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Growth, Good Business, and Giving Back

As a Director of Operations at Heritage Interactive Services, Shaun Miller oversees business in the US and Canada. When he started out, he had no idea how far a career in sustainability would take him. We sat down with Shaun to talk about the evolution of his career over the last nine years.

 

Let’s get started with the beginning of your journey. How did you first hear about Heritage?

 

I went to Indiana State, and when I graduated, I had taken over as general manager of a fine dining restaurant in Terre Haute, Indiana—but I lived on the west side of Indy. That’s a heck of a commute—it’s an hour and a half each way, but 23 years old and GM of a nice restaurant was a great place to start. At the time, my brother-in-law David Cripe worked for Heritage Environmental Services (HES). He said, “I know you’re not sure what you want to do, but if you want to be closer to home, Heritage is always hiring.” I took the chance and started as a temporary employee at HES in fixation (the management and disposal of contaminated waste by immobilizing hazardous contaminants). Fast forward several months later, I became group leader, and I was still trying to figure out where I wanted to be. Every time I had an opportunity to leave this organization, they gave me a reason to stay.

 

After my promotion to group leader, I helped deploy the HES call center, worked inside sales, and in 2014 I was again at a crossroads. I had gained all this experience, and I wanted a career, so I had to decide, where do I want to go? I interviewed for a program manager position at Heritage Interactive and got the job—and as much as I enjoyed the hazardous waste side, I loved broadening my horizons and being able to move into non-hazardous waste, and trash and recyclables, and byproducts and all kinds of commodities.

 

Then I went from program manager to senior program manager to operations manager and here I am as a director today. Now, I’m at the forefront of world-class sustainability services for our customers, which is awesome. For instance, we’ve aided companies in diverting their byproduct waste, contributing to zero landfill status—and more recently, we worked with ClimeCo to help March Madness go carbon neutral.

 

I can’t wait to see where I’ll be three years from now, but it’ll be at Heritage, you know? All these synchronicities brought so much opportunity, and I worked to make the most of it. And I’m happy to be here!

 

Could you go over a bit about how Heritage has invested in you?

 

How much time you got? (laughs) I’m a big Peyton Manning fan, and he always talks about not always being the smartest in the room, not always being the toughest in the room, but outworking everybody in the room. And that’s always been my mantra—if I’m dedicated to something, I’m going to find every way I can to add value to the organization. I’ve done that over the years, and this company has been good about recognizing that. Whether that’s about collaboration opportunities, promotions or bonuses, growth as an individual, I could go on and on.

 

The biggest impact on me was back in 2018, when I was promoted from Operations Manager to Director, it happened to line directly up with the Connect, Collaborate, Innovate (CCI) initiative. It’s a training program where THG invests in the future of potential leaders from across the family of companies. It created relationships and bridges across the organization. You were able to meet people whom you wouldn’t have otherwise known—and I used that network just last week to introduce a colleague to a resource at another Heritage company! I was able to be a bridge for others, which is a great thing, and I know that there are others willing to be a bridge for me as well.

Shaun (right) with Jeff Laborsky of Heritage Environmental Services

 

Is there a point that stands out to you when you realized that this was a career as opposed to just a job?

 

When I moved from HES to HIS, I could see the runway of what we could do, both when I was there initially and what we could grow into. I was able to work as I saw fit and add value to the organization—and the fact that Heritage enables me to work in such a way—it all just kind of clicked. And that’s continued to evolve over time, because the term sustainability evolves every day, and it’s an exciting time to be in this industry. We’re talking about the course of a few years, but I would say sometime around 2015, 2016, I was like “okay—this is where I want to be.”

 

What does it mean to you to be part of a family business?

 

A lot of companies will say, “we’re a big family,” but everything I’ve seen here proves that leadership truly lives out that mantra. I met my boss now, Peter Lux, when I was going through CCI and getting exposed to THG; again, this company provided me that just because I worked for it and was vocal about where I wanted to go within The Heritage Group. Getting to know Peter and work with him, and now directly working for him, it was the same mentality. Whether I’m sitting in my office, with our team, or I’m having that exposure to a higher level, the feeling is always the same.

We’re given access to capital and resources and things that a very large organization typically has access to, but there’s always that personal feel to the interactions with our leadership—in how they empower us to manage and to make our own decisions. Not all companies will afford you that autonomy, and I think that has a lot to do with this organization having that family ownership and mentality.

Shaun with his family

Do you feel like that also affects the way you interact with customers or clients?

 

I think so. I think this is an empathy-minded organization, and I try to lead with that. When you have that servant leadership attitude, doors open, it shows your customers that you care, it affords you business retention and trust. The culture here definitely affects how I do business. Not only that, but this company gives me the opportunity to investigate new things.

 

My work style over time is taking every opportunity I see to invest in others. That’s been engrained in me in large part due to this organization and the way they’ve treated me. I try to pay that forward to my employees, my colleagues, my leadership, my customers, my suppliers, and it bleeds over into your personal life, too. When you see that, and you see the benefit of it, you lead with that. It’s about touching as many lives as possible and impacting others in a positive way. There’s always the chance that it could come back around—you never know. It builds relationships and trust, and it’s good business, too.

Where does your passion for sustainability come from?

 

I fell into sustainability. It just kind of happened, and before I knew it, I was in deep. I realized how much I liked it, and it’s such a broad term today. But to me, sustainability is not just about waste. It’s about time, equipment, people and labor. It’s about opportunity and attitude. Sustainability, to me, is so much of elongating the things in life that we will inevitably need indefinitely in so many different ways. That’s why I like where we’re at now. A couple years ago, it was all about supporting zero waste to landfill, and then simply zero waste—now it’s bringing in carbon neutrality. I have a call coming up with one of our customers to support zero water discharge, and my colleague is working on industrial hygiene for other customers and compressed air efficiencies and water balancing for another. It’s such a spiral of potential in the term sustainability. And it’s not all about hugging trees—it goes so much more beyond that. It’s a discipline.

Shaun with his team

What’s your advice to someone who is at the same place that you were when you graduated college, looking for an opportunity?

One of the scariest things in the world is to be vulnerable, but my best advice to my younger self and to anyone in that position is to stay humble and vulnerable. It’s a nice way of saying, “ask stupid questions.” And there aren’t really any out there, which I know is a cliché, but you can’t shrink into yourself. You have to find ways to get out of your comfort zone. I’m not a great public speaker—I mean I can speak to my customers, to my team, but even in a Teams call, if there’s 80 people, or in a huge venue, I get a little squirrely. So what I’ve done is found situations to intentionally put myself out there, and know that I was going to look silly, but convincing yourself that it’s okay, is probably the hardest part. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know it, and at some point, you won’t be as good at your job for not knowing. Read, research, learn. I hope that when I’m at retirement age, I’m still looking for ways to learn, and it’s only going to benefit you. It’s never a waste of time.

 

Right now, what is exciting to you in this moment of your career?

 

Over the last five years, we doubled in size. We invested heavily in people, and in training—KPIs, too. Another interesting aspect between the public and private sector is that we have the ability to integrate, measure, grade and improve, so we focused on our metrics so that we could maintain scalable, rapid growth. We also invested in our people so that we have the right folks in the right positions, and it set us up for where we are today. Our fiscal year just ended—another record year, and our growth rate is ridiculous, and we’re prepared for it now.

 

We’ve been working within sustainability since 2000, and the evolution of sustainability over the last 20+ years has been phenomenal, and volatile in another way, and opportunistic. Now we’re here, and I’m watching The Heritage Group through Techstars, Heritage Sustainability Investments, all these different elements and the ability to access all those resources— it’s all growing. It’s an exciting time to be here because I’m not exactly sure where we’re going to go, but I know it’s going to be great.

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Trucking that Delivers

Heritage Transport truck driver Beth Manns on what drives her. 

Beth Manns started her workday at 3:30 a.m., but at the end of her 14-hour shift, she still walks into the breakroom with a smile on her face.

From being a rail driver to hauling oil, Manns has 28 years of trucking experience. No job ranks as high on her list as her current role: Truck driver for Heritage Transport. We caught up with Manns after a shift to get a glimpse of life behind the windshield.


“This is absolutely my favorite job ever — not because everything’s perfect, but because we’re trying to make everything perfect, and that’s what I like.”


What does the average day as a truck driver look like?

We’re allowed to run 14 hours in a day, and that’s all your time included from driving 11 hours and then three hours of fluff time. Mine’s usually pretty much on that — a lot of it is windshield time. Some of it is loading, which can be very physical because we load hoses and load product through the hose.

 

What gets you out of bed every morning?

My kids. I love to provide for them and make sure they have everything that I can give them, but I also like to set an example for being someone who shows up for work and is dependable. I want to pass that on to them. I want the next generation to know that matters.

 

How does your job connect to the rest of THG?

I’m part of a team. I’m not the biggest part, but I’m an important part. Everyone has a role to play here. I need dispatch, and I need management to help the dispatch flow easily; they need me to get out there and do my job so that they’re covered too. And my customers — they really depend on me being there, so we all try to work together to make it happen.


Beth’s lingo

  • CDL: commercial driver’s license, for operating large, heavy or hazardous material vehicles
  • Dispatch: behind-the-scenes support, helping truckers
  • Doubles: certification for pulling two trailers
  • Fluff time: time not driving the truck
  • Tanker: used for transporting liquids or gasses
  • Triples: certification for pulling three trailers
  • Windshield time: time driving the truck

What makes you most proud to work for Heritage?

I’m helping clean the environment. We take care of stuff that others want to get rid of. And we’re trying to return to the earth something valuable rather than destroy it. That’s why I love working here. As far as Heritage is concerned, because of where we are in the lineup of products, we’re at the end. We’re last, but we’re first at the same time because we finish well. We do the job right.

 

What is a truck driver stereotype you’d like to challenge?

For one, I shower every day at least twice (laughs), and another is that some of us are educated. I think that a lot of people get the impression that you become a truck driver because you didn’t have anything else to do. I went to college, and lot of us do have some education. We’re not all just steering wheel holders. We do a hard job out here, and there’s a lot of high stress. People don’t realize that the equipment we are pulling does not just stop on a dime.


What it takes to get behind the wheel:

  • CDL with vehicle inspection and driving test renewed every 4 years
  • Class A Hazmat endorsement renewed every 4 years
  • Roughly 20-30 safety training hours per year

What’s one value you always embrace inside and outside of your job?

Honesty. I like to be an honest person, and sometimes that means saying ‘no’ to things that I’m not capable of doing. That’s hard for me because I’m really a go-getter. At the end of the day, what we leave behind are footprints that someone else is going to follow, and if we’re way off somewhere, they’re going to be off, too.

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How does safety play a role in your career?

In this job it’s particularly important. We’ve had a lot of training, so it really sticks in your mind that it’s not just to do a good job for the company, but it’s to make sure I can come back tomorrow and take care of my health and my family. If I want to go home, I need to be very prepared—go above and beyond.

 

What would you tell anyone who is considering becoming a truck driver?

Get your training and get every endorsement possible because you never know how it’s going to work for you. I have a school bus license, passenger, triples, doubles, tanker, hazmat, everything. And any training that you can take that will advance you, take it. Don’t just test the water; get in and cover yourself in it.


Could a career like Beth’s be in your future? Check out job openings at Heritage Environmental Services and apply today!

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Winning the Long Game

Chris Patchon of Heritage Environmental Services has felt satisfied and motivated in his job for the past 26 years. Here are eight things that have helped make Chris so successful.

When you meet Chris Patchon, who manages Heritage Environmental Services’ (HES) western Indianapolis waste treatment plant and landfill, his positive energy and passion quickly inspire admiration. What keeps Chris going? What makes him so successful? We recently followed Chris around the plant to find out, and learned eight things that keep Chris happy, motivated and driven to tackle whatever comes next. These could be good reasons for you to start a career at a Heritage Group company, too!

 

1. He was spotted quickly.

“I’m a local kid,” said Chris, who grew up just down the street from where he works today. “I walked by the plant going to football practice.” Years later, at age 21, Chris joined the plant as a material handler in drum operations, working the night shift. He frequently signed on for overtime, occasionally working double shifts.

It didn’t take long for leaders to spot Chris’s dedication. Two years later, the manager of a Heritage plant in Charlotte, North Carolina, asked Chris to relocate from Indy to Charlotte and run the drum operation there. “I was an hourly employee at the time,” Chris said. “I asked, ‘Why me?’ He said, ‘Why not you?’” Chris’s wife, Jennifer, had just given birth to their son, Drew, and didn’t want to leave town. “I said ‘no’ at first,” Chris admitted. But when Jim Green, the president of the company at the time, called and asked him to fly to Charlotte for a visit, Chris took him up on the offer. Not long after, Chris and his young family made the move south. “It turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made in my career,” said Chris, who eventually took over all plant operations in Charlotte.

 

2. He’s surrounded by mentors who inspire him.

If you ask Chris what he loves most about his job, the first thing he’ll say is: the people. He admires Jeff Laborsky, Chief Executive Officer of HES and leader of Heritage Research Group. “Jeff’s a people person, and he’s committed to our company’s mission to protect human health and the environment,” Chris said. “That commitment at the highest levels trickles down — it’s genuine.”

Winde Hamrick, Executive Vice President of HES, once managed the plant Chris runs now. She mentored Chris when he returned from Charlotte in 1999. Even though there were no manager positions open, Chris and Winde set a goal for his future that included professional development opportunities. It took almost four years for the operations manager spot to open up, and when it did, Chris stepped in and kept growing. Winde continues to help guide Chris’s career today. “I’m blessed to have her as a mentor,” he said. “We have a wonderful relationship.”

 

3. The Heritage Group invests in his success.

When Chris started at HES, a busy work schedule and frequent promotions got in the way of wrapping up his higher education goals. “A business degree was the plan,” said Chris, who in the same breath notes he’s proud to help run a successful business.

“I like to say I have a master’s degree from Heritage University,” Chris said with a smile. “Heritage offers so many resources — especially mentors and coaches — you continually learn on the job.”

On top of that, Chris has taken part in leadership training, including weeklong programs at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame. “It was an awesome experience!” he said of undergoing the trainings. “Heritage invests in people. It’s something we do well here.”


On tackling challenges like a linebacker:

Chris, who has an athlete’s energy and positive outlook, played football in high school and college. The former linebacker’s drive to protect his people — combined with his quick thinking at every turn — make him a good fit for the demanding work of running a 24/7, all-seasons operation.

Like any talented athlete, Chris also likes to win — and he looks for similar qualities in potential employees. “I sense the desire to win,” he said. “High-potential employees rise above failure and always look for a solution.”

Chris has also learned that each employee has their own spark. “There’s an art to how you approach and motivate people,” he said. “You’ve got to take the time to get to know them.”


4. His voice counts.

Working at a private company with a family atmosphere leads to teamwork and collaboration, which in turn sparks new ideas. “We’re a very creative company,” Chris said. “So many ideas have grown into new businesses. It has been cool to watch it happen.”

Chris appreciates that leaders frequently ask for his opinion. “They don’t have to,” Chris noted. “But the fact that they engage with operations at all levels means a lot to me.”

That engagement and collaboration presents opportunities for everyone. “It’s not unusual for employees to talk to the president of the company,” Chris said. “You’re never ‘just a number’ here. You’re part of a team. And it’s a winning team.”

 

5. Family values matter.

A devoted family man, Chris has been married to his wife, Jennifer, for 26 years — as long as his tenure at the company. He’s the father of a son, Drew, and daughter, Hanna, both college grads pursuing careers in the pharmaceutical and medical fields.

Chris said his parents, Brad and Debbie, kindled his focus on values like loyalty and dedication. Brad, Chris’s stepdad, who worked for the City of Carmel’s wastewater division, modeled hard work. “I watched him get up in the wee hours of the morning to go to his job. And he raised two kids who weren’t his own. He didn’t have to do that. He set the foundation of always doing the right thing and putting in the effort.”

The Heritage Group’s core values of honesty, integrity, and fairness resonate with Chris. “Those values align with who I am as a person,” he said.

He’s also happy about how his career at HES has supported his family. “Working at Heritage has given me a wonderful life. It allowed me to put my kids through college; to take my family on vacation. I didn’t get to do those things as a child,” Chris added. “I’m forever grateful.”

Chris with his family

The Patchon family. From left: son Drew, wife Jennifer, Chris, and daughter Hanna

6. Loyalty means something.

When Chris is looking for new employees, he seeks “loyal, dedicated people who are aligned with what we do,” he said. “We have jobs here, and we also have careers.”

Chris’s loyalty and commitment to HES and his team have helped make him successful in his own career. That’s because his leaders look out for him and his future. “At Heritage, loyalty and dedication go both ways,” he said.

 

7. People pay it forward.

When Chris walks through his plant with a group of visitors, he greets each worker by name, quickly pointing out their tenure with the company and their personal story. Bart Bicknell, a chemical treatment supervisor and 20-year HES employee, served as a tank commander in Desert Storm. John Boyne, an operator in chemical treatment who has worked at Heritage for 27 years, is a “great employee,” in Chris’s book. Chris recently recommended Eric Chris, the plant’s operations manager, for a promotion, which Eric earned. He began his new job running the Roachdale landfill early this year. “It’s a pay-it-forward mentality,” said Chris, who’s proud of the fact that many Heritage employees and leaders launched their careers at the plant where he works now.


On caring about his people:

Since he became plant manager, Chris has instilled new policies that do more to give employees a voice. On Day 1, after they’ve met the safety manager and walked the facility, new employees meet with every member of the management team. Chris’s personal open-door policy shows his genuine investment in each employee. “I don’t care how long someone’s been here or who they are. Everyone’s welcome to come to my office for a conversation about anything,” he said. “I want people to feel okay about talking to leadership. I tell people who stop by, ‘Hey, I’m no different than you are.’ That’s how we build a relationship.”


8. There’s room to grow.

At Heritage Group companies, the freedom to learn and grow is real. “The opportunities to do great things are there,” Chris said. The different companies within The Heritage Group give employees freedom to move around; “if you have the drive and ambition to do great things, you can do it,” Chris emphasized. “I started at the bottom and worked my way up. It takes time and effort, but if you work hard, you can get where you want to be.”

Could a career at Heritage be in your future? Click here to see our open positions and apply online.