Composting: Best Practices

The following topic will be addressed in this post:

In some respects, composting is the easiest process in the world: you place trash in a pile and let it rot. On the other hand, composting for commercial sale involves precision activities to create a safe and effective product. Moreover, commercial composting requires coordination with many parties and constituencies to succeed. I will offer some thoughts on how I plan to conduct my business.

The Composting Process

To begin, the basic process for composting has four steps: acquiring inputs, initial input breakdown, creation of the final compost product, and product sales and distribution. The two primary components of compost are carbon and nitrogen. Compost can contain smaller amounts of many other elements and compounds to enhance its effectiveness as a fertilizing agent. These elements are found in a wide variety of sources, such as food waste, leaf litter, yard clippings, some packaging materials, and many more. Compost is really a recipe because the inputs and their proportions can make a batch of compost more or less efficacious to users. A poor recipe or process can result in insufficient input breakdown, which wastes time, or the production of hazardous wastes, such as polluted liquid run-off, that violates government standards and is costly to ameliorate. Moreover, if the final compost does not create the desired results for the end user, they will refuse to make future purchases. Therefore, while composting is a simple and natural process, creating a top-notch, value-added commercial product requires careful planning, coordination, and execution.

Stakeholders

For a small garden or landscaping project, an individual or a few people can manage the entire composting process. On the other hand, commercial-scale compost production requires many people. In fact, several different businesses can be involved in a commercial-scale endeavor. Direct process constituents include input providers, government regulators, wholesalers, retail customers, as well as staff and partners. Ancillary constituents include the neighboring community and service providers, such as equipment repairers, grinders for large inputs, and product testing labs.

Business Practices

Preparation

The primary advice from business sources is prepare, prepare, and prepare. Dismissing this advice would be foolhardy at least and catastrophic at worst. The Negotiation Checklist (Simons and Tripp) will be a good device for my venture. In fact, I should create a working checklist document for each party with whom I interact even if the interactions are simple or infrequent. By creating and maintaining a set of working checklists, I can monitor relationship changes over time, review past contracts, update BATNAs, et cetera. Also, maintaining a checklist means that I do not need to recreate it for every negotiation incident.

Negotiate a Broad Range of Topics

Focusing on prices or some other single issue during negotiations with stakeholders would create a competitive strategy atmosphere. On the other hand, if I broaden the range of negotiated items, and in some cases the number of stakeholders in the negotiation, I believe that we can reach more innovative, collaborative solutions (Lewicki, Hiam, and Olander 2010a). Indeed, in this tough business climate, every stakeholder needs to maximize value and efficiency. I will be a local small business operating with a set of other local small business stakeholders, and the best course for our businesses and our community involves thinking outside convention.

Grow at a Reasonable Pace

Western North Carolina is a great food producing region. In this area, composting is a growth industry. While competition is minimal at present, competitors could enter the market at any time. Also, composting is a relatively simple process that does not require special skill or training. With those looming issues, the instinct is to grab as much market share as possible before competitors enter the market. However, commercial composting requires some heavy equipment and the process is regulated for appropriate inputs, liquid run-off containment, and final product efficacy. Also, the composting process can create undesirable odors that affect the neighboring properties. Moreover, there is no guarantee that people will purchase the entire product you produce. Accounting for these issues, prudent decisions about growing the business will be more desirable than haphazard expansion.

Engage Stakeholders and Value Other Opinions

From the input sources to the end-users, the stakeholders in this process can be considered members of a team. Building the team atmosphere will engage the different stakeholders and create an atmosphere that the whole is greater than its parts. Teamwork will foster mutual goodwill and focus efforts on interests more than rights or power (Ury, Brett, and Goldberg). Teamwork will encourage stakeholders to identify and develop synergies between each other because aligning interests and achieving goals are two of the most important facets of business.

Communication will be the primary teambuilding tool, and listening to the other parties is an integral part of communication (Lewicki, Hiam, and Olander 2010b). First, I must communicate to individual stakeholders that I care about their success. For example, I will comply with government standards and work to make the standards more efficient; I will take steps to minimize odors that can irritate neighbors; and I will help end-users apply the product and help them promote their businesses. Second, I must help the stakeholders communicate among each other. So, input providers, end users, and government regulators can communicate about the best input sources. Third, all of the stakeholders must communicate with the greater community. To increase public assistance and awareness, we can convey our efforts to recycle waste and create excellent local food. In my opinion, the best way to engender confidence and collaboration from the other stakeholders is to operate ethically, intelligently, and efficiently. By working to solve their problems as well as my own, I can work to create value as well as claim value (Lax and Sebenius).

Beware Agents

Relationships between principals and agents can be tense because of the difficulties in communication and aligning interests when using agents (Docherty and Campbell; Mnookin, Peppet, and Tulumello; Sebenius). While I might not use agents regularly, I must be circumspect when I do employ them. Also, many of the stakeholders can be conceptualized as agency relationships: individual regulators are agents of the government, mechanics are agents of their shops, and wholesalers are agents of their retailers or customers. Even end users are agents as landscapers are agents of their clients and farmers are agents of their buyers. If these agents treat me poorly then I must react, but I must also monitor how these agents treat their principals in order to avoid suffering collateral damage from their actions.

Combine Practices

Few things in this world can be taken in isolation. An integrated approach to most situations creates synergies and innovative solutions. Similar to negotiating a broad range of topics, employing a broad range of techniques leads to an integrated business strategy. The challenge will be to know which suite of techniques to use and how to effectively use them in various business contexts.

Conclusion

Operating a business is no easy task. Whether people explicitly realize it or not, interpersonal interaction and negotiation skills can make or break a firm. All businesspeople will benefit from self-examination and training about negotiation practices and strategies. For my venture, I will attempt to navigate the business environment through building trust and a team atmosphere. I will convey my commitment to the interests of the community and encourage other stakeholders in the composting process to behave similarly. I am optimistic about the value creation potential in this approach, and I anticipate positive results.

Sources:

Docherty, J.S. & Campbell, M.C. (2010) “Consequences of principal and agent.” Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.

Lax, D.A. & Sebenius, J.K. (2010) “Solve joint problems to create and claim value.” Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.

Lewicki, R.J., Barry, B., & Saunders, D.M. (2010) Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.

Lewicki, R.J, Hiam, A. & Olander, K.W. (2010a) “Selecting a strategy.” Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.

(2010b) “Implementing a collaborative strategy.” Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.

Mnookin, R.H., Peppet, S.R., & Tulumello, A.S. (2010) “ The tension between principals and agents.” Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.

Sebenius, J.K. (2010) “When a contract isn’t enough: How to be sure your agent gets you the best deal.” Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.

Simons, T. & Tripp, T.M. (2010) “The negotiation checklist.” Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.

Ury, W.L., Brett, J.M. & Goldberg, S.B. (2010) “Three approaches to resolving disputes: Interests, rights, and power.” Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.

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3 Responses to Composting: Best Practices

  1. I think your idea of commercial composting is great. I started composting last year so that we can you this material in planting a garden this year. We saved all of our food waste, leaves, and yard clippings for composting. We also recycle and did not want this organic waste to go to the landfill. We wanted to help the environment. I think if you can partner with restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc you can collect their organic waste to use in composting so that less wind up in the landfills. Great venture.

  2. Ellie Graham says:

    I have composted for about 15 years now and love the black gold. One of my neighbors refers to herself as the worm lady because she has uses worms to compost. Recently, I met someone who works at advancedcomposting.com in WNC. Are you familiar with them? Ellie

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