Born and raised in Youngstown and Parma, OH, Robert Kincart, Founder and President of A-C-T Environmental & Infrastructure, spent several years in the corporate world before a novel assignment changed his life forever. From chemistry and hazmat teams to real estate and telecommunications, Kincart’s journey is not only unique and interesting, it’s also inspiring and emphasizes the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone and taking on new challenges.
“I started my education at Ohio University, before moving with my parents to Florida and transferring to The University of Florida,” Kincart said. “After graduating with a degree in Chemistry, I accepted a position as a Research Chemist based in Jacksonville, FL. It was a great experience that provided me with a significant early learning opportunity. My manager gave me an assignment and, after I responded, ‘Who’s going to help me with this?’, he said, ‘If you don’t do it, it won’t get done’. Those words stuck with me. To be honest, it changed me forever. I took him very seriously and stepped up to the challenge.”
Kincart was eventually recruited by Kerr-McGee, a company in the agriculture industry. He continued his work in research chemistry, but was also given the responsibility of managing the laboratory. A partnership with the Jacksonville Fire Department provided Kincart with yet another opportunity to shine.
“They called on me to get advice on how to fight chemical fires, while protecting their team and the environment,” Kincart said. “Our work resulted in the first hazmat team in the United States, which made me the first hazmat chemist in the country. That responsibility of taking a leadership role helped to shape my future. The challenge of thinking on my feet, the adrenaline rush of taking a chaotic situation and making it calm, safe and secure was something I thoroughly enjoyed.”
In Kincart’s next role as the Operations Manager for The Upjohn Company’s Plant City location, he was responsible for budgets, production schedules and operations. He gained an even greater understanding of the business side of things and was given an assignment that ultimately led to the start of his entrepreneurial journey.
“All new EPA regulations had just come out and they gave them to me,” he said. “Apparently no one else wanted to deal with it. I looked at it as an opportunity to learn, but also as an opportunity to start a business of my own. I thought to myself, ‘If no one is interested in doing regulatory compliance, perhaps I could do it for them’. So away I went.”
The name of the business was Resource Recovery of America, located in Mulberry. Kincart and his original partner grew the business, but after years of partnership struggles, they sold to a public company and went their separate ways. In November 1987, Kincart, undeterred and still keen on blazing his own trail, launched A-C-T Environmental & Infrastructure in Lakeland.
“It was a tough time to start a business,” he said. “The stock market had recently crashed, I had three young children, but I knew I’d make it. My secret weapon was that I knew I’d outwork any of my competitors. That gave me a tremendous amount of confidence.”
Kincart shared that cash flow was an early challenge. Without the working capital to cover payroll, he’d often be at the mercy of collections. To manage his capital requirements, he would take the title of his ’66 Corvette to the bank, as collateral, and the bank would loan him $10,000. When he was paid by clients, he’d pay back the bank. He did this several times until his cash reserves were sufficient to cover expenses. “When your back’s up against the wall, you do what you gotta do,” Kincart shared.
As a fixture of the Bartow business community since 1995 , A-C-T has grown into a business that employs nearly 100 people on an eight acre campus, with additional offices in Gainesville, Naples, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale. The headquarters, with ample green and open space, is more reminiscent of a college campus than a corporation. When it comes to growth, Kincart shared that his approach is conservative and modeled after two highly successful organizations.
“I looked at other companies and watched how they operated,” he said. “Specifically, I picked two companies to emulate – Publix and Disney. I would always ask myself, ‘What would Mr. George or Walt Disney do?’.”
According to Kincart, A-C-T is a problem solving company and one that empowers its team members to take ownership of their work. “We provide environmental services and industrial disposal/hygiene services,” he said. “We’re a one stop shop when someone has a commercial, industrial or environmental problem. Over the years, we’ve acquired more business and professional licenses and equipment than the majority of our competitors.”
Kincart added, “Customer service has always been our main focus. I stress that if we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will. I’ve always lived by that slogan. Our goal is always to deliver an incredible customer experience. We have a group of talented and passionate folks that have bought into that. It helps that our employees aren’t making widgets. They get to work on something new and exciting every day. This keeps them engaged and ready to solve our customers’ problems. We also maintain a set of core values – Attitude, Contribution and Teamwork – and live by the slogan, ‘Leave it better than how you found it’.”
For these qualities, A-C-T Environmental & Infrastructure has, on numerous occasions, won ‘best place to work’ awards on local, state and national levels. They were also recognized, in 2016 and 2019, as a Gator100 company – an honor given to the top 100 fastest growing Gator-owned or Gator-led businesses in the world.
Over the years, Kincart has also dabbled in other entrepreneurial ventures. In the mid-1990s, and lasting for about a decade, he and a partner owned and operated Americom Wireless, which consisted of 15 cell phone stores throughout Florida. They found success as independent retailers until a national carrier clamped down on their ability to manage and operate their stores the way they wanted. As a result, they sold the business to focus their attention on other opportunities. Kincart also started a real estate investment and development company called The Kincart Group, that’s still in operation today.
For Kincart, the enjoyment of running a company and contributing to the community is what he enjoys most. “I love seeing the people in our company prosper,” he said. “Also, getting positive feedback from our customers and knowing that our contributions make a difference is what it’s all about. Recently, we decontaminated vehicles for the Bartow Police Department. We will provide the same service to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in the coming weeks. We’re happy to be able to volunteer our time for those first responders and heroes on the front lines. We also do an annual chili contest to benefit United Way of Central Florida (UWCF) that draws nearly 400 people. We have raised nearly $100,000 since the inception of the event. We are proud to say that every dollar we collect goes directly to UWCF. That sends a message to our staff and our customers that we’re involved in the community.”
Looking ahead, Kincart is slowly planning his eventual exit. He’s turned over daily operations to his son, Jeff, and daughter, Jennifer. In the meantime, he’s still involved with strategy, growth and higher-level activities, including the expansion of their Florida offices.
What advice does Kincart have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Have a plan,” he said. “Also, be prepared to work harder than you have ever worked before. You need to recognize it’s a lifestyle, not a job and that it’s with you 24 hours a day. You can’t shut it off. It’s also important to separate yourself from the pack. Be able to explain why you’re different and why people should use you. Along the way, watch your numbers. Make sure you save enough money for a rainy day. I’ve always been conservative and it has paid off.”
Kincart continued, “Get involved in the community and take time to step back to evaluate how you’re perceived by your customers. What are your customers hearing from you? How do they perceive it? Ask yourself, would you be happy with the service you just received. It’s important to do this from time to time. Lastly, watch your collections. If you don’t get paid, it’s just a hobby.”