Another Family Business Profile from FBE…
During the Great Depression in Carthage, Ohio, William F. Rumpke operated a hog farm. To feed his six hogs, Rumpke collected trash from local residents, separated inedible items for recycling and fed the rest to his hogs. Later, as the farming business ended, Rumpke’s brother, Bernard, joined him in building a business that focused solely on waste collection and disposal. From those humble beginnings, Rumpke Consolidated Companies, Inc, has grown to become one of the largest privately-owned waste management and recycling companies in the U.S.
In the mid-1970s, Bill Rumpke (William’s son) and Tom (Bernard’s son) bought the residential business from their fathers and served as co-owners and co-presidents until Tom passed away a few years ago. During those three decades, the cousins expanded the service area and added several divisions including Rumpke Recycling, Rumpke Portable Restrooms, Rumpke Hydraulics and Iron Works. Rumpke operates six recycling centers in Ohio and Kentucky and each year processes more than 200,000 tons of recyclables. The company manages a fleet of more than 1,000 trucks.
The number of employees has grown to approximately 2,000. Five of Bill’s children and four of his cousin Tom’s children are all active and effective in the business. In all, there are about 75 family members working at Rumpke, a number that far exceeds the average for family businesses.
Turning Negative Perceptions Into Positive Opportunities
With a name like Rumpke and a business that deals with trash collection and disposal (can you say “Rumpke Dump?”), the PR challenge might seem daunting. But Bill Rumpke has a knack for turning potential negatives into positives. In fact, the company takes great pride in its methods of operation and invites anyone with serious questions to visit their sites to see for themselves that Rumpke takes environmental issues very seriously. To prove the point, Rumpke offers tours to a wide variety of interested parties including business leaders from all over the world, college students, the media and other groups. Before they come, their idea of what they will see is a rat-infested garbage dump but what they discover instead is an engineering masterpiece.
After an unfortunate accident involving one of the Rumpke trucks, Rumpke developed the Slow Down To Get Around public awareness campaign. The campaign urges motorists to slow down and use caution when navigating around service vehicles in the roadway. To date, well over 200 municipalities and hauling companies throughout the U.S. have adopted the program. The Students Against Crashes program was developed to help prevent accidents among young drivers. It uses interactive physics and math lessons to teach students about speed and safe stopping distances.
Another potential negative in Rumpke’s industry are the overwhelming number of government regulations. Compliance is a major challenge, but Rumpke considers it a significant advantage over the smaller waste management companies that struggle with the complexities (and expense) of dealing with so much red tape.
Secret To Success:
A High Degree Of Integrity That Runs Through The Family And The Business
In many family-owned businesses, the lines of communication are often blurred by familial considerations. A parent may overlook the children’s shortcomings and the children may take advantage of the parents’ reluctance to hold them accountable. Not so at Rumpke, according to Bill Rumpke, who explains that though it is not policy, expectations of performance run high for family members and are ingrained from day one in any family member who comes into the business.
Beyond that, the Rumpke family shares a common Catholic faith and tradition, which Bill Rumpke considers a positive factor because “we believe in the Golden Rule and wear it as a badge on our shirts. People come first and there are good people everywhere, but we protest if we see someone is not being treated well.”
If there is a constant at Rumpke, it would have to be a high degree of integrity that runs through the family and the business. Family members know they have to carry their own weight, and though there might be competition among them, it is a healthy competition which is far better than the other extreme. And though there is a commitment to a healthy bottom line, it is clear from their actions that there is much more to the Rumpke family than just making money.
Check out their web site at http://www.rumpke.com/
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