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This recycling solutions company used the Scaling Up platform to position itself for acquisition

By Verne Harnish

RecycleSmart Solutions Inc., a tech-enabled commercial waste and recycling management company based out of Vancouver, has grown to the largest third-party provider and procurer of waste and recycling services in Canada, employing nearly 100 people. It services more than 3,500 business sites coast to coast. 

One contributor to RecycleSmart’s growth has been the Scaling Up platform. After veteran CEO Rob Duthie joined the company in early 2020, the company rigorously applied the Scaling Up platform, including the One-Page Strategic Plan (OPSP) methodology, to drive strategic alignment and accountability for company goals. 

Duthie worked with Scaling Up coach Ken Larson, who notes Duthie is a “repeat offender” when it comes to the Scaling Up platform, having used it to scale two previous companies.

Ken’s “unique approach to disseminating the OPSP discipline throughout the organization and departments has been a game changer in my deployment of the technique,” says Duthie.

Using Scaling Up positioned the company well for an exit. “Applying the platform contributed to 100%+ growth through the pandemic-induced recession,” says Duthie. “This growth attracted the attention of private equity and strategic investors, which led to a liquidity event in July 2022.”

On June 30, 2022, Recycle Track Systems, Inc (RTS), headquartered in New York City, acquired RecycleSmart as part of a global growth plan within its tech-driven commercial sustainability business. “RTS is a leader in deploying unique technical solutions to commercial waste and recycling on a national level in the US,” notes Duthie. 

Duthie directly attributes at least $20 million of value in the transaction to the discipline the OPSP created in the years leading up to the transaction — and the forward-looking confidence it provided the acquiring company, RTS, when determining the final valuation.

“In addition to providing RecycleSmart the growth strategy vehicle leading to this liquidity event, the OPSP demonstrated to RTS that previous success was deliberate and planned,” says Duthie. “In addition, it presented a demonstrable roadmap for continued performance post acquisition. The differentiation that the Scaling Up methodology provided RecycleSmart drove a superior valuation based on RTS’s confidence in the leading gauges of future performance rather than strictly on traditional, lagging indicators. This resulted in mutually beneficial transaction agreeable to both companies.”

A purpose-driven culture

One secret to the company’s rapid growth has been building a great culture. That culture helped RecycleSmart win recognition as one of British Columbia’s Top Employers from the Vancouver Sun in 2022. 

The company has aligned its culture around the company’s Mission, known as the 5 Rs: 

  • Reduce time, cost and waste
  • Refresh waste and recycling practices
  • Respect the environment and protect it for future generations
  • Revitalize waste and recycling education and engagement
  • RecycleSmart!I

The leadership team also makes sure everyone on the team understands its Core Values—Drive, Collaboration, Sustainability and Innovation. It proudly shares these values with customers on its website.

Prioritizing innovation

Another pillar of the company’s growth has been its continuous investment in research and development. It recently launched an innovative, cloud-based smart waste platform, the Pello system, which measures waste and recycling container fill levels with rugged camera sensors. These sensors analyze what is inside recycling containers using advanced machine learning and AI.  

The Pello system has attracted the attention of the Canadian government. Sustainable Technology Canada funded its initial R&D, with a $1.7 million grant in early 2020. Later, in May, 2022, the Pacific Economic Development Agency announced it was awarding $5 million in additional funding to the company for commercialization and scaling up of this technology. This was part of a push to support innovative companies involved in clean & digital technology and advanced manufacturing. It was anticipated that RecycleSmart’s project would result in 50 new jobs as the company brought the technology to the North American market. 

“The innovation from British Columbian businesses benefits not only our country, but the world,” the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, said at the time. “With this funding, we are helping these groundbreaking companies to further develop their products, while at the same time, supporting economic growth and good jobs for Canadians.”

Industry recognition

Efforts like this have helped RecycleSmart garner recognition in its industry and beyond. RecycleSmart made The Globe and Mail’s second annual ranking of Canada’s Top Growing Companies in 2020. In 2022, the company also earned a place on the inaugural 2022 New Innovators List presented by Canadian Business and the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship. RecycleSmart was named one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for 2022 by MediaCorp, as well.

Embracing big goals for growth

With the company now transitioning into its next phase, RTS CEO Greg Lettieri has named Duthie as COO of the newly merged organizations. Duthie is now charged with the goal of bringing the OPSP discipline to the new organization as part of the plan to grow the business into the largest global provider of technology-driven sustainability services, while achieving a commensurately strong valuation in the market. It’s an exciting new chapter for a company that is bringing dramatic innovation to its industry.

Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish
Verne Harnish is founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and chaired for fifteen years EO’s premiere CEO program, the “Birthing of Giants” and WEO’s “Advanced Business” executive program both held at MIT. Founder and CEO of Gazelles, a global executive education and coaching company with over 150 coaching partners on six continents, Verne has spent the past three decades helping companies scale-up. The “Growth Guy” syndicated columnist, he’s also the Venture columnist for FORTUNE magazine. He’s the author of Scaling Up (Rockefeller Habits 2.0); Mastering the Rockefeller Habits; and along with the editors of Fortune, authored The Greatest Business Decisions of All Times," for which Jim Collins wrote the foreword. Verne also chairs FORTUNE Magazine’s annual Leadership and Growth Summits and serves on several boards including chairman of The Riordan Clinic and the newly launched Geoversity. He is an investor in many scale-ups. A father of four, he enjoys piano, tennis, and magic as a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

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