Creating a Sustainable Network
Lisa Hanlon co-founded Teltech Communications in 1999, launching the humble startup from a garage with just two employees. Seventeen years later, the company employs 170 people and boasts locations in five states, with main offices in Colorado and Texas.
The innovative venture has earned its place as a global supplier of communications solutions for network, wireless, and wireline equipment and related services.
Teltech’s core business has always centered on reverse logistics: “anything that comes out of the telecom network, whether we repurpose it, repair it, refurbish it, deploy it back into the carriers network, or we resell or recycle,” Ms. Hanlon shares. Along with its subsidiaries Gray Wolves, Genesis Green Recycling, and Genesis Green Solar, Teltech handles the full spectrum of End of Life and Sustainability Oriented Solutions.
While many people immediately think ‘recycling’ when they hear End of Life and sustainability, Teltech sees that solution as the last resort. “We work closely with the engineering teams at the service provider level to really understand if they could still utilize that asset,” Ms. Hanlon explains. “And, if that carrier can’t reuse it, maybe there is another service provider that can reuse that asset. The last thing that we want to do is recycle it.”
Many End of Life assets can still be used in older networks. “A lot of the equipment that we are getting back is no longer manufactured. The legacy networks that are still in place still… require this equipment. So we really have to work closely with all of our customers to understand their networks and the assets that we are getting back, [to determine] if they can be reutilized.”
If there is absolutely no life left in an asset, the team makes sure that it is recycled responsibly. “We actually do a micro breakdown,” says Ms. Hanlon. “We try to get the aluminum to the aluminum recyclers, the copper to the copper recyclers, really doing a true recycling [effort], which ensures that it doesn’t end up in landfills.”
Teltech’s efforts protect our planet and its inhabitants from the dangers of electronic waste. “You see horror stories about landfills in India and China where they are actually leaching these precious metals [from] e-waste equipment. If not handled properly, it really does destroy the environment. It leaches into the earth, people get sick. It is toxic. We really do a good job of ensuring that the batteries – which are lead acid – go to a battery recycler. The e-waste is completely broken down, so it is not going to end up in a landfill.”
The U.S. alone produces an estimated 65 pounds per capita of e-waste each year, or approximately 10 million tons annually. Total global e-waste is estimated to be 65.4 million tons per year. As much as 90 percent of this e-waste – worth almost $19 billion – is illegally traded or dumped, according to the UN Environment Program (UNEP). Most of the waste is shunted to the developing world, where its toxins impact the planet’s most vulnerable populations, out of sight and out of mind of the people creating the waste.
Teltech makes sure that e-waste goes back into the system, rather than leaching toxins into a developing world landfill. “It is actually recycled back into precious metals, which are then reused again in the manufacturing process,” Ms. Hanlon explains. “It is a lifecycle. The OEMs manufacture it, then it goes into a network. We try to maintain that network, to reutilize as long as possible. But at the end, when it no longer has a lifecycle, then it goes back into the raw components again. So it is really full circle.”
President Danny Wade adds, “I don’t know of many companies out there that are doing that end-to-end approach. You’ve got a lot of folks that are focused on recycling, you’ve got some that are focused on secondary market resellers, you’ve got people doing solar – but in trying to integrate all of that into one organization, I am not aware of a lot of players out there who do this.”
Teltech’s end-to-end approach for telecom decommissioning and asset recovery has helped create $375 million in cost avoidance through the reuse and repurpose of network assets. The company has redirected 72,380,000 pounds of waste that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill, recycled over 6,600,000 pounds of batteries, and returned over $24,000,000 in recycling proceeds to customers.
The team has created an innovative solar solution for unwanted End of Life assets. “We fell into it by accident,” Ms. Hanlon recalls. “Being Colorado based, a lot of our friends have cabins without power, legitimately off grid. Friends started coming to us, asking if we have power cabinets that could be converted to a solar solution. That is literally how we started the process.” The concept took off, and soon the oil and gas industry came calling, eager to utilize Teltech’s solar solution for remote operations. The company’s solar customer base and applications continue to grow.
Teltech’s forward-thinking solutions catapulted the company to success, but its customer first philosophy has been just as important. Teltech “built a reputation around providing high quality and [being] very responsive,” Mr. Wade points out. The team’s superior service caught the attention of an industry giant, launching the company to the next level in 2012. “As we grew, we won the reverse logistic business with Sprint,” Mr. Wade remembers. Naturally, business skyrocketed from there.
“What it comes down to is relationships,” Ms. Hanlon adds. “We worked really hard since we started in ‘99 to really develop and maintain working relationships with the executive level… Our approach is really to listen to what the customer wants and then work with them on developing a solution, because each customer has unique requirements. I think we have done a good job understanding the customer.”
The team views these relationships as partnerships. “[We want] to really be a partner, versus just another vendor,” says Ms. Hanlon. “That is our approach.” The company’s close relationship with Sprint demonstrates this commitment. “We have looked at ourselves and presented ourselves as an extension of Sprint,” Mr. Wade explains. “So when we make decisions around managing their assets and their activities, we look at what is in Sprint’s best interest. And sometimes that might minimize our opportunity on revenue, because we will make a choice to do something that is better for Sprint than for us. But we think that is the right mindset to have. And it portrays to Sprint that we are in this as a part of them, trying to help them be successful, not just looking at it with our blinders on. I think that is very much recognized and appreciated by the customer.”
Teltech also stands out from the crowd because it is a Native American Woman Owned business. “That does open a lot of doors for us, because many of these corporations have a diversity goal for minority women owned services,” Ms. Hanlon points out. “But we never lead with that. We never go in with that. It is more, ‘here’s what we can do for you – and by the way, we are also Native American Woman Owned.’”
Looking ahead, the company has plans to give back in addition to continuing to build the business. The team hopes to bring Teltech’s forward thinking solar solutions to underserved populations around the world. “It is not just for business and customers,” Ms. Hanlon points out. “I think there is a social impact that is very positive that you can bring to the third world countries, or even here in the U.S. A lot of the tribal nations still struggle with power. We forget sometimes that there are some very remote areas domestically, not just internationally.” The altruistic approach is win-win, Ms. Hanlon says. “We think that it is good for the communities, it is good for us, it is good for the industry.”