Apr 25, 2011
John S. Owens, National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter Intern
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Windsor CEO Saddling Up For MS To Show Oakleaf Cares
WINDSOR, Conn. - Steve Preston came to the rescue of displaced homeowners in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He’s implemented new strategies in the midst of our national housing crisis. And now, he’s saddling up to help find a new solution; a cure for multiple sclerosis.
|Steve Preston, CEO of Oakleaf Waste Management in Windsor, leads a staff of 400. Soon after he joined Oakleaf, he established Oakleaf Cares, a program dedicated to wellness programs, team building and outreach to community. To date, more than 90 Oakleaf staff members are signed up to participate in the June 5 Bike MS: bkm/Steelcase Ride. Preston heads up the team and hopes to raise more than $5,000 to support the fight against multiple sclerosis.|
Many shy away from crisis and seemingly insurmountable challenges, but Steve Preston is a man of unwavering resolve and gritty determination. He is a man whose passion lies in finding answers to the most difficult of problems. An avid cyclist, when he heard about a 100-mile ride to help raise funds for multiple sclerosis, he decided that not only he but his entire corporation would take part.
“I came into positions during two major national crises, and I got to help,” said Preston, 50, now president and CEO of Oakleaf Waste Management in Winsdor. “That’s about as good as it can get.”
When the opportunity arose in June of 2009 to lead Oakleaf, a sustainable solutions corporation, Preston jumped at the chance.
“I love running services businesses,” said Preston, who also sports on his resume 25 years of financial and operational leadership positions. “I was excited to join Oakleaf because it was something I could build towards the future, not the past.”
The first thing you see upon entering Oakleaf Waste Management’s new big, bright and open office space in Windsor are the people at the forefront, picking up phones and driving the business forward.
The cubicles and work stations in Oakleaf’s new home are all energy efficient and made from recycled materials. The building itself is astonishingly clean, not necessarily what one would expect when they think of waste management.
“Actually, we never touch a piece of trash unless we are throwing it in our own basket,” laughed Preston from his office, tucked away in a rear nook of the building.
Founded in 1995 and headquartered in Connecticut, Oakleaf is the nation’s largest company for outsourced waste and recycling services. Oakleaf helps companies manage waste, visiting every location and designing better solutions to improve sustainability profiles.
Coming up with solutions is nothing new to Preston, who just after the Hurricane Katrina disaster worked as the 22nd Administrator of the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), under president George W. Bush from 2006 to 2008. He was then appointed as the 14th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from 2008 to 2009 during the national housing crisis.
Preston’s experiences in these positions have helped him direct and strengthen Oakleaf’s business model.
“I’m a big believer in a model where employees are motivated, trained, and committed to what they’re doing,” said Preston, a native of Wisconsin. “Those employees are going to take care of our customers by providing great service and solutions. This leads to growth, greater profits and happy shareholders, and in turn gives us the resources to reward our employees and provide them with greater opportunities. It is a virtuous circle.”
Preston’s business model has also parlayed into the company’s community involvement. He established Oakleaf Cares shortly after joining the company, which includes wellness programs, morale boosting, and community service and more. Employees are engaged and involved volunteering for soup kitchens, food shares, and even tutoring younger students.
“As a service organization, it is our job to care about others and serve them effectively- that’s what we do for our customers,” said Preston, who lives in Farmington with his wife and five children. “We can do it because it is our job, or we can do it because it is who we are as people. I want to build a culture and a team where it is the latter. I think it makes us better as a company.”
With a passion for cycling for more than 20 years, Preston rode with a friend in the 2010 Bike MS ride in Windsor, and this year he decided to involve Oakleaf.
“After last year’s ride I started to think, ‘Wow, this would be a lot of fun to make an event for Oakleaf,’” said Preston, who is considering taking the scenic route to work on his bicycle through the Green Way Trail from Farmington to Simsbury. “The ride is right here in Windsor; it’s a great way for us to show to the community that Oakleaf has arrived.”
The 2011 Bike MS: bkm/Steelcase ride, presented by Louis Dreyfuss Commodities, will be Sunday, June 5, in Windsor, and Sunday, June 12, in Westport.
More than 6,000 Connecticut residents are affected by multiple sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease affecting the central nervous system. The cause is unknown and, as a result, there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot be predicted.
Preston, who noted that Oakleaf has employees in Canada and Atlanta who live with MS, signed himself up for the 100-mile ride to show his commitment to his team. He also set a personal fundraising goal of $5,000, a number he has already surpassed.
In just a few short weeks after announcing plans to form a team, Team Oakleaf has already recruited nearly 100 riders. To motivate his employees, Preston has offered to pay their registration fee for the ride as well as supply the team with jerseys. Oakleaf will also offer some fun competition around the office to rally staff to the starting line.
“We’re doing some silly things, like if we reach a certain number, we’re going to have some of our senior employees wear their jerseys and maybe even their bike shorts to work for a day,” quipped Preston, who recently had a gym installed in the Oakleaf building to promote wellness for employees. “We’re also going to offer some parking spaces out front as rewards for the employees that raise the most money, have the most donors, and for the most creative fundraising page.”
Preston hopes the fun, competitive atmosphere will help bring together the 400 employees in Windsor.
“It’s a great thing for the company when employees give back to the community,” said Preston, whose wife Molly will also ride with the team along with some friends. “It’s great for team building, it’s a great community event, and it’s a great cause for us to raise money for.”
“On a personal level, much of my own philosophy stems from a strong faith,” said Preston. “That faith has taught me that all of us have inherent dignity and worth. My job as a leader is to serve our employees by creating an environment where our people feel that they are dignified in whatever job they do. As a business, we still have high performance standards and often have to make tough decisions. But even within that, we can create opportunities for our people.”
Funds raised by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter, through events, such as bike MS, ensure ongoing scientific research to find better treatments and a cure, as well as to provide vital programs and services offered by the chapter.
To register for the Bike MS: bkm/Steelcase ride, presented by Louis Dreyfuss Commodities, or to donate to Oakleaf’s Bike MS team, visit www.ctfightsMS.org.
John S. Owens, a resident of East Hartford, has been interning with the National MS Society, Connecticut Chapter, since Sept. 2010. In December, Owens graduated with a communications degree from Central Connecticut State University. Owens will also saddle up Sunday, June 5, for the Bike MS: bkm/Steelcase Ride, captaining his own team, The Cutters. To join the team or to donate, e-mail at email@example.com.
John S. Owens
National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Connecticut Chapter
659 Tower Avenue, First Floor
Hartford, CT 06112-1269
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