The TRIEX Story – Our Journey as an ‘Employee Owned & Operated Company’

About TRIEX and Founder, Ana Luisa Arocena

With the creation of TRIEX in 2001, Uruguay saw its first system to manage some hazardous waste. From the characterization and design of the system, to collection, classification, segregation, diverse conditioning and physicochemical treatments, and distribution of waste to various centers, TRIEX is a pioneer when it comes to some hazardous waste management that hadn’t alternatives before.

Behind all of this commendable work is Ana Luisa Arocena, Founder and Director of TRIEX (title picture: first row, second from right). Ana Luisa started her career as a pharmaceutical chemist who, in 1996, began her work in the industry by developing a waste management manual and by forming a solid network of environmentally-conscious businesses.

Given TRIEX’s early work within this sector, Uruguay fortunately developed programs – involving resources and investment – so that other waste management companies could join in on the efforts. In time, association like the Chamber of Waste Management Companies of Uruguay (CEGRU) was developed, which joined International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), and it is the work of social entrepreneurs like Ana Luisa and TRIEX that paved the way for this.

Our Interview with Ana Luisa:

Ana Luisa (right) engaging with fellow epNetwork members during epWorkshop.

TRIEX can now call itself an ‘employee owned and operated company.’ What does that mean, and why/how did this development happen?

Becoming an ‘employee owned and operated company’ came out of necessity for us at TRIEX, and now the organization is comprised of many employees who are also owners/shareholders – we call them employee partners. This recent stabilization of the company occurred in 2018 when there was a shift with one of our main shareholders who held 70%. In light of this change, we made an offer to employees to become an owner/shareholder in TRIEX, and at the beginning of 2018, more than half had accepted the exciting new terms.

With that majority (originally 10 employee partners, and currently 8), we were able to apply for a special loan promoting collaboration and development for self-managed businesses. By October 2018, TRIEX had received this loan and we were able to move forward as an ‘employee owned and operated company.’

How did this re-structuring process affect your organization and daily business?

Though our daily activities haven’t changed, we are now focusing on operational aspects of our business. The development of logistical processes is ongoing, and though we still don’t have sufficient infrastructural facilities to run the business perfectly, we have reached a stage of good internal development. New to the business is a weekly assembly with our employee partners, where on a horizontal level, we look at feedback and new proposals that are then applied by management.

What does it feel like to make decisions as a group? What challenges does this bring up?

With the employee partners assemblies we are better positioned to make well-informed decisions, it feels good. When we look at the future, one of our key challenges will be to consolidate the business. Not only do we want to run the business to achieve our goals, but we also want it to become a stable organization.

As we move forward, we are much more focused on the HR aspect of our business. We want our workplace to be an environment that fosters open discussion, so one of our other main focuses now is on our human capital. Establishing a healthy feedback culture is sometimes a challenge as it is not easy to show vulnerabilities and discuss issues, but it’s something we need as a basis now and in the future.

Did your experience at epWorkshop help you? Could you work on these issues?

Yes! My fellow epNetwork peers were able to give me very useful recommendations in terms of investing in employee training, and on how to improve communication skills, both of which focus on the human element within our organization. With a renewed focus on HR at TRIEX, we understand that there are countless benefits that come from positive communication which not only help with our objectives, but also highlight the importance of the work we do.

epWorkshop sessions were relevant to all social entrepreneurs, regardless of their focus.

How do you feel about the feedback/advice you received from fellow epNetwork members?

I really feel the support from the epNetwork. Not always do you leave meetings like this with concrete ways in which to enrich your business, but I am happy to say that we will benefit from advice gleaned in Cairo. I also felt understood, and with the busy nature of our work, it is easy to forget about our achievements and instead feel vulnerable and unstable.

A personal highlight is the support I received from Gregor Schäpers from Mexico (Founder of Trinysol) and Mauricio Gnecco Ortiz of Colombia (Co-Founder of Amuy / Community Country Association). Gregor and Mauricio offered to have regular Skype calls with our employee partners so they could practice talking about problems, issues, successes, and how to best deal with criticism. It’s great to have them as “external” consultants – that’s what true peer coaching is all about!

I am proud of what we achieved in Cairo.

What are your concrete next steps?

We are always looking for ways to improve. At TRIEX, our next steps involve finding the right employee partners to get involved in our business, to invest in better facilities, to better manage our cash flow, to improve our daily business operations while looking for ways to develop, and for ways to have all of our employee partners participate in Siemens Stiftung activities.

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Ana Luisa, we wish you and TRIEX great success in Uruguay – you are a great example of an epNetwork member doing great work in your field!

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