Perfecting the Porta Potty Business
“Understanding how to calculate margins allowed me to figure out how to structure pricing so that I could keep myself priced within the market, yet still make a profit.”
Septic work may seem like a peculiar business venture, especially if you don’t know too much about it. But for Kari Walsh and Robert Wegner, a little research and a lot of hard work turned this new challenge into a rewarding career!
“Bob and I were working at the same company for a previous employer and decided we wanted to work for ourselves. We actively looked at different companies that were for sale in our community, taking into consideration many factors including, but not limited to the company’s growth potential” explained Walsh, who with her partner Robert Wegner, decided to leave their jobs for a new business venture.
Thompson’s Porta Septic Service, Inc. located in Fort Bragg, had a proven track record, providing portable sanitation and septic system services in the community for about 50 years, before Walsh and Wegner purchased it in 2015. Without having much prior experience in the industry, the pair were up for the challenge and spent the next two years learning everything they could about the industry and about running a successful business.
According to Walsh, one of the biggest struggles, having never owned a business before, was understanding the details around bookkeeping and accounting. And while she has a background in business management, she had never been directly responsible for employees. Wanting to make the most of their profit margin and gain some insight into employee management, they reached out to West Company for support in 2016.
West Company, a local nonprofit that supports small business development, helped Walsh understand accounting concepts, allowing her to better analyze financial statements and improve cash flow. Through their support, she gained a greater understanding of how to run their business making them more confident in planning for success. “Understanding how to calculate margins allowed me to figure out how to structure pricing so that I could keep myself priced within the market, yet still make a profit,” explained Walsh. “I also gained a greater understanding of employee management, learning first how to be clear in what our expectations were and how to help employees take accountability for their performance” she added.
With West Company’s support, they have invested in developing stronger relationships not only within the community and customers outside the area. They have built an online presence to attract local customers that may need septic pumping or a portable sanitation as well as potential customers from outside the county who may be coming into our community for an event. “Weddings are a big industry on the coast and we welcome working with our local venues as well as with couples from all over the country,” Walsh said. Walsh also spoke about the satisfaction that she and her partner get in providing great customer service and building solid working relationships with vendors that last. “We feel very fortunate to be able to do business with some great local companies and local organizations and along the way have met some really dedicated people.” Walsh added.
The future seems to be looking bright for the pair. They plan to expand their services beyond just septic tank pumping and port-a-potty rentals. They have invested in new equipment and a wide range of portable sanitation products to ensure they can meet the demands of a variety of customers on the Mendocino Coast.
Walsh attributes their success and future growth plan to a few different factors. “Maintaining good relationships, providing great customer service, reaching out and acquiring new clients and using the business skills they learned from West Company to build a healthy business are vital parts of their success”, stated Walsh. While it has been only two years of ownership, they are finding the hard work and long days have been worthwhile and Walsh and Wegner don’t regret their decision to make the change in their careers.
Walsh summarized her experience my stating, “being able to understand how to make accurate projections for our business is important. Being able to exceed those projections is not only profitable, but it feels really good to know we are succeeding in living up to our potential”.
For more information on Thompson’s Porta Septic Service visit their website at thompsonseptic.net or contact them at 707-964-1172.