Cascade Alliance

Leading from the Ground: Three Tips on Leadership During Company Growth

Leading from the Ground: Three Tips on Leadership During Company Growth

Jason Prasad is no stranger to growth. As operations manager at DR3, a California based mattress recycling business and member of the Cascade Alliance, he has led his team in doubling their output of deconstructed mattresses, expanding from an average of 7,000 per month to more than 15,000. Over the past two years, the company has responded to the passing of statewide mattress stewardship laws in California and an increasing awareness of the positive impacts of mattress recycling, and they expect the demand to continue rising.

Like most growth spurts, however, this period has not come without its pains. Picture 7,000 mattresses crammed in a warehouse. Now, imagine doubling that number and trying to maintain productivity without more space. This has been no small feat, but Jason and his team have been pushing forward while waiting patiently for the company to open a third facility in Stockton, California.

While company growth is at the forefront of Jason’s mind, he is also familiar with personal growth. In August of 2015, he started working an entry-level job at DR3 as a mattress stripper. Before this time, he’d struggled to develop his skillset because of his criminal record, but with DR3, he found an opportunity. He worked hard, going above and beyond whenever he had the chance, and after several months, began operating heavy equipment. During this time, he received training from St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County. He kept an open mind, and tried to see how he could use what he was learning to expand his skills and knowledge. A little over a year later, Jason was promoted to operations manager at the Woodland warehouse, and became responsible for meeting high production flow and overseeing a crew of 18 people.

Going from an entry-level position to management, Jason understands the facility. Furthermore, he knows what it’s like to strip mattresses, operate a pallet shear and metal baler, and drive a forklift. He sees this firsthand experience as crucial to his ability to manage he team. This experience has been folded into his management style and his approach to growth and change. With this in mind, we went to Jason for some advice on how to be a leader during periods of growth. Here are his three tips:


“Lead from the ground, share knowledge, and encourage growth.”

Company growth can be destabilizing for the people on the ground. Jason emphasized the idea that during periods of growth it is important to be a leader, but continue to stand alongside those you oversee. Jason practices what he preaches. When he sees his team getting overwhelmed, he isn’t afraid to jump in with his box cutter and start tearing down mattresses, hop on the forklift and make room for a new load coming in, or hoist mattress springs onto the bailer. It’s not so much the additional work he can get done as the boost in moral he sees when his crew knows they are supported.

Running a busy, growing operation is a team effort and Jason models leadership by action. In addition to his willingness to work alongside his crew, he reminds them that challenges are opportunities for personal growth. His own story is a source of inspiration.

“Be open minded, expect the unexpected, and embrace change.”

Jason stressed the idea of open-mindedness again and again. Growth can be difficult. It involves walking into territory that is not always clearly charted, meeting challenges as they come, and letting go of old ideas. One danger, Jason said, is thinking you have it all figured out. For example, during a site visit from a warehouse manager at Saint Vincent de Paul of Lane County, Jason was told his warehouse layout was hurting his workflow and limiting their ability to handle the increased number of mattresses coming in. At first Jason resisted. How, with the rising flow of mattresses coming through the warehouse, was he supposed to find the time and energy to rearrange things?

As the number of units increased, however, he reached a tipping point. He made some minor adjustments, and he found that they were better able to handle the large amount of mattresses in their small warehouse, and their workflow increased. Afterward, he realized he would have saved a lot of struggle if he’d been more open-minded from the start. Anytime a company grows there are unexpected bumps in the road, and the worst thing to do is resist. You have to learn to roll with the punches.

“Keep your eye on the prize, but don’t forget what is right in front of you.”

Company growth is exciting, but it’s easy to get caught up in looking toward the future. Jason shared that he hopes DR3 does not stop expanding with the new facility in Stockton, but will continueto reach into new areas in California and beyond. This vision is tied into his desire to create jobs for people with barriers, help protect the environment, and continue to strengthen communities. While he keeps an eye on the future, he tries to focus on what is right in front of him, and remind his team that their hard work is what makes growth possible. Growth begins with the task at hand. You focus on doing the first thing well, and that makes room to increase production.