The Morales Family Recognized Changes in the Demand for Its Products and Took Action

When the focus switched from agriculture to construction in its region of Southern California, Southwest Site Services adapted to changing customer demands.

The Morales Family Recognized Changes in the Demand for Its Products and Took Action

The Southwest Site Services team includes (front row, from left) Gladis Gonzalez, Anthony Morales, Blanca Morales, Steve Morales Sr., Steve Morales Jr. (holding Steven Joseph Morales), and Jessica Morales. Back row, from left, is Sandra Arroyo, Vanesa Banuelos, and Stephanie Gallegos. (Photos by Collin Chappelle)

Southwest Site Services of Riverside, California, has an enviable problem — this family-owned business is growing so fast that its owners are finding it a challenge to keep up the pace. The secret? Keeping an ear to the ground to find new opportunities, whether that means pivoting from agricultural to construction clients for portable restroom rental business or adding a profitable new fence-rental service to its offerings.

Southwest Site Services was founded by Steve Morales Sr. and his wife, Blanca Morales, as So-Cal Portable Restrooms in 2006. Company growth has been rapid. In addition to portable restroom rental and service, Southwest Site Services offers holding tank rentals for construction trailers, septic pumping, and temporary fence rentals.

Steve Morales Jr. has been part of the business since age 15, keeping track of restroom inventory, typing invoices, setting up phones and running computer systems. Two Ford trucks provided delivery and service: An F-650 ran until it blew a piston, while an F-450 hauled a flatbed with a repurposed tank mounted on it.

“My dad did everything that didn’t involve the office, and my mom took the calls,” he recalls. “I learned the business as I went, but what was most important was that I was building a sense of professionalism.”

Riverside is about an hour drive east of Los Angeles. In 2006, nearby Orange County and the surrounding area were dominated by agriculture.

“The portable restrooms were used for field labor, and we typically rented out 40 to 50 units per location to agriculture clients,” Morales says. “We were welding our own homemade restroom trailers. We were busy enough to hire our first employee a year after launching the business.”

Morales took time off to earn a degree in music composition theory at Cal State and graduated in 2013. He was soon engaged to be married.

“My father asked me how I was going to support a family, and he offered me a position and part ownership of the business,” Morales says. “But he used the Spanish word ‘chingarle,’ which basically means that I would be expected to work my butt off.”


Revenue in 2014 was about $1 million, but as chief operating officer, Morales saw problems on the horizon as former agriculture clients began to sell off their properties for housing development.

“I did the logical thing,” he says. “If buildings were replacing agriculture, I would search out the builders. I got a big break with my first builder and then aggressively pursued building contracts, meeting in person with any builder who showed interest to seal the deal.”

The efforts have paid off. Construction contracts now total 85 percent of portable restroom revenue, with events and agriculture making up the rest.

Morales Sr. demonstrated his business acumen when he noticed the large number of fences going up at construction sites and encouraged his son to begin offering fence rentals in the area. All told, revenue for 2017 has almost tripled since 2014 at $2.8 million.

Today the company employs 30 workers, with fieldworkers cross-trained to help out in anything from pumping to delivery and fencing. The company offers service in six counties: Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, and Ventura.


The restroom inventory is on the way to doubling from about 500 units in 2013 to 840 today. It includes 300 Glacier II units from Five Peaks, 450 PJN3s and 75 ADA-compliant units from PolyJohn, and 15 VIP restrooms from NuConcepts. The company also offers 500 hand-wash units, the majority PolyJohn Bravo models. Southwest Site Services also offers both roll-fencing and modular panels, 150,000 linear feet in stock, most often supplied by Builders Fence Co.

Southwest Site Services now operates eight vacuum trucks. The Ford section of the fleet features a 2015 F-750 with a 1,500-gallons waste and 500-gallons freshwater aluminum tank (Progress Tank), a 2000 F-450 with a homebuilt 700-gallon waste and 300-gallon freshwater steel tank, a 2005 F-650 with a homebuilt 1,000-gallon waste and 500-gallon freshwater steel tank, a 2015 F-650 with a 1,500-gallon waste and 500-gallon freshwater aluminum tank from Progress Tank, and a 2015 F-750 with a 1,500-gallon waste and 500-gallon freshwater aluminum tank from FlowMark Vacuum Trucks. All Fords are outfitted with Masport pumps.

A pair of Hino 268 trucks are fitted with aluminum tanks. The 2018 features a 1,600-gallon waste and 400-gallon freshwater FlowMark tank and Masport pump. The 2019 features a 1,500-gallon waste and 400-gallon freshwater tank from Progress Tank and pump from National Vacuum Equipment.

A 2014 Dodge Ram 5500 rounds out the fleet with a homebuilt 900-gallon waste and 350-gallon freshwater aluminum tank and Masport pump.

A pair of Fords — a 1999 F-350 and a 2017 F-550 — are assigned to haul portable restroom trailers. The company employs two homebuilt 14-unit restroom trailers.

Three Ford F-550s are designated fence trucks, a 2016 and a pair of 2017s. They haul fence components using two homebuilt trailers.

General-purpose pickups include: two 2000 Fords, an F-350 and an F-250; and a pair of Dodge RAM 1500s, a 2015 and a 2017. They’re occasionally called into service to support portable restroom or fence operations. Welding and common maintenance and repairs are performed in an on-site shop.

Southwest Site Services has recently moved from a tiny office to a property of about an acre, complete with a 2,200-foot office building. The company has also leased a half-acre property to house the fence operations.

Special events — including the annual Riverside Tamale Festival, which uses 50 restroom units each year — round out the revenue picture dominated by construction work.


Morales works to modernize the business wherever possible. He’s learned to optimize the company website and switched some purchasing contracts to Amazon.

“We’ve also worked to rationalize our supply contracts so we can set up regular accounts with our suppliers,” Morales says. “Prior to that, a lot of our supplies were coming from The Home Depot. That not only had us bleeding money on supply costs, but used up a lot of employee drive-time.”

Hiring remains the company’s biggest challenge. The company consistently outgrows its own labor force.

“We’d like to have a full-time maintenance person and a full-time fabricator,” Morales says. “But we’re often using those people to set up fences or perform portable restroom service. In the past, we used to fabricate a lot of our pumper trucks, but we’re so understaffed right now that we’re buying them ready-built.”

As Southwest Site Services meets the challenges of continued growth, Morales works to make the business more efficient. He continues to explore the opportunities of online advertising, a more efficient digitized order system, a more responsive inventory system and GIS capabilities to track equipment.

“As we catch up on hiring, we’re looking to efficiency to help us reach the next level,” he says. “Growth is our biggest challenge — but it’s a great challenge to have.”

Built on family

Southwest Site Services of Riverside, California, is a family business. And while the Morales family counts on each member to contribute their particular skill to the business, it’s the success of the enterprise that keeps them together.

Steve Morales Sr. is the company’s president and CEO, while his wife, Blanca Morales, is chief financial officer and handles general ledger accounts and financing. Son Steve Morales Jr. is chief operating officer, and his wife, Jessica Morales, is the human resources specialist. Stacy, Steve Morales Jr.’s sister, is the company’s customer solutions specialist who also handles records compliance.

“You can all come together to work as a family, but it’s the promise of success that keeps everybody motivated,” the younger Steve Morales says. “Right now, as we grow, our most important resource is people. Each person here knows that they have the potential to build an entire department beneath them.”

The family atmosphere extends to all employees, who also know they have the opportunity to grow with the company. New company policies are discussed on the shop floor before implementation. When new hires are required, Southwest Site Services typically canvasses its existing employees first. Do they have trusted family members who have the skill sets to take on the new positions?

“My father’s job is to represent the tradition of the company,” Morales says. “My job is to look to the future, see the possibilities for the business. I’m taking what he started, and I want to develop it into something he never imagined. I’m ambitious enough to want to change everything at once, but my father is the traditionalist who gives everything a second look and needs convincing first.”

Morales says succession planning isn’t a big concern. He’ll be the next generation to head up the company. His infant son, the third Steven, already appears to have the determination of a future executive.

“There’s something about the way he carries himself,” Morales says. “I think he’ll work out.”


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