Back to the future: An interview with Peter Van Aalst

 

Peter Van Aalst began his career in waste management with Cleanaway almost 30 years ago. A consummate salesman, Peter combines savvy marketing skills, good customer service and a focus on continuous improvement to lead his team. In this interview, we sat down with Peter to chat about his work with TipTop N Tidy, his return to Cleanaway and what drives him.

 

You’ve led some transformational change in your career. Tell us what prepared you for success in the waste management industry.

 

My background was in sales. I worked 7 years in real estate before joining Cleanaway, where I stayed for about 5 years, before I joined the Salvation Army Employment Plus. At the Salvos I helped the long-term unemployed find work. I was very successful in this role, which involved sourcing willing employers and filling vacancies with the long–term unemployed.

 

I did that for 8 years before joining Veolia as a sales rep, where I had the pleasure of setting up the Kooragang Coal Loader waste management project. From Veolia I went to Wanless, a Queensland waste company that had recently made its way down to New South Wales, starting back as a salesman for solid waste.

 

I ended up back at Veolia as a senior sales manager after they acquired the Wanless brand in NSW, handling a number of projects including South Petroleum. About three years later, I made the move to Tip Top N Tidy.

 

What made you decide to join Tip Top N Tidy?

 

I knew they were a small local family company. By then, I thought I had experienced a lot already in the corporate world and that it would be a challenge to do something different. I came on board at a time when Craig Hallinan (owner of Tip Top) had expanded just about as far as he could at that time. Tip Top had around 230 front-lift bins in service at that time.

 

I worked as a sales manager for 3 years performing various roles, averaging around 120 new front lift bins per annum on the ground before being promoted to CEO, where I took over the day-to-day management of the company, working alongside Craig. It was a very exciting journey and I learnt a lot from Craig regarding financial and forward growth planning.

 

One of our keys to success was Craig’s laser focus in efficiency and truck maintenance which left us with one of the best fleets in the industry. We had very few breakdowns and incidents, which helped us provide first class service, with happy drivers and even happier customers.

 

I used my background in marketing and customer service to build a solid and loyal customer base, that grew steadily through strong word of mouth recommendations. Tip Top N Tidy’s customer retention rate was running at around 90% with very little turnover, which is unheard of in our industry.

 

We created a very positive culture and built an exceptional team, allowing us to grow a very efficient, agile and profitable business. I think we were possibly number one in the region for customer service, reliability and customer care.

 

What do you enjoy about working in the waste management industry?

 

I have always enjoyed meeting new people, helping customers and troubleshooting within the waste management industry. I also love the challenge of building a dynamic team, by drawing out the greatness that is in all people to produce the most efficient, safe and profitable operation possible.

 

A large part of my success has been the ability to choose the right people, which then helps to build the best company possible. A company is only as good as its people, and in my opinion, it’s really having the right team that makes a company great.

 

One of them has been Mr Shane Gilroy, whom I have had the honour to work with for nearly 10 years. Shane is one of the most gifted Operation Managers I’ve worked with – he is a true leader of leaders and an exceptionally honest and hardworking person.

 

Together with him and the rest of the team, we built a business with well over 1,200 front lift bins in service, not to mention a large rear lift, skip bin and thriving hook lift business before we were acquired by Cleanaway.

 

The Cleanaway acquisition of Tip Top N Tidy was completed on 31 January, 2018. How does it feel to come back to Cleanaway?

 

It’s fantastic, but it’s also a little bit surreal. I thought that chapter of my life (Cleanaway) was over. I wouldn’t have dreamed that I would be back again. When Cleanaway’s David Clancy (Cleanaway NSW General Manager) approached us, I remember telling Craig that if we were to sell the business, we would want to sell it to Cleanaway. Way back when I was originally with Cleanaway, they were a local household name – almost every bin in our region was blue!

 

We (the Tip Top team) are very excited to help further enhance the local Cleanaway operations here at Kooragang.

 

What excites you about working with Cleanaway again?

 

I’m keen to make Cleanaway the brand of choice in our community again. I know that a couple of years ago, the decision was made to move from the Transpacific name back to the Cleanaway brand and so it was really the perfect timing for me.

 

Fortunately for Shane and me, the crew here at “the Island” are awesome and we have been given a warm welcome. We look forward to achieving great things together in the days ahead.

 

Our goal is simple, to make Cleanaway a world class leader within our industry.

 

Peter Van Aalst is now Cleanaway’s Branch Manager for the Beresfield & Kooragang Sites in New South Wales. Click here to learn more about working for Cleanaway.