As GM of Florida Express Environmental (FEE), we recently acquired a small rural waste hauler that mainly serviced residential in one of the markets we service. For many within the company it was their first taste of an acquisition and dealing with the transitional period from the previous hauler to our new service level. Integration takes place on many levels and I figured it would be fitting to hit the high points.
With the culture we have created at FEE, laying someone off is not an option. When an employee dedicates to the company, we dedicate to them. Any employee joining our team through the integration will be held to the same standard. Getting there was the hard part. Of the drivers that applied and road tested, only 20 percent passed the standard to become employed. The same held true to other labor positions. Of those that made the cut, they have experienced a culture shock. We say we care for our employees, but we do it in more ways than one. Drivers, for example, spend most of their days behind the wheel. The weekend after the acquisition of the hauler, we spent thousands and thousands of dollars on the fleet of their trucks we chose to run until our new trucks arrived. The maintenance department worked in shifts all weekend to get these trucks into safe/cleaner/maintained conditions. That Monday morning, one of the new drivers walked up and said “Sir I can’t drive that truck.” When I asked why he went on to give me a list of items. I quickly checked off his list and assured him that all of his list and more had been fixed the previous weekend. The look on his face is one I will never forget and what keeps me doing in what I’m doing. He had a sense of relief and gratitude for putting him in a truck that was safe and clean—something I previously had taken for the norm.
As shocked as new employees have been, the same can be said about the new customers. In the weeks leading up to the acquisition, the previous operators could have cared less about the customer service. It was evident from day one when our office was flooded with calls. The week of closing, many planned routes went without being serviced. We were ready for this and had trucks running all over the place on week one ensuring we would prove to these new customers that we were different. After running the routes for a few weeks now, new customers have settled in to our consistent pickup schedule. Commercially, the same can be said. They now can rest assured that their waste and recycling will disappear without them having to inquire. We even had a few customers that had left us previously because of a cheaper price. It has been rewarding to meet with these customers and to hear them admit they do not mind paying higher rates for better consistent service. I have spoken many times before on this topic so it was nice to hear it first-hand. What all of us haulers go through to have great service can no longer be done for almost free prices.
These topics merely scratch the surface of an acquisition integration. Hitting these highpoints, it is important to note that you cannot increase your service level without good people and reliable equipment. Not all equipment has to be shiny and new to be reliable either, just maintained. When you have the pride that I do for the image your company and employees represent every day, to see a plan materialize is rewarding. No day in our business goes as planned. Be ready to adapt and overcome obstacles when they come your way. Educate your employees new and old on what you expect from them. You may just find some of your pride will start to rub off on them. Stay safe out there everyone! | WA
John Paglia, III is a 4th generation garbage man. Before he climbed the ranks to become Florida Express Environmental’s (Ocala, FL) General Manager, he had a successful career in college and professional athletics. John has been around the garbage industry since his car seat days. Currently, John is focused on growing his company and offering the highest level of customer service and prolonging the world that we live in today. John wakes up every day knowing the impact professional haulers have on their community is far greater than most realize. He can be reached at (352) 629-4349, e-mail John3@floridaexpress.us or visit www.floridaexpress.us.