Change for the better Featured

7:00pm EDT March 28, 2006
When Richard Weaver and Jim Hoff bought an environmental services firm in 2002, it was losing $100,000 a month.

The new owners changed personnel and service offerings, moved the headquarters to Downingtown and changed the company’s name to U.S. Environmental Inc. That first year — the company’s third — revenue hit $4 million.

The company transports and disposes of waste materials and provides industrial services, cleaning services and small- to mid-sized remediation projects. Weaver, president and CEO, is projecting 2006 revenue of $11.5 million.

Smart Business spoke with Weaver about how he and his partner created U.S. Environmental Inc. and the challenges of operating in a changing industry.

How did you identify your market?

We felt that a good niche market for us was to find mid-sized to large industrial manufacturing companies — whether they manufacture soap, chemicals, petroleum, consumer products, pharmaceuticals or the power industry — that were using multiple vendors. A lot of companies have decreased their environmental departments from very large departments with big budgets to one or two people who are going crazy.

We were able to come in and tell them, ‘Instead of doing all this work and having to deal with a dozen different vendors, we can manage that for you so that you’re dealing with one contact at one company.’ We have the personnel and equipment to do it, so we’re not resubbing it back out. And in the long run, we were able to save money for them.

How did this benefit your company?

The response was pretty amazing. We went from a half-dozen vacuum trailers to 17 tank trailers. We’ve added specialty vacuum equipment, personnel with extensive environmental management and remedial experience. We’ve been able to pick a lot of great people from different competitors to expand the company.

The company was primarily focused servicing southern New Jersey and a little bit of Eastern Pennsylvania. (Today) we have clients from Massachusetts to Georgia. Our core focus is still the Mid-Atlantic.

How do you deal with the challenges of growth in your industry?

The environmental business is ongoing and evolving. It’s basically a set of unusual challenges. That’s what I find exhilarating about it. Every client has a different challenge. Different states have different regulations, and we have to help clients meet those regulations.

Every client’s not the same. You can’t sell them a price list. Everything we do, we have to cost out specific to that client. Every type of waste is slightly different. The challenge is to find a better way (to transport or dispose of it) than everybody else.

Our goal is to provide the highest quality service available at the most cost-effective rate in the most environmentally compliant safe manner, while still providing a great work environment for our employees and the ability for them to improve their lives so they can take care of their families.

How do you accomplish that?

I work with really great people. My operations manager is new to our company, and in the few months he’s been here, he’s had a tremendous positive effect with our operations employees. He’s made us a lot more efficient than we were, and our sales are continuing to increase. We’re coming off of the best January in our company’s history.

We are operating more efficiently. He’s turned (operations employees) into a cohesive team that are supporting each other. The two sides of the company have always been in the same part of the building, but they’ve operated kind of, ‘You’re on your side of the hallway, and I’m on mine.’

He’s brought them together and found talents. He’s added efficiencies, figuring out ways to do things better and having the right person in the right job. It allows me to focus more on the global look of the company.

What is your sales philosophy?

We don’t go in like a salesperson and say, ‘What are your service needs?’ The first thing our people ask is, ‘Can you walk us through your facility and show us what you do here?’ We’re looking for opportunities but we’re also looking at different ways to do (processes.) When we see an opportunity, we ask the customer, ‘How do you guys handle this?’

We just had this large consumer products company. They were managing three product lines as three separate waste streams. We figured out a way, for little to no capital expenditure, to have all the wastes go to one central collection area. We’re going to save them 18.6 percent on their environmental budget next year.

Can you imagine adding 18.6 percent out of one department’s budget? Our people just aren’t salespeople; they look at things slightly different.

HOW TO REACH: U.S. Environmental Inc., (888) 884-9700 or www.usenv.com