Influencer: Bill Keegan

Influencer: Bill Keegan

Bill Keegan, President
Dem-Con Companies

Dem-Con Companies is a diversified, full-service recycling, processing and disposal company acting with the highest standards in environmental integrity, fairness and ethics while serving our customers. Providing sound solutions, collaboration, education and trust are the cornerstones to our mutually beneficial relationships. The commitment to these cornerstones allows us to achieve sustainable business results.

What makes a good business leader?
A good business leader is someone who, both professionally and personally, operates with honesty, integrity and compassion. What this means to me is that a leader leads with their reputation first – a direct and honest approach to people and the business. A good business leader makes decisions based on moral integrity and values the employees of a company more than the company itself when making decisions. Reputation is everything and a mantra I often cite is: “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.” – Will Rogers

What’s your favorite recent movie?
“In the Heart of the Sea.” Why? It is a real-world adventure story of epic proportion. The real-life story of Moby Dick! I am amazed at how hard life was, how simple times were in many ways compared today, and how much people struggled just to survive. Plus, I just love real-world adventure stories.

What book are you reading right now?
Alone in the Wall by Alex Honnold. It’s about free solo climbing and the mindset you need to accomplish at that level. I read a lot of climbing and real-life adventure stories.  

Who inspires you the most? Why?
It probably sounds cliché, but – my parents. Both of my parents have the entrepreneurial spirt that brought them to Minnesota from rural North Dakota to each start their own independently successful business. Their entrepreneurial spirt was contagious, and they showed my through their actions that anything was possible with hard work, determination and integrity.

What prompted you to join Dem-Con Companies?
Ultimately, the same entrepreneurial spirt instilled from my parents prompted me to join Dem-Con Companies. Dem-Con was a multigenerational, family-owned business that had an excellent reputation in the industry, and they were looking to expand their operations. The Dem-Con owners, Jason Haus and Mark Pahl, held the same core values and principles on how to successfully grow a company, and it was a very natural fit.

Dem-Con is a distinctive company doing some great things on the sustainability front. Tell us a little about your company and some innovative approaches to your industry challenges.
Dem-Con is a third-generation company that was initially started as a disposal company which has evolved into a waste recycling, processing and disposal company. We believe that a successful and sustainable business model in the waste industry needs to not only include, but to advance, waste recycling, processing and landfill diversion. That said, we believe that the landfill is, and will continue to be, an integral part of the solid waste system as it is necessary to support the recycling and processing operations. One innovative approach to this business model was the development of the Green Grades Education program, which was designed to educate the community and consumers on what happens to their waste and recycling after it leaves the curb. Finally, we believe that true sustainability in recycling and processing depends on the existence of durable end markets, which we have invested time and resources into, to help drive the growth of our company.

You just completed the Minnesota Chamber's Leadership Minnesota program and are soon to host the third group of Leaders Lab participants at your company. Why have you decided to dedicate so much time to these programs? What is/are the key message(s) you want the Leaders Lab group to walk away thinking about?
For starters, Leadership Minnesota was an incredible program that exceeded all of my expectations. Having the opportunity to meet with business leaders throughout Minnesota in various, often unrelated, business sectors provided a unique insight on not only the diversity of Minnesota business but also on the common challenges that we all share – such as labor challenges and taxes. I am a firm believer that if you understand how other businesses operate, understand “how’s it made?”, you not only improve your own knowledge but also gain insight on improvements in your own business.

A key message for the Leaders Lab Group would be to engage, ask questions and dig a bit deeper. This is a unique opportunity to meet with the leaders of successful businesses throughout Minnesota, and you will make connections that you never expected and learn more about your own business in the process.

What do you enjoy most about Minnesota?
The seasons, the lakes and the outdoors. The North Shore of Lake Superior and Lake Minnetonka are two favorites.

What’s your favorite pastime/hobby?
I enjoy spending time with my family, coaching the kids’ activities and being outdoors. My hobbies include mountain climbing, hockey, snow skiing, waterskiing and anything on the water in a boat!