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.
ROUSE was the company name on the building.
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.
The thoughts then went 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.
Butch 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.
I started working on creating Advanced Waste Services (aka AWS as it came to be known) in May of 1992. It was a boot strapping adventure. We incorporated in November of that year and began operating on January 2, 1993. During that time, the business plan was written, an SBA-backed loan was acquired, 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 2 trucks and 2 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 long story that you can learn more about in my book, ‘Owner Shift: How Getting Selfish Got Me Unstuck.’
The ride was rewarding a lot of the time, and incredibly painful from time to time as well.
The short story is that in 2015, by which time Butch, Larry and Chuck were no longer with the business, I sold AWS to Covanta Environmental Solutions. 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.
In 2018, I founded my 2nd company, ERC Midwest LLC, with Rock Island Capital as my partner. In less than 3 years, we acquired 3 businesses, built a management team, installed systems, integrated operations, merged with ERC of PA and, in late 2021, sold the business to VLS Recovery Services.
I’ve developed a mindset that is built on having a life that is designed and driven by Options, rather than Obligations. My goal is to create new opportunities, relationships, and success stories from doing the things I most want to do – and that I’m best at – and avoiding the rest.
The Options I’m focused on now include my Health, my Family, the How’d it Happen Podcast, my first book, ‘OwnerShift: How Getting Selfish Got Me Unstuck,’ helping other entrepreneurs with my OwnerShift Coaching and investing in startup companies and other interesting opportunities.