81-Year-Old Jay Faubel’s Best Business Advice: Ask Your Clients What They Need and Give It to Them

For 60 years, California’s AAA Quality Services has sought new ways to provide added value for construction site services customers.

81-Year-Old Jay Faubel’s Best Business Advice: Ask Your Clients What They Need and Give It to Them

Technician Luis Alvarez preps a Satellite Suites restroom trailer for delivery to a customer.

A diversified menu of services is one reason Jay Faubel says his business, AAA Quality Services, has prospered and is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2018. While portable sanitation is the biggest revenue generator for the company, the 81-year-old industry veteran stands ready to offer many other services to his customers.

For example, a construction company might call just to get portable restrooms and hand-wash stations, but then determine it also needs fencing, temporary storage, temporary power, temporary lighting, fire extinguishers and guard services. Faubel’s vast central California operations can provide all of that.

The added services are compatible with construction, he points out, but they all aren’t typically as labor-intensive as portable sanitation.

“(Portable restrooms) are real demanding. You’ve got to put them out, and you’ve got to service them. They require ongoing, constant maintenance to meet the customers’ needs,” he says. “With the fence and the container and the temporary power, we put it in and it stays there until the customer is done with it, and we go and pick it up. With that kind of service, you can do a lot more business with fewer people.”

STARTING SMALL

When he started in business, Faubel worked by himself. He was trying to nurture a side business as an electrician while working for a grocery warehouse when he found an opportunity to get into the market for security alarm systems.

“I picked up that market and moved on with it. I’ve been in the alarm business since 1958,” he says. He also continued doing electrical contracting work and working in the warehouse until 1970 when he started working for himself full time, doing electrical contracting, selling alarm systems, and farming. He and his late wife, Viola, were living on a 100-acre ranch and growing peaches and grapes.

In 1974, he moved into a shop in Visalia and added a fire equipment company and a security guard company. In 1990 he bought two portable restroom operations and a septic service business and consolidated them.

“All my businesses are service-related,” Faubel says. “Fire extinguishers are an annual renewal service. Guards are a service business. Alarms are a service business. Portable restrooms seem to be a good fit for that.”

All of the companies operate as divisions of AAA Quality Services. His portable restroom business operates under the name Potter’s Porta Potties, which was one of the companies he bought.

“It had been in business 15 to 20 years,” Faubel says. “I kept the name because it was a very prominent name and he was very well-liked. It’s been a good thing for us.”

EQUIPMENT CORNER

Faubel immediately started to expand the portable restroom business, and one of his first moves was to adopt the then-new pink portable restrooms introduced by PolyPortables, a division of Satellite.

“I was one of their first customers. In fact, I was their first customer in the San Joaquin Valley,” Faubel says. “I bought 100 of those pink toilets. They just went great. I started doubling my business almost overnight because people liked a blue and a pink toilet. We went from people renting one toilet for an event to renting two. And in some cases, they would rent two for the women and one for the men. It’s a courtesy for the women, and it’s good for business.”

Now Faubel’s portable sanitation business, which has 125 employees and 50 vehicles, has thousands of portable restrooms in its inventory. Most are made by PolyPortables, a division of Satellite; PolyJohn; and Satellite Industries. Hand-wash stations are from PolyPortables, a division of Satellite; PolyJohn; and Satellite Industries. Deodorant supplies are also from Satellite Industries. VIP restrooms and restroom trailers come from NuConcepts, Satellite Suites and Advanced Containment Systems.

He also has a wide variety of trucks, including models made by International, Peterbilt, Dodge and Freightliner. The vacuum trucks are outfitted by Satellite Industries, West-Mark, Lely Tank & Waste Solutions, FMI Truck Sales & Service and Best Enterprises.

Most of his service vehicles, Faubel says, are International 4300 trucks with 2,000-gallon (1,400-gallon waste and 600-gallon freshwater) tanks, either stainless steel or aluminum, with Masport pumps. Most PROs would opt for a 1,500-500 split on a 2,000-gallon tank, Faubel says, but he likes 600 gallons of freshwater to be sure sinks and toilets can be adequately supplied with clean water.

“When I send a truck out in the morning, I expect it to stay out all day,” he says.

The fleet is large enough that Faubel has seven mechanics working in his shop, handling everything from tires to paint jobs to welding and even rebuilding trucks.

FROM FARMING TO EVENTS

The San Joaquin Valley where AAA Quality Services is located is one of the nation’s major agricultural areas, producing a variety of fruits, nuts, and grapes. Agriculture isn’t directly responsible for a great deal of his business, he says, because the labor contractors that supply farm workers usually have their own portable restrooms. Faubel’s company provides parts and services for some of those contractors.

“I’ve helped some of them get their own equipment together, and they’re good customers for me in my shop,” Faubel says. “I help them with repairs for their pumps and hoses, and I sell them products like chemicals and toilet paper. I’ll sell them whatever they need to be successful.”

The area is also known for its intense summer heat, which does affect the servicing of portable restrooms. Like most PROs, Faubel says once-a-week service is standard, but in scorching hot weather, twice-a-week service can become necessary.

“When we get up around 110 degrees F here in the summer, twice-a-week service is pretty common,” Faubel says. “If it’s out in the sun, a portable restroom can dry out. Because of the evaporation, we need to add more water and more fragrance.”

Construction projects are a much bigger share of his business than agriculture, Faubel says, and about half of the portable sanitation business comes from special events. These include bicycle races, running events, air shows, Civil War re-enactments, and Renaissance fairs, as well as outdoor concerts, weddings, and other parties.

For the events, AAA Quality Services might provide not only the portable restrooms and hand-wash stations, but also fencing (Master Halco), barricades, and even guard services.

For a Civil War re-enactment or a Renaissance fair, AAA Quality Services sometimes will fence an entire park. Running events and bicycle races sometimes require miles of barricades. Usually weekend events that end at 4 p.m. on Sunday need to have the sites cleared of equipment by 6 a.m. Monday.

GROWTH AND STAFFING

While his mix of businesses is strategic, he was also a convenient buyer for some operators who wanted to retire or get out of their businesses for other reasons. In some cases, they had sold their businesses before, but the buyer had not succeeded and the businesses had reverted back to the original owners. That’s when they sought out Faubel.

“If they sell a business to somebody who doesn’t know how to run it, they end up getting it back. I’ve bought several businesses where that was kind of the case — either somebody didn’t want to take a chance on getting it back or he’d already sold it and gotten it back, so he sold to me,” Faubel explains.

“We’re a service business, and because we are, we’re accustomed to dealing with customers on a recurring basis. All of our businesses are pretty much in that category. The same customer will do business with us year after year after year.”

Faubel has four of his six children and three grandchildren working in the business. He is also proud that some of his employees have stayed with the company for many years. One of his mechanics recently retired after working for the company 38 years, and there are many employees with 10, 20, or 30 years of service.

Still, staying fully staffed is an issue.

“It’s an ongoing process. We have to work at it all the time,” Faubel says. “I have a human resources department getting people to come to work for us.”

AAA Quality Services has a 401(k) plan, a health plan, and it offers three weeks of vacation after 10 years. There are also special events around holidays, such as bringing in a taco truck at Christmas and a summer party for employees. Faubel also thinks putting the proper focus on safety is helpful for retaining workers.

“You try to make it a safe place to work, as well as a pleasant place,” he says.

While he has some workers who have been with him for more than 30 years, he admits he doesn’t know the secret for keeping employees that long.

“I wish I had a formula that would work for me 100 percent of the time,” he says. “You can never pay enough that somebody else won’t pay more. It can’t be just the wages. It has to be that they like their job.”

Some of his service drivers are former long-haul truckers who decided they were tired of being away from home so much.

RETIRE? NO WAY!

Faubel comes to work every day and doesn’t plan to stop. “What would I be doing?” he asks. “I never did fish. I don’t play golf.”

He enjoys working around the ranch he and his wife bought soon after they were married in 1957. They were married 59 years until she died in 2016. Viola used to travel with him to industry events such as the Pumper & Cleaner Environmental Expo, now the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show.

Faubel keeps physically active by farming, including hauling wood from his orchard, which is now planted in plum trees, to feed the wood-burning stoves in his house. He also climbs stairs.

“My office is on the second floor. I climb 21 steps every few hours,” he says.

He enjoys living in his agricultural community, and he is pleased to have been able to put together a mix of businesses that is providing employment for so many people.

“I’ve acquired several companies along the way,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to profit from their mistakes and hopefully from their successes, too.”


Recognize billboard opportunities

When a company offers a diverse menu of services, it makes sense to artfully market through signage on equipment in the field, says Jay Faubel, owner of AAA Quality Services.

“We advertise pretty much with our equipment,” Faubel says. “The restrooms themselves are well-marked. Our trucks are all very well-marked. One of the things I’ve done that has been very helpful to us is the decals that we put inside our portable restrooms. The fencing, for example, those customers that use the toilets are also the customers that need the fencing and the barricades. That’s been a very good marketing tool.”

And it’s not just the fencing and barricades being advertised inside the portable restroom.

“We have decals that have the phone number for our guards, the phone number for the fire service, and the phone number for our alarm business. We advertise inside the restroom for our other company services.”

Another tip he shares with PROs: Make your phone number easy to read.

“I want our phone number to be very easily read from a distance,” he says. “My trucks all have it very prominent on them. I think that’s a good marketing tool.”

He thinks some businesses make a mistake by making the signs on their trucks and other equipment too fancy.

“I’ve seen some of these people get decorative with it,” he says. “They get all kinds of curves in their lettering, and it’s not easy to read except at a certain angle or distance. We just use a plain white background with black lettering. It’s very easy to read.”



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