door-to-door and working on winning business one dumpster at a time. We came up with clear sales strategies to try and penetrate the new market, and we have been working consistently on executing the plan. Secondly, we have been on the lookout for potential acquisitions in the Wisconsin market. Our first acquisition in Wisconsin closed January 1, 2016, and we're hoping to continue our progress over the next several years through continued organic and acquired growth.
Waste360: What goals is Groot working toward achieving?
Ryan Brandsma: In 2015, we worked to expand our service footprint and this year, we are looking to continue moving into new markets that make sense for us. We're always looking for opportunities to grow the business, especially through acquisitions that have company values similar to ours and great management teams in place.
From an internal standpoint, we are looking to build out our fourth CNG station in 2016-17, and we will continue to build out infrastructure that helps us become more efficient in our hauling and recycling operations.
Waste360: What is one moment in your career that you are the most proud of?
Ryan Brandsma: I don't think I could limit it to just one. There are so many things that we've accomplished as a company over the last few years that I'm proud of. We've revamped and expanded our MRF, we have three CNG stations online, we've acquired some great companies, we've opened new transfer stations and those are only some of the big-picture items. The great part about our business is that if you work hard and make good decisions there are new things to be proud of every day.
Waste360: What advice do you have for those looking to enter the waste and recycling industry?
Ryan Brandsma: The work is fun, and there's never a shortage of things to do. But the real benefit of working in the waste industry is the relationships you'll make. The people in the waste industry are some of the hardest working, salt-of-the-earth people you will ever have the good fortune to be around.