Louisiana’s Workbox LLC Builds Site Service Business By Adding Portable Sanitation

Container rental owner Martin Padial listened to the needs of his site services customers … and now he runs a thriving portable restroom business.
Louisiana’s Workbox LLC Builds Site Service Business By Adding Portable Sanitation
The Workbox office staff includes, from left, Becky Purdom, Debbie Williams, Dania Gonzales, Martin Padial, Erica Smith and Kerry Bueche.

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For a guy who never planned to become a portable restroom operator, Martin Padial – the CEO/owner of Workbox LLC in Baton Rouge, Louisiana – is doing very well in the business.

How good? In a little more than 10 years of operation, the company’s restroom division – called Potty-All (a playful take on Padial’s last name, which is pronounced the same way) – went from zero to 2,300 restrooms, 30 employees and eight vacuum trucks, plus two restroom trailers.

Padial’s success with Workbox, which started out as a storage-container rental business and now also provides roll-off containers, illustrates the value of recognizing opportunities for new, complementary services. It also reflects the importance of providing excellent customer service to retain clients and differentiate from competitors – and how that means doing more than just delivering restrooms on time and cleaning them thoroughly.

CUSTOMER SYNERGIES

“We have grown substantially in the last eight years and expect to maintain consistent growth, based on our three- and five-year projections. And there’s no other reason for that growth other than great customer service,’’ Padial says.

At Workbox, the storage container, roll-off container and portable sanitation divisions each contribute about one-third of gross revenue. The restroom division primarily serves three markets: residential and commercial construction, special events and industrial rentals (which center on refineries, petrochemical factories and oilfield/gas field drilling sites), he explains.

Synergies among the three divisions abound, with many customers opting to use two or three of the company’s services simultaneously. “We consider ourselves a one-stop shop for site services,” he notes. “At a construction site, for example, customers need [restrooms], then rent storage containers to securely store expensive items that they don’t want to unload and load at the start and end of each day. Then they need [trash containers], too.”

Workbox was born in 1997 when Padial and his brother-in-law, Art Lancaster, who were real estate brokers and developers at the time, recognized a growing need for storage containers on residential construction sites. A lack of competition made the venture more attractive, Padial says.

About four or five years later, they noticed more and more municipalities required a portable restroom on every job site. “It just grew from there,” he says. “And two years after that, we got into roll-off containers.”

EQUIPMENT CORNER

The rapid growth also led to a large inventory of equipment. The company’s restrooms are made primarily by Satellite Industries and PolyJohn Enterprises. That includes about 35 handicapped-accessible units from Satellite. In addition, Potty-All has about 40 holding tanks, 160 hand-wash stations and two restroom trailers (a 10-footer and a 20-footer), all from Satellite. It also owns 10 emergency eyewash stations manufactured by Guardian Equipment.

For cleaning restrooms, Potty-All owns eight vacuum trucks: a 1999 International 4700 with an 1,800-gallon waste/500-gallon freshwater steel tank; a 2006 Peterbilt 355 with a 2,500-gallon waste/500-gallon freshwater steel tank; a 2012 International 4300 with a 1,100-gallon waste/450-gallon freshwater aluminum tank; a 2012 Peterbilt 337 with a 1,900-gallon waste/500-gallon freshwater aluminum tank; a 2014 International 4300 with a 1,100-gallon waste/450-gallon freshwater stainless steel tank; a 1999 International 9100 with a 1,500-gallon waste/500-gallon freshwater steel tank; a 2013 Dodge Ram 5500 dually with a 680-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater steel tank; and a 2006 Ford F-350 dually with a 300-gallon waste/125-gallon freshwater stainless steel tank fabricated at Workbox. Builders include White River Distributors, FlowMark Vacuum Trucks, Imperial Industries and one truck was built in-house. Vacuum comes from pumps by Masport Inc., National Vacuum Equipment (NVE) and Conde from Westmoor Ltd. 

The company invested in the two smaller trucks because they’re more maneuverable in tight spaces, for instance at universities (the company is in the second year of a three-year contract to supply restrooms for football games at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge). Moreover, drivers don’t need a CDL to operate them, which saves the company money on labor.

The company has an inventory of 675 roll-off and storage containers, most from Equipco Manufacturing Inc. To haul storage containers, the company uses a 1994 Ford LNT 8000F, a 1997 Peterbilt 357 and a 2013 Freightliner. For roll-off containers, the company relies on three Mack, two Kenworth and two Peterbilt trucks.

SERIOUS ABOUT SERVICE

Clean restrooms and on-time deliveries/pickups definitely contribute to overall customer satisfaction and lead to repeat business, not to mention word-of-mouth referrals. But Potty-All concentrates on employee training to enhance service. New technicians aren’t allowed to make solo service runs until three veteran drivers feel they’re capable of performing up to company standards. A typical training period for new drivers lasts about two weeks, Padial says.

At least once a quarter, all employees – even veteran technicians – receive a refresher course in how to operate all the division’s equipment and how to properly clean restrooms and hand-wash stations. Why? “Our equipment inventory changes periodically,” he notes. “Or we might change a procedure or a protocol to better serve customers.”

To reduce downtime due to equipment breakdowns – which, in turn, benefits customers – all drivers must perform pre- and post-route truck inspections, which includes things such as checking fluid levels, tire pressure and lights. The inspections take about 30 minutes, he says.

“Before they leave the yard, they have to make sure everything is in proper working order,” Padial explains. “Then they do the same thing when they return. And after that inspection, an independent crew comes in and does another inspection. It saves us a ton of time if, for instance, there’s a nail in the tire that’s created a slow leak that may not be evident until backup inspection is performed. When the independent crew members are finished, they fill up gas tanks and make any needed repairs so the trucks are ready to roll the following morning.”

The inspection measures have reduced vehicle downtime by 30 percent, Padial estimates.

As a courtesy, Potty-All drivers call customers while enroute to a service call. But it’s more than an effort to be polite; it also saves the customer and the driver time and money. For instance, drivers can find out if a restroom has been moved since the last visit or be sure there’s someone around to provide access to a restroom located in a secured area.

In addition, customers can agree to participate in a program in which they receive periodic phone calls from Potty-All personnel to ensure all their needs are being met. “We call three times a week to see how they are doing and if they need anything,” Padial notes. “This idea came from our customers after we asked them what they would do to make customer service better if they ran our business. This has been a huge help to our customers, who sometimes don’t have time to call every time they need something.”

KEEPING EMPLOYEES HAPPY

Padial also takes steps to improve efficiency and employee safety, which subsequently leads to greater employee satisfaction – and less turnover. 

For example, every day the Workbox office staff records information about all work orders, such as actual hours worked, units serviced, miles driven, time between service calls and compliments from customers. The data is used to grade drivers. Once a year, the driver with the top score from each division receives an award. The company also names a rookie driver of the year, as well as an overall driver of the year, picked from among the three divisional winners.

“They receive a cash bonus that comes from a percentage of our net profit that we set aside,” Padial explains. “In addition, every employee receives $100 for every year of service. And we try to recognize other deserving employees with cash bonuses, too.” 

To keep current with challenges in the field, office employees are annually required to ride for a day with a driver from each of the three divisions. Because the drivers typically come in at 4:30 a.m., they don’t interact a lot with office personnel, so there’s not a lot of synergy, Padial notes.

“This gives them a chance to get to know the drivers better,” he says. “Ultimately, they respect each other more and respect each other’s jobs more. Our drivers also spend a day in the office every year so they get to hear what employees there deal with. It’s not really cross-training, but cross-viewing. It makes them realize that everyone deals with stuff every day … and helps them be more patient with each other.”

TECH-SAVVY CHANGES

To boost driver safety and increase efficiency, Potty-All is going paperless in the field by trading in metal clipboards for mounted in-truck computer tablets, which drivers can use to view work orders, take photos, accept credit-card payments, email or text documents to customers and perform other functions.

“The tablets have GPS systems, which will be safer to use than drivers’ cellphones because the screen is so much bigger,” Padial says. “Every truck also will be equipped with a rear-view camera that will display on the tablet screen, which will make it safer to back up.

“There may not be huge financial savings, but that’s not the initial goal,” he points out. “The full-circle effect will be so big in terms of better service, quicker response times and improved employee safety. It’ll be hard to put any metrics on it, but we intrinsically know it will have a positive impact on our employees.”

And help maintain that focus on providing top-notch customer service. 



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