Your core values not only shape your work environment. They also shape how you present yourselves to the world, to your customers, and to your communities.
By Paul Ross

Company culture is important for any organization. It defines your work environment and can set the vision for your business for years to come. However, company culture goes beyond plans for increasing clients or ensuring employee satisfaction. Instead, it is built by your core values.

Fifty years ago, Kenneth Burkett founded American Waste Control on four core values—integrity, passion, accountability, and people-focused. He embodied these core values when he only had one truck and one route all the way through his induction into the NWRA Waste Hall of Fame in 2017. We still uphold them today. Our four core values make up who we are at American Waste Control, including our recycling facility, transfer station, and renewable energy landfill. It is through these values that we are able to prioritize taking care of our customers and taking care of our employees.

Here is a breakdown of how we implement each of these values in our day-to-day operations and why it is important to find core values to help shape your own company culture.

Vice President Paul Ross delivering drivers refreshing Gatorade during a hot day in Oklahoma.

Leading by Example
Your core values not only shape your work environment. They also shape how you present yourselves to the world, to your customers, and to your communities. At American Waste Control, we want our customers to know that serving them safely and efficiently is our number one priority. We want our customers to recognize our integrity as a company.

Integrity is all about doing the right thing—especially when no one is looking. Oftentimes, our trash truck drivers and helpers are doing their job in the early hours of the morning or when neighbors are at work. Carts and cans are set out full and by the end of the day, they are emptied. Many times, no one notices. Waste and recycling workers may have the biggest responsibility of any industry to uphold integrity when no one is looking.

In this line of work, we cannot get complacent. We cannot compromise safety. We cannot cut corners. We do our jobs to the fullest because it is the right thing to do.

One of American Waste Control’s roll off drivers, Ron Weaver, pictured in Downtown Tulsa.

Passion to Serve
Like many companies, American Waste Control was started with a passion. Over the last 50 years, passion is what has kept us dedicated to serving our customers, our company, and our community.

Community involvement has been key to keeping the passion of our company strong. It allows us to exercise our core values and to be a part of our city’s more cherished traditions. Because what we know is that community involvement through sponsorship and volunteering leads to happy and passionate employees, we are putting the customer first. Passion like that cannot be taught or faked. It is at the heart of our business.

If you and your employees have a passion for what you do, everything else will follow suit. Passion is what fuels company culture. Make sure your employees know why it is you do the work that you do. Because if they can get behind that, it will show in their work, in their communication with your customers, and in their relationships with the rest of the company.

Own Your Results
Working in the waste and recycling industry means people expect things from you. City residents expect their trash to be picked up on schedule. Customers expect excellent service when they call your company. Your employees expect to be treated with appreciation.

People admire a company that stands by their word and owns their results. This is important not only on a large, company-wide scale, but also on a micro level. Every member of your team should be held accountable for their work. They should be challenged and coached and unafraid to bring this same accountability forward for others they work with as well. When a company and the workers

within can assess their work, past and future, it opens up the doors for securing a future for your business.
Making accountability a priority in our company has contributed to an open, collaborative work environment. We rely on each other as a team, and our customers rely on us as a whole. Our company culture is shaped by how we hold each other accountable every day.

John Sanders, one of American Waste Control’s residential drivers, next to his truck along his route in Oklahoma. Photos courtesy of American Waste Control.

Putting People First
Our jobs are people-facing. We interact with customers daily. We also interact with one another—our co-workers, our employees, our supervisors. In a job that is so people-focused, it is important to support one another and lift each other up.

We have workers at American Waste Control that started out sweeping floors, and now, they oversee millions of dollars in inventory in addition to managing other employees. We have seen helpers on the back of a truck now driving those very same trucks. We, as a company, pride ourselves on being a strong support system for our workers and others in this industry. From helping people get CDLs to contributing to the NWRA Women’s Council Scholarship—every little thing you do has the potential to lift someone up.

Our core values have stayed the same for 50 years. They have been molded into every aspect of our company culture. Every member of our team knows these values we strive to embody to the public every day.
It was important for our founder Kenny to run a business with integrity—one that was filled with passionate people, one that could be held accountable for its results, and one that was always focused on helping people. Even though it has been 50 years, these values are still important to us.

When you think about your core values and how you want them to contribute to your company culture, think about where you want your company to be in the next 50 years. What principles will you take and build upon? How will you make an impact on your local community? What values will shape your company? | WA

Paul M. Ross is Vice President of American Waste Control. Before entering the waste and recycling business he owned a marketing firm specializing in digital marketing and public relations. Paul’s management style is focused on helping people discover their capacity to do and become their best. As Vice President of American Waste Control he is responsible for helping lead the day-to-day operations of the 198 truck fleet hauling operation, AWC’s recycling initiative with Mr. Murph and promotion of the company’s renewable energy landfill. Paul can be reached at (918) 446-0023 or e-mail [email protected].