Waste company cleans up by aggressively cleaning up
Oak Brook, Ill.
While many chief executive quarters are protected by flinty-eyed security men , the entrance to Dean Buntrock's office is guarded by a grizzly bear. The soft spoken board chairman of Waste Managment Inc. appears to be a contemplative individual, analyzing each sentence before uttering it. So the stuffed bear, shot by Buntrock, throws light on the chairman's action-oriented qualities.Skip to next paragraph
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And Waste Management has prospered by drawing on both Buntrock's ability to analyze appealing untapped markets and his willingness to act aggressively to penetrate new markets by building or acquiring new businesses.
Buntrock modestly allows that the firm has "an ability to analyze the cause and effect" of new business situations "and what the role for a company like ours is" in emerging markets.
As a result, the trash-collecting company Buntrock and his relative H. Wayne Huizenga launched in 1968 has become the largest garbage-handling firm in the United States. Waste Management these days calls at the curb of more than 1.6 million households and picks up refuse at more than 164,000 businesses.
Now Waste Management is in the midst of an ambitious plan to strengthen its existing business lines while starting operations in new, but related, fields. For example, WMI has recently:
* Decided to purchase a new ship which will vastly increase its ability to incinerate some chemical wastes at sea. It is somewhat easier to get approval to burn wastes at sea than in some community's backyard.
* Laid plans to join with another company in aggressively marketing recycled solvents which previously had been buried at WMI dumps.
* Landed three major new contracts to clean Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Cordoba, Argentina; and Caracas, Venezuela.
* Started a new business, dubbed the Environmental Remedial Action Division (ENRAC), to get its share of the $1.6 billion Congress has appropriated for cleaning up abandoned hazardous chemical disposal sites.
As important as its business-building plans, WMI has been able to avoid mindless expansion. While it has acquired scores of companies, each acquisition gets close scrutiny. For example, WMI recently decided not to proceed with the planned acquisition of the Rollins Environmental Services unit of RLC Corporation, even though it badly wanted Rollins's three chemical disposal incinerators.
"The price we agreed to did not take into consideration the additional capital [needed to bring the operation up to WMI standards]," says WMI's senior vice-president and chief financial officer Donald F. Flynn. "And when we assessed that, the transaction did not look as attractive to us."
The company has long been adept at spotting tempting opportunities. WMI started as a trash-collection business. But Buntrock figured that tougher federal regulations on disposal of hazardous chemicals contained in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) would create a major new business. So WMI moved aggressivley into chemical waste disposal.