Good Communication Is Key to Succession Planning for the Hack Family

A son and daughter return to Ohio-based Tidy Tim’s to provide enthusiasm and a forward-thinking approach to a successful family business

Good Communication Is Key to Succession Planning for the Hack Family

The family behind Tidy Tim’s in Mount Gilead, Ohio, includes Tim and Patty Hack, left, and son and daughter Katie Gossett and Kyle Hack. They are shown with a new Kenworth septic service truck built out by Pik Rite and carrying a National Vacuum Equipment blower.  (Photos by Scott Grau)

Interested in Portable Sanitation?

Get Portable Sanitation articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Portable Sanitation + Get Alerts

Kyle Hack never wanted to leave Tidy Tim’s Inc., the company his parents, Tim and Patty Hack, founded in 1995 as a side business after purchasing 28 restrooms and a service truck from a portable restroom operator. Kyle’s sister, Katie Gossett, never intended to stay with the business.

But both came back several years ago and are transitioning in as shareholders in the incorporated business with their spouses. It’s a much bigger business than it was 28 years ago, with the addition of septic tank pumping, installation, repair and inspection services and more employees to deal with the growing demand in central Ohio.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the Hacks’ values and priorities to grow a successful business. But so much has changed in the business structure, size, equipment inventory and marketing during the transition — and since Pumper featured Tidy Tim’s a mere seven years ago.

TOGETHER AGAIN

Kyle grew up in the business and drove a vacuum truck as soon as he got his driver’s license. He was eager to continue working for Tidy Tim’s, but after he graduated from high school in 2013, his parents insisted he go to college, where he earned an associate degree in livestock management.

“I could have used his help,” Tim says, admitting he regretted never going to college. “I just wanted Kyle to have that experience — and a backup plan.”

“We had mixed feelings about sending him away [to college],” Patty agrees. “We were anxious for him to get through that and start helping us. Tim and I were to a point where we couldn’t grow without help and we weren’t comfortable hiring people.”

Going to college and working a short time for a dairy farmer made Kyle aware of other options and even more sure that he wanted to work for the family business.

“It was a great experience and I met my wife there,” Kyle says about college. But he never stopped working at Tidy Tim’s, helping on weekends and summers, until he joined full time in 2017.

Meanwhile, his older sister, Katie, loved her job in agricultural communications for a cattle rancher’s association.

“I loved being out talking to people, writing and doing design work,” she says. But when she and her husband Zach had their first child, the 40-minute commute and workday left little time for her at home.

Patty was doing daycare for her grandson and one evening Tim half-joked that Katie should work for Tidy Tim’s. The next day Katie decided it could be a good option.

“Katie was unexpected,” Patty says, but she and Tim were happy when she joined them in 2016.

“They both brought new ideas.”

ESTABLISHING ROLES

“When Katie came on board, we still had the phone ringing into our home and were answering the phone until 8 at night,” Tim recalls. “When they both came on, we were just so busy, we just hit the ground running.”

Katie took over answering phones and started performing tasks that led to her role as office manager.

Tim and Patty were grateful for the help. They’d held back from too much expansion to maintain the service and quality cleaning standards they set for the business. Kyle and Katie shared their work ethic and pride in offering good service. 

Like any family that works together they all recognize the importance and challenge of communicating with each other and working out differences. 

“Mom is the glue of it all,” Kyle says.

Patty is a natural mediator, so whenever something goes wrong or there is conflict, she is the first person her children talk to. She listens and helps them think the issue through, and they often conclude that it wasn’t as serious as they thought.

In addition to that role and being the primary child care provider for Katie’s three sons, Patty handles accounts payable and is an integral part of the business from her home office. 

Katie takes care of marketing, invoices and manages office staff. Julie Logan works on the septic side with scheduling and inspections. Chelsey Hack, Kyle’s wife, deals with the portable restroom side of the business, which is Kyle’s niche. He drives a service truck and oversees the other drivers.

Katie’s husband, Zach, oversees scheduling for septic pumping and installs, as well as inspects systems.

“I do whatever Katie tells me to do,” Tim teases. “As owner my role is to oversee everything but I don’t need to micromanage, and they come to me with the tougher questions and decisions which I appreciate. I love being in my truck, I love to talk to people and meet with the new install customers. I handle the permitting, and deal with the tank provider and materials for installs.

“I like that we are getting to a point where our roles are more defined,” he adds. “We are trying to put ourselves in a position to have more of a life outside of work.”

As with any business with multiple owners, there are differences of opinions.

“We have an open line of communication and talk about issues right away so they don’t fester,” Katie says, adding that Tim has been open to their ideas.

EMPLOYEES ON THE TEAM

Having a core of dependable employees makes success possible. Though there was some turnover with staff last year, Katie emphasizes how much they appreciate the people that make the Tidy Tim’s team.

Several employees have been with Tidy Tim’s for nearly five years, including Jon Franklin who helps out on the septic side with pumping, repairs and installations. Derek Barker runs a restroom route, trains new route drivers and does quality control on other drivers’ routes. Tim Brake also plays a vital role and works on both the portable restroom and the septic side, doing weekend deliveries and pickups as well as septic inspections. Steve Shipley oversees cleaning and repairs of portable restrooms and handles shop maintenance.

The Hacks have adapted new strategies for hiring, starting with the interview process.

“We ask them to ride with one of the guys as part of the interview and we pay them for the day,” Kyle says. “So, they [applicants] understand what we do.”

Once hired, the Hacks follow up with lots of on-the-job training, and all employees gather for monthly meetings, plus additional meetings in the summer. To keep good workers, sometimes the Hacks transition employees between the septic and portable restroom side of the business to better match the worker’s needs and skills.

Tidy Tim’s offers benefits that include health insurance and retirement. Plus, workers receive quarterly bonuses if they don’t make any major mistakes. That goes for owners as well, Tim says, noting he’s had to dock himself a time or two.

EXPANDED FLEET

With more employees, more equipment is needed. Tidy Tim’s recently purch-ased a new septic service truck, a 2023 Kenworth with a 4,500-gallon stainless steel tank, a National Vacuum Equipment blower and hose reel built by Pik Rite. It’s the largest tank they’ve ever had.

“Because of the growth of business on the septic side, the big truck will help us be more efficient to haul two or three pumped tanks with one shot,” Tim says.

Initially, the plan was to have the new truck replace a present rig, but because of demand, Tidy Tim’s will likely keep both of the older trucks — a 2005 Kenworth with a 2,300-gallon steel tank with an NVE pump and jetter built by Transport Truck Sales, Kansas City, Kansas; and a 1993 Mack with a 3,500-gallon steel tank and a Moro pump built by Elliot Machine Works in nearby Galion, Ohio.

Other equipment for the septic side of the business includes a 2003 Dodge Ram service truck, two John Deere excavators (35C and 50) and a John Deere 325 skid-steer, a Superior Signal Smoke Tool, two MyTana cameras, a MyTana locator and a Milwaukee drain cleaning machine.

For the portable restroom part of the business, Tidy Tim’s has seven trucks. The newest is a 2023 Ford F-550 with an 800-gallon waste/400-gallon freshwater stainless steel tank with an NVE 304 pump built by Best Enterprises. Best Enterprises also built three other trucks with the same pump: a 2018 Dodge Ram 4500 with a 650-gallon waste/250-gallon freshwater steel tank; and two Kenworth trucks (2017 and 2005) with 1,100-gallon waste/400-gallon freshwater stainless steel tanks. The other trucks are a homebuilt 2014 Isuzu with a 700-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater poly saddle tank and NVE 304 pump; a 2014 Dodge Ram 5500 with a 950-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater aluminum tank and Masport pump, built by FlowMark; and a 2005 Ford with an 800-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater steel tank and Masport pump built by Crescent Tank Mfg.

Tidy Tim’s has 745 portable restrooms including Satellite special event and construction models and T.S.F. construction units. Their six restroom trailers come from Satellite Suites, JAG Mobile Solutions, NuConcepts and a self-built nonflushing unit. F.M. Manufacturing built a 16-unit hauler and another 10-unit trailer was built in-house.

To accommodate the growth, Tidy Tim’s recently moved from its two-bay shop and office trailer into a new 7,000-square-foot shop with five offices, a large breakroom and enough room to house most of their trucks.

TRANSITIONAL CHANGES

Tidy Tim’s marketing has changed with Katie’s communication skills. She uses social media and works with a website company to continually make changes. “Based on calls and website queries, it’s doing well,” she says.

The business also uses radio advertising, which reaches throughout Tidy Tim’s expanded coverage area and includes a growing population and new homes north of Columbus, resulting in install inquiries. Additional work comes from two businesses Tidy Tim’s bought out and response from reminder cards sent out to past septic customers.

Change has come frequently and often since the first Pumper profile on Tidy Tim’s in 2017. It now has two septic truck routes every day covering a 13-county area. Portable is still the biggest part of the operation at about 60% of the work. Septic pumping and installation accounts for about 30% with 10% for inspection work.

Tidy Tim’s is incorporated and the transition from Tim and Patty’s ownership is gradual as their  children earn stock in the business. The parents will keep stock in the business for income in their retirement. Everyone is open to growth and new opportunities.

“I’m not ready to take my foot off the gas as long as we don’t lose quality,” Tim says.

With Intel and distribution center building projects attracting thousands of people and a housing boom in the region, there will be more installations and service calls. New Ohio regulations require septic maintenance such as switching elbows in distribution boxes and cleaning effluent filters. Plus, there are more mechanical aeration and spray irrigation systems that require annual inspections.

There’s also more demand for portable restrooms and Kyle stays proactive, taking turns running routes to maintain quality control and watching for opportunities where to grow that side of the business.

THE ROAD AHEAD

As Tidy Tim’s works through transitioning from one generation to the next, the talents of each family member are important. And so is their unified focus.

“You won’t find young people that work harder than they do, and with integrity,” Tim says about his children and their spouses. “And we are all good at organizing, looking ahead, anticipating. Then it takes just one phone call and there’s the stuff you don’t plan for and you have to roll with it.”

“Twenty-eight years ago, Tim and I never thought this is where we were going to be,” Patty adds. “We are happy that we can provide a service to this community. We try to be active and give back.”

And that same spirit drives Kyle, Katie and their spouses as they take over Tidy Tim’s and an even larger coverage area.



Discussion

Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.