Take a critical look at the portable sanitation side of your pumping business. Could you be doing better?
This is a good time of the year for pumpers to reflect on the portable restroom side of the business. In most parts of North America, October is when your drivers and yard crews are collecting and putting away the restroom inventory for the winter. Until the past few weeks, you’ve probably had most of your units out and working various jobs — from construction sites to a growing number of special events and even outdoor weddings, which have become more fashionable in recent years.
So as you bring those units back, give them a thorough cleaning and examine them for necessary repairs, it’s a good practice to ask yourself several questions to determine where your restroom service is headed in 2018 and beyond:
Do you need more units to handle the needs of your territory?
Were there times during this past summer when you had to hunt and peck for restrooms to meet demand? Were you constantly looking to juggle units from one site to another because there were few left in reserve at the shop? These are good indicators that you should consider placing an order over the winter months. Consider that having more units available — coupled with a little more cold-calling potential customers — may enable you to get another 40 to 50 units working for you next summer, possibly enough to add a day to a service route and a few more dollars in your pocket.
Is your inventory looking tired and in need of an upgrade?
How many units are coming back for repairs during the season? Are you noticing sloppy door closing, burn marks and other signs of vandalism? Do you have fading and cracking polyethylene panels? Take a look at the buy dates on all of your units, look at your spending for replacement parts, and then ask your team if they’ve heard any complaints from customers about units being in poor condition. Take all of these factors into consideration and determine if it’s time to start a planned replacement schedule for your inventory. Then, consult with your vendors on the best way to do it.
Would restroom trailers or other specialty equipment spark business growth?
Just the other day, I called a portable restroom contractor I hadn’t spoken to in 10 years, and one of the first things she said was that the demand for restroom trailers has grown tremendously. She told me she’d recently bought her first trailer after leasing them from others for years and was blown away with the response from her customers. Where once wedding clients would hesitate to spend the extra money for a trailer, they were now jumping at the chance to enhance the experience for their guests. Is it time for you to also consider making the jump and providing a VIP level of service? Would you land a new type of customer if you had a high-end trailer? Could you capitalize on more opportunities for shower trailers, portable offices or hand-wash stations that build revenue?
Is a fresh marketing approach warranted at this time?
Just like dealing with equipment issues, the upcoming slow season is a great time to review and revamp your marketing efforts. Take a critical look at your website. Did it launch 10 years ago when mobile marketing was in its infancy? Could it use a new look, new features and greater interactivity? Have you changed the way you divvy up your advertising dollars recently? Sit down with the marketing budget and rebalance it to account for an explosion in smartphone use among your potential customers. Consider updating old logos and graphics on your restroom labeling, your truck fleet and any materials used by your company. Over the next several months, you can rebrand your business with a new look and message to impress your clients and entice new customers.
IN THIS ISSUE
Our content in this issue is meant to help you with these reflections during the fall. Portable sanitation is an important focus for this month’s stories, and I hope you can take away several good ideas to consider over the winter. Here are a few highlights of stories you’ll find inside:
Product focus and annual supplier directory
The October issue is chock full of information pumpers can use to choose the right products for their business, from vacuum trucks, fleet parts and accessories to other equipment such as restrooms and restroom accessories. The supplier directory brings you up to date with contact information for all of the advertisers who use Pumper to reach septic service companies. Two product focus stories — one covering portable sanitation and another covering office technology and software — allow manufacturers to introduce you to their latest and greatest offerings to enhance service.
Contractor profiles that focus on portable sanitation
This month, we introduce you to a pair of companies with loads of experience renting portable restrooms and pumping septic tanks. On the cover, you’ll see Bill Leppala of Tula Toilet and Septic. He’s an amiable pumper who runs a one-man operation in desolate regions of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Leppala explains how he’s built a successful small business through hard work, providing diverse services for his loyal customers and overcoming a northern winter that can really pack a wallop. Most pumpers can’t begin to imagine what it’s like coping with 200 inches of snow and months of temps that can freeze restroom holding tanks and vacuum tank valves. Turn inside to learn how this tough pumper perseveres.
You’ll also meet Yvonne Hoover, owner of Suburban Septic & Excavating Services in Kirkwood, New York, which is a family company that started pumping in the 1950s. Along the way, the company added portable sanitation, and the restrooms now account for the majority of revenue. Hoover will tell you the economy in her region has been slow to recover, but her company has built up a steady customer base in construction, special events and (most recently) serving fracking sites operated by the oil and gas industry across the state line in Pennsylvania.
Truck Corner tips
A few months ago, we launched a trucking advice column, Truck Corner, that was a staple for years in our sister publication, Portable Restroom Operator. For more than a decade, truck builder Robert “Bob” Carlson shared his tips and tricks for building more reliable and efficient vacuum trucks for portable restroom operators. Sadly, that column ended when our friend Bob died a few years ago. We still miss his sense of humor and his singing (yes, Bob was a recording artist who sang novelty tunes under the name The Pumper Gang), and we’ve decided we need a way to answer trucking questions that pumpers are asking.
A variety of authors will contribute to Truck Corner. This month, Larry Towner, who has been a presenter at the WWETT Show and is a vocational truck specialist for Peach State Truck Centers, talks about the current status of alternative fuel technology in the trucking industry.
If you have a question or a topic for our Truck Corner specialists, send me an email at email@example.com.