Made in Minnesota
Going beyond the curb.
In 2014, Mike Moroz became president and CEO of Walter’s Recycling & Refuse based in Blaine. Since he came on board, the company has nearly doubled in size. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Moroz about the company’s plans for the future.
What made you decide to join Walter’s?
It was an opportunity that came about through networking when I left Archway Marketing Services following its sale. I never imagined I would be in the waste and recycling world, but after I met with Greg and George Walter and their advisors, I connected with both the family and the business. It has been a fantastic ride with a very bright future.
Tell us about Walter’s.
The Walter family started their first business in 1956 in the village of St. Anthony when Jack and Shirley began servicing 250 homes. Around this time, Roseville was beginning to develop, and Jack, Shirley and their five kids went door to door signing up new customers. In 1983, Jack and Shirley sold their business and retired, but their boys stayed in the industry. In 1988, George and Greg formed a new company, Walter’s Recycling & Refuse.
This past March, we celebrated our 30th anniversary, and we’ve grown the client base to nearly 65,000 residential and 5,000 commercial customers. In the summer months, we service more than 100,000 carts and containers each week. We are one of the top five independently owned waste companies in Minnesota and a top 100 company in the country.
You’ve nearly doubled in size in about five years. What’s the secret to your success?
It sounds overly simplistic, but I’ve found that business principles are the same regardless of industry. There are certainly nuances that need to be learned that are industry-specific. However, the keys to success are surrounding yourself with an outstanding team that has the same values, setting and measuring goals and building a culture of service and flexibility. We constantly tell ourselves that we aren’t in the waste business, we are in the service business.
Your tagline is “beyond the curb.” What does that mean?
We’re passionate about recycling and waste and are focused on more than being your neighborhood waste collector. We’re thinking long-term about the needs of our communities and investing in our business, so that we’re relevant in the future. A few years ago, we opened our first public recycling center and transfer station in Blaine. It has become one of the busiest in the state, with more than 7,500 members of the public using the facility and about 140,000 tons of waste, recycling and yard waste materials moving through the facility annually. That’s about 7,000 semitrailer loads per year.
We also try to listen to the needs of our customers. We’re the only waste company in Minnesota that proactively cleans our customers recycling and garbage cans with our Can-Be-Clean mobile cart-washing truck. Our customers love having a freshly washed cart each year. In addition, we are converting our fleet to natural gas–powered trucks, which make them a lot quieter and environmentally friendly when we are driving through neighborhoods each day.
Walter’s is a big part of the community. What do you do to connect?
We participate in a number of events with our trucks, including bringing the trucks to schools for touch-a-truck programs, as well as participating in a large number of city parades. Kids love our trucks. You may have noticed, each of our trucks has a different landscape scene on it. We’re trying to bring a little bit of scenery to your daily commute.
We are also active sponsors of many local programs and nonprofits focused on youth and women wellness, including Bikes4Kids, Special Olympics, The Pinky Swear Foundation, Alexandra House and many others.
Attracting and retaining staff is difficult across all industries now. What is Walter’s doing to find and keep employees?
Good drivers, in particular, are very tough to find. We’ve proactively increased starting wages and pay for existing drivers, and we’ve been focused a great deal on routing efficiencies to keep the days more manageable to get the team safely home each evening. It’s a constant battle, and we don’t see this challenge ending any time soon. We’ve also been focused on intentionally shedding unprofitable or off-route/unsafe work, which has helped both our P&L as well as driver morale. We aren’t finished, but the project is showing solid results.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is working for a great family and with an outstanding team of people who strive to do their best for our customers every day. This is a very complex, always-changing logistics business, so it’s never a dull moment, and we have a great team that loves to have fun and joke around during the controlled chaos.