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5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became the CEO of Stericycle, with Cindy Miller

It is important to remember that your business card does not have to define your life. That’s not saying that there won’t be moments when you must work especially hard. That’s also not saying that every day must be a 50–50 split between your personal and professional life. But you must have balance and a […]


It is important to remember that your business card does not have to define your life. That’s not saying that there won’t be moments when you must work especially hard. That’s also not saying that every day must be a 50–50 split between your personal and professional life. But you must have balance and a strong sense of self in both sides of your life. There’s always ups and downs in business. You need the other activities in your life to help counter balance when things are at their lows and keep you from getting too full of yourself when things are going well.


I had the pleasure to interview Cindy Miller. Cindy joined Stericycle, Inc. in October 2018 as President and Chief Operating Officer and became Chief Executive Officer in May of 2019. She is a highly accomplished executive with 30 years of global leadership in transportation, logistics and operations formerly with United Parcel Service (UPS). Ms. Miller started her career at UPS as a driver and quickly progressed through various operational roles. She became District Manager for UPS’ Chicago District which included 10,000 employees handling over a million packages a day. From there, Ms. Miller pursued international roles and led regional operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, eventfully becoming President of the European Region and serving as President, Global Freight Forwarding, a $3 billion global business for UPS. Ms. Miller holds a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and an Executive MBA from the London Business School. Today, Ms. Miller is focused on Stericycle’s business transformation which includes streamlining the portfolio to focus on core businesses, implementing a global ERP, and developing a metrics-driven culture. She splits her personal time between the northern Chicago suburbs where Stericycle is based; Richmond, Virginia where her children and grandchildren live; and at her home in Six Mile, South Carolina.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started my professional life as a driver with UPS a little over 30 years ago. A short time after driving, I was asked to become a supervisor; it was my second role with UPS. In that role, I developed a communication and engagement style where I could explain complex messages to fellow drivers or to other managers in a boardroom. That ability helped me to direct teams to achieve goals and drive results.

As my career advanced, I became the person that was sent into the most difficult areas — the region with tough labor issues or the business line that was declining. I came to realize and appreciate the fact that I was a disruptor. I had the ability to cut through noise, be relatable to people and drive teams to achieve needed outcomes. With each success, I was driven to be more and do more.

The opportunity to lead Stericycle is another chance to be a disruptor and to disrupt our business from within, to challenge the team to think and act differently, and to set the Company up for success that will extend long after I’m gone.

Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?

After spending 30 years with a company that continually advanced its technology, it was a little more shocking than I expected to come into an environment that was less technologically sophisticated. The lack of modern performance reporting was the biggest challenge at Stericycle. However, these challenges only reinforced the need for the transformation that we are pursuing and the importance of a hands-on management style with the ability to dig into the business.

What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?

There are many values that I strive to live by, but there are a few that have really helped to shape me to be the person I am today, both professionally and personally and they include humility, accountability and teamwork. When I was growing up, I was taught that being humble and kind to everyone I met was important and I truly believe this one in particular, has contributed to me being a successful leader. I also found that holding oneself accountable for all actions provides the groundwork for success. Lastly, every business is a team and being able to motivate those around you to work towards a common goal is a trait that will always drive positive outcomes.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.

I’ve only be a CEO since May 1st so I’m still learning what I don’t know. However, here are three things that would have helped me on the first day in the door.

Out of all the important leadership skills, business and financial acumen, strategic thinking, etc. required to become a CEO, the most important attribute is the ability to COMMUNICATE. All the most amazing plans will die in a gigabyte dark hole if the plans can’t be explained to front line employees, mid-level managers, investors, analysts, the Board of Directors, or customers in a manner that makes sense and brings all the brilliance to life. You’ll never get a chance to show off your execution skills if no one has bought into the vision.

Your Board is an assembly of your PEERS and are there to support, collaborate and counsel you on the company’s direction. Having that sense of peer relationship rather than a “reporting to” relationship makes transparency, partnership and guidance much easier to achieve.

Understand the CEO’s main job is to set the vision for the company then build a talented team that sees the vision, aims to execute it and take it to an even higher level. The goal is not to be the smartest one in the room, but rather to be the one surrounded by a group of sprinters that keep you running at a pace faster than you would have ever set for yourself.

What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It is important to remember that your business card does not have to define your life. That’s not saying that there won’t be moments when you must work especially hard. That’s also not saying that every day must be a 50–50 split between your personal and professional life. But you must have balance and a strong sense of self in both sides of your life. There’s always ups and downs in business. You need the other activities in your life to help counter balance when things are at their lows and keep you from getting too full of yourself when things are going well.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

I cannot think of anyone who has been more influential to my career and to the person I’ve become than my wife, Karen. Karen and I have been together since my early days at UPS, more than 28 years ago, and we’ve worked as a team ever since. She helps ground me, focus me, and motivate me. She has lifted me up during some tough times, and she has helped make the joys of my success even more joyous. Her love, dedication, and constant support serve as my safety net.

For anyone that wants to be successful, it’s not about individual performance. The support structure outside of work is the difference-maker to help keep you balanced and grounded.

What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?

Personally, family is incredibly important to me and that extends to my children, my grandchildren, my brother, and the whole extended crew. I am committed to continuing to support their success and happiness, as well as be an active part of their lives.

On the professional side, Stericycle is a great company that does great things to protect people and communities. I am focused on turning around our story and leading this company in a new, more sustainable direction. I wake up excited every day to continue this journey.

What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?

It’s my philosophy as a leader, as a friend, and as a family member to inspire those around me to give their best and achieve their best. From that, I’d hope my legacy centers around uniting and motivating people to achieve more than they ever thought possible.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

John F. Kennedy’s famous challenge to America from his inaugural address has stuck with me for as long as I can remember. “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” I’m a strong believer in focusing efforts outward and contributing to society. It’s not about what’s owed to you, it’s about what you can contribute to the people and community around you. At Stericycle, I’ve been known for saying, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” I’d be flattered if that could inspire a movement to drive people to be the greater change in the world by looking beyond themselves.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

The best place to follow me is on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/cindy-j-miller-82b35ba/).

I tend to share content related to sustainability, compliance and, of course, Stericycle’s own thought leadership.

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