University of Parkhill 2021: 7 Ways to Provide World Class Services to General Managers

Category: University Of Parkhill

Written By: Valerie Edgren

Date: July 5, 2021

Parkhill’s Matt Kingsley, PE, MOLO, knows the keys to providing world-class consulting services to general managers. In leadership training seminars around the country, he has taught other leaders and peers how to create a better relationship with managers by employing seven simple secrets.

He shared those "blueprints” as part of a recent virtual University of Parkhill virtual presentation.

Matt, a Senior Associate and a professional engineer with Parkhill’s Environmental Sector in Albuquerque, is an expert in landfill design, construction, and operations and has developed, expanded, and operated over 25 landfills from Phoenix to Philadelphia in more than 30 years of service. Matt maintains SWANA (Solid Waste Association of North America) certification in landfill management in New Mexico and has previously held certifications in four other states. Matt holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Valparaiso University. Before joining Parkhill, he was a General Manager of several firms and a Director for another.

Life lessons

In his presentation, titled “Providing World Class Services to the Solid Waste Professional,” he spoke about some professionals who helped shape his successful career and the skills they taught him.

“We had a company of 5,000 employees, so I facilitated the leadership course for the entire company and was certified by DDI Inc. I grew as a leader, and my presentation skills really grew by doing that.”

Terry Zona was a client responsible for managing a landfill, and Matt was his consultant. Mr. Zona recruited him to join the industry side of the business. Then he began a career in which he now worked with multiple consultants working for him in nine cities across America.

“I learned a lot of life lessons while serving him. I learned you need to say what you mean and mean what you say. You need to be responsible for your actions, plan ahead, and provide an unprecedented level of service to him because there’s another consultant just a phone call away that he could hire.”

Career lessons

General managers and regional vice presidents he worked with tended to concentrate on profits and considered engineering and regulations boring. Matt trained his consultants to protect general managers from fines by concentrating on the engineering and compliance side of the work.

“A lot of the general managers I worked with were like Tony Soprano of TV’s ‘The Sopranos.’ They didn’t appreciate consultants. If the slightest thing went wrong, they’d point the finger at the consultant. That type of general manager never really did well. He would blame the consultant, fire him or her, hire a new consultant. You lose a lot of institutional knowledge when you fire a consultant. The Tony Soprano type of general manager would last two years at the most and either be fired or move on, like clockwork.

The relationship should be more of a partnership, he said.

“From my experience, the better-qualified person had a partnership view. He and his consultant were on pretty even ground; they collaborated and got things done. They had a harmonious and mutually beneficial relationship.”

How to deliver world-class consulting services

Here are his seven key strategies for consultants.

1. Learn their strengths and weaknesses.

“To support your clients, you need to know where they came from. Some operated a bulldozer most of their career, some worked behind a desk their whole career, some drove a truck. What is your client’s background?” he asked those attending his Parkhill presentation. Some general managers have spent their careers handling all the large, fun, heavy equipment. Once promoted into management, they find they don’t know Federal Subtitle D and all the other laws and regulations that govern landfills. Consultants can help them with that. On the other hand, some general managers are at home at a desk. Consultants are not going to have to show that administrative type how to read an excel sheet.

2. Analyze and bridge the gaps.

Make them comfortable in front of a computer. Or, for the person at home behind a desk, help them be comfortable around heavy equipment and understand the purpose of their operation. Be the help they need with engineering and regulations. “One woman was a driver of garbage trucks, and she was really good at it and very intelligent. And she was promoted to become a very successful manager. It was because she had an attitude where she was never afraid to ask questions, very humble, very smart, and learned very fast. She grew into that very elegantly." The consultant had to know her background so he could help her grow.

3. Be transparent to build trust.

“We as consultants especially don’t like quoting fees, but most of the general managers know you have to make a profit. The manager’s OK with it as long as you detail the level of effort and the costs." He recalled a time when he was putting his landfill budget together for engineering and consultant costs for the year. “The consultant sent me a very generic spreadsheet: ’Engineering: $850 grand.' I said I’m not going to sign off unless you give me extraordinary details. He did. All the line items took up 6-7 pages so I could see everything was all legitimate. So he built that trust with me.”

4. Anticipate their needs, especially concerning regulations and engineering.

“Denny Dobry was a consulting engineer who used to be a general manager. I couldn’t think of a better example of a guy who could anticipate exactly what I needed on a weekly or monthly basis. He would bring everything, and say, ‘Here’s what you need, and here’s what you can expect from the inspectors.’ Denny was a mentor to help him adjust to being a general manager in a certain new landfill. “He knew bird migrations, and he warned me about those things and told me what to expect. He really was up on everything and made me such a better manager. That was in 2004, and I’m still very good friends with him today.”

5. Provide a constant supply of information.

Angela Ramirez was a consultant he had hired when he was a general manager. "My impression was that she was very young and inexperienced. I asked, ‘What kind of value can you bring to me? I probably know more than you,’ and she set me straight. She was a very sharp person, and she built this Microsoft Outlook reminder compliance calendar for me that was the best calendar I had ever used. It had every single task that she shared with me. I never missed one deadline. That was her skill, and she was excellent at it. That left an impression on me; that was fantastic. "Max Stanish’s value as a consultant was that he very well connected to people in that community, but he also knew the mayor and town council. He would let me know when the town was unhappy about the landfill – such as odors or tracking mud – before it became a big problem or fine. He prevented all of that. Just for odor violations, people were getting fined hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars without warning, and that’s where he was able to help me.

6. Take an interest in their business.

“Rick Buffalini, a vice president of CEC, was very well rounded, willing to step in and help no matter what it took. You knew he was your partner. He was on my team. He would want to help in other ways and ask me questions like, ‘How is Operations going?’ which is not his concern. But he really cared. He was invested in the success of the landfill. He said, ‘How’s it going?’ one day, and I said, ‘A lot of people are out sick. I’m really in trouble. And He drove a fuel truck up to our heavy equipment, got his boots on, and helped us fuel. I thought, ‘Boy, I got a guy who is really invested in my success.’ He persisted enough that I’d tell him, ‘Here’s how things are going.’ He was very smart, too. He knew the consultant might not be paid if we weren’t  profitable.”

7. Become a partner.

Try to get to know those general managers and help them out as much as you can with all the tasks that they have to do daily. “One of the best ways to establish a rapport with them is to look behind them in their office – you’ll see a hunting trophy, family pictures, or maybe one of their children in a softball uniform. Start asking them questions about it. Then on a personal level, you have something you can build on to start building that rapport with them.” 

University of Parkhill 2021: 7 Ways to Provide World Class Services to General Managers cover image