New equipment and a fresh marketing plan contribute to the renaissance of an established Florida restroom provider
In some respects, established businesses are similar to older cars in good condition: They periodically need a thorough overhaul to ensure they’re running at optimal performance. A good example is JW Craft Portable Restrooms in Naples, Florida, a 31-year-old company that hired an industry veteran to take a peek under the hood and suggest some updates that could rev up sales and profits.
Jennifer Corrigan joined the company in 2015 as a vice president and co-owner with partners Jerry Craft and John Nebus. Her mission: Use more than a decade of experience at another southern Florida portable restroom provider to rebrand and rejuvenate JW Craft, which had earned a solid business reputation since Craft’s father, Jack, founded the business in 1986.Some of the changes Corrigan initiated have made a more obvious visual splash, such as four new Hino service trucks, a revamped company logo and an informative website.
Others are more subtle, such as requiring uniforms for route drivers and putting company decals on all four sides of restrooms instead of just one. But overall, one thing is clear: Corrigan — who serves on the board of directors for Portable Sanitation Association International — is a staunch proponent of professionalism and raising industry standards.
“Our industry is not respected because of what we handle and haul,” she says. “So I feel that if we go out on a construction site, for example, and have a uniformed, well-groomed employee driving a very nice-looking new truck, it helps our image in the industry. I’m very big on that.”
At JW Craft, that emphasis on professionalism extends to everything from employee training to prescribed restroom cleaning procedures, to refusing to decrease rates for customers who request discounts in order to win their business. For training, new hires ride with an experienced lead driver and also receive instruction through a PSAI course. They follow a strict cleaning regimen that’s posted on the company’s website, so even customers know what to expect.
As for decreasing rates for customers, Corrigan politely declines to play the how-low-can-you-go game. Cutting rates to earn market share only promotes price wars and devalues the service provided by professional portable sanitation contractors, and both of those harm the industry overall, she says.
SPECIAL EVENTS BACKGROUND
Corrigan, 43, began her career as an event consultant in 2000. She eventually entered the portable restroom industry because of relationships she developed with vendors, particularly a portable sanitation provider. The restroom company hired her as a sales representative, and she eventually worked her way up to vice president. As her experience grew working for a few different companies, Corrigan was eventually brought on as a partner at JW Craft.
Craft says Corrigan was tasked with establishing a sales and marketing arm that would raise the company’s profile and effectively give it a facelift. “We were kind of old-fashioned and didn’t have a website or do any other kinds of marketing,” he says. “We earned business through word-of-mouth referrals — never had to really go out and look for work.”
But the deep economic downturn that hit hard in 2009 changed all that. Craft says that as construction work declined in southwest Florida, the company at its low point was renting/servicing only 300 or 400 restrooms, down from a high of 3,000. Moreover, restroom rental rates declined to 1997 levels.
But thanks to increased marketing efforts during the last several years, business has stabilized and even increased, which made it easier to raise prices to their former levels. “Jennifer is very good at that,” he says, pointing to her marketing and sales skills. “All in all, it’s been a good merger. I’m very happy with the direction we’re going.”
“Jerry and John knew the company needed a facelift and weren’t sure how to do it,” Corrigan says. “So they brought me on board. They’ve been wonderful to work with — very supportive.”
Corrigan also credits her hardworking team: Melanie Sandy, office manager; Amber Auckerman, customer service rep; Diana Malloy, sales manager; Thomas Dragovich, mechanic and shop supervisor; Mike Mansfield, operations manager; Lloyd Puente, operations supervisor; Dario Martinez, event supervisor and new-driver trainer; Alberto Guerrero, lead technician; Burchell Simmonds, pickup and delivery driver; and Kenneth Paul, Rodney Williams, Leon Perry and A.J. Rojas, service technicians.
“Every role in our company is important, she says. “I can purchase new equipment, rebrand, sell and grow our company, but none of it matters without the hard work and dedication of our team.”
Four new Hino service trucks from Satellite Industries, Engine & Accessory and Hol-Mac Corp. represent one of the most visible upgrades at JW Craft. The rigs joined an existing fleet of eight service trucks either fabricated by Engine & Accessory or put together in-house and equipped with Masport or Fruitland Manufacturing pumps. Tanks for all trucks range in size from 1,100 gallons waste/400 gallons freshwater to 1,500 gallons waste/500 gallons freshwater.
The company also owns about 3,500 restrooms (made by PolyJohn Enterprises, PolyPortables and Satellite Industries); seven restrooms trailers from Ameri-Can and JAG Mobile Solutions; 15 hand-wash stations made by PolyPortables, PolyJohn and Satellite; approximately 100 holding tanks made by PolyJohn; and roughly 95 high-rise restrooms. The company also uses eco-friendly cleaning and deodorizing products made by J&J Chemical and Walex Products.
Corrigan also had the company logo redesigned and had a separate logo developed just for the special-events end of the business. “I wanted a fresh look,” she says. “I’m a visual person myself … and I want people to look at the palm tree on the decals and recognize right away that it’s JW Craft.
“It takes time to build up brand recognition,” she adds, noting the logo changes occurred nearly two years ago. “But sales have increased in all areas.” Corrigan also credits sales manager Diana Malloy, who’s helping her prospect for new clients.
To attract special-events business, Corrigan says she targets event coordinators and wedding planners and uses social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram. A key tool in her marketing arsenal: photos of restrooms, restroom trailers and the new trucks. That’s important because the area’s high-end clientele wants to see what they’re getting before signing a contract.
“Driving a beat-up old truck and delivering old restrooms won’t cut it,” she says. “Even in the construction market, customers figure that if you have clean restrooms and clean trucks, you’ll probably keep restrooms clean, too — and that you’re probably legit and have insurance.”
If JW Craft is hired to handle a special event, Corrigan sends the customer photos of the equipment they’re going to receive. And if all of the company’s restroom trailers are already booked, she leases trailers from reputable competitors. “I disclose that up front,” she says. “We don’t want to mislead our customers.”
Corrigan also helps preserve the company’s professional image by insisting that special-event customers rent enough restrooms and trailers to handle the expected attendance. Why? Users will see the JW Craft decals on the restrooms and blame them for the unsanitary conditions that usually arise when restrooms get overwhelmed. “There’s a lot of power in word-of-mouth,” she says.
To boost customer loyalty and underscore the company’s willingness to be held accountable, Corrigan also instituted a money-back guarantee. “If something happens and it’s our fault, we’ll own it,’’ she says. “Customers can call or email us 24/7, so there’s no reason why they can’t reach us and give us a chance to fix whatever went wrong. I think we’ve given customers their money back maybe once or twice.”
Communication with customers is critical to minimizing problems. For example, if a route driver cannot access a job site, they must call the office immediately so someone from JW Craft can call the customer right away and explain the situation. Otherwise it might look like the route driver didn’t show up, she notes.
“You have to be proactive, not reactive, otherwise it’s always your fault,’’ she says. “For instance, if a customer says there’s no hand sanitizer in some restrooms, it could be that people are stealing it or ripping the dispensers completely out of the units. You have to communicate that right away so it doesn’t completely fall on us.”
Corrigan also spearheaded efforts to develop a company website that provides detailed information as well as a visual portrait of all the company’s equipment and services. To give customers as much information as possible, the website offers a list of frequently asked questions as well as photos that cover nearly every aspect of the company, from equipment including restroom trailers and special-event restrooms with flush toilets to ancillary products and services such as temporary fencing and RV/boat waste-tank pumping.
The website also offers a PSAI-developed planning guide to help special-event coordinators determine how many restrooms they need to handle various crowd sizes, as well as the company’s restroom-cleaning protocols. It even tells customers what to do with their restrooms in the event of a weather situation that not many portable restroom contractors need to worry about: hurricanes.
Overall, Corrigan is excited about the company’s prospects and says she loves its family atmosphere. “A lot of our drivers have been here forever,” she says. “Low turnover is a great thing. It speaks volumes about your owners and management when people stay for a long time.”
Corrigan also seems to relish the challenge of raising the level of professionalism industry-wide. “When I first got into the industry, I only stuck with it because the owners were so good to me,” she says. “Now it’s my passion.”
Why join PSAI?
Going to business school is an expensive and time-consuming proposition. Jennifer Corrigan suggests a great alternative for portable restroom operators: Become a member of Portable Sanitation Association International.
PSAI’s goal is to educate operators, whether they’re industry newbies, longtime veterans or somewhere in between. The group offers a host of resources that teach members how to operate a successful portable restroom business, whether it’s via the PSAI website, classes and seminars held at industry events and trade shows, or networking opportunities and peer consultations. It also provides sets of industry standards, she notes.
“I want everyone in this business to succeed and PSAI provides the tools to do so,” says Corrigan, co-owner of JW Craft Portable Restrooms in Naples, Florida. She started attending PSAI conventions years ago, then got involved with various committees and now sits on the organization’s board of directors. “I even want my competitors involved in PSAI. … If everyone would learn their costs of doing business (and set prices accordingly), they’d be less likely to get involved in price wars.
“I’m really big on having allies in this industry instead of enemies, and PSAI helps foster those relationships,” she adds. In addition, networking with operators from other parts of the country is valuable because they’re more willing to share information than direct competitors might.
Corrigan says roundtable discussions at PSAI-sponsored events have yielded tips that helped her improve operating efficiency and profitability. In one instance, a supplier suggested that she print out the names of all customers that are more than 90 days delinquent on payments. “Then he told me to fire those customers — pick up their units and rent them to paying customers instead,” she says. “That was a good piece of advice that I’ve passed on to others.”