The E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals

(No.4, March 2004)


A Guide to this Month’s Edition

1. Welcome

2. ProTips for Professional Development

3. ProTips for Operational Profitability

4. Topic of the Month: Work a Room Like a Pro

5. Quote of the Month

6. Ramblings

7. Announcements



Welcome to Issue No.4 of   “ProTips, the E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals.”


This month’s newsletter is filled with tips and thoughts to help with your professional development and to manage your business more profitably. My purpose is to stimulate your thinking; the industry benefits most when we all do our best.



If you would like more information about any of the topics discussed in this newsletter, or have any thoughts you would like to share, call me at 510.881.9440 or send an e-mail to



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2. ProTips for Professional Development


Be respectful…This is the first of three things you can do to move your career forward. It’s easy to respect your boss, the mayor, or someone who holds power over you, but that’s not the challenge. The challenge is to be respectful to all those around you--peers, direct reports, and those at the bottom of the ladder. Be respectful of their time, their feelings and their rights. Like begets like; some of the most respected bosses I had were those who were most respectful to others.


Be humble…You’ve come a long way in your career; you have sacrificed much and you fairly deserve to be where you are. Now is not the time to flaunt it. No one likes an arrogant, boastful person, but people flock around a humble, selfless person. Putting others first is a sure way to push your career forward.


Be personable…Smile, speak kind words, and relax. Sometimes you’re so focused on the project at hand that you forget to think about the others around you. You pass them in the hallway or walk by them in the plant and forget to even notice they exist. Stop, and take a deep breath--now smile. See, that was easy. Don’t let the pressure of your job hinder you from having a warm, pleasing personality. A smile, a kind word, or a warm handshake will do wonders for your personality and your career.



3. ProTips for Operational Profitability


People…You’ve heard it before and you’ll probably hear it again; PEOPLE are your most important asset. If you truly believe this, then you must care for and nurture them so they can be all that they can be. It’s an easy task; just appreciate their efforts. Catch them doing something right and let them know about it. Better yet, write a note and send it to their home. What a wonderful way for them to share their accomplishments with their family…by reading a note from their boss. When was the last time you received a note from your boss? Cherish the thought.


Productivity…Do you receive productivity reports regularly? Do you read them? Do you share them at all levels of management? If productivity is the engine that drives profits, then productivity reports are the steering wheel. If you’re not reading the reports and sharing them with all managers, it’s like trying to steer a truck with the engine shut off. The larger the company, the more hands that are needed for steering. Share productivity reports with all levels of management that can affect outcome. If everyone contributes a little, then the steering is easy. Share the reports and steer your way to profitability.


Profits…Productivity alone will not make you profitable; you have to pay attention to every aspect of the business. Because some things are easy and others aren’t, the best way to manage your company to profitability is to mix the easy with the difficult. One company I worked for called these easy pickin’s “low hanging fruit.” They were simple, and they dropped money to the bottom line. It was actually fun! If everything you do is difficult, you and your staff will lose interest and consider profitability a losing battle; if everything is easy, you’ll have a tendency to get sloppy and become demotivated. So keep those spirits and profits high…and go pick some low hangin’ fruit once in awhile.



4. Topic of the Month – Work a Room Like a Pro


If you’ve been in the waste industry for awhile, chances are that you attend your fair share of networking, social, or political events. These events are terrific opportunities to make your company shine and boost your career in the process. You never know who will attend, or how they can influence the destiny of your company. So bring along your best attitude, dress appropriately, and be on your best behavior. Here are a few things you can do to work a room like a pro.


Before you leave for the event, freshen up. Put on a clean shirt or blouse, make sure your trousers or skirt are neatly pressed, and make darn sure your shoes are shined! Remember, when someone meets you for the first time, statistics show that you have about ten seconds to make a good first impression.

Networking and making new contacts can be a difficult assignment for some of us, and the task often falls at he end of a long, hard day. It’s important, though, for the growth of your business, for you to attend. To get the most out of it, develop a plan, freshen up, put on a happy face, and work the room like a pro.

5. Quote of the Month
Only a fool expects different results from doing the same old thing.”Author unknown.
Every morning we wake up to a new day--a chance for a fresh start. What do most people do? They fall into a rut, thinking the same thoughts, driving the same routes,   performing the same familiar actions, and secretly wishing for some different outcomes. Tonight, before you go to bed, pledge to yourself that you will do something different tomorrow that will change one outcome that so frustrates you, whatever that may be.   When you’ve accomplished that change, start working on the next one.

6. Ramblings
Last year the industry lost a great man, and I lost a friend--Billy Bob Burrows. His obituary lists him as William James Burrows III. I can’t imagine Billy being the third of anything. He was as unique as they come. Before he died, I never knew Billy’s middle name was James; I always just called him Billy Bob or Billy for short. It seemed like a fitting name for this quiet rebel.
Cherie Rice, a mutual friend and coworker, said it best in Billy Bob’s “Waste News” obituary, “Bill knew the collection business as well as anyone I have worked with during my 18 years in the industry. He had a knack of going into large, complex operations and figuring out how to fix existing problems and optimize the performance.”
Billy Bob could drop money to the bottom line faster and easier than anyone else I know. He had a unique and simple no-nonsense approach to running a business, and the best part, he did it without kicking up a lot of dust. His secret was to pay attention to the fundamentals: people, revenue, disposal, and equipment. If you can clearly understand what’s happening in those areas, you can turn around the most failing operation.
On the lighter side of his business acumen, Billy Bob was famous for “Office Supply Amnesty Day.” Only he could come up with this one. It proved to be a fun and productive adventure, and the drill went like this: Billy Bob sent a memo to everyone in the office announcing that Office Supply Amnesty Day would be the following Friday. On that Friday, the managers would go through their departments and collect the extra office supplies; it was amazing to see what people had stashed in their desks. These supplies were then brought to the conference room and stacked on the table. Before long, the conference room was bulging at the seams. Billy Bob then hosted coffee and donuts so all could see what had been contributed to the pile and have a good laugh.
When it was all over, office supplies didn’t have to be purchased for about six months. In addition to raising everyone’s consciousness about not wasting supplies, Billy found a gentle and humorous way to teach us how to maximize resources—one of the primary objectives for operating a business.
I’ve had the good fortune in my career to work with many great bosses, and Billy Bob was one of them. Like the others, he taught me many things, and a part of him lives in me today in how I conduct myself. Billy was a genuine article…honest, trustworthy and respectful. He wrote the book on ethics. He had no hidden agenda; what you saw was what you got, and he always treated people with dignity and respect. The lower an employee was in the organization, the more courteous and respectful Billy was. He was truly an amazing person.
Billy was in the garbage business for more than thirty years. He started by washing bins, worked his way into sales, and then headed into operations. He wound up running one of the largest collection operations for Waste Management. Then he moved over to Republic Services to head up their Northern California operations before he decided to change careers.
Billy Bob opened BJ’s Sports Restaurant in Danville, California in 2003. It was his new pride and joy, and was a natural for Billy; he loved to cook and to serve people. He made the best burritos you ever tasted, and everyone loved his succulent barbequed tri-tip roast. At least once a year he put on a spread for the whole company; where many managers shy away, Billy felt most at home--among the drivers.
Billy Bob is deeply missed by his family and friends, but he will never be forgotten. By grooming and nurturing many managers in his unique way, he left his mark on the industry.   He was beginning to do the same in the restaurant business before the Good Lord called him to help out in a different place.
We love you, Billy Bob, wherever you are. Keep droppin’ money to the bottom line and keep cookin’ those burritos.
7. Announcements
“ProTips, the E-newsletter For Waste Industry Professionals” is produced and distributed monthly by R.J. Proto Consulting Group, Inc. I encourage you to share it with your colleagues and friends. You may reproduce this electronic newsletter in whole or in part, as long as you include the correct copyright notice (at the end of this newsletter), with a link to my website,

If you would like more information on any of the above topics, call me at 510.881.9440 or send an e-mail to Please visit my website at for more ideas on professional development and operational improvements.

Your submissions are always welcome. Send them to If I use your submission, I’ll give you credit, unless you wish to remain anonymous. All submissions become the property of R.J. Proto Consulting Group, Inc., unless otherwise requested by the writer. (Sorry, that’s my lawyer friend).
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Copyright 2004 Ronald J. Proto. All rights reserved.