Tim Smith Wants to Provide the Royal Treatment

Iowa’s A King’s Throne succeeds by concentrating on personal service, treating employees right and a commitment to the communities it serves

Tim Smith Wants to Provide the Royal Treatment

The office staff at A King’s Throne includes (from left) Bailey Smith, Shanel Fahlenkamp, Wendy Amatangelo and Wanda Smith.

Tim Smith feels lucky to have worked in portable sanitation for a boss he considers one of the best in the industry and a true mentor. Nevertheless, when an opportunity came up to venture out on his own, he jumped at the chance. When Portable Restroom Operator first caught up with him in 2009, Smith and his business partner Mark Manning had three years under their belts as owners of A King’s Throne in Des Moines, Iowa, with one driver, 500 units, one restroom trailer and two vacuum trucks.

Since then, significant changes have taken place. Smith bought out Manning, brought in his wife, Wanda Smith, as a business partner, hired a sales manager, updated the website and added new service lines. The team now includes Ricky Burns, service manager; Wendy Amatangelo, office manager; and Jim Smith, sales manager (unrelated) along with eight drivers, a shop foreman, a part-time mechanic, two office personnel and one sales associate.

With dedicated employees, outstanding service and a booming local economy, the company has been on a growth track and now has close to 2,000 portable restrooms, five VIP restroom trailers and 10 service trucks. They operate out of a 10,000-square-foot facility on 1.5 acres. Their service territory covers a 50-mile radius although they will take their restroom trailers anywhere.

COMPANY HISTORY

Before starting his own company, Tim Smith spent nearly a decade in the industry. He worked for Lee Sola who now owns S & B Porta-Bowl Restrooms in Denver. “I learned a lot from him,” Smith says. “He’s the reason why I’m still in this business.”

Manning, on the other hand, came to the table with no background in the industry. His law-enforcement career had come to an abrupt end after he sustained serious injuries when a drunk driver hit his squad car.

The two friends decided to join forces with Smith doing the physical work and Manning handling sales and marketing. The business was a success, but after a few years Manning was ready to get out. Although the recession was right around the corner, Smith stayed the course and has seen steady growth since.

By 2013, he was ready to formally create a sales and marketing position and brought on Jim Smith who came to the industry from the business world with an advertising and marketing background.

“Tim was a client of mine,” Jim Smith explains. “We jokingly said, ‘Maybe someday I can come to work for you if the company grows enough.’ Finally, over three dinners he and Wanda and my wife, Julie, and I hammered it out. I hung up my suits and ties. My blood pressure is down and my migraine headaches and all the health issues that plagued me from living under the deadlines of corporate America are gone.”

In 2018, the company added two new services — septic and grease trap pumping. They already had a large vacuum truck used for pumping out their smaller trucks — a 2003 Peterbilt 330 built out by Progress Tank with a 2,800-gallon aluminum tank and Masport pump. For grease, they use a 2011 Ford F‑550 with an Imperial Industries 1,100-gallon aluminum tank and Masport pump. Portable restrooms are serviced with five Ford F‑550s (2011-16) from Imperial Industries with 900-gallon waste and 300-gallon freshwater aluminum tanks and Masport pumps and a 2015 Dodge 5500 from Best Enterprises with a 350-gallon waste and 150-gallon freshwater stainless steel tank and Conde (Westmoor) pump. For deliveries they have a 2011 Chevy 3500 flatbed and two Chevy 1-ton pickups along with 10-, 18‑, 20‑ and 22‑unit transport trailers. The company uses software from Fleetmatics (Verizon Connect) and Cro Software Solutions. Wastewater is taken to the Des Moines municipal treatment plant.

TIME FOR A MAKEOVER

Although Smith focuses heavily on the company’s digital presence, with regular posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, he’s also a believer in pounding the pavement and meeting folks face-to-face.

“I’m very hands on,” he says. “You can’t just sit in an office and call people. We go to any meeting we possibly can. I stop by job sites, both current customers to see if we’re taking care of them or what changes they’d like to see, and people who aren’t our customers to see if there’s anything we could offer. If the boss isn’t there, I’ll visit with the guys.”

By 2018, it was apparent the company’s 6-year-old website needed updating.

“It was important that it be mobile-ready,” Smith explains. “There’s nothing worse than a website that isn’t mobile-optimized. And it also had to be a site that, if somebody looked at it on a full-screen computer or tablet or whatever, it was easy to use and easy to see everything.” In looking for a web designer, they did some research, interviewed about five companies and eventually hired a local company, Meraki Creative.

“They were very hands on with us,” Smith says. “Tim and I had several meetings to go over what we wanted. They did not push their agenda on us but it was just whatever we wanted and making sure it would fit into the platform we wanted.” Together they rewrote the copy, replaced photos, added videos and worked on search engine optimization.

One thing that did not change is the company logo. “The throne is very prominent on our logo,” Jim Smith says. “It works for us and goes with our tag line — ‘There’s a difference in a Throne.’ Everybody knows our logo.”

A BOOM CYCLE

Construction — accounting for about 65 percent of the company’s work — is “just out of this world,” Smith reports, mainly because suburbs Ankeny and Waukee are two of the fastest-growing cities in the country and need everything from houses and apartment buildings to churches and restaurants. Large companies are moving in or expanding including Microsoft, Facebook and Wells Fargo.

The company also serves a lot of special events. They work closely with event coordinators, some of whom use them exclusively, as do some venues. Projects include the Fourth of July parade, Hinterland Music Festival and Big Country Bash. They served 180 weddings in 2018. They also service a number of charitable events at no charge, including Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Jolly Holiday Lights, an elaborate drive-through light display running from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.

One of their more unique events is RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), a weeklong bicycle ride across the state and one of the largest bike touring events in the world, sponsored by the Des Moines Register. Riders start by dipping their rear bike tires in the Missouri River on the west end of the state and finish by dipping front tires in the Mississippi River on the east end. Different companies provide units along the route.

The company keeps its event units separate from those used in construction. But all their units (PolyJohn) are supplied with hand sanitizer and Surco Portable Sanitation Products deodorizers. They also have 20 handicap-accessible and ADA-compliant units (PolyJohn and Five Peaks), 60 hand-wash stations (PolyJohn), and 12 250-gallon wastewater and 12 105-gallon freshwater holding tanks (Kentucky Tank and PolyJohn).

Each of their Ameri-Can Engineering restroom trailers is given a royal-sounding name in keeping with the company theme. The high-end model with oak doors, accent lighting, a sound system and makeup table is called the Royale; midsized units are Baron, Squire and Jester; and a two-unit model is the Princess. “It’s easier to keep track of them once you get more than one if they have a name,” Smith says. “The customers call them by name, too.” The trailers are mostly used for weddings, festivals and construction sites. One client rents a trailer every year for a large event and has it vinyl wrapped to promote their business.

“We deliver it to the site and then a professional company comes in and wraps it,” Smith says. “They come in the morning and it’s usually done by early afternoon. Then they come in afterward and take the wrap off. There’s no damage of any kind to the trailer.”

“TREAT” THEM RIGHT

Tim Smith is quick to give credit to his employees for contributing to the success of his company. But Jim Smith points out Iowa has the second-lowest unemployment rate in the nation so finding and keeping good people is tough. He says the company pays well, has great benefits, offers a 401(k) plan, and supplies uniforms of shirts, pants and jackets. But little extras help, too.

“We have little perks,” Smith says. “This sounds silly but there’s always candy and that kind of stuff sitting around. We make sure in the summertime there’s bottles of water and Gatorade. We bought coolers for all the drivers so they can stock up.” Quarterly meetings come with catered breakfast — bacon, eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy.

“It’s just a quick go-over of stuff and to take the pulse of the drivers and shop people about how everything’s going, what are they noticing, and are there things that need to be brought to our attention. The best way to do that is sit them down, feed them, let them be relaxed and just talk. Everybody is taken care of and they’re not just sitting there going, ‘When will this be over?’”

They also have a family Christmas party complete with a bounce house for the kids. “It’s the Tim and Wanda factor,” Jim Smith says. “They take such great care of all of us.”

EXTENDED FAMILY

Tim Smith’s caring attitude extends to everyone — employees, customers, the community, friendly vendors and even competitors. He knows a lot of PROs in the state, and they don’t hesitate to refer work to each other when it makes sense. He’s been going to the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport (WWETT) Show for more than 20 years and is also a member of Portable Sanitation Association International, currently serving on its board of directors.

“I like the people I’ve gotten to know through the industry,” he says. “All my employees are wonderful on a business level and a personal level. All the vendors, to me they are not vendors, they are wonderful friends that just happen to sell me products.”

Tim Smith credits his parents and his former boss for instilling in him a philosophy of how to work with people. Simply put — “Treat everybody the way I’d want to be treated.”


Field trip

When Tim Smith, owner of A King’s Throne in Des Moines, Iowa, ordered a high-end restroom trailer in 2014, it arrived just in time to be used over Father’s Day weekend at what is perhaps Iowa’s most famous baseball field. High-profile people played a game that weekend, but they were movie stars not athletes. The field was in Dyersville, where crowds had gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1989 movie Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster (his last film).

Actually, crowds have been coming to Dyersville since the movie came out. The farmhouse and field have been preserved as seen in the movie and an estimated 100,000 stop by annually to have a look, usually for nostalgic reasons.

Although the company is a good three hours from Dyersville, they were asked to service the event. One of the celebrities on hand was Costner. He had occasion to use the Royale trailer, and the deluxe accommodations did not go unnoticed by him.

“He came out of it,” says Jim Smith, sales manager, “and walked by Tim and goes, ‘Fellas, that is really, really well-done. Nice job.’ He patted Tim on the back and walked away. It was cool he took the time to do it.”



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