The E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals

No. 18, May 2005)


A guide to this month’s edition

1. Welcome

2. ProTips for Professional Development

3. ProTips for Operational Profitability

4. Topic of the Month: How to Gain Respect and Build Trust in the First 100 Days

5. Quote of the Month

6. Ramblings

7. Announcements




Welcome to “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.


I encourage you to share “ProTips, the E-newsletter for Waste Industry Professionals” with your colleagues and friends. They can subscribe by simply going to and selecting the Sign-up link on the home page.


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


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2. ProTips for Professional Development


Reenergize your creativity… try something different. . Are you in a rut? Does every day feel the same, just like they did to Bill Murray in “Ground Hog Day”? As humans, we are creatures of habit; it’s easy to fall into a rut and dull our creativity. Try something different to change your routine and reenergize your creativity. Take a different route to work, try a different mode of transportation, or stop at a different coffee shop. It will force you to think differently and get those creative juices moving in another direction. You’ll put a new face on what used to be a dull day. You’ll tackle those old problems with newfound energy and a renewed sense of creativity. Welcome to your new day!


Look to other industries…for new and innovative ideas. As a waste industry professional, you probably read all the magazines, journals, and newspapers related to our business--and you should. They will keep you abreast of the latest trends in the industry, but if you want to push the envelope in your professional development, read other industry magazines and journals to gain a different perspective on a similar issue you’re dealing with, or perhaps learn something entirely new. New and innovative ideas don’t always come from the tried and true. They come from thinking differently.



Get your ideas across… learn how to speak well. The other day I watched painfully as a high-level manager gave an important presentation to a large audience. The presentation content was excellent, and his slides were well prepared. He lost his audience, though, because he droned on in a monotone voice. The people that didn’t leave the meeting were closing their eyes and nodding their heads. It was sad, because he had so much valuable information to share. Don’t let that happen to you. Commit today to take time to learn how to speak well in public. It will enhance your career and pay big dividends for your future.



3. ProTips for Operational Profitability


June is National Safety Month…start planning today. This is a great opportunity to emphasize your company’s commitment to safety and drive home the point that safety is everyone’s responsibility. This year’s theme, “Safety where we live, work, and play,” fits perfectly. Plan fun activities for your employees that involve their families, and make a day of it. Who doesn’t want to show off their skills in front of their family and friends? You can have a truck rodeo to test the drivers’ skills and invite the local police department to judge the event. Provide games and prizes for the kids, a festive BBQ for the family, and don’t forget the awards for the drivers. For more helpful ideas, log onto the National Safety Council’s website,


It’s not enough to stress that drivers clean up their own messes…. their responsibility should extend to their whole route. . The driver turns the corner and sees that vandals have tipped over carts and made a mess along the entire block. The driver’s first response should be to alert the dispatcher about the problem. The dispatcher should send a crew to help the driver clean up the mess, then alert the contracting jurisdiction about the problem, tell them that they may be receiving calls, and also that you’ve sent a crew to clean up the mess. It’s all about uncompromised customer service…and a little about tooting your own horn.


When hiring employees…don’t be tempted to take a shortcut. Budgets are tight, so the last thing you want are too many employees on the payroll. Consequently, when you need to hire someone, you probably needed him or her yesterday. Resist the temptation to hire the first person who walks through the door. You will live with a poor hiring decision for a long time, and it can be painful. It’s not easy to terminate an employee, especially if you have a union contract. Take your time and hire smart (see ProTips 2



4. Topic of the Month: How to Gain Respect and Build Trust in the First 100 Days


You just took a new job. Perhaps you were promoted to a new position, made a lateral move within your company, or landed a job with a new company. It may be your dream job, but it’s not going to be a cakewalk. Most likely you got the job because it was a troubled work unit that needed some tender loving care and lots of attention. One thing is for certain; within the first 100 days you will be tested. Drivers, mechanics, and office workers will push, pull, and yank you seven ways to Sunday. They will try your patience and drive you to your wit’s end. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but don’t. Hold your ground and remember the first and greatest commandment, “ Don’t let them scare you,” (author unknown).


I’ve been in this position several times, some more difficult than others. I always came through, I think, with flying colors. How? By gaining the respect and trust of my coworkers. To do that you have to steadfastly adhere to three principles: be visible, be accessible, and be prepared.


Be Visible


Your office is not a hiding place. Get out and meet your coworkers; everyone wants to meet the new boss. Don’t wait for your employees to come to you--go out and meet them. Be the first to shake their hands and introduce yourself. Put on a big smile and listen-- listen more than you talk! Be genuinely interested in them. This is your first meeting, so be casual, be friendly, and be energetic.


People are naturally curious, so they may want to know something about you. The operative word here is “may.” Don’t volunteer your life history. Remember, it’s about them, not you. If asked, give your 30-second spiel about how long you’ve been in the business, your last couple of jobs, and how delighted you are to be in your new position. Be succinct.


Your visibility doesn’t stop with the initial introduction; you must continue to work at it. Pop into safety meetings, attend training sessions, and sit in on sales briefings. Stick around after meetings and chat with the folks. Get to know your coworkers, and start to develop solid working relationships. As you gain their respect and trust, you will relieve any pent-up resentment and hostility that may have built up before you arrived on the scene.


Be Accessible


It’s not enough to be visible; you also have to be accessible. It’s another way to take the pressure off any brewing trouble. Remember that some folks are not comfortable talking in front of others, or they may have personal issues that require privacy, so give them your time.


Your office is also the place where you’ll really get tested. During the first 100 days you will have a virtual parade of folks who will challenge you on everything from the pay they were promised, to the size of their route, or even the chair they sit in. You may think this is trivial stuff, and most of it is, but it’s important to them. Just listen, don’t make any commitments, and tell them you’ll get back to them soon…and get back to them soon you must, even if it’s with an answer they don’t want to hear.


Be Prepared


Prepare yourself to take on any issue thrown at you. Don’t act surprised by anything; just be ready to handle it. You know those meetings I suggested you attend--don’t be surprised if you’re ambushed in one of them. There is power in numbers and any of those unresolved resentments or hostilities I mentioned above may surface as verbal pop shots at you.


Remember, “Don’t Let Them Scare You.” Relax and let them vent. Don’t respond to any allegations; instead, ask for clarification. Take copious notes. If you hear something important, make sure to write it down. You don’t want to miss any important points.


At the end of the meeting, sincerely thank them for their input and schedule a follow up meeting, preferably within two weeks. Do your homework, get answers to their questions, address their concerns, and prepare yourself thoroughly for the next meeting. This will be your final test.


If you have done everything you can to address concerns truthfully, giving in on some issues and holding firm on the tough ones, you will have accomplished your objective. You will exit the meeting with a true sense of pride and self-confidence, a feeling you can only experience when you’ve taken on the tough fight and overcome the overwhelming odds. But most important, you will have gained the respect and the trust of your coworkers.



5. Quote of the Month


Do things to make your day precious."

Bernie Siegel,



Every day brings with it the opportunity for a new beginning. Think and act differently to see if you can change the way things are to the way you want things to be.



6. Ramblings


Bad service, good service…it’s all in a day’s work. I was trying to hook up to the high speed Internet in my hotel room, but experienced a problem. Computers are pretty smart these days--at least Macs are. All you usually have to do is plug the Ethernet cable into your computer and the other end of the cable into the data port in the wall. Well, this wasn’t a usual day. I plugged in the cable and tried to log on to the Internet…nothing. I unplugged and replugged the cable…still nothing. I’m no slouch when it comes to computers; I can usually figure things out. I tried a few more things, but still couldn’t get onto the Internet. Pressed for time, I called the toll free number that came with the cable and got the dreaded message, “We are experiencing unexpected high call volume; we may be delayed in answering your call. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please stay on the line for the next available representative”…bad service!


I was on hold for 14 minutes before I got a support technician. Unfortunately, I could barely understand her…more bad service. She asked me several perfunctory questions and then we got down to business. “Here we go again,” I thought.


“Mr. Proto,” she asked, “can you unplug and replug the Ethernet cable from your computer?” I did. “Can you log on to the Internet now?” she continued.


 “Nothing,” I replied. We changed a few settings and there was still no Internet.


“Mr. Proto, let’s try unplugging and replugging the cable into the modem,” she said.


“I don’t have a modem,” I replied. “I plug the cable directly into the wall.”


“Look under your desk; there should be a modem there,” she replied.


“I don’t have a desk. I have a table and I can see completely around the area and there is no modem.”


“Okay then, it must be the cable. Please change the cable,” she directed.


“I don’t have another cable.”


“You don’t have another cable!” she said in disbelief. “All right, I’ll call the hotel and have them send a new cable. That should solve the problem. Here is your case number-- 405094. Please call us back if you’re still experiencing problems,” she said.


Twenty minutes later…still more bad service...a guy showed up with a telephone cable. “That’s the wrong cable,” I said, as I showed him the correct cable.


“I’ve never seen a cable like that. This is new to me,” he said, and left. Ten minutes later the guy came back with the right cable…first indication of good service. Unfortunately, I was 55 minutes into this ordeal by now.


I plugged in the new cable, and as you might expect, still no Internet…really bad service. I called the toll free number again and got the same excruciating message--you know the one…still in bad service mode. Fortunately, I was only on hold for 10 minutes this time, and I got a technician I could understand…good service.


Kevin, from Alberta, Canada, took me through the same routine, unplugging and replugging the cable into my computer and into the wall. “Can you see an IP address?” he asked.


“No,” I replied.


“Check under your desk for the modem,” he continued…here we go again.


“I don’t have a desk. I have a table. I can see all around the area and there is no modem to be found. I went through this with the last technician,” I adamantly replied.


“There’s got to be a modem,” he said.


“Well, there is none,” I shot back.


“Let me call the hotel. They’ll send someone right up,” Kevin said.


“Yeah, right,” I thought.


“I’ll stay on the line until they get to your room,” Kevin continued.


“You’re in for a long wait,” I thought to myself.


Kevin asked me to check a couple of settings while we waited. “Still no IP address,” I said. Then there was a knock on the door--wow, it’s been less than five minutes, and the hotel folks are here…good service. I opened the door and the maintenance guys introduced themselves.


“I hear you’re having a problem getting on the Internet” said John. “I think I know the problem; the modem isn’t connected.” I rolled my eyes and invited them in. John pulled back the nightstand between the beds, which were about 10 feet from the desk--no, no, I mean table. He reached down as I looked on in amazement. There, lying on the floor, was an unplugged Ethernet cable. He plugged it into the modem that was attached to the back of the nightstand. I walked over to my computer and there it was--the infamous IP address. Bingo! I was on the Internet! Thanks, Kevin and John. Now that’s good service! All’s well that ends well.



7. Announcements


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 Web site at for more ideas on professional development and operational improvements.



“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 Web site,



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