Larry Freeman’s interview with Cal Franklin about his 40 years on the waste industry equipment side of the business
Long time waste equipment industry leader Larry Freeman of Consolidated Disposal Systems of Atlanta sat down with Wastebuilt’s Cal Franklin for an interview. R. Larry Freeman founded Consolidated Disposal Systems, Inc. in 1973. He was owner and CEO until June of 2013 when Consolidated became part of the Wastebuilt Group. He continues to serve as General Manager of the Atlanta operation. Consolidated Disposal Systems has been in the waste equipment business for over 40 years in Georgia starting with a single line of refuse equipment — the Dempster brand — and adding other quality refuse lines over the years. Consolidated has consistently been recognized as one of the top equipment dealers in Georgia by all the major brands in the industry — Dempster, Galfab, Galbreath, Leach/Labrie, New Way, and Tymco Sweepers. We have also been consistently acknowledged for its leadership in quality parts and service.
Franklin: You have a wife and two daughters. Tell us about them.
Freeman: I met my wife, Marsha, in my second year of college at University of Georgia and we were married the last quarter of college in 1969. We have two beautiful daughters and two wonderful granddaughters and live in Smyrna, Georgia. Our daughters live within a mile of our home and we enjoy a cookout every Sunday evening.
Franklin: You’ve been involved on the equipment side of the Waste Industry for many years. How did you get started and what was that experience like for you?
Freeman: After teaching school for four years to pay back a teaching scholarship from UGA, I wanted to go into business because my brother owned a very successful truck dealership in Cobb County, Georgia. Through a college friend, I found that there was a possibility to become a dealer for Dumpster in Georgia. Since my brother had a truck dealership, I presented the idea to him and we visited Dumpster in Knoxville, Tenn. and were given the dealership for the State of Georgia in 1973 under the name of Consolidated Disposal Systems, Inc. This was a huge learning curve for me but found out very quickly that “people buy from people” and if you have a good product to sell and sell yourself, you will be successful. I traveled the State along for 6 months and was very successful with the Dempster Products because they were the leaders in the industry during this period. Most national accounts used Dempster Products at this time and we were successful in selling City of Atlanta all Dempster Rear Loaders and Front loaders for about 15 years. When Dempster folded, we were given the Leach Refuse Line and were very successful with the Leach Product and converted City of Atlanta to Leach. We were also awarded the Tymco Sweeper Line for Georgia in 1987 and have been very aggressive with this product and have been recognized in the top ten dealers for many years. Also in 1987, I met Don Galbreath and visited the Galbreath Plant in Winamac, IN. and was impressed with Don and the great products that he was building. We were awarded the dealership for Galbreath for the State of Georgia and were very successful in selling Galbreath Products for many years. We were the top dealer for three years in a row with Galbreath. Consolidated was given the opportunity to represent the New Way Refuse Products in the early 90’s and this has been a great line of equipment that we have supplied in Georgia and have been in the top 10 dealerships for this product over the years.
Franklin: Consolidated Disposal Systems is on course for a record year in all areas. You have a great team of sales, shop and service people, not to mention your parts department. Tell us about them and how they work together as a unit?
Freeman: Putting together a good team is vital in this industry. A team that is knowledgeable of the products, have a good rapport with the customer, and follow up with good service are the barometers for success. We have the best sales staff in the industry with Bob Keller, Mike Cassotta, and Jim Reeves. Add to that Jimmy Mclean who runs a great shop and Dan Jane who manages the parts department and this makes a strong dealership in all areas. Customer satisfaction in a timely manner is what all users are looking for in this industry. When you sell a customer a refuse unit at the enormous costs paid, they cannot afford to have these units not on the road making money for them. The secret for growth is standing behind the product and constantly putting yourself in front of the customer for support.
Franklin: You’ve met a lot of different characters in the waste industry. Who were some of your favorites and why?
Freeman: Two of my favorite/interesting people that I have met in this industry would be Don Galbreath and Jim Wade. Two completely different people but both very talented in different ways. Don Galbreath, a “get to the point person” is one of most resourceful individuals I have ever met. When he speaks about equipment and especially hoists, you should pay attention. His mechanical knowledge is unsurpassed in this industry. The late Jim Wade, a remarkable individual who ran Dempster for years and then became President of Crane Carrier was one of best communicators in the industry for years. His presence demanded attention by all because when he spoke you immediately grasped his knowledge of the situation. His demeanor, knowledge, and communicative skills were the best that I have ever seen.
Franklin: I recently watched a video of you talking about Don Galbreath. How long have you’ve known Don?
Freeman: I met Don Galbreath in 1987 in Winamac, IN. to ask for the privilege of representing Galbreath Hoists in Georgia. This began a long and rewarding association for years and has continued with the Galfab Hoist. He is not only a remarkable individual who’s mind is usually ahead of everybody when you have a conversation about equipment and how it works but also a great friend that I respect greatly.
Franklin: There have been a lot of changes since Consolidated was merged with Wastebuilt. How are you adjusting to the corporate environment?
Freeman: The merge with Wastebuilt was a big change but with individuals like Greg Podell, Jerry Samson, and Cal Franklin who had a history with our company, we were able to make the transition smoothly. We continue to do a great job with one of the best sales and support staffs in the industry. My philosophy has always been to build on positive attitudes with any change and give every action consideration before criticism. Change has been great but Wastebuilt has recognized the enormous talent and devotion that the staff of Consolidated has given over the years to this territory and has built a support team behind us. They have seen the dedication and commitment from Consolidated to make this territory better each year.