Rolling Out Profits

Saskatchewan’s Tayken Enterprises Ltd. leverages an event logistics firm to launch All About Comfort, offering only upscale trailer units

Ken Taylor has come full circle from traveling the entertainment circuit as a road band’s sound technician to selling electronic systems so he could stay home, to hitting the road again as co-owner of All About Comfort, a mobile restroom service that deals strictly in upscale executive trailers. Along the way, he built his technical and management skills while collecting a wide network of personal contacts that served as the foundation for his latest venture.

Making the most of an ability to see the big picture while keeping dozens of balls in the air as an event planner and producer, Taylor now consults as a logistics manager under the auspices of his business, Tayken Enterprises Ltd., located in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. His largest client is Craven Country Jamboree, one of Canada’s largest country music festivals. Hosting 25,000 people each of four midsummer days, the seasonal event allows Taylor time to produce other events, as well.

Most of these events require some form of portable sanitation, so Taylor launched a division of Tayken — All About Comfort — to fill that need. This evolution is a study in planned niche specialization that Taylor believes will keep his companies flexible enough to ride out the winds of current economic volatility.

BUILDING ON STRENGTHS

Having volunteered as the Jamboree’s planner and producer for several years, Taylor was hired as a paid general manager by the event’s new owners in 2004. From there, he networked his way into similar projects, such as the Canadian Country Music Awards.

Taylor realized the Jamboree festival site was in a floodplain, so building permanent facilities was inadvisable. Yet he knew if the show was to maintain a good reputation, it needed to offer upgraded restroom facilities for performers and corporate sponsors. By 2006, he started researching the Internet, concluding that executive restroom trailers were the way to go.

“Over many hours of research, I developed likes and dislikes about the different units. I talked a lot with Janna (Taylor, his wife and business partner) and we slowly developed what we thought would work best.” The couple realized that to do it right, they’d have to become true PROs, a daunting idea at first.

MAKING THE LEAP

“How do you make the jump from event coordinator to restroom provider? Face it, we’re in Saskatchewan. We’re always a couple years behind the trend in any field, and we really had no idea where to even start,” he recalls.

“Then he found the Pumper & Cleaner Expo online, and we realized there was this whole world of professionals out there doing this,” interjects Janna Taylor. “I need to be able to see and touch things to make good decisions,” so they decided to attend the Expo in Louisville in 2008. “It was so affordable to get on the show floor and to take courses. It was so important and valuable to be able to sit in all the classes and talk with people in the industry. We learned a lot about what works, what kinds of challenges to expect.”

Ken Tayken agrees. “We got to do hands-on inspections and walk-throughs of the trailers. You could get inside and say, ‘This isn’t going to work and here’s why.’ To be able to talk with manufacturers and ask as many questions as we needed was just phenomenal.”

DIVING IN

After a few days of intense study at the Expo, they ordered three Forest River trailers from Alpha Mobile Solutions. They chose a Denali model, with two doors on either side to allow walk-through service. The ladies’ side has four stalls, two sinks and an L-shaped counter. The men’s has three stalls and three urinals. They also purchased two smaller Century II models, with a single station on each side.

The Taylors chose All About Comfort as their business name not just for the pleasant connotation, but also because it would put them at the front of the phone book and in alphabetical Web listings. By May, the trailers were delivered and they were in business.

They created a brochure and Ken Taylor mailed it to a contact in the Saskatchewan Roughriders pro football organization. This colleague had been talking about getting a trailer for their upcoming Labor Day Classic, during which the team would host the archrival Winnipeg Blue Bombers from Manitoba. The Riders had decided to add temporary seating so they could sell more tickets. The team’s search for restroom trailers made it onto the radio news, where the Taylors heard it.

They approached the Riders, who signed a contract “right off the brochure picture,” according to Janna Taylor. As game day drew near, “they hadn’t actually phoned us to confirm it was a go, so we were panicking because we didn’t have enough trailers,” she recalls. “So we went out and bought another Denali before we were even through our first year.”

MOMENTUM BUILDS

The reaction to the trailers was immediate and positive, and the company has yet to advertise. The visibility of the Riders contract allows the company to put brochure and business card holders on trailer countertops during each game of a 10-game home season. “We’ve got so many bookings we can’t afford to advertise!” says Janna Taylor.

People come from across the province to see the Riders, so All About Comfort gets calls asking if they’d come to Saskatoon and other outlying towns. “We’re upfront in our quotes that transportation costs are built in, so the customers decide if it’s worth it.”

When such requests are made, says Ken Taylor, “We never say no. We say yes and then figure out how to make it work.” Part of this can-do attitude stems from the fact that, as Taylor says, “We’re not really a rental company, we’re an event service company. We’re about getting things done.”

Special events are about 80 percent of their business, volume-wise. The company also services the Western Canadian Farm Progress Show and the Regina Exhibition (akin to a state fair in the U.S.) on an annual basis.

CHARTING A COURSE

For a lot of their events, the Taylors deal with another PRO in Regina that has about 300 portable units. “He’s been a great friend and mentor,” Ken Taylor says. “We didn’t want to go into competition with him. He had the market served well, and for us it would have been a race to the bottom, price-wise. We wanted to go specifically with the higher end trailers because that’s the kind of clientele we’d be serving.”

“We do all the transport, cleaning and setup,” explains Janna Taylor. “When we take the job, you know you don’t need to worry. That part of your event is going to work the way it’s supposed to. The water will run, the lights will operate, the units will flush and be clean.”

The company adds little extras like hand lotions and baskets, a “pampered guest” kind of treatment, according to Ken Taylor. “People are happy and it leaves an impression.”

“It’s great to hear the comments people make,” says Janna Taylor. “I expect women to get excited about them, but when the guys do, that’s really something.”

EXECUTING A BUSINESS PLAN

When they returned from the Pumper & Cleaner Expo, Janna Taylor wrote a five-year business plan to get bank financing. She identified decisions the couple expects to run into, but believes it’s also good to be flexible enough to go with opportunities as they come up. “For instance, when do we need to buy new units to accommodate opportunities to grow the business? We also allow dream time. Any time we’re on a trip of more than half an hour, I get out my notebook and we throw out ideas to each other; what would we do, what are the opportunities and the dangers.”

Her husband agrees. “A smart businessperson is always looking for what the market wants and how it could grow. We stepped out on a ledge in Kentucky and created what we thought was an optimistically aggressive projection, but now we see it wasn’t that aggressive. We always need to reconsider our plans based on the way reality plays out.”

MORE OPPORTUNITIES KNOCK

With this approach in mind, the Taylors are looking at hand-wash trailers, shopping different manufacturers. Ken Taylor wants to offer something more upscale and secure than portable sink units.

Provincial Occupational Health & Safety requires that a hand-washing unit accompany any portable restroom. “It presents a real opportunity for us,” he says.

“I can also ask callers about their need for other services, and the trailers have served as a lead for Tayken Enterprises’ logistics services. I’m going to start doing a bit more research. I think there are other areas we could pursue, such as emergency services like shower trailers for forest fire workers. We think our government will soon mandate handicapped units, so that’s something we’ll explore.”

One thing is certain for Tayken and All About Comfort: There’s no lack of forward-thinking … and no moss will be growing under those trailer wheels.



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