New Mexico’s Shiny Boys Services basks in the glow of solar lighting that helped push the company into oilfield and special event markets.
Sometimes all a business needs to break into a market is to find a product that solves a problem for customers. A good example is Shiny Boys Services in Dexter, New Mexico, a portable sanitation company that, as its name implies, is eliminating a vexing issue for oilfield workers: going to the bathroom in the dark.
Owner Chris Martinez was running a trucking company when he decided to establish Shiny Boys in February 2015. “I was ready for a change,” says Martinez of the trucking business, which primarily hauls feed for dairy farmers. “I was feeling very stressed out. … We had lots of driver problems and there are a lot of moving parts when you’re running trucks. I looked for something I could do without a really huge investment, and that would allow me to still run some trucks when business was slow.”
After talking to his uncle, Rick Candelaria, who operates a local equipment rental business that mainly serves oilfield contractors, Martinez decided his best option was to provide portable restrooms to oilfield services contractors around Dexter, which is about 15 miles south of Roswell in southeastern New Mexico. He subsequently bought a small existing restroom company that included 100 restrooms, most from Satellite Industries; about 20 hand-wash stations from Satellite and PolyJohn Enterprises; and a 1997 Ford truck outfitted with a 350-gallon waste/150-gallon freshwater steel tank and a Conde (Westmoor Ltd.) pump.
To be more competitive, Martinez also decided to offer a value-added service for customers: trash pickup. To provide this two-for-one service, the company bought five 16-foot trash trailers built by Affordable Trailers. They feature space in the front to hold two restrooms; the rest of the trailer is enclosed to hold trash. The restrooms remain on the trailer, Martinez says.
1. Offering something different
When Martinez bought the company, Candelaria suggested he needed a unique business angle to break into the highly competitive oilfield restroom market. The answer came entirely by chance when a friend who worked in the oilfields mentioned to Martinez that workers often have to shine pickup truck headlights on restrooms so workers could see at night.
“Right away, a lightbulb went off in my head,” Martinez says. “I knew we needed to put lights inside our restrooms.” An internet research led Martinez to SolarGoose lights, made by Solar LED Innovations. The solar-powered lights easily mount in a restroom ceiling; they provide a more than adequate 60 lumens of light, he explains.
Martinez also chose red restrooms as a branding tool. “We have red trailers, too, so everyone knows who we are,” he notes. “The name of our company is on every restroom and on the trailers, too, so it’s kind of a rolling marketing campaign.”
2. Pounce on an opportunity
Martinez says it pays to always be prepared in case opportunity knocks. An example: After a train derailed about 5 miles from the Shiny Boys shop, Martinez bumped into a fireman in a local store. “I gave him some business cards, just in case they needed some restrooms,” he says. “We got a call a short time later, asking for two restroom/trash trailers, two regular restrooms (not mounted on a trailer) and a hand-wash station. Later that night, we saw our restrooms on the TV news, with the lights on and our name on the doors. That was a big deal for us.
“After that, I’d be outside working and people would come up and ask me for business cards,” he adds. “They’d say, ‘You’re the guys with lights in your restrooms.’ That (exposure) helped us get our first job in the oilfields and the lights caught on there, too. Little by little, customers came to know us as the guys with the lights in our restrooms — the Shiny Boys.”
To further spread the word, Martinez held lunch meetings with prospective customers, always with a trash/restroom trailer in tow. The restrooms market themselves, too, because a sensor automatically turns on the light when it gets dark enough. “When we pull them home at night, and we stop for gas or grab something to eat, the lights go on automatically and people see them,” he says. “People always come up to us and ask questions and want to see inside the restrooms.”
3. Making clean a priority
To build a good reputation, as well as gain repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals, Martinez emphasizes super-clean restrooms. “Every toilet we service is sanitized from top to bottom,” he explains. “We use a hand sanitizer made by Satellite and mix it with an odor control formula made by Rochester Midland Corporation. Sometimes we add in a little bleach.
“We mix it in a spray bottle, add some water and then we wipe everything down from top to bottom,” he continues. “And we use microfiber towels so we don’t scratch the walls and seats. We believe in cleaning restrooms the way we’d clean a toilet in our own houses.”
4. Promoting special event services
To avoid having all his business eggs in one basket, Martinez says he’s always on the lookout for new markets to serve. One area he’s trying to break into is special events. “We recently did a Clay Walker concert and after that, serviced another concert,” he says. “We’re doing more and more local special events.”
Martinez set aside 24 of his best restrooms with hand sanitizers to use for special events, and set them up as gender-specific — urinals only in the men’s units. “If it’s a big event with 2,000 people, they’re touching everything and carrying germs,” he says. “People can use the sanitizers when they come in and when they leave the restroom — it offers us another selling point. People appreciate it because they realize we’re looking out for their best interests.”
There’s another benefit to putting out nice-looking, well-maintained restrooms — and keeping them spotless: Martinez says people tend to treat the restrooms better. “When people see how nice things are, they’re more likely to take care of them,” he notes. “They’re not as likely to pull a hand sanitizer off the wall or steal a light.”
5. Fighting the price wars
Lowballing on restroom rental rates is a continual challenge for Shiny Boys, especially from larger competitors that can afford to charge lower rates to gain market share. Martinez says he usually declines when a customer asks him to match or beat a lower rate and instead emphasizes that customers will get what they pay for with Shiny Boys: a high level of service. “In fact, I’m no longer trying to get as many units out there as possible,” he notes. “I want to work more with customers who are interested in receiving a high level of service.”
To be sure he covers expenses such as fuel, water, chemicals and toilet paper, Martinez says he applies a weekly service charge on top of the rental fee. “My selling point is that I will provide great service. … I’ll come out every day if I have to to keep customers happy,” he says. “We just hope and pray that people notice that extra effort.”