Client Spotlight: An Interview With Mike Moroz of Walters Recycling and Refuse
At The Resultants, we believe that successful partnerships are built on trust, communication, and collaboration. That’s why we strive to develop strong, long-lasting relationships with our clients to ensure their continued growth and success.
We sat down with one such client, Mike Moroz, CEO and President of Walters Recycling and Refuse. Having worked with Mike for almost a decade now, we wanted to discuss the challenges his company faced upon his arrival, the nuances of family businesses, and the factors that led to the success of his company today.
Can you tell us a little about Walters Recycling and Refuse?
Walters Recycling and Refuse is one of the largest waste-hauling companies in Minnesota. The company was founded in 1988 by two brothers, Greg and George Walter (2023 is actually our 35th anniversary!).
The Walters were always a very entrepreneurial family. Going all the way back to 1956, their dad Jack Walter was a printer looking to generate some more income, so he bought a garbage truck and started a new route in St. Anthony, Minnesota. From there, he and his wife Shirley built a really nice business that they ended up selling in 1983.
The brothers, Greg and George, had worked for their parents from the time they were kids. When they were adults they went to work for another company, but they pretty quickly realized they wanted to do their own thing. And so they started hatching their plan to start their own business in 1988.
They started with two trucks and made a bet with each other about who could go the longest without a paycheck (you know, that typical entrepreneurial story) to now having grown the business into being one of the top three largest privately held waste hauling companies in Minnesota.
What’s your role at Walters Recycling and Refuse?
I’m the President and CEO here at Walters, and I’ve been here now for over nine years. I was hired by Greg and George when they decided to look externally for somebody who could take the business to the next level.
My oversight is allocating capital, looking at long-term strategy and planning, and working on HR issues and opportunities. We’re always hiring, so I’m often involved in that and focused on growth. We’ve got an amazing team of about 145 people that we’ve built over the last decade.
But you weren’t always in the waste-hauling industry – what did you do before you joined Walters?
Before my career at Walters, I was in the “direct-to-consumer” world, working for a company called Damark International for about 14 years, and then for Target Corporation for five years. Then I switched to the B2B world, working as President of Archway Marketing Services for about nine years.
After that business sold, I took some time off. But a friend of mine knew the recruiter who was working on the CEO position here at Walters. After having a few conversations, I just fell in love with everything about it, fell in love with the Walter family, and the rest is history. It’s been a tremendous ride.
How did you meet Jerry of The Resultants?
I met Jerry around 2015, about a year after I started as CEO. When I was first brought into the company, I spent 90 days just listening, learning, and taking an assessment of the business. I was looking for opportunities for improvement, and the weekly management team meetings were the first thing I noticed.
Every week, the team would go through the same to-do list, but very few things would ever be checked off. It was hard for them to get things across the finish line and there was a lack of accountability. And, while there was clearly the start of a very good leadership team, it wasn't complete.
Those things got me thinking about a book that I’d read that promoted a kind of business operating system (BOS). So I started selling that idea internally, pushing that a BOS would really help us get things across the finish line. And a majority of the team agreed, so we decided to implement.
In 2016 I began asking around the Twin Cities area for “implementers” of business operating systems who could help guide us, and The Resultants were one of the five companies I talked to. I was introduced to Jerry and we hit it off immediately. Jerry’s personality and his expertise just made him a great fit.
Prior to working with The Resultants, what were your company’s main pain points?
Certainly getting things across the finish line and that accountability factor. Also, there was still quite a bit of reliance on the owners Greg and George for making decisions. So the employees weren’t feeling empowered.
But that was just a side effect of the structure of the business that was left over from when the company was much smaller. It worked very well for a time, but it wasn’t a model that would be successful for a bigger organization. So that was an area for opportunity: We had to ask ourselves, how do we get a team that feels empowered and has the knowledge to make decisions and grow the business?
The Resultants were also instrumental in helping us assess if we had the right people in the right positions at the company. That was a big challenge for us.
How was Jerry able to help you address your company’s challenges?
Jerry brought a deep breadth of experience to the table, especially on the HR side of things. Early on, Jerry attended our weekly leadership team meetings to audit and benchmark them, but the relationship quickly evolved into also having strategic discussions around organization. Jerry also assisted people on our team with career development, so he’d spend a lot of time working with our people one-on-one.
Not only did Jerry address the implementation challenge we were facing, but he also helped me rethink the structure of the organization, which allowed us to get the right people in the right positions to set ourselves up for future growth.
One of the challenges with this organization was also what made the company strong: Walters is a family business, so there was a tremendous amount of loyalty for original employees. These were people who were hired way back when and who’d served the company very well. But if the business was going to double or triple in size, I knew those people would probably serve the company better in other positions.
Thankfully, Jerry had a lot of experience working with family businesses. He’d even worked within his own family’s business when he was younger, so he knew all about those nuances. So it was a great fit.
Another thing: George and Greg are first generation owners of this business, and their kids all sort of grew up in this industry. They were all becoming of age at the same time, going to college and graduating. So Jerry helped us in coaching the second generation family members (we call them “the kids”). He’s helped them understand what it means to be a family member in a family-owned business and what those expectations are. Because he brought a lot of personal experience, so he could go in and say, “I lived through this, and here’s what you’re gonna see.”
What has been the outcome of working together? What has changed/improved the most in your business?
I think it’s a testament to how successful our partnership has been that we’re still working with The Resultants and continue to renew our contract every year. Since I’ve started working with Jerry, we’ve more than tripled the size of the business in terms of revenue. Profitability goes right along with that because we’re managing our costs. So the results have really been there, and we continue to grow.
Additionally, our culture has improved significantly, and we measure that with the Gallup Q12 Engagement Survey. We’ve been doing that every year for the past six years, and our engagement scores are fantastic. We attribute that to all the work we’ve been doing with thinking about the business, team, and how we recruit and retain. That’s been a huge win for us.
It’s a tough business, our team works very hard, and it’s a grind every day to make sure we’re servicing our customers. It can be very stressful, and Jerry has been very helpful with showing us ways to manage that and understand each other so we don’t stress each other out!
Can you share how you felt prior to working with The Resultants and then how you feel now?
When I started in the position, being new to the industry and faced with these challenges, it was easy to feel stressed and frustrated… But since working with Jerry and The Resultants, we’re at a point now where we have an outstanding leadership team, we’re fully staffed (and have been for two years!), and are feeling much more calm. This allows us to focus on the bigger picture and the future, as opposed to constantly worrying, thinking “What are we going to do tomorrow?” The Resultants have helped us with all of that.
To learn more about Mike Moroz and Walters Recycling and Refuse, please visit WaltersRecycling.com.
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