50 Years and Going Strong

Portable sanitation company celebrates golden anniversary
50 Years and Going Strong
Mr. John/Russell Reid provided restrooms and pumping service for the Quick Check Balloon Fest in Central New Jersey.

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Morton Weiner would be proud. Not only did he establish what would grow to become one of the largest portable sanitation companies in the nation, that company will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. 

But while Morton didn’t live to see the golden anniversary of Mr. John/Russell Reid located in Keasbey, N.J., his son, Gary, knows his dad would be thrilled. 

“I think he would be very proud, but he would also be somewhat surprised,” says Gary Weiner, president of Mr. John/Russell Reid. “He set the wheels in motion and sort of opened the door for some success as long as we followed the playbook.” 

Acquisition builds business

Now a $42 million company serving most of New Jersey, all of New York City and portions of neighboring Pennsylvania and Delaware, Mr. John/Russell Reid has about 10,000 portable restrooms and services the liquid waste industry, as well. 

Morton started the company in 1964 as a portable restroom company; by 1981, he had acquired Russell Reid, a local septic service company. Over the years, the company acquired 24 other portable restroom and septic tank cleaning companies. While the two companies operate as separate brands, they do share an executive team, which is comprised of Gary, his brother, Mitchell (CEO), and former brother-in-law David Dam (executive vice president). 

Gary joined the company in 1986, a few years before his father died. He remembers working in the yard and shop as a youth, helping clean up and working with service employees. He later was promoted to driver’s helper, where he’d ride shotgun and help load and unload restrooms. 

While there was no overt expectation that the family follow in Morton’s footsteps, Gary says he and his siblings always had a curiosity about “the place where Dad went to make a living.” 

“We kids were always allowed to be there,” he recalls. “It’s interesting for boys to be around men and machines and dirt.” 

And when Gary got older, he says, “I was a great recruiting tool; my brother and I always recruited friends from college.” 

The next 50 years

Before Morton died in 1989, he established a management team to take control of both companies; now nieces and nephews have also come aboard. 

“We’re developing the third generation,” Gary says. 

While working with family may have ups and downs, Gary insists the “interesting business dynamic” has worked well for Mr. John/Russell Reid. 

“For the most part, we’ve all managed to work quite well together,” he says. “It took a while to define our roles and identify our strengths and weaknesses. We learn from each other, and we treat each other as adults.” 

Goals define success

Morton established some business principles that have continued to lead the corporate team. “One of which is about getting the best counsel you possibly can,” Gary says, referring to outside consultants such as attorneys, insurance team, accountants and vendors). 

“Those are the people that really understand the challenges that confront business people. Aside from the ‘work of the work,’ it’s good to have good people backing you up. 

“Those were some of the early lessons we learned from him,” says Gary, adding that the company still uses the same legal and accounting firms they have for decades. 

Going forward, Gary says Mr. John/Russell Reid has come out of times of recession even stronger, even with “competition as fierce as ever.” 

“In all my career we went through a couple of recessions, and we cruised right through them,” Gary says. Being in growth mode prior to recessions hitting really helped them weather tough times. 

“During the most recent recession, we’ve had to learn to recess, and we’ve never had to do that before,” Gary says. “My entire career was ‘onward and upward.’ It’s always easier to grow and expand; it’s a lot more difficult to recess. 

“We were forced to lay people off and furlough and cut back and park trucks in order to survive. Those were difficult times; the most trying of my career,” he recalls. 

One of Mr. John/Russell Reid’s top priorities is to continue to embrace technology in a quickly changing industry, with tech-savvy customers. 

“We are a technology-laden company; the Internet is a game changer for everyone in this industry,” Gary says. “We, like everybody else, have had to embrace this monumental change. It’s not just about having salespeople on the street; it’s about attracting customers to you.” To that end, Internet marketing and Search Engine Optimization are becoming an increasing focus of the company. 

But while the golden anniversary is just around the corner, Gary says business as usual will remain the mantra — with a bit of anniversary recognition thrown in.

An annual employee holiday party will kick off the anniversary year, they plan on recognizing customers and vendors in special ways and they’ve developed a 50th anniversary logo that will adorn their marketing materials. 

“We hope the customers see value in a company with longevity,” Gary says. 

Perhaps Morton couldn’t have said it any better. 


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