Establishing a relationship with other companies means you’ll never have to turn down work.
What is a competitor? Someone you compete against for jobs? Someone who steals your business? Or someone you can turn to when you need some help? Hopefully, in your case, it is the last one.
In my eyes, a competitor is just another part of your team. Yes, I will lose work to them at times. And yes, I may take work from them at other times. That is the nature of business and I accept that wholeheartedly. But when I have an event that wants 100 VIP flushing toilets and I only have 75, I want to call my competitors to borrow those extra 25 toilets instead of walking away from a job.
It has taken us years to find the right competitors to work with and we are extremely lucky to have so many good ones to choose from. Over the past couple years, we have worked out reciprocal deals with many of our competitors that allow us to borrow portable toilets, restroom trailers and more at really low prices. We always pick the equipment up and return it to the vendor when the job is over. And it must be returned to them clean.
When we worked on the 2015 papal visit in Philadelphia we had support from multiple companies. Two companies provided toilets and another company loaned us handicap restroom trailers. That job encompassed so much equipment that it seemed foolish to bring everything from our main yards in Connecticut and New York. So we turned to local companies for help and it made such a difference.
We also share services when necessary. Maybe another company has event equipment that they need us to pump out. Or we have a job site that is on the very edge of our service area and it saves us time and money to have another company do the weekly services.
I understand that it can be scary to ask for help. And with the wrong type of competitor, there is a very good chance they may try to steal the work from you. But there are going to be times when you just can’t do it all. Or it will cost your company too much money to get the job done. Those are the times where you need to have a great support system.
It is important to remember that these types of relationships don’t happen overnight. Most of ours started with something so simple as being short a sink for an event. I went to another company and negotiated a good price for the equipment. It is really important to make sure you don’t lose money when borrowing equipment. From that first rental, the relationships just grow. One day it may be a trailer, the next day I may need 100 toilets. Then they come to me for equipment and I give them the same pricing and the same quality equipment. All of these rentals build the relationship over time.
Not sure where to start? Start with your suppliers. Either the company that provides your toilets or the company that provides your toilet paper. They know most of the local businesses in your area and they can help pair you up with good companies. One of the sales reps I work with regularly literally knows every portable toilet company in the business. When I need to find a company in a new area, she is the first person I turn to. Your suppliers have so much knowledge, so take the time to use that amazing resource.
Another way to get started is to meet your competitors at the annual Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show. Almost every company in our industry is under one roof, so take the time to meet people and have a quick chat.
The first step can be the scariest one. But taking the time to keep in touch with your competitors is just smart business sense. Do you work with your competitors? If not, I hope you will consider giving it a try.
About the Author: Alexandra Townsend is co-owner of A Royal Flush, based in Philadelphia.