As seen in Waste AdvantageMike Huycke

Leadpoint, founded in 2000, solved a pressing need in the waste and recycling industry: employing a safe, stable, and productive workforce. Leadpoint’s labor solutions model, a first in the recycling industry, embedded a full-time, steady crew of sorters, groundskeepers, supervisors, and managers in MRFs of all sizes. The company built a reputation as the only fully outsourced labor provider focused on waste and recycling.

With nearly 25 years in the waste and recycling industry, Leadpoint has created a foundation that has allowed it to continue to grow and meet the needs of its customers. Today, Leadpoint’s service offerings extend across three divisions and seven specialties:

  • Waste & Environmental: MRFs, Landfills, Transfer Stations, PRF & Polymer Operations
  • On-Route: Driver Helpers, Cart Tagging
  • Manufacturing: Assembly & Production

In this Q&A, Mike Huycke, Leadpoint’s VP of Business Development, offers insights and lessons learned while delving into the waste and recycling industry’s evolving needs.

Q: What inspired the founders to start the company, and what were their initial aspirations?

A: When the business started, it provided a more traditional temporary labor service offering across various industries beyond waste and recycling. As our founder, Frank Ramirez, learned more about the waste and recycling industry, he was attracted to its stability and need for safe, well-trained, reliable labor. In 2002, Leadpoint entered the recycling industry with its first MRF partnership, a relationship we still have today.

Q: Could you share a pivotal moment in the company’s journey that shaped its identity and direction?

A: During the 2008 and 2009 economic downturn, despite much of Leadpoint’s business going away, the recycling side of the company proved not only insulated from volatile economic conditions but demonstrated steady growth. During this period, Ramirez made a strategic pivot focused on waste and recycling. Recognizing the industry’s need for dependable, long-term labor and its inherent resilience and stability, he saw a significant opportunity.

During this period, Leadpoint gained several new recycling customers, who remain partners today. Leadpoint became anchored in a stable and steady-growing industry with a strong reliance on labor.

Q: How has the company adapted to market changes?

A: Despite increasing investment in automation, the waste and recycling industry continues to rely heavily on labor. Safe working environments and safety-conscious employees remain a top priority. However, the market has evolved, and the need for labor has evolved with it. Today, automation in recycling facilities and on collection routes is far more prevalent than it was 20 years ago.

Recycling facility operators have become more sophisticated and experienced in plant optimization and efficiency. Introducing optical sorters, screen technologies, AI/machine learning, and robotics has transformed how MRFs operate and changed the volume of labor and skill sets necessary for a safe and profitable operation.

As these dynamics evolve, we’ve adjusted our service offerings and pricing strategies to meet our customers’ needs and operating budgets.

Our customers continue to face challenges in recruiting and retention, and we’ve invested heavily in this area. We are focused on providing cost-effective labor solutions that relieve our customers from the challenges of recruiting, training, and onboarding a skilled workforce.

Q: What motivated the decision to explore new divisions and expand into additional services?

A: Multiple factors have motivated our growth strategy. Leadpoint has a trusted reputation in the industry, and our long-time MRF customers have needs in other lines of business, creating a demand for our presence in these areas.

As the waste and recycling industry’s landscape has evolved, we’ve widened our aperture to support adjacent lines of business, including landfills, transfer stations, PRF and polymer operations, and helpers on collection routes.

Leadpoint’s foundation is built on recruiting, training, retention, and safety. We excel in sourcing and recruiting capable men and women who are prepared for the job. Our business mechanics and infrastructure strategically position us to expand into new divisions and services. Drawing upon two decades of experience in waste and recycling, our leadership comprehensively understands all aspects of the business across the divisions and specialties we serve.

Q: Can you describe a particularly challenging obstacle the company faced during its expansion and how it was overcome?

A: New customers often need us fully ramped up on-site within a matter of days. We have had to learn how to efficiently and seamlessly step into new operations and deliver immediately. We’ve invested heavily in a strong leadership team, tech-enabled recruiting platforms, robust training programs, and a skilled operations support team to allow us to move quickly. The effort and resources we’ve dedicated aim to ensure our customers reap the benefits, especially in times when operations demand urgency.

Q: How has the expansion into new markets transformed the company’s culture and vision?

A: Our culture has evolved into a growth mindset. We take great pride in supporting our customers, and we can now do that more broadly, which is exciting to us.

Our vision has evolved to include these new divisions and services. We’ve remained true to our original focus on providing safe, productive, and reliable workforce teams. Our divisions are related to our core, the waste and recycling industry. We’ve recognized that our business lends itself well to these different roles. Over the years, we have built expectational recruiting, training and onboarding programs, and leadership to allow for this growth.

Q: How does the company differentiate itself from its competitors?

A: Leadpoint is a comprehensive, fully outsourced labor solution; we are not a temp labor company. We offer our employees full-time employment, benefits, PTO, and growth opportunities. We also place supervisors on-site to handle HR and administrative tasks, ensuring higher performance and risk mitigations for our customers.

We are invested in our customers’ success. We prioritize speed and customer satisfaction, quickly scaling up to meet demand and resolving issues efficiently. We align with our customers’ operating and profitability goals, and our employees are held to performance standards similar to those of our customers.

Different customers have different objectives and needs. Our pricing is flexible and competitive, tailored to fit our customers’ operational needs and budgets so they can make the right organizational decisions.

The industry knowledge Leadpoint developed in over 20 years of work gives us unparalleled insight into the daily challenges our employees and customers face. From our CEO to on-site supervisors, we speak the same language as our customers. By managing labor complexities, we free up their time and support their growth.

Q: How has the company impacted its customers, industry, and community?

A: We take pride in providing opportunities for people. We strongly believe in and advocate for second-chance employment. Foundational in our culture is providing opportunities for hardworking men and women. Our workforce has become a talent pipeline for the industry.

Leadpoint has also played a significant role in improving safety, training, and job performance in roles that are not always seen as desirable. These are tough jobs. We treat our employees as if they will be with us forever and partner with our customers to create career advancement opportunities for top performers.

Q: What excites you about the company’s future direction?

A: We are committed to addressing the ongoing workforce challenges for an industry we know well. We have realized that our extensive experience in MRFs can be applied in various other areas of the industry. Our capabilities have consistently provided exceptional value to our customers, which motivates and excites our team. We anticipate ongoing growth opportunities and look forward to building on decades of knowledge we have acquired to help advance the broader waste and recycling industry. We are constantly striving to improve our brand and reputation, supporting the growth of our current and potential customers.

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