“If it wasn’t
for my family, I wouldn’t be here,” said Michael Hatfield,
president of SBC Recycling in Ohio. It sounds like something the
Oscar winners say to pay homage to family members who have put
up with an actor’s eccentricities. Hatfield is talking about
a more hands-on experience.
In 1992, Michael’s father,
Lynn, and mother, Betty, started a business that chopped newspaper
for use as dairy bedding. Lynn handled the sales side of things,
while Michael knew about scrap, “and at a time when most
kids are out playing, my 12-year-old brother was feeding a downstroke
baler,” Michael said.
Incorporation meant that the
company needed officers, and it was casually decided that Lynn
would be CEO, Betty would be treasurer, Michael would be president,
and brothers Randy and Ryan would be vice presidents. “Up
until a few years ago,” Michael said, “boardroom decisions
were made at our parents’ kitchen table.”
The titles remain today, but
Lynn and Betty are less active in the company. Randy is the executive
vice president in charge of the southern region, working out of
the Atlanta office, while Ryan is the executive vice president
in charge of operations.
It wasn’t long before the
business began to change. “Because we were just soliciting
newspaper, we ended up taking other grades of paper.” Michael
explained. Businesses wanted one company to take all of the paper,
so SBC had to adjust to that need, taking in office paper and
cardboard along with newspaper.
“In 1995, everything changed,”
Michael said. The scrap market for newspaper skyrocketed, making
it difficult to buy the newspaper at a price the farmers were
willing to pay for the bedding. “We either had to go out
of business, or become a recycling company.”
Through all of the changes, it
was a family matter. “We laughed together, we cried together
and we scratched our heads together,” Michael said.
In Ohio, there were plenty of
paper mills and paper recyclers, so the next growth step required
adding a new product: plastic. Then, three years ago, the company
decided that growth meant expanding to other areas, by way of
acquisitions, marketing agreements and sales offices. Today, SBC
is working in Atlanta, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago.
In addition, 30 – 40% of their product is sold for export
to China, Canada, Mexico, India and Saudi Arabia, and perhaps
soon to Europe.
While the company used to be
a bale-and-ship operation, they are progressing into more processing.
They’ve also instituted a loose-poly route with a packer
truck. This truck picks up loose poly from companies which don’t
generate enough material to justify a baler. Material that used
to be landfilled is now recycled and the truck picks up a full
load of material on its route.
As for working this closely with
family, Michael said, “It either fails miserably or it works
wonderfully.” With SBC, the concept is working, and it even
extends to employees. SBC’s office manger, general manager,
and sales manager went to high school with Michael, and among
the other employees are three sets of husbands and wives and two
sets of brothers, and both Michael’s and Ryan’s wives
work in the business.
“I may be the president.”
Michael said, “but it is a family business.” And although
his parents’ role has decreased over the years, he gives
them credit for all of their work and support, “Without
them helping us, we never would have made it.”