With the Right Level of Customer Service, Roy Baring Saw Endless Opportunity in Portable Sanitation

The potential is as big as the Lone Star horizon for scrappy startup Tex-San Site Services.

With the Right Level of Customer Service, Roy Baring Saw Endless Opportunity in Portable Sanitation

The Tex-San Site Services team includes, from left, Andrew McGrew, Brandon Rhea, Mike Hendricks, Charles Smith, Liz Oretega, Roy Baring, Krystal Baring, Ivette Velasco, Carlos Velasco, Daniel Guzman and Jesse Mata. (Photos by Mark Greenberg)

Ask Roy Baring, 38-year-old owner of San Antonio’s Tex-San Site Services, how he works to keep his clients happy, and he will invariably rattle off a list of answers such as exceptional service, attention to detail, work with integrity and more. But then drill down a little deeper and ask him for a recent example of how he goes above and beyond to ensure his clients are satisfied.

“It was almost 6:30 on the night before Christmas when my phone rang,” says the Texas A&M University graduate. It was a client who was calling to leave Baring a message asking to order three more portable restrooms for his site. “When I answered the phone, he was flabbergasted and asked me, ‘What the heck are you answering the phone for? It’s Christmas Eve!’ He apologized, but I told him not to worry: I am always available. And we were able to rush those restrooms to his site the day after Christmas.”

Baring is used to late-night calls. He has long made it a practice to transfer every phone in Tex-San’s offices to his own cellphone after sales hours. “I don’t want any customer getting a voicemail,” he explains. “I give everyone my cellphone number. It’s good customer service, but it’s also the way I’d like to be treated if I were a customer.”

Given Baring’s devotion to customer service, perhaps it’s no surprise his business has been growing steadily since he began operating in 2014 with 137 Tufway restrooms from Satellite | PolyPortables. Today he has more than 1,500 units from Satellite | PolyPortables and 35 PolyJohn ADA restrooms.

Supplying events, such as the massive River City Rockfest at San Antonio’s AT&T Center, accounts for about 10% of Tex-San’s business, while residential construction accounts for 55% and commercial construction clocks in at 35%. Business has been growing at a steady pace. Over the last three years, business has increased more than 600%, and Baring recently opened a satellite location that services some 200 restrooms in Austin, about 100 miles north of Tex-San’s headquarters.

The Tex-San crew includes drivers Carlos Velasco, Andrew McGrew, Mike Hendricks, Charles Smith, Martin Elizondo, Brandon Rhea and Lawrence Boston. Office personnel, in addition to Baring’s wife, Krystal Baring, who serves as chief financial officer, are office managers Ivette Velasco and Liz Oretega.

GETTING STARTED

After studying agricultural economics and business in college and graduating in 2003, Baring joined his family’s commercial cabinet construction business for a while. He then branched out on his own and worked in corporate sales and management. “Those years in the corporate world convinced me that I wasn’t cut out for the corporate life,” he admits. “I learned I wanted to run my own show.” In 2010, a friend invited him to join in a Texas-based portable restroom rental business that largely served the oil field industry.

“That was my crash course in servicing portable toilets and running a rental business,” Baring says. His “baptism” was a two-week-long event where he learned delivery, placement and how to service the units. However, when the oil fields eventually cut production, business dwindled and rental demand dropped. But Baring was hooked. He saw great potential in Texas’ burgeoning commercial and construction industry and decided to start his own portable sanitation company in San Antonio.

He arranged loans with local banks and bought two trucks and the initial restroom inventory. How confident was he that his new business would survive? He explains, “I took the advice that to succeed you should never create a plan B. So I didn’t. You should just work hard and make sure plan A executes. And that’s what we’ve been doing ever since we started Tex-San.” He pauses, then adds, “Also, I swore to myself I’d never go back to the corporate life. I’ve been able to keep that promise!”

Tex-San started out with oil field and construction clients that Baring had known when he was working in the commercial construction industry. “We used these initial clients as a springboard and built from there,” Baring says. Word-of-mouth and persistent sales calls helped the fledgling company increase revenues and expand its client list.

From day one, Krystal Baring handled office management and the books. “Krystal and I have been full partners from the day we started this business, and she’s been here through thick and thin,” Baring says. “Krystal has been an especially valuable sounding board for new ideas.”

She wears many hats. For example, her background in marketing and design helped in creating the company logos and producing promotional materials. 

SMART NETWORKING

After hearing from potential commercial and residential construction clients about recurring problems with their restroom suppliers, such as lax billing and poor servicing, Baring saw a great opportunity to concentrate on quality service.

“We heard story after story about suppliers who would merely pull up to a restroom, suck out the waste, throw a chemical in there, toss in some toilet paper, splash some water inside and call it good,” he says. Inaccurate billing was another common complaint. “We knew we could do better. We just had to prove ourselves and get the word out.”

An extensive program of personal sales calls helped Baring spread the word. First, he would research potential clients to make sure they were offering quality products. “We didn’t want to land a contract and be affiliated with a company that was doing substandard work,” he says.

Next, Baring scheduled meetings with potential clients. He remembers a competitor visiting him after he’d been in business for a year or so. “He was amazed that I was our firm’s only salesperson,” Baring says. “He told me he figured I must have a bigger sales crew because of all the business we’d been doing. I told him we keep it tight here!”

Drawing on his sales and marketing background, Baring explains that he is not simply making a sales pitch at these meetings. “I like to say that I am bringing value to a client. It’s all about what we are going to do to help them as a customer,” he says. “Going into a potential customer’s office with the attitude that you are there to help them and make their life easier is the way to reap rewards.”

For example, Baring typically explains how keeping a restroom sanitary can help a customer’s bottom line. “I tell them that clean restrooms can prevent workers from getting ill and that means less work absences. Also, the cleaner the restrooms are, the less chance they will hear from safety inspectors,” he says.

He remembers a sales call where he explained to a potential customer, a homebuilder, how important first impressions were. “If the first thing workers or visitors see on a job site is a filthy portable restroom, that leaves a bad impression and reflects poorly on a contractor,” Baring says. “Details matter.” The customer seemed to agree: Baring got the contract.           

THE CREW COUNTS

Baring admits it usually takes several meetings to land a big deal. “Many of our contracts started out with partial orders, as if the customer were testing us. I am fully aware that changing a restroom supplier is about 25th on any purchasing manager’s to-do list, unless they’re having a meltdown. But we’ve had great success starting out with small, partial conversions and showing how we can offer a first-class, headache-free service.” Indeed, he claims that 99% of his new customers eventually let Tex-San supply all their portable restroom needs.

He points to a well-trained crew as a key component to success. He counts hiring and training effective workers as one of his biggest challenges and admits he quickly learned experience counts less than a good attitude.

“We hired some guys based on their skill levels, but they had already developed bad habits on previous jobs and didn’t work out for us,” he explains. “Now we hire more for attitude than aptitude.” It doesn’t hurt that one of his drivers, McGrew, who also screens and trains new applicants, has a degree in psychology. “He’s a real bonus in that he knows the qualities someone needs to make it in this business.”

To help train new employees and maintain a high level of service, Baring enlisted the help of Las Vegas-based Lightspeed VT, an interactive online training firm, to produce a series of training videos. These include both the right way and wrong way to service a restroom. A short, two-minute video shows a sloppy, superficial cleaning/servicing and a longer version goes into detail on Tex-San’s servicing.

“We want our employees to see both sides of the issue,” Baring says. Other videos address everything from truck washing and oil changing to yard work. The videos are set up on a web platform and each employee is required to view them and complete quizzes to ensure they’ve mastered the content. Baring can check online to make sure employees watched them based on their login status.

Baring discovered the training videos also make excellent selling tools. “We quickly realized that education is the way to get more business,” he says. “We want potential clients to see what we do differently and how our servicing will help their processes.”

He regularly shows the short videos to client purchasing managers and operations executives and sometimes division presidents. The videos are professionally produced and include music and high-speed dubbing. “The videos are a great way to get their attention and help us get our sales message across in an entertaining way,” he explains.           

OPTIMISTIC OUTLOOK

What’s ahead for Tex-San? Baring is ramping up the firm’s online presence by incorporating the videos onto its website and investing in advertising on sites and services such as Google. He also recently replaced the company’s service trucks with new models.

The company has three 2019 Ford F-350 trucks outfitted with Best Enterprises 400-gallon waste and 200-gallon freshwater slide-in tanks with Conde pumps (Westmoor); a 2012 Ford F-550 with a 900-gallon waste and 300-gallon freshwater tank from Garsite/Progress with a Masport pump; a 2012 International 4400 with a Best Enterprises 600-gallon waste and 300-gallon freshwater tank and a Masport pump; a 2019 Chevy 5500 with Best Enterprises 600-gallon waste and 300-gallon freshwater tank and a Masport pump; and two Ford F-350 delivery trucks. All tanks are stainless steel. They have three restroom transport trailers built by Texas Bragg and Liquid Waste Industries.

In addition to the inventory of restrooms, Tex-San has many 250- and 300-gallon PolyJohn holding tanks for use with office trailers and RVs, as well as 30 300-gallon freshwater skid tanks using Pentair Hypro SHURflo water pumps for customers without access to water. It also carries hand-wash stations from PolyJohn and Satellite | PolyPortables. They use deodorizing products from J&J Portable Sanitation Products.

Tex-San recently moved into a new, more spacious headquarters that includes temporary housing for two employees who stay there in case of emergencies. Baring hopes to continue on the growth path he started six years ago. “We have only just started to tap into our capacity,” Baring says. “Five years from now, I hope to have 5,000 portable restrooms and to have moved into the septic business. This is a huge opportunity.”  



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