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‘The Luckiest Guy in the World’

Earlier this year, SA Recycling LLC CEO George Adams Jr. gave a 30-minute speech at the annual convention of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. What follows are highlights:

• “I’m an ops guy, not a creator.”

• On why he doesn’t try to time the sale of metals to get a better price.

“I’m never smart enough to figure out which way the market will go. We have a really strong hard rule: We sell everything we have every month. We don’t ever play the market.”

• “As I was growing the company, I was struggling to get out the culture of the company.”

So, he wrote a book—“Create the Connection: 25 surefire Strategies for Success in Leadership and Life”—that he gives to every new employee.

He also gives each new employee his own personal cell phone number telling them to call him if they have problems.

“I want their managers to know that their employees have my cell number and if they’re not doing their jobs, they can call me.”

• “I cannot tell you how many companies I’ve bought, and they have a Christmas party for only the executives. We have one party for everyone.

“At parties, I get out with the guys in the back and smoke cigars with the guys. I’ll light every cigar myself. I’ll punch it and light it. We’ll have 100 guys smoking cigars with me.

“It’s about connecting with other people. It’s how you get to know them. It’s how you empower people.”

• “We’re a bottom-up company. So many companies make all the decisions in the executive office and send out what I call ‘edicts from God’ – you will do this.

“I believe the guy on the forklift or the guy on the crane or even the guy sweeping knows more about his job than I do. My job is to listen to him and support him, help him do his job better.

“I cannot tell you how many companies I buy run it the opposite way.”

• “At SA, I look for hunters, not farmers. The people who work for us have to be able to hunt.

“The way you get someone to hunt is give them a percentage of the profits. If you can get somebody to start thinking about, ‘if we make an extra $1,000, I’m going to make $55 or $100 or whatever it may be.’ if you can get people to start thinking that way, they start focusing on your business.

“Everybody in our company participates in our bonus program. We literally pay out millions of dollars a month in bonuses.”

• “I’m the luckiest guy in the whole world. I have the most amazing employees. They get it done.”
—Peter J. Brennan

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Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.
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