His Motto for Restroom Success: “Good, Happy Employees Equal Good Customers”

Sales-minded Texas PRO Fernando Garza built his business the old-fashioned way … one construction site visit at a time.

His Motto for Restroom Success: “Good, Happy Employees Equal Good Customers”

The crew at Hawk Disposal includes, from left, Sergio Rodriguez, Francisco Garcia Jr., Jesse Dorsett, Francisco Garcia Sr., Aldo de Leon, Fernando Garza and Nora Hernandez.

Fernando Garza recalls clearly when he decided to open his own portable restroom business: It was in May of 2014. He was working as the operations manager for a portable restroom operator, and he had just asked for a raise. He got a raise, but it was only $5 a week. He realized that his future with this employer was not what he had hoped for, so he quit and started a new company, Hawk Disposal in McAllen, Texas.

He started on a shoestring budget, maxing out a credit card to buy 16 blue Armal Wave restrooms and a 400-gallon vacuum tank. He also bought two trailers on credit, one to haul the vacuum tank and one to haul four restrooms. He used savings for operating capital and started making calls at local construction sites. 

After assembling the restroom units himself, he would haul the restroom trailer with his 1999 Ford F-150 pickup. When he needed to service units, he would unhitch the restroom trailer and hitch up the vacuum tank trailer.

Now the business has grown to 1,130 portable restrooms (all of them blue Armal Wave units), about 50 Armal hand-wash sinks, four trucks, three trailers and 10 employees. The trucks are all Ford F-450s — a 2016, a 2017, a 2018 and a 2019 — each bought new. Garza and his crew outfitted the trucks with 600-gallon (400 waste/200 freshwater) aluminum tanks with Condé pumps purchased from Progress Tank. 

Garza still has the original Big Tex Trailer Mfg. trailers he bought to start with, but he also has a 10-unit Big Tex trailer. The Hawk Disposal office has always been in McAllen, but his original storage yard was in Roma about 50 miles away. He recently purchased a storage yard in Mission, which is just outside of McAllen. The company serves the U.S. side of the Rio Grande Valley from Roma to Brownsville, about 50 miles down the valley from McAllen.

Garza, 36, was born in Mexico but went to high school in Roma and attended the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, now known as University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Before he started working in the portable restroom business, he worked on his parents’ ranch in Mexico and did other agricultural work. He visits his parents on their ranch a couple of weekends a month.

Hawk Disposal still focuses its business on serving construction. “It’s booming here in the Rio Grande Valley,” Garza says. “There is enough work for everybody.”

EXPLORE FIVE ISSUES THAT AFFECT HAWK DISPOSAL’S PORTABLE SANITATION BUSINESS: 

1. Beating the heat

McAllen is known for its sweltering hot summers, and that creates some problems for portable restroom operators. “The water evaporates too quickly,” Garza says. In the summer, his crew typically puts 7-10 gallons of water in a unit when setting it up instead of the usual 5. Deodorants still work fine, despite the heat, he says. He uses Walex Products deodorants. The other way his employees deal with the heat, he says, is to start work early. His crews start at 4 a.m. during the summer and knock off around 4 p.m. 

2. Keeping up with the boom

There has been a residential construction boom in the Rio Grande Valley, so portable restrooms are in demand at construction sites. That has always been Hawk Disposal’s niche. “I more or less monitor how much inventory we have, and we’ve been able to keep up with it,” he says. “Hopefully, the bubble doesn’t burst any time soon.”

Hawk Disposal has been steadily adding to its inventory, including buying 130 more units in January of this year. Most of his customers want once-a-week service on the units, but he has a few that require twice a week and even three times a week. His crew services the twice-a-week customers on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the three-time customers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

3. Sticking to construction work

Hawk Disposal doesn’t actively seek special-event work. “If they call us, we will come, but I don’t look for special events,” Garza says. “I like to rest the guys on the weekend.” If Hawk Disposal expands into other areas, it is most likely to be septic pumping and grease trap service, he says, although he is also considering adding roll-off containers to his rental inventory. He has been looking for a larger property for his work yard to possibly accommodate the roll-off equipment. If he expands his territory, Garza says he would consider going toward Corpus Christi. 

4. Marketing with a personal touch

Garza’s marketing has been mainly based on his personal touch since the very beginning when he approached construction sites without restrooms. “I just went to construction sites that didn’t have any restrooms onsite, ones that were starting the first phase of construction,” Garza says. “I had the restrooms with me; they would give me payment with a credit card, and I would drop it off at the site. I started making sales the first week. I would service units rented on Monday and Tuesday, then use Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to visit potential customers. I kept doing that until the week was full and I needed help servicing units. Then I started to focus more on the rentals and building relationships with my clients.”

Knocking on doors at new construction sites is still part of his marketing plan, but he also has a website that he designed himself, and he spends a little bit of money on Google ads. “We don’t have to do too much advertising,” Garza says. “Our marketing is basically just me calling on customers. I’m knocking on doors every day.”

5. Working hard is the key

To Garza, there’s no great secret to giving good service and being successful in the portable restroom business. He thinks it’s all about working hard and putting the customers and employees first. One of his mottoes is, “Good, happy employees equal good customers.”

His advice to anyone who wants to follow in his path is, “Work Hard and don’t give up. Just keep working, everything will work out in the end.”  



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