Pedal to the Metal

Washington, D.C., portable sanitation contractor Fred Hill races toward success, both in the special events side of portable sanitation and behind the wheel of his lightning-quick Chevy dragster.
Pedal to the Metal

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Fred Hill has spent 30 years in the construction industry in the Washington, D.C., area as a general contractor, home inspector and income property investor. But when he got into portable sanitation, it was not construction he wanted to focus on.

Instead, Hill and his wife Renita are building up their company, Gotta Go Now, LLC, primarily in the special events arena by playing off their personal interest in attending, sponsoring and participating in sporting events. The contacts they've picked up along the way have not only brought them sports-related work, but have opened doors for them in other areas including weddings and holiday parties, the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace & Freedom Walk and even President Obama's re-election campaign.


As a general contractor Hill was often frustrated with the portable restroom companies he hired to serve his construction sites. So one day he just decided to buy his own restrooms. He picked up three Satellite Industries Tufways from another contractor with the idea of using them on his construction sites. That was in 2006. A couple things happened shortly after that, causing a change in plans.

First, the recession hit, nearly halting construction activity. And, second, someone asked if they could rent his restrooms for a birthday party. He decided to get out of general contracting, took a job with the D.C. government as a supervisory construction analyst and began building a portable restroom business on the side with the help of a couple of part-time employees. He bought and refurbished 175 units over the next six years by picking up used ones here and there – mostly green Tufways – from contractors either going out of business or getting rid of spares.

Hill quickly found that construction sites were difficult and special events were fun, easier on the equipment, and had better payment schedules. "I like the weekend, one-day rentals," he says. "They're just a lot cleaner to work with. Construction sites can be hard. I learned early on that's not my client."


One complaint Hill has about construction sites is they don't always want regular servicing, and unclean units reflect poorly on the company providing them.
"We have office buildings where cleaning crews go in every night to clean the restrooms," he says. "Why wouldn't you clean a portable restroom every day if you've got 30, 40 people using it?" He's also come across that problem at special events. Occasionally he'd pick up jobs from organizers who were displeased with their vendors, but Hill is not convinced the vendors were always at fault. "What I found in this business is that if you let the customer tell you how they need servicing, you're going to have a problem," he says.

So Hill has taken the bold step of switching that around. "I set the schedule of cleaning," he says. "If they agree, then we move forward." He bases the schedule on the number of people and the type of event. He doesn't turn down construction work – it's currently 10 percent of his business – but if a site has more than 10 employees they have to agree to daily service or more units.


Hill broke into the events market through his sponsorship of sporting events. He's an avid proponent of drag racing and sponsored five races in 2012. Sponsorship allows him to put up banners at the race venue and make an announcement during the event. It also led to a contract with Capitol Raceway in Crofton, Md. to be the sanitation provider for the 2012 and 2013 seasons, which, in turn, led to two other racetracks contacting him.

He also sponsors Little League baseball games and other children's activities. That's how the organizers of the Vamos 5K youth run/walk thought to call him one Sunday in 2009 when they were faced with a restroom vendor no-show on the day of the race. Hill dropped what he was doing and ran some units over. The last minute hustle turned out to be well worth his effort because the grateful organizers gave him a referral that led to a contract with Obama for America, President Obama's re-election organization.

His first call from them was for a speaking engagement at Bowie State University in Bowie, Md. For security reasons, he wasn't notified until the day before. "We put on a serious scramble to get all the units ready," Hill says. They only had an eight‑unit Stohl equipment trailer at the time so a number of trips had to be made to deliver the 50 requested units. The team started at 2 p.m. and finished up at 8:30 a.m. the next morning, just in time for the 10 a.m. event. Much of that time was spent going through security, he says. "The Secret Service had to re-inspect the vehicle every time."

After that effort, Hill made the Obama people a promise. "I told them, 'If you give us an opportunity to do something like this again, I will not have this many trips involved.'" He immediately made plans to purchase a 20-unit hauler from Liquid Waste Industries, Inc. Renita Hill was hesitant, but once the trailer arrived, it was obvious they needed it. "Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Father's Day, Mother's Day, Labor Day – that trailer was loaded," he says.

Obama for America stuck with him and as a direct result he participated in 25 more campaign-related events. "They knew we were a small company, but I'm glad they gave us the opportunity because it's led us to so many other events now." And not only events – through their contacts, the Hills were given tickets to one of the inaugural balls in January.


When Hill bought his first units, he contracted with a company to service them, but as he got bigger he realized that no longer made sense. In 2007, he had Northern Services, in Brier Hill, N.Y., build a vacuum unit for his 2005 Ford F‑350 with a 440-gallon waste/160-gallon freshwater steel tank and a Conde Super 6 pump (Westmoor Ltd.). He drove to Upstate New York to have it installed on the truck.

Restroom trailers were a similar story. Demand drove him to buy. When he first needed one, he rented from a contractor in New Jersey, meeting him halfway to pick it up. He estimated he'd need the trailer for about four events in 2011, but it ended up being 24. "I said that's it, we're purchasing our own," he recalls. At the 2012 Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo International, he bought a three-station trailer from Comforts of Home Services Inc. And to cover all bases, two months later he also picked up a couple of Satellite High Tech II flushable units for those who want something in between a trailer and a standard unit.

The company's inventory is rounded out with two Satellite Freedom ADA-compliant units, eight Satellite Liberty wheelchair-accessible units, one Satellite Wave hand-wash station and three PolyJohn Enterprises Bravo hand-wash stations. In addition, due to a stroke of good luck, they now have specialty children's units, as Renita was the lucky winner of a compact TJ-Shorty unit from T.S.F. Company Inc. at the 2012 Pumper & Cleaner Expo. She runs a daycare and thought it would be a cute novelty. When they started marketing it, it proved to be very popular so they took the idea and ran with it, purchasing three more. "It's a selling point all by itself," Hill says.

Units are stored at Hill's grandfather's farm in Upper Marlboro, Md., about 30 minutes from their house.


Hill's marketing program has evolved over the years from waiting for the phone to ring to being much more proactive. He's extended his sponsorship strategy to include sports-oriented radio programs and is announced as a sponsor on "Goss' Garage," a Saturday morning car show, and "In and Out of Sports with Coach Butch McAdams" on Sunday mornings. Those spots have led to introductions to sporting event planners, leads for the 2013 spring sports season and a contract with Howard University.

In 2012, Hill worked with a marketing professional/Web designer to create a website and investigate the value of getting into social media. "We did a test run of that last September and the results truly blew me away," he says. "She made a believer out of me."

The marketing pro is also helping him get his name out to the numerous federal and municipal agencies in the area by working through the complexities of the various registration documents required for government contracts.


The company has quadrupled revenue every year since the beginning and there's no sign of that pace letting up. This year, Hill is increasing his sporting event sponsorships and rolling out his social media marketing campaign. To handle the anticipated increase in business, this year he'll be buying a 2005 or newer Isuzu NPR truck and outfitting it with a 600-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater tank with a Masport, Inc. pump from Northern Services.

He's also planning to add one full-time and one part-time employee, which he finds very satisfying. "This is a business that is gradually creating job opportunities," he says proudly.


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