We’ve Got Your Back

When disaster struck Maine PRO Jeff Bellino, portable sanitation rivals pitched in to help keep his company going

It’s said that in the face of great adversity, you find out who your real friends are.

When Jeff Bellino’s portable sanitation business burned to the ground last October, many true friends emerged from an unlikely place … his direct competition. Several of the first calls of support he received after an early morning blaze claimed his Royal Flush Portable Restrooms building in Scarborough, Maine, were from PROs he competes with head-to-head.

RALLY THE TROOPS

The competitors offered restrooms, vacuum trucks, toilet paper, even route drivers to help him keep afloat during the days and weeks following the fire. Bellino is amazed and heartened by the offer of a helping hand from companies that could have benefited from his struggles to continue providing service.

“Whatever they did to help me cost them money and helped me,’’ Bellino says, getting a little choked up retelling the story. “I couldn’t thank them enough. It’s a really amazing thing that they helped me stay on track and not miss a beat. It goes to show that you can be competitors and still help each other out.’’

Searching for a way to recognize the actions of the fellow PROs that meant so much to him, Bellino called me recently to share his story. He explained that shortly after the fire was covered on the local Portland, Maine, television news, offers of help started pouring in.

A-1 Environmental Services of nearby Wells, Maine, immediately provided a few restrooms, toilet tissue and chemicals so Bellino’s drivers could maintain their service routes. Associated Portable Toilets of South Portland offered trucks and manpower. Other companies offered temporary warehouse space for the business, or simply called to offer support and encouragement.

“They didn’t have to do this. It spoke volumes to me about them as people,’’ Bellino says of the helping hands. “They really could have let me struggle.’’

WE HAD TO HELP

Not so, says T.J. Troiano, who owns Associated Portable Toilets with his brother, Michael Paul Troiano. Troiano says he respects Bellino as a good competitor and he would always have his fellow PRO’s back in a time of emergency.

“I still go by the saying, ‘Treat people how you would want to be treated.’ What if the shoe was on the other foot? You help out and hope that if you’re ever in need, the favor will be returned,’’ Troiano says.

Another business owned by Troiano’s family offered rented warehouse space, and Bellino accepted as winter was closing in. While the fire took many of Bellino’s supplies, records and tools, he was lucky that the majority of his restrooms were still in the field and none of his four service vehicles were parked inside the building, a wooden structure that was a total loss.

All things considered, Bellino is thankful the fire happened near the end of the busy season, before trucks would be stored inside and his 600 units would be back on the property. And with demand on the decline for winter, Bellino doesn’t have to worry about quickly replacing the 140 units lost in the blaze.

Despite competing for some of the same accounts — Troiano has lost customers to Bellino and vice-versa — Troiano views it as friendly competition among quality service providers. And if they’re both doing a good job for customers, that elevates the reputation of the portable sanitation industry, he says.

“I really respect what he’s done,’’ Troiano says of Bellino, who started Royal Flush from scratch in 2000, ironically after unsuccessfully trying to rent a restroom from Troiano’s company. Troiano had all of his units in the field at the time, which gave Bellino the idea to start a competing company. Troiano holds no grudges, and learned something from the experience. “To say the least, we’ve never run out of restrooms since then,’’ he jokes.

MET AT PUMPER & CLEANER EXPO

Nathan Gay, owner of A-1 Environmental Service, has a similar view about helping Bellino. Oddly enough, though, the two PROs share part of their service territories; they first met at the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo several years ago. They became fast friends and work a number of big special event jobs together.

“I would view him as a stand-up, trustworthy guy. Not only is he a good competitor, but he’s become a good friend,’’ Gay says. “I’m glad to help him out and I’m sure he would return the favor if the same thing happened to me.’’

Both Gay and Troiano say worthy competition from Bellino keeps all the local PROs on their toes and working to provide quality service. And that, in turn, improves the perception the public has about portable sanitation around Portland.

“It makes for a better name for the industry, Troiano says. “Years ago, people saw a portable toilet and said, ‘I don’t want to go in that thing.’ We’ve tried to change the industry. They’re not portable toilets anymore. They’re portable restrooms. We’re making everything look better.’’

WISH THEM WELL

Upon reflection, Bellino says he could have expected the gratifying response from his nearest competitors. They offer the same helpful attitude he sees from other PROs when he attends the Pumper & Cleaner Expo. If you’re at the Expo in Louisville this month, you might run into Bellino, Troiano and Gay. If you do, shake their hands and thank them for helping build on a positive reputation for the industry.

“The Pumper show is such an exciting time for me. At the Pumper show you can get pretty jacked about the industry,’’ Bellino says. “I come back from the Expo and I’m on cloud nine.’’

SPEAKING OF THE EXPO …

If you’re planning your trip to Louisville for the Expo — or you’re reading this issue for the first time on the exhibit floor of the Kentucky Exposition Center — I welcome you to stop by the COLE Publishing editor’s booth to say hello.

The Expo provides my best opportunity to talk to PROs and learn about the issues that are most affecting their businesses today. In a challenging business climate, it’s more important than ever for PRO to address the pressing questions and concerns of portable sanitation contractors. Your feedback is critical to helping us make that happen.

Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you at the Expo.



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