Tommy and Charlene Endsley Are Partners in Life and Business

A Missouri couple puts in long hours to realize their dream to build Charlene’s Waste Services into a successful portable restroom enterprise.

Tommy and Charlene Endsley Are Partners in Life and Business

One of the Endsleys’ service trucks carries 700 gallons of water for customers who demand a lot of freshwater availability. Tommy Endsley fills the tank first thing in the morning.

In just two years, Tommy and Charlene Endsley — the owners of Charlene’s Waste Services in Wentzville, Missouri — have significantly increased their gross income and their fleet of vehicles and restrooms.

A construction boom in the metro St. Louis area helped stoke the company’s growth; about 90 percent of its revenue comes from construction rentals and the rest from smaller special events. But plain old hard work and a frugal financial mindset also were strong factors, says Tommy Endsley, 39, who has nearly 20 years’ of experience in the portable restroom industry.

The Endsleys were on a tight budget. As such, they bought used equipment at first. Through a classified ad in Pumper magazine, they bought 200 used construction restrooms from a company located a couple-hour’s drive away. “I picked them up 30 at a time with a flatbed truck and a trailer,” Tommy Endsley says.

The couple also found a used service truck in the Pumper classifieds: a 1997 International outfitted with a 700-gallon waste and 500-gallon freshwater steel tank and a Masport pump. Endsley also rigged up a 2006 Dodge Ram 3500 with a smaller slide-in unit, using a 300-gallon waste and 150-gallon freshwater stainless steel tank owned by an old friend.

“I cleaned it up, put a Conde pump (Westmoor) on it and went to work,” Endsley says. “When you’re just starting out as a small business, you don’t have a pocketful of money … so you have to be resourceful. The last thing you want to do is go out and get loans and then have everything flop on you. We had to first test the waters to be sure customers would use us.”

The company now owns two new trucks built out by FlowMark Vacuum Trucks: a 2018 Dodge Ram 5500 with a 500-gallon waste and 500-gallon freshwater aluminum tank and a 2017 Ford F-750 with a 700-gallon waste and 700-gallon freshwater aluminum tank. Both trucks rely on National Vacuum Equipment 304 pumps.

In addition, Charlene’s Waste Services owns a 2006 Dodge Ram 3500 dually pickup, used for transporting restrooms; three trailers made by Davis Utility Trailer Sales; about 500 restrooms made by PolyPortables, a division of Satellite, Satellite Industries, PolyJohn and Armal; about 15 hand-wash stations made by T.S.F.; and 15 300-gallon holding tanks made by PolyJohn and Five Peaks.

“I think that’s pretty darn good for just Charlene and me,” Endsley says. “We tripled our (gross) revenue in the second year compared to first year.”

EXPLORE FIVE ISSUES THAT Impact Charlene’s Waste Services:

HAVING A GREAT PARTNER

Endsley had a no-compete agreement with a former restroom service employer, so he took a job working as a garbage-truck driver for a few years. After the agreement expired, he kept his job as a garbage-truck driver for another year. At the same time, he and Charlene Endsley, 47, also worked at building up the restroom business to the point it was sustainable.

“We knew we had to have enough business built up so I could quit the job and work for our company full time,” Tommy Endsley says. “I was putting in a lot of hours. And none of this would’ve worked if not for Charlene. She is such a hard worker and her sheer determination helped make this work. She ran a lot of routes with the slide-in while I was at work and made deliveries and pickups.

“You just have to be determined and have some pep in your step,” he adds when asked how they persevered during the intense startup phase. “You have to live it and breathe it every day.”

POUNDING THE PAVEMENT

There are 20 or so competitors in the market Charlene’s Waste Services serves, which includes the metro St. Louis area and parts of western Illinois, across the Mississippi River. To establish the business, the couple did not do any advertising. Instead, they relied on the old-fashioned approach.

“I’d see a construction site and hop out of the truck and talk to someone, or maybe even run into someone I already knew. We built the business on word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business. Business just kept on blossoming and blossoming.”

What is Charlene’s Waste Services secret to retaining customers? Just provide great service. “Be upfront with customers and tell them the facts — you’re going to do this kind of service and the driver will show up at this time. … Then go out and do what you said you’d do,” Endsley says. “No one is perfect — we‘ve had hiccups here and there. But we always make customer service our top priority.”

CARRYING MORE FRESHWATER

With freshwater tanks as big as the waste tanks, Endsley’s two trucks from FlowMark Vacuum Trucks are not conventionally configured — and for good reason. To diversify the business, Endsley wanted to provide freshwater as an add-on service for office trailers on construction sites.

“Why send out two trucks, one to deliver water and one for pumping, when you can do it all at one time?” he asks. “It’s all about efficiency.”

Endsley connects dual 300-gallon holding tanks to office trailers he serves, one supplying water to sink and toilet and the other for wastewater. “Then I hook up a 12-volt pump, winterize the system and they’re good to go,” he says.

“It provides a decent additional revenue stream,” he continues. “It makes customers happy, and we get extra revenue out of the same customer who is already using us for pumping out their (office trailer) waste tank.”

LOOKING TOWARD WOMEN’S BUSINESS ENTERPRISE CERTIFICATION

There’s more to the company’s name than honoring Charlene Endsley’s role as a co-owner. In the long term, the couple is aiming to become a certified women’s business enterprise, and the couple thought the name would play into that from a marketing perspective, Endsley says.

A WBE certificate can help boost business because many contractors can bid on government contracts only if they have a certain percentage of minority-owned businesses involved as subcontractors. When putting jobs up for bid, government agencies also give priority to WBEs, which must be majority-owned by a minority. (Charlene Endsley owns 51 percent of the company.)

“We have to be in business for three years before we can apply, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get certified,” Tommy Endsley says. The process is time-consuming and rigorous; applicants must undergo background checks and have their financial records examined.

SEEKING SLOW AND STEADY GROWTH

Even though the construction industry is booming, Endsley would like to diversify the company by serving more special events. “Construction is like your bread and butter — your base income,” he says. “Special events are the icing on the cake.” Right now, Charlene’s Waste Services only takes on smaller special events because Endsley doesn’t want to underserve regular customers just to handle weekend events that occur once a year.

“But as we grow and get more employees (the couple just hired their first employee earlier this year) and equipment, we’ll shoot for bigger events,” he says.

In five to eight years, Endsley envisions owning 1,500 to 2,000 restrooms. “That’s our goal,” he says. “But we want to grow slow and steady. We don’t ever want to bite off more than we can chew.”



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