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November 2, 2016
Carey Calabrese, director of business management at Houston-based WCA Waste Corp., began his career in the waste and recycling industry just over four years ago. During his time in the industry, he has helped improve customer service, routing and collection at WCA by integrating strong and effective data measurement tools.
Calabrese started off at WCA as the company’s first financial analysist and has since worked his way up to director of business management, where he combines his financial background with operations to help WCA make the smartest business decisions possible.
“Carey has played an instrumental role as a financial analyst for every acquisition we performed in the last three years. He also took it upon himself to learn about the sales process and was key to deploying Salesforce across the organization,” says Antonio Martin, vice president of IT for WCA. “In his recent promotion to director of business, Carey is leading developing KPIs and improving efficiencies across our organization. Under his watch, we have experienced substantial improvements on customer service, routing and collection.”
Waste360 recently spoke with the Waste360 40 Under 40 recipient about how he’s grown since joining the waste and recycling industry, WCA’s goals going into 2017 and his biggest accomplishment in his career thus far.
Waste360: How did you begin your career in the waste and recycling industry?
Carey Calabrese: Like most people in the industry, it started by accident. After I graduated from the University of Houston, I worked for the multinational engineering and construction firm Fluor for four years. I eventually decided it was time for a change, and my friend who is a headhunter told me about a position open at WCA. While he had a number of positions open at various companies for me to consider, WCA is the one prospect I connected with and the rest is history.
I came into WCA as the company’s first financial analyst, where I did analysis on capital to see if it was worth investing or how we could make it worth investing. I mostly had a hand in large contracts and mergers and acquisitions. I guess you could say I was the numbers guru starting out, and eventually made the shift over to becoming the director of business management.
I have been in the waste and recycling industry now for four years, and I can honest say that the cliché about getting into the industry and not wanting to get out is true. I have no desire to go elsewhere, and I really enjoy being a part of this industry because I think it fits my skillset and personality. Plus, there are a lot of opportunities within the industry and a lot of room for growth.
Waste360: How have you grown since joining the waste and recycling industry?
Carey Calabrese: Before joining the industry, I put my trash out at the curb and I never really knew where it went. I didn’t know all of the aspects of the waste industry, but now I have in-depth knowledge of the industry. I guess you could say I went from crawling to a full sprint in terms of what I know.
Overall, I think the most growth is in my understanding of the business, from how it works to the nuances that a normal consumer would never see. It’s really exciting to be involved in every state of the industry now.
Waste360: Tell us about your role as director of business management at WCA and your responsibilities.
Carey Calabrese: While I embrace the financial side of the business, it doesn’t really fit my personality. I am more personable, and I wanted to work more on the street level and be able to go out into the field. As the director of business management, I am able to take what I have learned in finance and leverage it into the world of operations to make smart business decisions.
I would consider myself the business advisor to all different groups within WCA, from sales to operations to landfills. I still use my financial knowledge, but I use it in a different way to help WCA become a more profitable and sustainable company.
Waste360: How have you helped improve customer service and routing at WCA?
Carey Calabrese: When I left corporate and came down to the regional level, I immediately noticed that we had a fundamental issue with both customer service and routing. As a data-driven person, I was shocked that we couldn’t quantify the customer service issues that we had, and I decided to take the necessary steps to help resolve those issues.
I looked into the system that we were using, and I found out that we had the capability to track our services. I came up with a new process that allowed us to use that functionality, and I laid the foundation for issuing service tickets for service-related issues like missed pickups and cart deliveries. This new process allows us to measure our services and collect hard data to determine the strong and weak areas of the company. Additionally, it helps us provide strong customer service to each and every customer.
For routing, it was a similar process. We couldn’t quantify our problems so I set some standards to help us collect accurate routing data. To date, we have improved commercial and roll off routes, which allows us to see the wins and losses of those routes to act accordingly. We are still working on cleaning up residential routes, but that is an ongoing process.
Waste360: What are some of WCA’s goals going into 2017?
Carey Calabrese: For 2017, we are trying to leverage a lot more technology, from business intelligence to our fleet, to better manage the company. With this new technology, we can measure what we are doing and figure out how we can make smarter business decisions.
To get this ball rolling, we are starting to lay the foundation in some regions to cleanse our data and get us to a point where we can manage the business accurately and effectively so that next year we can build off that foundation. This process will help us see what we are good at and what we aren’t so good at so that we can improve the business as a whole.
Waste360: What has been your biggest accomplishment in your career thus far?
Carey Calabrese: I would have to say being nominated and winning this award because I have only been in the industry for a short time. In addition to that, I have effectively helped WCA look at things more intelligently from a financial standpoint to help improve various areas of the company. And while I am still helping WCA properly measure data, that will be a big accomplishment once I get done with that.
Waste360: What advice would you give to newcomer in this industry?
Carey Calabrese: First and foremost, always be willing to learn because you will always learn something. The waste and recycling industry is a unique industry, and it’s very enjoyable. Like anything, you get out what you put in.
I also think it’s important to keep an inquisitive mind and always be willing to learn and ask why. There are a lot of old-school employees in this industry who have been doing things a certain way for a long time because that’s the way they were taught to do things. While their way might not be wrong, it might not be the most effective way to get the job done.
Lately, don’t be afraid to make suggestions because even though it’s hard to change things in an industry that has been doing certain things a certain way for a long time, there are always opportunities to change the way we do things.
Vice President of Member Relations and Publications, NWRA
Mallory Szczepanski was previously the editorial director for Waste360. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, where her research focused on magazine journalism. She also has previously worked for Contract magazine, Restaurant Business magazine, FoodService Director magazine and Concrete Construction magazine.
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