Texas two-step

For the long-time portable sanitation experts at B & S Port-O-Jons, customer service is all about delivering the right products and following through on promises
Texas two-step
When restrooms go out of circulation, Smith converts some of them into colorful doghouses and sells them.

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From a startup portable restroom company with 12 units in 1994, B & S Port-O-Jons in Waco, Texas, has grown beyond the dominant portable sanitation offerings and into septic and grease trap service, restroom cleaning, repair and distribution, and a delivery service for equipment, auto parts and pharmaceuticals.

The well-established portable sanitation and pumping part of the business generates more than $1 million in revenue annually and represents 75 percent of the diversified company. Located on a 12-acre site with two 11,000-square-foot buildings, B & S has 20 employees. An additional 2-acre satellite yard in Austin provides restroom and pumping services.

A few years after the company’s founding, owner Clayton Smith began looking to broaden the company’s service offerings and concentrate more on the emerging market created by special events. The keyword for Smith when considering equipment or territory expansion is flow. “Making sure it flows within the business: where we could use existing property, existing employees,’’ he says. “I see the most satisfaction when we have a special event and all the planning comes together successfully.”

On the vacuum services side of the business, 75 percent of billings come from portable sanitation; 25 percent is split between septic and commercial grease trap work. Of the portable sanitation, 35 percent of the work is related to special events. The company maintains about 1,500 restrooms, the majority from PolyPortables Inc. (for which the company is a distributor location) and others from PolyJohn Enterprises.

 

SHOWING THEIR COLORS

Portable restroom offerings are color-coded for a variety of services, and the company provides carpets on the floor.

Aqua color restrooms go to construction sites. Red units are earmarked for special events. Certain events get red, white and blue or other combinations. A number of restrooms are stocked in the trademark green and gold colors to cover events at nearby Baylor University.

Carpeting matching the color of the units is the most unusual added feature. Smith says carpets can be properly fit, cleaned and maintained. “I had been in the carpet business before opening B & S and saw this as a way to set our restrooms apart,” he says.

B & S covers long distances, going out on 200-mile roundtrips for some routes, and even farther for special events, or demands such as those brought about by Hurricane Katrina. Waco remains the hub, but having the Austin facility 90 miles away, where they have dumping access, has been a benefit.

For important special events – some as long as seven days – Smith brings his motor home or other RVs and someone will remain on site for the duration. Sometimes crews stay at local hotels so they can respond for service.

In addition to the standard and ADA-compliant portable restrooms, B & S has 50 PolyPortables hand-wash stations, two PolyPortables Boudoir units for special occasions, and some PolyLift construction models from PolyJohn. There is a Wells Cargo restroom trailer, two Advanced Containment Services Inc. restroom trailers and a Roadmaster LLC shower unit, featuring two bathrooms with shower stall and lavatory.

Over 10 years of growth and expansion, B & S has partnered with portable sanitation competitors when others have not had sufficient inventory to meet contracts. In 2005, Black Tie Event Services, also providing rentals in the region, began storing units on Smith’s property, and the two companies have cooperated in numerous contracts. These relationships have segued into the cleaning and repair division at B & S.

 

TRUCKS AND TRAILERS

In the garage, B & S keeps four Freightliner trucks (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006) built by Lely Manufacturing Inc. with Masport Inc. pumps. Each has 1,500-gallon waste and 500-gallon freshwater aluminum tanks. Also built by Lely are a 2008 Ford F-550 truck with a 500-gallon waste/200-gallon freshwater tank; a 1999 International with a 1,100-gallon waste/500-gallon freshwater tank; a 2007 International flatbed with a 750-gallon waste/250-gallon freshwater tank that carries eight restrooms; two 2005 GMC flatbed trucks with 750-gallon waste/250-gallon freshwater tanks that carry eight restrooms. All have Masport pumps. A 2004 International, 1,200-gallon waste/500-gallon freshwater tank and Conde Pump from Westmoor Ltd., was built by Best Enterprises Inc.

For hauling portable sanitation equipment, the company has a 20-unit McKee Technologies Explorer trailer, a John Deere trailer (four handicap or five regular units), seven Big Tex Trailers and a Wells Cargo enclosed utility trailer. B & S also built three restroom transport trailers in its shop.

Other vehicles include 2004 and 2006 Ford F-350 Super Duty pickups, a 2000 Ford F-450, a 1999 Ford F-250 and a 2001 GMC flatbed. These vehicles can pull trailers and some will carry restrooms.

“Concerning the maintenance of our fleet,” Smith says, “You need someone to take care of your needs. We do a certain amount of maintenance in house, but for the big jobs, like motors or transmissions, it’s important to have someone to rely on.”

 

KEEPING IT CLEAN

Smith has established business relationships with other pumpers regionally, particularly for grease trap service. As a rule, this involves situations where an out-of-area company has a contract with a restaurant franchise, and contracts with B & S to service restaurants in their area. Additionally, B & S calls on far-flung pumpers to service its own distant grease trap service accounts.

Smith notes they offer repair and cleaning service to competitors and offer their surplus inventory when another company can’t handle a large event with its own units. B & S doesn’t typically need extra equipment from other companies to meet its market demands. An exception is Black Tie, which sometimes provides additional trailers, and will call on B & S for units.

When a driver begins a service route, one of the important steps is to replace dirty or worn carpeting on units being delivered to a site. Caryn Dobbs, office manager, explains that workers use a mild detergent to clean the carpets and then pressure wash them. Most often dirt and stains, including grease, will come out. Because of the carpet, the floors will be relatively clean, and easy to care for. The carpet pieces are cut to properly fit a restroom and are held securely by the metal lip at the front of each unit, assuring there is no tripping hazard.

B & S for the most part dumps waste at the Waco Metropolitan Area Regional Sewerage System. For special events at more distant locations the company will arrange for temporary permits. It has access for dumping in Austin.

The company has one route into Fort Worth. For that 200-mile roundtrip, waste is brought back to Waco.

Baylor University, eight miles from the office, is a frequent customer. Typical jobs include campus parties or sports events. Killeen, about 60 miles from Waco, is home to the U.S. Army base Fort Hood. B & S provides restrooms to various contractors working at the base.

 

EVENTFUL

Smith saw his business advancing into special events after Hurricane Katrina, where the company provided 200 new portable restrooms primarily on Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base at Belle Chasse, La., and other locations in and around New Orleans. When those units came back into inventory, Smith gave the big push to secure events such as the Republic of Texas (ROT) Biker Rally in Austin and Nocturnal Festival in Rockdale.

The motorcycle rally is a four-day event held in June at the Travis County Exposition Center. It occupies 54 downtown blocks. The crowd swells to as many as 200,000 at the Friday night party and parade. Since 2005, B & S has brought in 400 to 500 portable restrooms.

The Nocturnal Festival takes place in April. B & S delivers 240 restrooms and two trailer units. While not the company’s largest event, it is one of the most challenging because of extremely loud music and boisterous crowds.

Smith had basic advice for those looking to expand into special events. “Always be truthful and honest and don’t compromise. If you offer once-a-week service, give once-a-week service. You have to do what you say you will do. What you have in your contract, whether it’s with pricing, service or the number of required restrooms. That is how you keep your customer from year to year. And of course, you have to find a way to distinguish your brand in your market area.”



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