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Meet Kyle Thomas of Waste Consolidators in Tempe

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kyle Thomas.

Kyle, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Back in 1998-99, I was working 70 hours a week or so for an aerospace firm that repaired and put high temperature coatings on hot section airplane engine components. The plant we worked for was a very successful venture that had grown from about 40 employees to 250 in the time I had been there. As the Operations Manager, I was responsible for making sure that the parts got in and out of the plant as quickly as possible with 100% throughput (no errors). This was a high pressure, high intensity job. I quickly learned that although I was doing the bulk of the work, my boss was getting the bulk of the perks – high salary, much shorter hours, country club membership, company car, etc. As part of a larger company, our salary increases were capped at 1.5% the last few years I worked there because the company overall was not extremely profitable although our facility was. It was then that I learned unless you get to the highest levels of the corporate world, your pay won’t be commensurate with your effort and performance. That’s when I knew I had to start a business in order to put myself in a position where I had some control over how much money I made. The next year was spent searching high and low for a business that I could start. I sent away for information on hundreds of franchises, local retail operations and even multi-level marketing opportunities. Nothing appealed to me until by chance I ran across a guy who worked for a company that helped apartments and condominium complexes in southern California to recycle 50% of their waste stream, which was required by law, and almost impossible to get residents to abide by. My idea was to change that concept for the metro Phoenix market to a service that cleaned around trash bins on a daily basis as well as breaking down boxes to make room for more trash and, most importantly, to remove bulk items like couches and mattresses as they appeared on site. It turns out there was no company doing any of these services so we met a need in the apartment management industry that to this day has no better solution than hiring our company, Waste Consolidators. We take 25-30 tons of bulk items per day to local landfills and work at hundreds of apartment and condominium complexes to improve their curbside appeal and corresponding occupancy rates. Over the years of developing relationships with numerous property management groups, we also added other services like carport cover and rooftop cleaning, apartment clean-outs (“trash-outs” in industry parlance), steam cleaning and pressure washing and even full unit demos for complexes doing complete refurbishments. Many of our customers have likened our service to a necessary utility and make sure we are on all or most of the sites they manage. By meeting a previously unmet need in the multifamily housing sector with excellence we have become an industry standard. Currently, our concept works in four states and we have just opened a regional office in Texas where we will be operating in four major cities within a few years. Our success story is that of doing something fairly simple very well. If you put your resources toward exceeding customer expectations in all you do, no matter how simple, you will attract a following of those who appreciate your effort – and pay you accordingly. This is exactly what I found missing in the corporate world – if you exceeded expectations for a long period of time at a big company you might get promoted and paid a little more but it is unlikely that you will receive compensation that mirrors your true financial impact on the company because that reward goes up the chain of command. Owning a successful small business doesn’t mean you work any less but it does mean that the work you put in has a corresponding payback in equity, financial benefits and the freedom to work when and where you want.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Owning a small business always involves struggle. In the first few years of the business we were growing steadily when our business partner in Colorado was having personal problems and essentially abandoned our business center there. What we were left with was unhappy customers and hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. We had to shut the doors in Colorado and take on that huge debt load at our still small operation in Phoenix. I did not take much of a salary for about 3 years and could barely meet our family expenses (which included four children under the age of 8 by 2003). But I had written a basic business plan including a one-page spreadsheet which detailed how much income employee could bring in that left me confident that we would be profitable if we just kept paying down our debt and growing steadily. We managed to pay off that debt and grew to where we were profitable. Our company has increased our revenue every year except 2010 – right in the heart of the housing crisis where we were about flat for the year. Steady growth has occurred by keeping an eye on our core business and maintaining excellent customer service. As we expand into other states I know attention to these basic concepts will lead to success in these markets as well.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Waste Consolidators – what should we know?
Our core service involves being on site five days a week at apartment, condominium and commercial sites to clean and sweep around every trash bin, break down boxes and push the trash to the back of the bins to make room for more trash and transfer trash from the most used to the least used trash bins so that none of them overflow. The idea is to make sure all the trash is in the bins in such a way that when the waste hauler empties them it won’t spill all over the place like it sometimes does with only loose trash. Perhaps the most useful part of our service is the bulk item removal. When our Field Technician is cleaning in the very early morning, he reports all bulk items (couches, mattresses, etc.) located at or near the trash bins to our dispatch and we send out a large truck and trailer to pick them up for transport and disposal to a local landfill. Before our company, there really was no cost-efficient way to do this, especially considering that our team reports the items so the property does not have to do so. Both these services are bundled together in one monthly bill which is often less than what they would normally pay just to have the bulk items picked up. Labor savings are also realized because the on-site maintenance staff, which historically cleaned around the trash bins, no longer had to do so. Our team does this job faster, more efficiently and much cheaper than any maintenance staff. What I’m most proud of is the fact that we developed a completely new service that didn’t exist before from a simple idea that more efficiently handled the waste stream at multifamily housing sites. We have also developed proprietary formulas that help us determine exactly what waste disposal levels (i.e. how many times per week the trash bins are emptied) that work most efficiently with our service thereby making sure the customer is not spending too much money on the overall disposal cost. No one else does what we do and the few competitors that have cropped up over the years did not last long because they were not dedicated to world-class customer service both in the field and in the back office.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
The biggest leading indicator of our success would have to be the longevity and loyalty of much of our staff. Labor-based businesses are notorious for high turnover and our company simply has never had that problem. Every person in our management team out in the field has been with us for more than a decade. Many of our daily route drivers have been with us for 7 to 10 years or more. Several more have been with us for 3 to 5 years.

The first employee we hired to pick up bulk items in 2001 is still with us. Our office manager has been here since the inception of the business. By treating our people with dignity and respect they, in turn, go out and do their job well day after day, year after year, and represent the company with pride and respect. Our customers have to appreciate having the same individual on their properties every day doing the same excellent work. There has been no other aspect of our business that has a more significant role in our success than our employees.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Waste Consolidators, Inc.
    5869 S. Kyrene Road
    Suite #1
    Tempe, AZ 85283
  • Website: www.wasteconsolidators.com
  • Phone: 480-897-3601
  • Email: kthomas@wasteconsolidators.com

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