Past President Interview: Joel Litman
Q & A PSI Retrospective: Joel Litman
Q: Are you still actively involved in the paper recycling business?
Q: What keeps you interested and engaged in the industry?
A: The combination of working with bright, talented, and terrific individuals (employees, generators, consumers, vendors, and industry and community leaders) and being involved in an industry that has an impact on our everyday lives keeps my interest and engagement level at a maximum height.
Also, I’ve been fortunate to work with my brother and business partner Craig for 30 years and my daughter Hillary for eight years. Our company—Texas Recycling—is celebrating its 28th anniversary. I joined the industry in 1984 when I began working with my father Stan at Daltex Waste Material Co., the scrap paper company he owned. So I’ve had the good fortune to work with my father, brother, and daughter in the recycling business.
Q: Describe your typical workday activities.
A: My day-to-day responsibilities include collaborating with the company’s sales staff—led by our Vice President Kathy DeLano—and the service staff in the buying and selling of our company’s recyclable material, marketing our finished goods, promoting our company, engaging with adjoining neighborhood organizations and the City of Dallas to continually strengthen our partnerships, and working strategically to grow our company.
Q: What are the most significant changes you’ve seen in the business in your career?
A: The industry has evolved from a seldom-talked-about business in years past to a position today where everyone seems to know what the recycling business is about, correctly or incorrectly. Our business is manufacturing. We’re part of the supply chain that produces an end product. There is more transparency with pricing, quality has become paramount, and the general media has brought our industry to the front pages and onto the national nightly news.
Also, the employee base is more diverse, as are the product lines, and larger companies are dominating the industry that at one time was more dependent on independent and family-owned-and-operated businesses.
Q: What do you like and dislike about the business today?
A: Likes: There’s a role for the independent processor today, quality and service have meaning and value, the diversity of the workforce, face-to-face relationships are key, and business deals and relationships continue to be forged by your word and/or a handshake.
Dislikes: Increased disintegration of voice communication, too much dependence on emails and texts, increased pricing transparency, and the incredibly fast pace of our business. Our industry is a naval fleet on the move, yet many expect it to turn at warp speed.
Q: What are the defining memories from your term as PSI Chapter President?
A: First, when I became PSI President in 2012, I was following my father Stan’s path. He led the chapter in 1994-1996, and we’re the only father-son combination to serve as chapter presidents.
Second, speaking at a Latin American recycling conference in Brazil and sharing the dais with Adam Minter, professional journalist and author of Junkyard Planet and Secondhand.
Third, working with the PSI members throughout my term in a variety of roles and responsibilities.
And last but not least, serving on the ISRI national board of directors.
Q: What were the challenges and rewards of serving as PSI Chapter President?
A: The rewards included being in a lead position in an industry that was evolving and moving more to the forefront in the pubic eye, networking with leaders of other recycling organizations throughout the world, and working with the talented ISRI execs, staff, and board, including ISRI President Robin Wiener, then-ISRI Chair Jerry Simms, the PSI officers and board, and the other ISRI chapter presidents.
The challenges included the ongoing need to encourage companies to join ISRI and PSI and show them the value of being a member. It also was tough to find enough time throughout my term to do everything I wanted to do to promote PSI, ISRI, and their missions.
Q: What advice would you offer to the new generation entering the paper recycling industry and ISRI/PSI?
A: There is tremendous value in face-to-face relationships. Don’t be totally dependent on electronic messaging. The human voice has an important role in building and maintaining partnerships. Meeting people in person has tremendous power. Being a member of ISRI provides great networking opportunities with industry leaders at its annual convention, chapter meetings, board meetings, and other social events throughout the year.
Credibility, ethics, and doing what you say you’ll do remain vital in today’s business world.
This industry is a marathon buying and selling a commodity—it’s a long-haul business. Don’t sprint from the starting line. When markets are at the top, don’t believe they’re going to stay there forever. When markets are at the bottom, they will rebound. Business is about balance and timing.
It also helps to have a strong family support system—and a thick skin.