From Quincy to the Windy City, it’s been quite a ride for John Danker, who has literally grown up with the company. “I was a lot younger then,” he jokes, as he referenced when he started in 2003, when Quincy Recycle was a single city operation in Quincy, IL. His journey took him from Maintenance and Operations Manager to his eventual Managerial position overseeing the entire Chicago territory.
It was, in fact, his drive that motivated him to take on both maintenance and general floor manager responsibilities until ultimately another maintenance manager was hired. Now, John could focus purely on overseeing the safety and smooth operations on the floor. Fast-forward a decade or two later, and John is not only the manager of one of the biggest teams at Quincy Recycle but has assisted in the opening of several other plants across the Midwest.
The following interview is an inspiring reminder to “Be Courageous & Try It”.
When did you start with Quincy recycle? How did you come into your role as maintenance and operations manager?
So, there was a position open for maintenance. And my wife said, “Hey, you want to check this out?” “And I was like, yeah, maybe.” And I ended up taking it; that was back in January of 2003.
I did the Maintenance and Operations job for a little bit until I noticed that there wasn’t anybody managing on the floor operationally. So I started doing both. And then Bryan Stokes asked, “Why don’t we just hire another maintenance guy and you become general operations?” So that’s what happened. We built a newer building in Quincy and got a bigger baler; that’s when we started expanding. We bought the building in the Chicagoland area, and Bryan asked me to transfer up North to become the Operations Manager.
As time went by, we started opening up other plants. I helped open the West Bend, Wisconsin facility, and helped open/run the facilities in Indiana. Currently, I am the General Manager of the Chicago location.
It’s been pretty fun to watch the company grow. I mean, it’s a lot bigger than it was when I first started. That’s for sure.
If you had to pick one, which Core Value is your favorite? Why?
There are actually two. One is “Alive & Well.” It’s busy, there’s a lot of heavy, heavy machinery.
It’s not the most glamorous job in the world. It’s essential that we make sure our employees follow OSHA rules, follow[RC1] our Quincy Recycle safety guidelines, and make sure they come to work happy. Ultimately, they get to go home to their families, safe and sound.
That kind of leads into “One Team, One Dream, One Family”. I have a group of salespeople, the ALC team, my plant employees, and I need to make sure that we’re all reaching our goals financially to support our families.
What was the most challenging thing to learn in your roles?
When I started with Quincy Recycle, I had never been around a baler. I has to learn the ins and outs of it, how to work on forklifts and other machinery in the plant. With managing, I guess the most challenging thing about Operations is getting the people on the floor to respect you as a leader. When I came into the role, I was inexperienced in comparison to those I was now going to manage . I had to get in the trenches with them to learn what we do and how we do it. That helped shape me into the manager that I am today.
Overall, I think in operations, it’s pretty easy to gain respect when you know what you’re doing, and you do it well. I’ve never been a skybox manager, just watching them from my office, I was on the floor helping them with their challenges of the day.
What was the most surprising/ fun thing to learn?
For me, it would be how we make money. Figuring out what we can do different operationally; what can we upgrade? What can we change to make the company the most amount of money? Taking risks, you know, trying to do things outside of the box. Just really getting involved and not saying, “Well, this is how we’ve done it.” So that’s the fun thing, just being allowed to try. It’s my plant here in Chicago.
What’s your favorite part about working at Quincy Recycle?
The camaraderie of the team. I’ve been doing this for 19 years, and there’s not one day that I don’t feel like I want to go to work. It’s just a fun environment.
What would you like curious prospective employees to know about Quincy Recycle?
That it’s a great environment in which to work, it’s not a corporate environment. It’s a family, more like friends; we’re hard-working, full of gratitude for each other. It’s just a great place to work.
What are some of your hobbies you like to do outside of work?
I like to golf. Go to the gym when I can. I do yoga on the weekends. And then I like to do some yard work. Just stuff like that around the house.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever read or received?
The work you do is hard work. But not everybody can do it. If everybody could do it, you wouldn’t have a job.
If you had to pick a song to portray the essence/ culture of Quincy Recycle, what would it be?
“God Gave Me You”, by Blake Shelton