Geof Jardine Makes His Own Luck

This Canadian PRO negotiated a steep learning curve to quickly build a portable restroom business specializing in construction.
Geof Jardine Makes His Own Luck
The UR-in-LUCK team, shown with a row of PolyJohn Enterprises and Five Peaks restrooms, includes (from left) Geof Jardine, Adriana Jardine and Keri Bond.

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When his family trash container business located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was sold, Geof Jardine stayed on with the new owners.
“After a while, a lot of customers told me they hadn’t been experiencing much service,” says Jardine, who started Waste Container Services Inc. in 2003, specializing in construction and demolition waste. “Clients had been urging us to add portable restrooms to the service list for a couple of years.” The company added UR-in-LUCK Portable Toilet Rentals & Service in 2011.
UR-in-LUCK ramped up quickly. Today the company offers more than 500 units: 335 from PolyJohn Enterprises; 130 from PolyPortables; and 60 from Five Peaks. That includes a mix of 40 wheelchair-accessible units from all three manufacturers. UR-in-LUCK offers 15 stand-alone sinks, some heated, from both PolyPortables and PolyJohn. The company sources deodorizers from PolyPortables and hand soaps and sanitizers from both PolyPortables and Walex.
The company employs 18, including Jardine’s wife, Adriana, who is operations manager and looks after billing, and his brother, Eric, who is route manager. UR-in-LUCK’s territory ranges to about an hour’s drive east and west of the city and 90 minutes north.
Four drivers handle restroom service, piloting five vacuum trucks, all with stainless steel tanks and Wallenstein pumps. Three are built by Vacutrux: a 2009 Peterbilt with 720 gallons waste/360 gallons freshwater, and a Ford F-550 and Hino 185, both with 780 gallons waste/420 gallons freshwater. The company also runs a Sterling Acterra (840 waste/480 gallons freshwater) built out by Transway Systems and a Dodge Ram 5500 with a flat deck and unbranded tank (540 waste/240 freshwater). A Dodge Ram 2500 and Ford F-150 haul restroom trailers, including a 12-unit Explorer from McKee Technologies Inc. for deliveries. A double-unit from GenFour-Jon and six unbranded trailers carrying up to three restrooms each are delivered to customers who want restrooms on wheels. A Ford F-550 delivers restrooms on a flatbed.
An in-house shop satisfies the maintenance needs for most vehicles.
About 70 percent of UR-in-LUCK clients hail from the construction industry, with special events such as marathons, festivals, barbecues and weddings filling out the rest.
“We’re looking at acquiring some higher-end trailers for next year,” says Jardine. “We’d like to take on more upscale weddings and VIP events.”

EXPLORE FIVE ISSUES THAT AFFECT JARDINE’S PORTABLE SANITATION BUSINESS:

1. INTEGRATING THE BUSINESS

The portable restroom business was built on the back of a successful waste container business. The company has now added fence rentals to its offerings.
“Disposal boxes, toilets and fences are the three big construction rentals,” says Jardine. “At least 80 percent of construction contractors use all three services.”

The portable restroom service area is divided into four quadrants to avoid routing crossovers. However, keeping the three services integrated takes more effort than might initially be apparent.

“Business relationships are more solid in the waste container industry than the portable restroom industry,” Jardine says. “Waste container rentals are supplied on long-term contracts while restrooms are supplied month to month, so we’re not dropping off disposal boxes and portable restrooms at the same time. When we send a pumper to service those restrooms, we can’t use the same truck to pick up a waste container.”

Why juggle the three services?

“A fence call can lead to selling the client on waste container or restroom service,” he says. “Adding a fence might involve a little extra revenue on existing accounts, but it’s much more valuable when it leads to sales on other services. Toronto is probably the most competitive city in Canada for construction waste containers, so providing additional services also helps to differentiate us from others.”

2. FINDING THE ROOM

Toronto real estate is among the most expensive in North America, so buying land to locate a business can be costly. The company outgrew its last rented location near Lake Ontario in 2006. With the expansion of the portable restroom business, the company is experiencing growing pains once again.

“We’re located on just under an acre in eastern Toronto now, but 2 to 3 acres would probably be ideal,” says Jardine. “It would be more affordable to buy outside the city, but then we’d have to make a trade-off on our central location and increase travel times.”

Between waste containers, portable restrooms, pumpers and fencing, the team often has to juggle inventory at headquarters to remain organized.

“We’re pretty much at the point where we’re considering rental of two locations to handle the inventory overflow,” Jardine says. “It will depend on the rent we can negotiate and how close we can locate to our current office.”

3. CLIMBING THE LEARNING CURVE

“When I decided to offer portable restrooms, I had to take a crash course in learning about the industry,” says Jardine. “I started devouring trade publications (including Portable Restroom Operator) and learning about everything from pumps to deodorizers.”

The company’s first service truck, the Ford F-550, was purchased from Walter Ramsay, who owned Johnny On The Spot in Peterborough, Ontario, about 80 miles east. “We started out just buying the truck, but Wally was a knowledgeable guy and he acted as a bit of a mentor to me,” says Jardine. “We weren’t competing so we helped each other out at a number of events. I learned a lot from him.”

Jardine regularly networks with fellow PROs as a member of Portable Sanitation Association International (PSAI), networking, and taking advantage of courses, seminars and other educational opportunities.

He has also attended the Pumper & Cleaner Expo and Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Shows in Indianapolis the past three years, checking out different suppliers and attending training courses.

“You’ve got to stay on top of the latest developments,” Jardine says. “Right now we’re implementing Clear Computing, a billing, dispatch and customer database program that we learned about at the WWETT Show.”

4. BEATING THE COLD

UR-in-LUCK’s first winter was unusually mild. The second was bitterly cold.

“When the (flushing mechanisms) on our units started freezing up in December, we started learning about brine solutions and offering optional insulated restroom jackets we purchased from Prostitch in a hurry,” says Jardine.

While non-flush units would perform admirably in the coldest weather, the Ontario Ministry of Labour requires construction employers to provide a heated flush model.

“Brine solutions only work until about (minus 13 degrees F), then you’re on your own,” says Jardine. “We find that if we install an electric-powered ceramic heater and place an insulated jacket around the restroom until the end of February, the residual heat is enough to stop the (flush mechanisms) from freezing up. Beating the cold is a big topic of conversation with other northern PROs at WWETT meet-ups and PSAI meetings.”

5. BEATING THE BUSHES

Jardine doesn’t keep all of his marketing eggs in one basket. However, he has no doubt that the name of the portable restroom company has helped to make the business a success.
“The name UR-in-LUCK seems to work very well for us, and a lot of customers tell us that it intrigued them enough to make the first call,” he says.

Word-of-mouth and the branding on portable restrooms provide a steady stream of customers. The company website also draws in a significant number of customers, although pay-per-click services harvest only small additional dividends.

Jardine is a great believer in cold-calling potential customers. In addition, he’s a member of the Toronto Construction Association, a 2,000-member organization representing the construction industry across the Greater Toronto Area.

“I’m not discouraged if the person I contact doesn’t wind up becoming an immediate customer,” he says. “People eventually come around, and it’s often somebody who knows somebody who needs a portable restroom.”



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