A Determined PRO Shares Her Success Strategies

Burgeoning construction market and focus on woman and minority owner service contracts helps Texas PRO Sammie Tritico check off list of business goals.
A Determined PRO Shares Her Success Strategies
Sammie Tritico builds her fleet with Hino trucks built out with tanks from Lely Tank & Waste Solutions and Masport pumps.

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When Sammie Tritico grew tired of working in sales in the corporate world, she and her husband, John, decided to start a portable restroom business in Austin, Texas, based on her work experience and a perceived demand in the area. They purchased 120 restrooms and one service truck, and Tritico started knocking on doors. That was in 2007. Today the couple’s business, Liquid Waste, has more than 1,000 portable restrooms, 10 employees and 10 trucks.

Early in her business career, Tritico worked in sales for a small portable restroom business. When she moved to Austin, one of her jobs for a waste management company had been dealing with unhappy customers. Not only did she solve their issues with the company, but Tritico also managed to convince many of them to sign contracts for another couple years of service.

“Basically, it created the person I am today. Sales and retention — you need that to be in business,” says Tritico. “With good sales and good equipment, delivering quality service is a key to success for a portable restroom operator.” The company has a mix of construction accounts that includes municipal projects, large hotel chains and universities.

“It’s all about performance,” Tritico says. “I can be as good a salesperson as I can be, but we have to have the backup from our guys and our equipment. Just because we get the job doesn’t mean we keep the job.

“We are constantly looking ahead. That’s my job, to find out what’s coming up, what are we doing. I communicate with John; we work together really well. Each does what they are good at. The combination has worked great.”

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

1. Mastering Every Task

Tritico owns land in Kyle and Buda, Texas, and is planning to build a new office facility this year. But she is thankful for lessons learned in leaner times. Early on, Liquid Waste shared space with other businesses. One was a junkyard, which had an ever-changing landscape that created an obstacle course for drivers.

“It really taught me how to maneuver around people, equipment and all kinds of material. With a big truck you must rely on your side mirrors. You have to use the mirrors, and it really did help create the driver that I am. I’ve not had any problem driving the big trucks,” says Tritico.

“When John and I started, I did the selling, the billing, I helped drive. I serviced and delivered toilets. So I’ve done everything from top to bottom, and if I’m going to ask one of my workers to do something, I want to know what I’m talking about,” she explains. “A lot of people think, ‘You are just a woman and you don’t know,’ but I’ve done all the grunt work so I really do know what’s going on. It helps me be a better manager.”

2. Identifying the Right Customer Mix

After building a strong client base, the Triticos added a website developed by Google in 2014, where clients and potential clients can fill out a request form. The site provides access to information, much better than handing out brochures that are typically thrown away, Tritico says, adding she is also updating a website she created.

From the beginning, Liquid Waste targeted the construction market, which makes up about 95 percent of the business. Tritico constantly looks for new opportunities in the Austin area, where all types of construction are booming. She networks and is a member of the Associated Building Contractors (ABC). The remaining 5 percent of Liquid Waste’s income comes from residential, events and parties. Though she doesn’t seek out private parties, Tritico contracts a few of them, including one for Texas and country music legend Willie Nelson. A client was a friend of the singer and recommended Liquid Waste.

“We often refer parties (to other portable restroom businesses), but for some clients who really want to use us, we’ll work with them,” she says. The parties take more time, people and equipment, and she is on site to ensure quality control.

3. Qualifying for Minority Business Status

At the suggestion of a client, Tritico explored obtaining minority certifications shortly after starting Liquid Waste. It required an enormous amount of paperwork and background checks on her work and personal history. Because she met the requirement of running a business that was at least 51 percent owned by a minority or American woman, she obtained three certifications: WBE (Woman Business Entity), DBE (Disadvantaged Business Entity) and HUB (Historically Underutilized Business).

When she places bids for city and state contracts, the entities are required to consider her business and other certified businesses. “It doesn’t mean we are going to get the job,” she notes. “You have to have quality equipment. Plus, I had the experience.” Liquid Waste landed a variety of contracts with the Austin airport and the University of Texas, for example. “It’s been a great opportunity for us. It’s really put us on the map and helps people get to know us,” Tritico says.

The certifications only provide the opportunity to bid on government contracts, she emphasizes. When they win a bid, her business has to prove it can provide quality service to earn future contracts. “Once we work for them, we get repeat business,” she says.

4. Building Strong Relationships

Repeat business is due in part to relationships Tritico builds with employees and clients. She knows what she didn’t like when working for others, and she knows what it’s like to work as a portable restroom operator.

“We’re just easy to work with. I treat my guys like I want to be treated,” Tritico adds, noting her business has a low employee turnover rate. “I just feel like they’re the heart of the business. If we don’t treat them well, how are they going to treat our customers, or how are they going to behave with our vehicles?” Liquid Waste provides uniforms, time off when needed and frequent raises to employees.

Besides staff, building good relationships with clients is critical. Tritico believes entertaining is an important part of her job. She invites clients to lunch as often as monthly. “It’s something I choose to do. I like to give back to my clients,” she says.

5. Organizing Equipment fleet and Inventory

John Tritico handles equipment purchases and maintenance. “We have 1,000 construction portable restrooms by PolyPortables and Five Peaks,” he says.

To accommodate the high-rise construction market, Liquid Waste owns about 75 PolyJohn PolyLift units. They also have Five Peaks and PolyPortables units that clients can lift to rooftops and other locations using cranes. About a quarter of the units, from Five Peaks and PolyPortables, are earmarked specifically for event service.

John works closely with Lely Tank & Waste Solutions to expand the fleet with Hino trucks from 2007 to 2010. Most have 1,100-gallon waste/400-gallon freshwater tanks. One is stainless steel and the rest are carbon steel tanks, and all have Masport vacuum pumps. They are also equipped with LiveViewGPS software to track location and time. The trucks are large enough to efficiently transport loads to Austin’s only wastewater treatment plant, yet small enough that drivers don’t need CDLs.


 



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