Member Profile: Cliff Berry, Inc. February 22, 2017
Before founding his company in 1958, a young Clifford Livingston Berry worked as a clerk for a large petroleum company unloading oil tankers in Port Everglades. It was a tiring, dirty job, but the native of Fort Lauderdale who grew up on and in the New River never shied away from a hard day’s work. Capitalizing on an opportunity and a business need, Berry started Cliff Berry, Inc. with not much more than a strong commitment to the health and safety of his employees and clients and a vow to be a good steward of the environment. 59 years later, that philosophy still holds true for the company that is now headed by Cliff Berry, II – the youngest of Cliff Berry, Senior’s six children and his only son.
“When we were kids, my big sisters were not very interested in what was going on at the company,” says Cliff II. “I was a skinny, little guy hanging around the job all the time, so I would get put inside the tanks to clean them and I would come home dirty and smelly, which the girls didn’t like.”
By 1989, Cliff II finished school at Santa Fe College in Gainesville and was working full-time as a driver for his father’s company. Looking back, he admits he enjoyed it a lot, mostly because it was easy. But his father would routinely say to him, “Son, you can only do so much with your own two hands. You need to manage other folks and get things done through empowering and trusting others.”
He began taking on more and more responsibility, earning his father’s trust, and advancing his position to General Manager, Vice President, President, and currently Chief Executive Officer of a now diversified company of 10 separate business units, including a Waste Treatment Facility, Industrial Cleaning, Waste Management and Disposal, Safety and Training, Environmental Services, Emergency Response, Remediation, Utilities and Pipeline, Petroleum Services and Transportation, and of course Marine Services, which manages waste streams off vessels from a 20’ open fisherman, to yachts, to huge cruise ships, cargo vessels, and tugboats. That service includes everything from filtering and polishing fuel to removing cooking grease from cruise ships and the disposal or recycling of light bulbs, computers, batteries, gray and black water, expired pharmaceuticals from small infirmaries, and hazardous and biohazardous waste, always with the goal of 100% properly repurposing or recycling materials via the latest technology so that it’s actually no longer waste. An example of that would be the operation that processes and refines petroleum waste to be sent to power plants and asphalt plants as fuel.
Cliff II says the Emergency Response unit is an especially rewarding service because he can immediately see the fruits of his labor, like overseeing first-hand 300 crew and 35 boats cleaning up tar balls for three months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, responding to the barge oil spill in San Juan Harbor in Puerto Rico, or cleaning up after hurricanes in the Caribbean, damaged oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, and other disaster areas throughout the United States.
After 25 years, Cliff II thinks he’s taken his father’s advice to heart and has learned to be good at delegating important duties to the company’s 145 employees, who include chemists, geologists, Certified Environmental Trainers, Certified Hazardous Material Managers (CHMM), Heavy Equipment Operators, Licensed Captains, Truck Drivers, tradesmen like electricians, welders and pipefitters, and his sister, Sandy, who works in the Human Resources department. His days are spent interfacing with the various business unit managers and focusing on business development. Going forward, Cliff II envisions more strategic partnerships with large corporations and to be the one-stop-shop for clients’ waste streams management. With eight offices in Florida and a geographic service area of the Southeast United States, he also hopes to expand the company’s footprint into additional areas.
With deep roots in the Fort Lauderdale community, specifically at Trinity Lutheran Church and School, where generations of Berrys have worshipped, learned, and one currently serves as the school principal, the family has a philosophy of hard work, great faith, and a passion for giving back that has been instilled by Cliff Senior, who, at 86 years old, still comes to the office every day.
As Vice President of The Seafarers’ House Board of Directors, Cliff II is dedicated to the organization that offers small comforts of home to seafaring men and women who are far away from family for months at a time. “The Seafarers’ House at Port Everglades embodies everything Dad taught us about giving back – because we have been blessed ourselves, we have an obligation to offer hospitality and respite to people of all backgrounds and all religious disciplines who might seek it. He still inspires our positive stewardship every day,” he said.