Ex-NASCAR Driver Grows Hydroexcavation Business, Corners Market Niche

Aardvark Tidy Toilets keeps the pedal to the metal to provide green-light service at the NHRA drag racing championship.
Ex-NASCAR Driver Grows Hydroexcavation Business, Corners Market Niche
Field service assistants (from left) Jason Reynolds, Tom Stewart and Mark Evans service one of the many Satellite Industries units placed at the NHRA U.S. Nationals racetrack. After storms delayed events on the first scheduled weekend, the track reopened a week later to complete the races.

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THE TEAM


Brent Johnson manages Aardvark Tidy Toilets, a division of M.A.S. Markers, a highway reflector installation business owned by his aunt, Michele Johnson. She handles the financial aspects of the business while her husband, Steve Johnson, oversees operations. The shared offices are in Lebanon, Ind., with a shop six miles away at a family farm in Brownsburg, just outside of Indianapolis. Five of the company's 18 employees are devoted to the portable restroom side of the business, but others help out as needed. "It's a nice break for them," Brent Johnson says. "They get to do something different." Depending on the flow of work, six to eight people were on site at all times for the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) U.S. Nationals drag race.

COMPANY HISTORY


Performing the highway work, M.A.S. Markers came across a traffic control company that had a portable restroom division. "Through a discussion here and there, we understood they were not interested in it and we thought it was something we could take over and make it grow," Johnson says. Purchased in February 2010, the restroom division has 500 or 600 units and works within a 50-mile radius.

MAKING CONNECTIONS


2011 was the first year the company provided services to the NHRA. Johnson says luck and good timing opened the door for them. "I walked into the maintenance shed one day out of the blue and the operations director just happened to be standing there." It turns out they were looking to make a switch. As a conversation-starter, they talked about mutual friends, then Johnson explained what the company could offer. He thinks their advantage is their size. "We're big enough that we can handle any job, but we're small enough that our customers get some personal interaction with us that they might not get with bigger companies," he says.

THE MAIN EVENT


Wally Parks founded the NHRA in 1951 to get drag racing off city streets and into organized venues. Today, it's the world's largest motor sports sanctioning body with 80,000 members and 5,000 yearly events, the biggest of which is the Labor Day weekend Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Ind., just outside Indianapolis. The sportsmen started racing on Wednesday, the sponsored professionals came in on Friday, with eliminations on Saturday, leading up to the finals normally held on Labor Day, but, in 2012, postponed until the following weekend due to severe weather from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac. An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 were in the stands each day.

THE JOB


The company provided portable restrooms for the event and serviced holding tanks at the ticket plaza, the Red Cross trailer and one of the caterers. But the bulk of their work was pumping out RVs and refilling their freshwater tanks. Contestants and many of the attendees camped out in the fields surrounding the facility. Campers received company flyers with contact information and a grid map so when they called for service they could identify their location. Johnson estimates they serviced about 300 RVs.

BY THE NUMBERS


The company provided 100 dark blue Satellite Industries Taurus restrooms with hand sanitizers and six Satellite Liberty wheelchair-accessible units. Because they service so many events at the venue, units are stored on site. They were placed in about 30 locations — large banks along patron walkways, smaller banks for campers and race teams, five in one of the main parking lots, and 12 in the VIP area.

Three Tuff Jon hand-wash stations from T.S.F. Company, Inc. were used — one in the TV compound and two at the VIP tent.

LET'S ROLL


By Tuesday, stored units were moved into position by the facilities staff. Most were in the same place as the previous year but Johnson drove around and located them all. The delayed race concluded the following weekend and then the company spent the following two days pumping and cleaning units before they were put back into storage.

KEEPIN' IT CLEAN


Units were serviced once daily — some twice — either at night after the crowds left or in the morning before the gates opened. The crew used two service vehicles — a 2007 International 4200 built out by Progress Tank with a 1,500-gallon waste/500-gallon freshwater aluminum tank, and a 2002 Ford F-450 with a 450-gallon waste/250-gallon freshwater steel tank, both with Masport, Inc. pumps.


Service is a big focus for the company. "We really strive to make sure that when somebody walks into one of our restrooms, they take notice of how clean it is," Johnson says. And not just the restrooms — they received multiple complements on the look of their vehicles and even the staff, who wears company T‑shirts and nice-looking jeans or shorts. These details are important to the NHRA, which owns the facility.


The majority of RV service calls came early in the morning and late at night. The company made every attempt to respond within the hour, which made for a grueling schedule. The friendliness of the customers made it worth the effort, Johnson says. "If you pump somebody out and they don't offer you something to eat or drink, that's an anomaly," he says.


They used 500-gallon plastic freshwater tanks mounted on a pair of Chevrolet 3500s to provide water for the motorcoaches. There was a welcome lull from noon to 3 p.m. when the team could take a break in the company RV. "Other than Saturday and Sunday when people were just flagging us down left and right," Johnson explains.

ENDURANCE TEST


Other than a close call when the debris from the breakup of one of the funny cars nearly wiped out a small bank of restrooms, Johnson says everything went smoothly. He credits facilities manager Bill Gunn and his staff for making the portable sanitation job easier. "My goal for the week is the fewer times I talk to him, the better because that means everything's going OK. If he doesn't call me, that means people aren't calling him."


This is the company's biggest event of the year. It's a tough job — but one they look forward to, admits Johnson. "It's a grind that first day and you know you've got six more of them staring you right in the face," he says. "You take a deep breath and just plow into it."



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