Joe Chalhoub founded Heritage-Crystal Clean Inc. in 1999 to provide automobile repair shops and industrial plants with a means to clean their greasy parts.
Chalhoub’s concept — provide a “sink-on-a-drum” and solvent to clean parts, backed by a scheduled service to resupply fresh solvent and remove the dirty solvent for further use — was not new. His former employer, Safety-Kleen Corp., had hatched the idea three decades earlier. Chalhoub left Safety-Kleen when it was sold to a new owner in 1998 and launched Heritage-Crystal Clean, based in Elgin, Ill., with the goal of becoming a strong No. 2 provider of parts cleaning and environmental services since Safety-Kleen dominated the market.
As expected, the company soon managed to break even, then gain market share and become successful. In 2008, Heritage-Crystal Clean completed an initial public offering and was listed on Nasdaq. New, complementary services and products were added. Used oil became one of them. In 2011 and early 2012, Heritage-Crystal Clean inaugurated what it calls the most modern used-oil re-refinery in the world. In 2011, the company was included in Forbes’ annual ranking of America’s best small public companies.
Heritage-Crystal Clean has implemented several incentive systems to encourage employees to focus on growth and customer retention. A key part of the company’s culture is the clear message from its leaders that constant growth is good and is expected. Chalhoub communicates regularly to all levels of the company, meeting with employees at sales offices to talk about the direction of the organization and to instill an awareness that employees’ contributions are essential to the success of the business.
How to reach: Heritage-Crystal Clean Inc., www.crystal-clean.com