Recycling business: the route with less waste

When Mike Williamson teamed up with business coach David Lee, he wasn’t looking to grow his waste recycling business. He wanted something much more valuable than that – time for himself and a better environment for his team.

MRW Waste Recycling is the largest skip hire company in South Warwickshire, providing reliable, cost-effective skip hire and waste collection with one of the most comprehensive recycling services. With over 25 years in operation, Mike has maintained a reputation for great customer service from his family-run business.

“Before I started coaching with David, I was working four days a week in the business and spending time on my property business too. I’d grown the company from just me and one skip wagon to a size I was comfortable with but I wanted to spend more time on other projects.

“I felt the business was in a good place in terms of customers and turnover but I was struggling to manage it. I had 25 staff including a General Manager and an Office Manager yet I was still in the business covering day-to-day tasks. When David called me out of the blue, he got me chatting about the difficulties I was having and he said he could help. I remember thinking that I had nothing to lose so I agreed to an initial meeting.

“During the meeting, David explained how his coaching would actually save me money and pay for his coaching fees – in fact, he guaranteed it. He also said the improvements he would guide me to make would free up more of my time.”

First steps

In April 2016, David began working with Mike, having weekly one-to-one coaching sessions. He helped Mike step back and take a look at my business from a different perspective.

“Most of the things David said struck me as very obvious things that I’m capable of considering on my own but I just hadn’t had the time or space to reflect. We set about breaking up everything into areas for improvement and then set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to help me measure them. I decided what areas should be prioritised and then we moved on to how we could make these improvements happen – how could I make it more manageable and realistic to achieve them, how would I monitor the solutions put in place and who would help with these tasks.

“Defining my employees’ responsibilities more clearly was going to be key to our success, David explained to me during one of our very conversational-style coaching sessions. If I wanted to free myself up from the business to spend time on other projects, I needed to engage my team to take ownership of the daily operations.”

Setting the pace

The role of a business coach is to help the business owner come up with solutions by guiding them, often understanding the issue by listening, asking questions and suggesting learning resources. They may suggest books to read, seminars to attend or videos to watch.

“David was really easy to work with and a great listener. He worked with my two managers so they could set KPIs for each procedure they laid out, with each member of staff reporting up the chain. Once we really focused on performance it quickly became clear that, whilst most of the team performed very well, some didn’t and so with David’s help, we put more robust performance reviews in place. This resulted in some under-performers quickly choosing to leave the business, freeing me up to replace them with stronger candidates.

“We began to test and measure a range of areas in the business – those where I instinctively knew what was going on but didn’t know the actual figures. I came up with a simple spreadsheet to monitor the weight of our skips, how many were being used each week, the mileages relating to each skip and the man hours involved in processing each skip. This helped us assess what affected our costs and our profit margins – we even began measuring how rainfall affected the weight of the waste and, in turn, how this impacted the cost of disposal.

“The information allowed me to make better decisions in the business, focus on individual costs and implement small but important changes to the way we did things. The funny thing was that although no one thing seemed hugely important, we saved over £104,000 per annum, of which the majority represents a recurring benefit – do the work once and get the benefit forever!

“The business has grown since I started business coaching but it was never about just growth for me. It was more about improving profitability and the environment for everyone working here whilst helping me to gain more freedom from the day-to-day operational demands.

“Now I’m here just three mornings a week to oversee things but really it’s not necessary as I can just leave my managers to run the business. As promised by David, I work less hours, I’m less hands-on, I don’t feel hassled like I used to and we’ve massively covered his coaching fees through our increased profit margin, never mind the almost unquantifiable benefit of me no longer being tied to the business.”

Future pathways

Mike’s vision has always been for his business to provide a greener, ethical and more economical environment and he continues to push towards reaching his goal of zero waste to landfill.

“I enjoy working and I’m quite happy with the time I spend on the business now – note I say ON the business and not IN it. I still have my property development company and have the flexibility to switch between the businesses as I choose. Since working with David, I’ve been able to spend lots more time with my family and have rekindled my passion for skiing. It was always a struggle to get time away from the business for holidays but I now know that I can pretty much leave my business in the hands of my team and be confident that it’s working well without me.

“Anybody who works for themselves knows that you’re used to doing all the work yourself. You start from nothing and become the shop assistant, bookkeeper, cold caller and so much more. Having a business coach gives you the chance to take a step back, put things in perspective and stop the every-day firefighting. In some relatively simple moves, we found how our recycling company was wasting our time and money. With a business coach, you can take your business, like mine, from good to great.”