How I Became An Entrepreneur
I moved from the Philadelphia area to Milwaukee in December 1990 along with my wife, Jamy, and our dog, Samantha. We came there for a new opportunity with my employer at the time. A little over a year later, I was out of a job. Fired.
I looked at my options and decided that I needed to get back to work as soon as possible. So, I took the first job I was offered, and I hated it. I lasted 30 days at the most. It wasn’t the right fit for me. My gut would hurt each morning as I made the drive in. I asked myself if this was really my future, working with a bunch of people I didn’t like or respect, in a business that was run by a pretty great guy, but not run well. There had to be more out there for me than this. The last straw for me was when my “manager,” a dick of a person named Don, chose to ransack my office (which was in an office trailer in a parking lot), tossing my papers, folders and whatever else I had onto the floor.
I can trace my entrepreneurial spirit back to when I was 4 years old. We lived across the street from a construction company that had a bunch of dump trucks, low boys and heavy equipment. I’d sit on the curb, next to where the numbers of our address were stenciled, and watch the guys maneuver their rigs into the tight yard before quitting for the day. I imagined what it would be like to drive a truck like that, to have my name on its side. Of course, I had no idea at the time what went into to owning a business, or even what owning a business meant. But the thought of those trucks was implanted in my brain, and having my name on the side of them, stuck with me all through grade school and high school, before going dormant in college. No one I was hanging out with in college was talking about starting a business. It was either continuing with school (law, grad or medical) or getting a corporate job. I went the corporate job route.
Thanks to Don, and to my entire experience at that 30-day job, the idea of being an entrepreneur popped back into my head. That, plus the support of one of the greatest men I’ve ever met, Butch Weiss, with whom I’d worked before being fired from my move to Milwaukee job, who told me that if I ever wanted to start a business, he would want to join me, gave me the confidence to move ahead. I wasn’t sure how to do everything that needed to be done, but I started moving forward and learned what I needed along the way. Sometimes the easy way but more often the hard.
The creation of Advanced Waste Services, Inc:
I started working on creating AWS in May of 1992. We incorporated in November of that year and began operation on January 2, 1993. During that time, the business plan was written, an SBA-backed loan was acquired from Firstar Bank (long-gone name, thank you, Laurie Martinez!), 401K’s and CD’s were cashed in, our parents lent us money and, finally, Chuck Kullberg & Larry Lyons joined as investors to complete the circuit. We ordered trucks and trailers, got a contract from the WI DNR (with zero operating history) that got us going. Butch quit his job, and the rest is a pretty long story. Rewarding a lot of the time, incredibly painful at times as well.
The short story is that in 2015, by which time Butch, Larry and Chuck were no longer with the business, and I had 2 new partners, Karen and Tom, with whom I’d worked for nearly 20 years each, I sold AWS to a publicly traded company called Covanta Energy. Our team had grown to about 150 people, we were doing about $45 Million in sales, made money and had a great reputation in the marketplace. Selling the business wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing for me, my family and the AWS team.
My next adventure:
During the 2 ½ years since I sold AWS, I’ve spent my time working for Covanta in various roles helping to transition and integrate the companies, as well as assisting with new facility design and other growth initiatives. In addition, I’ve been focusing on achieving more of the long-term (My Bigger Future) goals I’d established for myself in December 2008 while I was participating in Dan Sullivan’s Strategic Coach Program.
The interests that have the most of my attention today are:
- Being the Best Husband and Father I Can Be (Present, Caring, Supportive)
- Writing – Completing My First Book (YSIMBB)
- Podcasting – Building the “How’d It Happen” Podcast
- Investing – Using My Experience and Unique Ability to Invest In and Grow Businesses at All Levels
- Philanthropy – Choosing To Support The Missions We Feel Most Incredible About
- Helping – Provide Help, With No Expectation of Return, to Whomever I can