Looking Back on 12 Years as PRO Editor

PROs constantly seek ways to reach customers, improve their equipment inventory and build on industry professionalism.
Looking Back on 12 Years as PRO Editor
Taking the Time Machine Back to 2004

Operating a small business was much different when COLE Publishing bought the fledgling Portable Restroom Operator magazine 12 years ago. When COLE’s first issue mailed in October 2004, the iPhone was merely a glint in Steve Jobs’ eye. The idea of a tablet computer in the vacuum truck directing drivers, controlling invoicing and communicating with the office was still George Jetson territory. And a PRO’s main form of marketing was a pricey phone book ad.  

Who would have imagined the change in your customer focus over the past decade? A handful of major outdoor concert venues have morphed into huge festivals in every major market. Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Glastonbury, Coachella, TomorrowWorld and countless country music camping festivals have raised the bar for what it means to provide special event service.

Each event requires hundreds of portable restrooms, VIP restroom and shower trailer options, and around-the-clock service.

Construction work has changed, too. More municipalities require restrooms on every building site. Containment trays, stake-downs and other placement rules are on the rise, and service frequency and quality are being more closely scrutinized. How long will it be until flushing units and hot-water sinks are a prerequisite across the United States as they are in some other countries today?

I recall during those first months and years serving as editor of PRO, contractors would talk about a two-way radio as high technology, only a handful of businesses were going online with websites, and most were skeptical that the internet would ever bring them a new customer. There were still a lot of technicians who remembered hoisting backbreaking wooden units in the 1960s.


In that first issue, we promised to “uniquely target portable sanitation professionals with valuable stories, time-saving and moneymaking insights and targeted advertising to help you work smarter and increase the bottom line. The nuts and bolts of the business might be providing restrooms to special events or construction sites, but to excel as a service provider you need more — more information on products, routing, employee relations, tracking, accounting, billing — more of the things that can improve your bottom line.”

I’m happy to say the two portable restroom companies we featured in October 2004 are still going strong. But that’s to be expected in an industry dominated by so many hardworking and conscientious families. These folks are effective at adapting to constant changes in the marketplace.

Our first PROfile story introduced readers to OnSite Sanitation in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Owners Karen and Dave Holm were strongly involved in raising professional standards through the Portable Sanitation Association International (PSAI). As Dave explained about the company’s fleet of equipment at the time:

“I’m a believer in image. All our trucks have our company name prominently displayed. We have two full-time mechanics on staff who repair a fleet of 35 service vehicles. We will paint the trucks as needed. If a dent on the fender shows, we put on a new fender to maintain a clean appearance. I believe that the better shape the truck is in, the better the driver will care for it.”

Denmark, Wisconsin’s VandenPlas Sanitation was our first On Location featured company. Kurt and Kris VandenPlas and their family gave great attention to an art festival, just like they had when serving the renovation of Lambeau Field in Green Bay about the same time. Kurt explained how they stepped up service:

“Many companies just do what they’re told and they don’t offer input. We picked up one account this year, not because we had the low price, but because we were going to be part of event planning. The good service leads to a good reputation.”


Why am I looking back at the “good old days” of portable sanitation? Because with this issue, I’m turning over the editor’s post to Cory Dellenbach. From now on, Cory will carry the responsibility of monitoring this meeting place for the portable restroom community. He will plan the editorial content, alert you to industry trends in service and technology, and be sure you get the most information out of these pages.

PROs have come a long way in the past 12 years. You have increased efficiency, improved service, upgraded your equipment and seen your businesses prosper. There’s so much farther to go, and I’m confident you’ll get there, all while providing a vital, necessary service with professionalism and pride.


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