In the Spotlight
Community Waste Disposal: Providing Safe and Reliable Service to Its Customers
By focusing on safety and reliability within the company and the community, Community Waste Disposal has risen to the top of a competitive market.
Community Waste Disposal (CWD), based in Dallas, Texas, began operations in 1984 with two trucks, a handful of dumpsters and two employees. Starting out with four independent owners, over the past 25 years, the company’s current sole owner, Greg Roemer, bought out the other three involved and now runs the largest privately-owned waste management company strictly serving the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) metroplex with about 120 vehicles and 220 employees. CWD services traditional municipal solid waste in both the residential and commercial recycling markets. They operate equipment from hand collection rear load to commercial front load and roll-off services, and everything in between. In addition to the DFW metroplex, CWD also has franchise agreements with the surrounding independent communities to serve those areas as well (Allen, Azle, Balch Springs, Burleson, Euless, Farmersville, Forney, Frisco, Keller, Little Elm, Ovilla, Pantego, Watauga and Wylie).
Over the past few years, CWD has constantly battled a yo-yoing economy with good business sense and expense management. According to Roemer, the economy dramatically affected their business since CWD processes a lot of recyclables. When the revenue for those recyclables declined, the costs to process them did not. This not only resulted in a decline in revenue, but it also went straight to the bottom line and the company’s profitability. “Dealing with that commodity roller coaster has been very difficult,” says Roemer. “Fuel has also certainly been a factor. We have some variable fuel adjustment fees, but not across the board. We have many contracts that don’t allow it and the customers are in a position to say no or deny any new and additional charges that are fuel-related. So, when fuel goes up like it is now, we don’t have extra charges on many of the contracts and so that’s been a hard expense to deal with because there have been radical changes in fuel prices.”
To deal with these constant changes, especially when commodity values were down, CWD simply accepted lower margins and made less money since there was little that could be done. Says Roemer, “In terms of other cost increases, we went through a period of two or three years where employees did not get raises and we asked them to increase production without increasing overtime. They really responded positively because they could see on TV and read in the newspapers every day that unemployment and costs were going up. Our employees really believed that everyone needed to work harder and carry more to get the company through those hard economic times. It’s all about communicating with your employees which we do through a variety of methods,” says Roemer. “For example, every employee at CWD is on a profit-sharing program. Every 90 days we hold a company cookout for every employee and we hand out the profit-sharing checks. We’ve been doing that for many years. With that comes a lot of good communication and comraderie amongst management and the drivers, etc.”
In addition to hard working employees, CWD committed to better managing their money and expenses. Although many things were cut, like golf tournaments and some community events, it did not affect the way the company’s ability to provide reliable, safe service—the two most important factors in running a successful business. Stresses Roemer, “If there were expenses that didn’t enhance safety or reliability, it was subject to be cut. We guard those two factors closely. We buy nothing but the best, highest quality, longest lasting equipment. Our facility is all metal buildings, the finish on it is all very budget minded. You don’t need an expensive building to provide safe, reliable service.” CWD focuses on these two factors because they are dedicated to providing their customers with quality service at the lowest possible price. “It’s important that every day CWD and its employees work to drive our costs down. We need to make an acceptable margin in profit and charge our customers the lowest possible price; this will give you stability in your marketplace and with your customers. The lower the charges, the less desire they have to change to a different company,” says Roemer.
When it comes to challenges that CWD faces every day, Roemer’s philosophy is to face them one step at a time. Although many waste disposal companies have come and gone over the years, CWD has stayed strong in their market. “Since 1980 there have been more than 30 companies that have come and gone in this marketplace—that’s just about one per year,” explains Roemer. “In 1980 when I was in this business working for BFI, my very first sale was in Dallas selling an 8-yard dumpster that picked up once a week for $75 per month. Thirty-one years later, our charges are just slightly higher. We can deal with this by being much more efficient today than we were many years ago. We’re really not making more or less money and our costs are substantially higher, so we’ve had to make up for that through efficient operations. The DFW metroplex is one of the most cost-aggressive markets in the U.S.”
“The second biggest difference is that in 1980 when I sold that first 8-yard dumpster, almost all of the commercial customers in the metroplex did not have contracts. Most of the services were handshakes and verbal arrangements; nothing was signed. The customer wanted a dumpster, they got one; they received a bill and as long as they paid it everyone was happy. Today, everybody is on a written contract that ranges from three to 10 years. This means that a new company coming into town has to battle contracts and charges and it’s very hard since we’ve so finely tuned our cost so that we can make a profit on those low rates.”
Roemer believes that the largest challenge going forward is increasing costs such as disposal and fuel. Containing costs while providing safe, reliable services is the most regular, alarming thing that CWD deals with every day because these factors can catch you off guard. “There’s no real big bump in the road; it’s a lot of little bumps that add up and so cost increases are at the forefront and providing safe, reliable operations. Ours is a capital-intensive business. You have to be around a lot of years to make a reasonable profit at today’s prices. That’s very true in our business.”
CWD has driven some costs down by being in business for more than 25 years. During the first 15 years the company was in business, everything was financed through Tier 2 financial institutions. Today, all of their financing is provided through banks which allow the company to obtain lending rates that are far preferable over what was available the first 15 years. “You get this by having a stronger balance sheet and by being in business a longer period of time because banks are much more conservative than the Tier 2 lending institutions.” In addition, CWD has a vehicle replacement schedule so they are on track every year to replace worn out vehicles. Since the average life expectancy of CWD’s vehicles is eight years, dates have been marked on the calendar as to when a current vehicle will be replaced with a new one. This type of efficient recordkeeping system helps to keep CWD on top of their vehicle replacement schedule.
Recognition and a Sense of Community
Roemer is especially proud of CWD’s accomplishments and what they have been able to achieve in a highly competitive market. CWD has earned various accolades from Keep America Beautiful to local recycling groups who have recognized them for participation in community events, as well as communications and waste diversion and continues to work hard every day to earn more (see Awards and Recognition sidebar). Roemer points out, “We are a privately owned company. I come to work every day to the same facility, the same 220 people and there’s a sense of community that has developed that is much harder to get at a publicly-traded company where they have multiple sites. We’ve got a group of people that take on a greater level of responsibility and become a community, right down to the route driver, so that when you ask them to get something done in 50 hours per week instead of 55 hours per week, they would willing to do it for you because they feel a sense of ownership, rather than knowing it is just management just trying to make a bigger bonus. I’m most proud of going from two trucks to 120 and and seeing how our employees treat things as if they own it. I’m also proud that we provide a very high quality service at a very competitively priced rate and still make a profit.”
For more information about Community Waste Disposal,contact Greg Roemer at (972) 392-9300, ext. 208, e-mail[email protected] or visit www.communitywastedisposal.com.
Awards and Recognition
- 2009: Keep Texas Beautiful Ebby Halliday & Maurice Acres Business/Industry Award
- 2008: Little Elm Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award
- 2006: Recycling Alliance of Texas Environmental Leadership Award for Environmental Public Education and Outreach Program
- 2006: North Texas Corporate Recycling Association Environmental Vision Award for Community Volunteerism
- 2006: Ebby Halliday & Maurice Acers Annual Keep Texas Beautiful Award Honorable Mention for Participation in Dallas’ EarthFest.
- 2006: Frisco Chamber of Commerce Corporate Business of the Year for 2005
- 2005: Tarrant County Corporate Recycling Council Environmental Vision Award for CWD/City of Euless Community Volunteerism