Prior to founding Ryland Environmental, based in Dublin, Georgia, Todd Yates was a contractor tasked with helping the state’s veterans hospitals dispose of their waste. The problem, according to Yates, was that he couldn’t find anyone who could provide the dumpsters needed to transport items such as office furniture, bedding, medical supplies and other loose trash to the city. dump.
“I was trying to use local carriers and even national carriers, and I always had the same problem where we couldn’t get dumpsters brought to us,” Yates explains. “So I decided to buy a truck and dumpsters on my own, basically to run my own business to start with, and then it started to grow because people wanted the service. ”
Founded in January 2014, Ryland Environmental quickly filled a service gap in the area where the company’s commercial customers no longer had to wait days for shift pickup. As companies continued to seek Ryland’s services in its first year of operation, Yates quickly added a second roller truck and began offering additional front loader service as well.
By the end of his first two years in business, Ryland was growing to the point that Yates wanted to bring in an industry veteran who would be able to help manage day-to-day operations. By circumstance, a chance encounter during a Friday night football game in high school ended up bringing up the person he was looking for.
James Lanier began his career in waste in the mid-90s after a stint in insurance sales in the waste industry. Over a period of 20 years, he served as Operations Manager for Republic Services and later as Regional Safety Manager for Waste Pro.
Lanier says that while he and Yates had a common background due to family ties in insurance that led them to initially meet, it was their mutual desire to offer a more personal approach to Waste that made them brought together as business partners.
“He and I had the same vision, the same ideas and the same philosophy – we wanted to have a great company based on customer service – because that’s basically what Ryland was born out of – the need for customer service.” , explains Lanier. .
From its beginnings with a single truck, the company’s focus on fast and careful collection has helped it expand to more than 100 collection vehicles and more than 120 employees responsible for serving its markets in Georgia. Central and South. In 2020, the company reported revenue of $ 10,620,000 for Today’s waste List of the largest carriers in North America.
The company also has a subsidiary, Ryland Oil, specializing in the delivery of industrial, commercial and agricultural fuel.
Creation of a foundation
Lanier says one of the philosophies he brought to Ryland from his years of experience was the importance of maintaining diverse service offerings.
“One thing that I have determined in my 25+ years in this business is that in order to have a good business it has to be sort of like a three legged table where to make the table strong those legs have to be close to the same height, “says Lanier.” So we have split our revenue to almost a third each within our three lines of business: roll-off, commercial frontload and residential. “
While consistency is the goal, Lanier notes that due to a recent increase in municipal accounts assigned to the business, its residential work currently accounts for about 40 percent of the business.
Embodying the service approach that drove the company’s increase in residential work, Lanier highlights his contract with the town of Centerville, Ga. He was awarded following the acquisition. of a family transporter in August 2017.
“Centerville Sanitation was a company in operation since 1958 serving a municipality. It’s a family business and we bought them, which gave us the contract with the city of Centerville, ”explains Lanier. “The city was really not keen on the idea that we were going to take over the contract because they did not know us. We had to prove ourselves. The city agreed to have the contract passed on to us, but to say we won them would be an understatement because when we came back to redo the contract last year, they gave us a 20-year contract and wrote us a letter of recommendation. So we worked to pick up where their old business left off, and we developed it.
Lanier says this kind of reception is made possible by Ryland’s approach of delivering on its promise of quick fundraising, recruiting great people, and investing in the business in a way that matters more than the bottom line.
Specific to his approach to hiring, Lanier says the company has made a few acquisitions “where it wasn’t really about acquiring the business as much as acquiring the expertise. [and market intelligence] of the people who ran this business.
Additionally, Lanier says the company has been successful in recruiting talented industry veterans away from some of the bigger domestic companies who may be fed up with the profit-at-all-cost philosophy.
“All those we bring [from the larger companies] at this bottom of ‘Hey, I saw how the other side lives; let’s see if we can do it differently, ”says Lanier. “This is how we were able to build our business model, and the result is people engaged in their work and committed to the customer. We are all focused on our customer service, which is why we have been able to grow as exponentially as we have. In fact, we now have municipalities calling us to ask us to come and give them a price to pick up their waste. We just can’t reach everyone who wants service from us right now because we believe in controlled growth and we want to make sure we’re doing it right.
Beyond Ryland’s reputation which has helped the business grow, Lanier says its current clients are some of its best marketers.
“We have a municipality in Baxley, Georgia that we got back when a national carrier threatened them because they wanted a price hike and a mid-term extension and the city couldn’t do it because that she hadn’t budgeted for it. ” he says. “Well, they told them if they didn’t give them a price increase, they were going to stop collecting the garbage. We arrived on a Friday afternoon and made an agreement that day to take over the balance of the contract, which was for six months. Then we got a 10-year renewal based on our work. Tim Varnadore, the mayor of Baxley, if he finds out that we are bidding on a municipality right now, he doesn’t wait for her to call him. He calls them up and says, “Hey, let me tell you Ryland’s story. He has been one of our greatest advocates.
Lanier is quick to note that this type of advocacy is not just an isolated incident. He says Ryland will often exhibit at local city association events where patrons find themselves sitting in the company’s booth pulling the breeze.
“A potential customer will see the Ryland logo on our booth and maybe they’ve seen our trucks on the road but want to know a bit more. As they approach, it’s not uncommon for one of our existing customers sitting at the booth to pull them aside and say, “Hey, come over here. Let me tell you about these guys. So when you win them over with customer service, loyalty is great, and that’s what we’re banking on, ”says Lanier.
Keep people together
Thanks to Ryland’s small size, Lanier says it’s easier to build meaningful relationships within the company.
“It’s a family organization,” he says. “We all feel like family – we socialize together, we go to soccer games together, we cook together, and that’s how it always has been. … In the current climate, with large companies, the quality of life of many leaders is not very good. So having the opportunity to come with us to have a little better quality of life and not be so assaulted on EBITDA percentages, margins and budgets and all that sort of thing. [has been big]. This is all important, but I’ve seen good people ruined because they always wanted that little extra. [from them] all the time. When we give them a different way and philosophy of doing things, we are able to attract good talent.
Whether it’s spending the money on an extra truck for a route to make sure the drivers in the area get home with their families for dinner; a willingness to switch to newer, safer models that truck drivers can be proud of; or investing in things like Third Eye systems with cameras, analytics and GPS technology to keep staff safe and productive, Lanier says Ryland is constantly striving to invest in company employees to let them know what ‘they are important.
“I have seen people very ruined because they always wanted that little extra [from them] all the time. When we give them a different way and a different philosophy of doing things, we can attract good talent. ” – James Lanier, Partner, Ryland Environmental
This investment takes the form of money and time.
Lanier says that in October he had a chat with Yates where he shared that he felt a little out of touch with his staff in the state due to the recent growth of the business. Realizing that there were new people in the business that he had not yet met, Lanier says he took a weekday for a 6 week period where he hauled his grill to each of the company locations to cook for employees, shake their hands and say thank you.
“I have always believed in ensuring that our employees feel they have a say in the company. No one works for us. We have people who work with us; we all just have a different function to do. We believe in it and we try to promote it, ”says Lanier.