Associate Is an Action Verb

Members of the PSAI work together to achieve goals that can improve the industry and serve the public more effectively.

Associate Is an Action Verb

Karleen Kos is executive director of the Portable Sanitation Association International. She may be reached at or 952-854-8300.

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Every so often, I run into someone who doesn’t know what an association is. They ask what I do for a living and then cock their heads to one side with a quizzical look as I try to explain. Over the years, I have boiled my answer down to an “elevator speech.” Today when I recognize the “What on earth can she be talking about?” look, I say: “An association exists to promote the industry and help solve its problems.”

All sorts of industries have associations. Regardless of the focus, an association is dead in the water if it isn’t listening to its members and translating their concerns — and their dues — into active value.

One way the Portable Sanitation Association International listens to the portable sanitation industry is through an annual survey. Here are some highlights from this year’s study, which includes data from both members and nonmembers of the PSAI:

Workforce issues top the list of immediate concerns. When we asked, “What is the biggest challenge you deal with every day?” fully 50% of the responses concerned finding, training and retaining employees.

Disposal looms as one of the top anxieties on the five-year horizon. Although the disposal industry is actually growing overall, the number of options for portable sanitation companies is decreasing and costs are going up.

Industry image problems also rank high on the list of worries. Competitors whose service reflects poorly on the industry and a lack of appreciation from the public continue to dishearten our colleagues and devalue portable sanitation as a whole.

You may be thinking, “Well, duuuuuh. You needed a survey for that?” It is true that the main concerns revealed in the results are not big surprises. What matters is how universally these anxieties are shared. The real question is “So what can we do about it?” That’s where the PSAI comes in. We are, in fact, doing something about all these concerns.

In June we launched a series of virtual roundtable discussions covering workforce issues. These conversations allow attendees to learn the best ideas currently in use for recruitment, retention and training of competent workers.

Also in June, we announced our Disposal Initiative. Beginning with a comprehensive study of disposal issues and options, the PSAI intends to create a strategy aimed at helping operators identify affordable disposal strategies for their businesses.

In March we presented a session at the PSAI’s Annual Convention and Trade Show describing the nature of portable sanitation’s “image problem” and our long-term strategy for repositioning the industry. Through a series of initiatives and an ever-growing readiness to seize “tipping point” moments, we expect to shift the reputation of portable sanitation from one of tolerated or disparaged acceptance to that of a respected alternative.


An association exists to promote the industry and help solve its problems. The key word there is “association,” which is a form of the action “to associate.” Associate means to interact, to align with others, to be part of something. It’s an action verb.

Every so often, a caller will say, “Why don’t you people ever do (such and such)?” The truth is there is no “you people.” There’s only you, and people like you, working together to achieve goals that can improve your business and serve the public more effectively. That’s what the PSAI really is. A means of organizing and directing our shared energies to accomplish valuable results that raise all the boats.

Chatting about problems and challenges on Facebook might be cheap and give you a momentary “high.” But Facebook groups don’t really address any issue in a systemic way. For that, we need coordinated, purposeful action. For that, we need an association. 


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