One Service Route for This Texas Company is 350 Miles of Gravel Roads and Scrub Brush

With the addition of another established restroom company, the Pitts family provides a needed service over 60,000 square miles of open land.

One Service Route for This Texas Company is 350 Miles of Gravel Roads and Scrub Brush

The Pitts Stop Porta Pottys crew includes, from left, Robert Freeman, Roderick Jones, Amelia Modest, Leopodo Miranda, Charles Pitts, Mona Pitts, Taylor and Blake Pitts, J.C. Pitts, Eric Renfro, Helene Davis, Boyd Coudel, Ricky Velez, Amparo Robles and Willie McLemore. They have several restroom trailers from makers JAG Mobile Solutions, Advanced Containment Systems, Comforts of Home Services and Ameri-Can Engineering. (Photos by Jacie Gardner)

Almost a decade ago, J.C. Pitts came on board full-time at Pitts Stop Porta Pottys, the company his father, Charles “Crab” Pitts, founded in Brownwood, Texas, as a part-time gig back in 1983. By simply taking a different marketing approach — including establishing a Facebook page and developing a new website and company logo — revenue that year jumped by 15%.

“It gave us a little bit of a kick-start,” says J.C., 28, company president. “At the time, it was like a new beginning for an almost-30-year-old company.”

Now, after the April acquisition of a longtime friendly competitor, Can-Doo Budjet (now Budget) Rentals, located in Abilene (about 80 miles northwest of Brownwood), the company once again is jump-starting its business prospects. Buying the business, formerly owned by the late Lou Paulsen, will quadruple Pitts Stop’s restroom inventory to about 1,400 from nearly 300 and its service footprint will expand to a whopping 60,000 square miles of remote West Texas territory.

“It’s going to be a lot of work,” J.C. says of the acquisition. “But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity. We figured it was better to buy Can-Doo than perhaps deal with another competitor who might not be as friendly.”

Paulsen passed away in July 2019. Around two months later, the Paulsen family asked the Pitts family to consider purchasing Can-Doo. Paulsen and the elder Pitts started their businesses at about the same time (1981 and 1983, respectively) and were friends who respected the way each other did business, J.C. says.

“If someone called us and needed restrooms in or near Abilene, we’d send them to Can-Doo,” he notes. “And if someone called them and needed restrooms in Brownwood (which is about 155 miles southwest of Fort Worth), Lou would send them down here.

“When Lou started out, we were always very good friends,” recalls Charles. “I respected Lou a bunch. He asked me several times to buy him out … and after he passed, we worked out a deal with two of his boys.

“I believe it’s going to work out real good,” he continues. “It’s going to provide a great future for my son and my family … We’re all thrilled about it.”

(Can-Doo is owned by J.C. and his wife, Taylor, and Charles and his wife, Mona, and is a women-owned business enterprise.)

EMOTIONAL MERGER

The merger between two long-standing, family-owned companies (Can-Doo was established in 1981) has been an emotional experience for all involved. But it helped that the Pitts family made it clear right away that all of the 12 Can-Doo employees could remain on board.

“We couldn’t be more blessed than to do business with the Paulsen family,” says J.C., who will manage the Can-Doo office in Abilene. “The only thing that will change is we’ll manage things a little differently … and upgrade equipment by slowly and steadily changing out old trucks and tanks.”

“I recently told (Can-Doo employees) that I respect them so much because they kept running the company even though they didn’t know who might buy it, or if they’d even have jobs,” he adds. “They’re all very hard workers.”

Out of respect for Paulsen and the strong brand identity he built, the Pitts family plans to keep the Can-Doo name operational. Furthermore, an updated Can-Doo logo now includes the words, “In memory of Lou Paulsen.”

“He built up that business for almost 40 years, so it’s only fair to have his name there,” J.C. explains. “Everybody knows the company name and loves it so we want to keep it Can-Doo.”

Before the acquisition, 80% of Pitts Stop’s revenue came from monthly rentals in the construction and oil and gas industries, plus military facilities; special events generated the balance. J.C. expects that balance to shift somewhat, but not dramatically.

“Can-Doo presents us with a great opportunity,” he explains. “We can take some time off routes at both companies because some of their farthest routes overlap in our territory and vice versa. So there are some efficiencies to be gained.”

FROM THE GROUND UP

J.C. grew up in the portable sanitation industry. In 1983, the elder Pitts sold a septic service company he owned and bought eight portable restrooms on the advice of a business friend. At the time, he also was a welder and held other jobs, too, so the restroom business was a part-time gig.

The company grew very slowly, largely because the long distances between communities made it difficult to expand geographically. “Most of the small towns around us are tiny — 200 to maybe 5,000 residents,” J.C. explains. “It just didn’t make sense to expand farther out, The customer base just wasn’t big enough.”

But all that changed in 2011 when Charles was diagnosed with Stage III pancreatic cancer. J.C., who was in his junior year at Howard Payne University working toward a business degree, left school to tend to the family business while his father recovered from surgery. A baptism by fire ensued, but it also gave the younger Pitts a chance to put to work what he’d learned in business school.

“It was a trip, I’ll tell you that,” J.C. recalls. “Trying to find job sites in this very rural area could be an all-day adventure. At the time, I handled phones, pickups and deliveries, and service routes.

“When dad got released from the hospital, I was pretty happy to give him the cellphone back,” he continues. “After all that, I remained on board full-time and changed our marketing tactics, based on what I learned at college.”

Pitts says disagreements with his father and mother about taking the company in a different direction were rare. “If it made sense and we all agreed, we’d move forward with it,” he says. “We all work together very well.”

The company employs seven people, including Charles and Mona Pitts and J.C and Taylor Pitts. Three route drivers round out the crew: Mark Gordon, who’s been with company for eight years; Brad Jones, a four-year employee; and Seth Ross, with two years under his belt.

“Seth is 22 — one of our young guns,” J.C. notes. “He’s been a real gold mine for us and will help maintain the Can-Doo office in San Angelo, Texas (about 95 miles southwest of Brownwood).”

FLEET UPGRADES

Aside from swapping out older vacuum trucks for newer vehicles, J.C. envisions no major changes at Can-Doo.

“We’ll slowly change out the fleet,” he explains. “Here at Pitts Stop, we swap out trucks about every two years, around 200,000 miles, while some of Can-Doo’s trucks have 500,000 miles. We usually keep the tanks and mount them on new chassis, but some of the tanks on the Can-Doo trucks will probably have to be replaced. “Upgrading equipment is our No. 1 goal.”

J.C. also plans to take the same marketing approach for Can-Doo that he implemented at Pitts Stop in 2011, including establishing Facebook pages for the Abilene and San Angelo offices, and using targeted Facebook ads, plus updating the Can-Doo website.

Pitts Stop currently relies on three restroom service trucks equipped with slide-in tanks and Conde vacuum pumps from Westmoor: a 2019 Chevrolet 3500 chassis equipped with a 300-gallon waste/150-gallon freshwater aluminum tank; a 2016 Chevrolet 3500 with a 300-gallon waste/150-freshwater stainless-steel tank built out by Best Enterprises; and a 2013 Chevrolet 2500 equipped with a 200-gallon waste/80-gallon freshwater aluminum tank.

“We use slide-ins because we don’t service as many restrooms as a lot of companies do and we travel so much farther than other companies, too,” J.C. says. “Plus, with a slide-in, we can remove the tank and use the truck for other things, such as farming.”

The company will gain 12 trucks (mostly GMC, Dodge and Isuzu chassis) via the acquisition. The trucks feature tanks ranging in size from 1,000 gallons waste/400 gallons freshwater to 200 gallons waste/80 gallons freshwater and vacuum pumps from Moro and Conde (a brand owned by Westmoor Ltd.)

For pickups and deliveries, Pitts Stop relies on a 2009 Chevrolet 3500 long-bed pickup and Can-Doo owns two 16-foot Isuzu flatbed trucks. Most of Pitts Stop’s nearly 300 restrooms are from by PolyJohn and Satellite Industries; PolyJohn manufactured most of Can-Doo’s restrooms.

By joining forces, the companies now can deploy seven restroom trailers manufactured by JAG Mobile Solutions, Advanced Containment Systems, Comforts of Home Services and Ameri-Can Engineering.

To help better manage the unusually long service routes, Pitts Stop invested in a new routing and dispatch system developed by CRO Software Solutions.

SLOW AND STEADY GROWTH

Looking forward, J.C. will eventually buy Pitts Stop. But that doesn’t mean the elder Pitts will no longer be involved.

“Dad will work until the day he dies,” J.C. observes. “He’s the hardest working man I know and that’s one of the many qualities I admire about him. I hope I can do even half of what he does when I’m his age. He loves what he’s doing so he’s here as long as he wants to be.”

As for growth, J.C. says he’s aiming for a happy medium between too much growth coming too fast and not growing at all.

“I think we can grow comfortably without making a big jump,” he says. “Of course, if a big job presents itself that would require a lot of restrooms, we’ll take it and run with it. But other than that, we’re striving for slow but steady growth.”

But one thing won’t change at all: the company’s commitment to quality service and clean restrooms, based on principles established by Charles almost four decades ago.

“That level of service is what’s kept us going for nearly 40 years,” J.C. says.  



Discussion

Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.