Growing a Business Organically: Lessons from Leaders of Midsized Businesses

Liz Bothwell, Head of Content & Marketing

June 2, 2020

3 Min Read

At the 2019 Waste360 Business Growth Forum (recently renamed the Waste360 Business Leadership Forum), attendees heard first-hand accounts from a panel of seasoned industry leaders on expanding a business organically. 

If you are looking to make your small to midsized environmental services company grow, keep reading for insights into the best place to focus your efforts, the importance of differentiation and pricing, and more. 

The panelists for the “Organic Growth” session were:

  • Kevin Atkinson, owner, Texas Pride Disposal

  • BJ Harvey, president, E.L. Harvey & Sons

  • Jason Haus, chief executive officer, DEM-CON Companies

  • Tom Vaughn, chief operating officer, DTG Enterprises

How do you leverage your existing resources to stimulate organic growth?

Vaughn: We have eight facilities around the Seattle metro area. We took a look at that, and if you really measure that, you’re never more than 10 miles away from one of our facilities. While we primarily take in C&D material, traffic in Seattle, like most places, is terrible. So we said, “What else can people bring to us since we’re so close to so many people?” And we’ve adjusted our permitting, and we’re now going to start taking in some electronics and other types of materials — and those are all new revenue to us. This also really opens up our relationships with some of our larger corporate customers. 

Atkinson: Being focused on the Houston market now, it’s become a game of density and fine-tuning the routing. We’re servicing 750 different communities in the area, and the economies of scale we’ve seen from rerouting and tightening what we do, that’s been our biggest asset recently, especially with accelerated growth. 

Haus: For us, it’s about building that management team out where you have the people you know you can circle up the wagon and get the work done. And you also need the people out in the field. Both my partner and myself started in the field, and we’ve built up that trust with the people that work in the field for us. 

Harvey: We have three locations, and we drew about a 10-mile radius around each of them, to go after the municipal contracts in those areas. And we’ve really beefed up our sale force as well. We’re really utilizing those two components.

How do you differentiate your brand and what you do?

Harvey: It’s pretty simple: it’s service. Massachusetts is a very competitive marketplace. We have three publicly traded companies there, but we’ve been able to hold on basically on the service side. 

Haus: Yes, it’s about value-oriented service. We are probably one of the higher priced facilities in the area, but we’re proud of that because we provide other value that comes along with that. We have an exceptional group of people that are willing to work with the customers. If a customer wants to handle a material a different way, or they want to process it a different way, we’ll look at that. There’s a lot of backend, soft pieces to what might be in our price, that our customers find a lot of value in. 

Vaughn: Although we process a little more than 4,000 tons a day of C&D material, we really regard ourselves and treat ourselves as a technology and alternative energy company. And the reason we do that is because it sets a certain level of expectation on how we communicate with each other and our clients. By being technology focused, we really get our customers to buy into the “why” of our company. 

What piece of advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are looking to expand their organization organically?

Harvey: Hit your price increases, and don’t be afraid of it. It costs a lot of money to pick up and process waste and recycling. Make sure you charge accordingly. 

Haus: Formulate the best possible team you can. That team has to be different than you. And don’t be scared to think bigger than you want to think.

Vaughn: It’s not going to be linear, no matter what you think. But just keep plugging.

View the full video of the session here

About the Author(s)

Liz Bothwell

Head of Content & Marketing, Waste360

Liz Bothwell is head of content and marketing for Waste360, proud host of the NothingWasted! Podcast, and ghostwrites for others to keep her skills sharp and creative juices flowing. She loves family, football, her French bulldogs, and telling stories that can help to make the world a more sustainable place.

Follow her on Linkedin or Twitter

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