Jim Reisinger Spells Out How He Satisfies Construction and Event Customers

Signature aqua restrooms, progressive employee management and service that never stops are hallmarks of success for Missouri’s R & R Sanitation

Jim Reisinger Spells Out How He Satisfies Construction and Event Customers

Daleen services a Satellite Industries Taurus restroom at a construction site in O’Fallon, Missouri. Aqua blue units are the standard for R & R Sanitation.

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When boom truck operator Jim Reisinger decided to get into the portable restroom business in 2000 in response to requests from construction clients, he didn’t just put his toe in the water to give it a try. He went all out, buying 300 units and a vacuum truck. Reisinger believes you have to spend money to make money. That philosophy carries over into how he runs the business, whether it’s putting money into safety measures to head off problems later, hiring union workers, or keeping his inventory constantly updated. Smart investments now pay dividends later, he says.

Reisinger’s company, R & R Sanitation, supplies portable sanitation equipment, roll-off containers, and water systems for special event and construction clients. They operate out of a 3-acre yard and building in St. Louis and a 2-acre lot 40 miles west in O’Fallon, where the main office is located. The service territory radiates out 115 miles to the north, west, and south and 40 miles to the east into Illinois, where the company serves special events as well as construction work for refineries, steel mills and Scott Air Force Base.

R & R Sanitation has 46 employees who are cross-trained to help in all areas of the business. Reisinger’s wife, Debbie, runs the office; son, Tim, is the operations manager; daughter, Shelli Jensen, does the accounting; and daughter, Stacy Allinger, handles sales and bids. As for what 65-year-old Reisinger does, he jokes that the sign his kids got him explains it pretty well — “Nobody knows what I do until I don’t do it” — but mostly it’s management and oversight.

STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE

Reisinger spent 20 years working as director of operations for a couple of local portable restroom companies — until they stopped being local companies. When a large, out-of-town operation came in and bought the independents in 1998, he decided to move on. He purchased two boom trucks and offered his services to construction companies. But the loss of the local businesses left a hole in the market, and his customers wanted him to fill it. When he did so, it was an immediate success, and not long thereafter, he placed a second order to Satellite Industries for 450 more Maxim 3000 units.

Growth has not let up since. “We have never had a down year,” Reisinger says. “We got a little close in 2008-09, but even then, sales were up.” Today, his inventory stands at 6,000 units, mostly Taurus, High Tech II, and Maxim 3000 units from Satellite Industries. Although Reisinger prefers aqua because it looks the cleanest and he can spot them easily, he offers a wide range of colors so customers can have a choice — an especially important feature for the local sports teams where it’s red for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team and blue for the St. Louis Blues ice hockey team.

The company also has 183 ADA-compliant units from Satellite Industries and PolyPortables as well as 325 hand-wash stations from PolyPortables and T.S.F. The 200 PolyJohn Enterprises high-rise construction units that sat in a warehouse through the recession are now in constant use. There are 24 restroom trailers: 17 Ameri-Can Engineering, two Forest River, one Black Tie Products, two Advanced Containment Systems, and two Rich Specialty Trailers. The small one is 16 feet, the large one is 34 feet, and the rest are 22 feet. In addition to high-end events, they’re used by companies such as restaurants and hardware stores undergoing renovations. Last year, the company had them all over Missouri, two in Kansas, four in Oklahoma, and two in Louisiana.

Units are serviced with the company’s 14 vacuum trucks — mostly Hinos, 2008-15. One has a 1,000-gallon waste and 500-gallon freshwater tank, two have 1,600-gallon waste and 600-gallon freshwater tanks, and the rest have 1,500-gallon waste and 500 gallon-freshwater tanks. Most are aluminum tanks from Progress Tank. The newest ones are stainless steel from Best Enterprises. All have Masport pumps.

ROLL-OFFS AND WATER SYSTEMS

Construction accounts for about 75 percent of the company’s business, and Reisinger found it beneficial to add a couple of complementary services for those clients. One is roll-off containers. They have 400 Wastequip units, ranging in size from 10- to 40-yard, and eight trucks — one Peterbilt and seven Macks with Galbreath hoists. Reisinger says it’s been easy to build that part of the business because of the synergy with portable restrooms. “When they ask for portable toilets, we ask if they need a roll-off.” 

The company also provides water systems for construction trailers. These are company-built units made from used containers of chemical products from J&J Chemical. 

“We clean them and fill them with water,” Reisinger explains, “Then, we add a pump (Pentair Hypro SHURflo) that goes into the water supply to the trailer and a 300-gallon holding tank (PolyPortables). That gives them hot and cold water and flushing toilets.” They service the systems (and their restroom trailers) with a 2012 International DuraStar built out by Satellite Industries with a 4,000-gallon aluminum tank and Masport pump.

TAKING THE LONG VIEW

When it comes to investing in the business, Reisinger doesn’t look for short-term gains but instead asks how he can get the biggest bang for the buck in the long run. For example, he buys portable restrooms with large tanks when possible. “Most people like 60-gallon tanks,” he says. “My philosophy is I like to get the biggest thing I can find, which is an 82-gallon tank. It gives me a lot of margin of error; it’s nicer for our customers because there’s less chance of unsanitary conditions, and it helps our reputation.”

To facilitate easy waste disposal, he obtained a permit allowing him to build piping infrastructure that hooks his facility up to the local treatment plant, which enables him to dump waste at his yard. “It cost a lot of money,” he says, “but that’s OK because it benefits me. With all the special events we do, we wouldn’t be able to do them because treatment plants have hours and special events don’t.”

To keep insurance costs down and reduce the likelihood of costly accidents, he hired a full-time safety manager who sees to it that vehicles comply with Department of Transportation requirements, daily truck inspections are carried out, and employees follow safety protocols. He checks job sites and inventory for hazards and makes sure employees headed to those sites have their hard hats, steel-toe shoes and safety vests. Further safety investments include GPS units in the trucks, and they’re also in the process of outfitting all vehicles with Lytx DriveCam cameras.

THE TEAMSTERS

Perhaps the biggest example of Reisinger’s willingness to pay a premium for something when he thinks it’s warranted is his decision to hire Teamsters, which he’s done since starting the business.

“It costs more, but it’s worth it,” he says. “I get good-quality people who will stay around because they get better pay and better benefits.” It also helps with benefit costs, he says, because of the power of the union to negotiate better deals. And his nonunion office workers also get the same benefits.

The contract with the union is renegotiated every five years. Reisinger doesn’t deny it can be a difficult process, but he takes it in stride. “We try to act professional. Their job is to get as much as they can get for the employees: my job is to keep my costs down. Sometimes we don’t see eye to eye on everything, but, really, we work it out.” The process usually takes 30 to 60 days. The last one took a year with the snag being locking in the cost of health insurance. There’s never been a strike, and the contract includes a no-strike clause. 

But even beyond the requirements of the contract, Reisinger believes in being good to his staff. “Everybody thinks it’s about the money,” he says. “But I don’t think that’s always the truth.” He says he’s done a lot of things to help his employees but readily admits they’ve been good to him, too. He conducts bimonthly meetings where drivers are recognized for their efforts and can make suggestions or voice complaints. Although he tends to talk more with the managers, he says his door is always open to anyone at any time: “I don’t care if it’s 8 o’clock in the morning or 11 o’clock at night.” On the fun side, he takes them to the Blues and Cardinals games, and once a year, he has everyone over to his house for a barbecue and swimming party.

IT TAKES WORK

Reisinger has no formal succession plan and doesn’t think he’ll ever completely retire, but he says he’s taking more vacations these days as his kids take over more.

“This is their business, anymore,” he says. “I’m here to help them, guide them, give them my knowledge.” In addition to family, he has a number of employees who have been with him a long time. “We have a lot of combined experience,” he says. “If I got run over by a train tomorrow, I don’t think our company would miss a beat.”

The team is dedicated to providing outstanding customer service, which is why Reisinger believes the company will continue to grow. “I think we’re very good service people,” he says. “We’re not perfect — we do make mistakes — but we respond and try not to make the second mistake on the same thing.”

He also emphasizes the importance of good communication. “I know this is a working industry where we have to physically work, but just as important, it’s about communication with our customers and our employees.” His philosophy seems to be working as he’s got a devoted staff and loyal customers. “We’ve been very fortunate,” he says. “But when I say ‘fortunate,’ we’ve worked for it.”


The changing face of winter

Winters in St. Louis are typically cold and snowy. Like many companies in that type of environment, R & R Sanitation has historically experienced a slowdown in work, and owner Jim Reisinger would have the crew do things like cleaning, repairing, and taking vacations.

But that’s starting to change, he says. “It’s getting harder and harder to do that because it seems like we’re busy all the time. Nowadays there are winter events.” The company has always had a few slow-season events, such as the St. Louis Mardi Gras in February (second in size, some say, to New Orleans), for which they put out 1,200 units, and the St. Patrick’s Day parade in March. But gone are the days the company could count on having Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve off as towns now have Thanksgiving Day parades and New Year’s Eve First Nights.

Another activity that’s becoming popular in the winter are hot chocolate runs, he says. “People will run for 5K or 10K and then get a cup of hot chocolate at the end — and a Bud Light, of course.”

Even construction doesn’t slow down as much as it once did, Reisinger says. The restroom trailers once stored for the winter are now in high demand. “We keep them pretty busy,” he says. “Ten years ago, I used to never rent these in the winter, but now, I can’t keep them. We just had one at a Texas Roadhouse where they renovated their whole restaurant … for six months in the middle of winter.” Other long-term clients include McDonald’s, Lowe’s and The Home Depot.



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