Vice President of Sales at Wilmington Paper Corp.
The recycling industry was faced with challenging conditions when Brett Lurie joined Wilmington Paper Corp., Pine Brook, New Jersey, to help with sales in June 2008.
“I remember vividly there were hundreds of containers being abandoned in China and every market was being flooded with material,” Lurie says. “Pricing was hitting all-time lows. It was a very interesting time to come to business.”
“Our No. 1 goal every day is to continue to differentiate ourselves and provide value.”
Lurie is a third-generation owner at Wilmington Paper. While growing up, he says he intended to eventually join his father, Stuart Lurie, to help with the family business, which started in 1977.
“Growing up, I had an appreciation for the benefits and challenges of having a family business,” Brett says. “It was just something I always wanted to do—follow in my father and grandfather’s footsteps and be part of a growing family company where I could help provide for the family and build something to pass on to the next generation.”
Recycling Today (RT): Did you have any doubts joining the family business during the Great Recession?
Brett Lurie (BL): When I came into the business, I can remember it was in the middle of all the prices dropping as low as they had been in almost ever. I can remember specifically a project we did in our conference room, putting up all of the different grades that we managed and which ones were getting into the negatives—grades historically that you always paid a decent amount for that at that point in the market we were having to charge our suppliers to take. We brought everyone in and, one by one, we addressed concerns.
I knew it was a little bit of a hectic time, but I was excited to play a part in it. I’m not sure I had any doubts necessarily, but it was a great experience to come into the market at that time. That set the tone for the rest of my career up until this point.
RT: What have been some challenges you faced in your career?
BL: It’s challenging but also exciting being a child of the owner of the company and coming into the business, trying to earn your way. It served as a form of motivation—you have to continue to earn it every day and make sure you’re working harder than anybody else so nobody thinks anything was just handed to you. I’m sure many other people in my shoes have experienced this as well. But I’m very fortunate to have somebody like my father who I can take after and learn from. He definitely did not cut me any breaks in the start of my career. I would say it was harder at first, then slowly you mature and grow in appreciation for how lucky you are to have that type of a leader hold you accountable for what you do.
RT: What are some of your goals—and Wilmington Paper’s goals—for the next few years in the industry?
BL: Our No. 1 goal every day is to continue to differentiate ourselves and provide value to everyone we do business with. We want to double down on our core business, managing recycling programs for industrial converting facilities. We want to be the best at doing that. We invested in our sales group and want to grow in some of the new market segments we’re serving, so grow responsibly in both those areas is our goal.