Can Doo Sure Can

Lou Paulsen was in the marina business in Illinois when he and a partner invested in a portable restroom company. When the marina closed, he took his part of the remaining company and went south to Texas.

Why Texas? “At the time, Abilene had the worst service record of the three portable restroom companies operating [in the region],” explains Paulsen. All three are either out of business—or Paulsen bought them out. “Plus, I got tired of shoveling snow.”

That was thirty years ago. Today, Paulsen’s Can Doo Budjet Rentals—yes, that’s a “J” for “jet”—owns operations based in Abilene and, since the mid-90s, in San Angelo, with a staff of fifteen, including office personnel and management, and ten different vacuum trucks. The company specializes in portable shower and restroom trailers with air conditioning—and the exceptional service that is “Can Doo Lou’s” secret to his success. “The whole thing is [about] service.”

Satisfaction equals…satisfaction
“I get the most satisfaction from my work when I have the right number of units at the right location[s],  so nobody’s put in a bind,” he says. In fact, he’s turned down jobs where he and his customer have disagreed significantly on how many units the event requires in order to meet the needs of the expected crowd. “I believed they were going to have more people than they’d asked units for. A year later, they’ve come back and said I was right. It’s doing the job right.”

Paulsen has agreed to set up the lesser number the customer has ordered—but has held extras on the truck. And, more than once, he’s gotten the call to set up the rest. “The biggest thing is communication with the people who are running the event, teaching the committee what has to be done right. It’s sometimes hard to get people to recognize how many units they need, but that’s a place you can’t cut costs. You have to provide the right sanitation, or you’re going to lose your crowd.”

Paulsen is an enthusiastic member of the Board of Portable Sanitation International, which offers an annual convention and continuing education workshops and seminars—“everything from legislation to public relations.” PSI’s certification program teaches operators the right way to service and clean units, and all of Paulsen’s operators who have been with him long enough to qualify for certification have gone through the program.

“The industry has gotten a black eye for units that aren’t serviced right. They should never smell at all.” Besides relying on PSI’s criteria, he has his own standards as well. “You have to do what you say you’re going to do. You have to keep a promise. When I started out, I told my first employee to keep on scrubbing until it was clean enough for his mother, his daughter, or his sweetheart.”

Industry changes and issues
Paulsen explains that “the biggest problem with the industry is getting operators to join the association so they can learn more about the type of product they put out and the right way to do things.”

Besides that, he sees that “governmental agencies attach more service charges and fees,” including those for the disposal of domestic waste. “Some are free, some charge you an arm and a leg. And the customer has a hard time understanding this cost.” Paulsen’s staff attends business expos and home and garden shows, uses television and radio commercials and sends out flyers to people who apply for building permits in an effort to keep customers and the public informed about the industry.

To help combat the potential losses of the economic downturn, Can Doo has added benefits to its rental packages, such as hand-sanitizers in all units—which it instituted before the “so-called downturn”—and baby-changing and hand-washing stations as well as single- or double-unit showers, “so the event can actually get and keep more people on site by providing other amenities.”

Advancements in the industry that Paulsen appreciates include construction that makes units easier to service and transport, mirrors on the doors, coat hooks, and solar-powered lighting for night events.

Texas is big business
Can Doo’s region extends 150 miles north and south of Abilene and about 100 miles east and west. One of Can Doo’s biggest projects has been its rentals during the construction of 5,000 wind turbines, the largest such installation in the country.

Additionally, May through September is prime time for special events—cook-offs, festivals, air shows. Can Doo is on site when San Angelo hosts a drag-boat race that appears on CNN. Its units are on the ground for May’s Polo on the Prairies, a fundraiser for The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which hosts more than a thousand people on a ranch for two days of polo, entertainment, food, music, and more. The event has raised over $4 million for cancer research in its twenty-three-year history.

And then there’s the Chili Super Bowl in Buffalo Gap on Labor Day Weekend—with the world’s largest chili pot—the twenty-seven-year-old fundraiser for the Ben Richey Boys Ranch. It’s Lou Paulsen’s goal to judge this event someday. “It’s a real job, being a judge—takes about a six-pack of beer. Five hundred gallons of Texas recipe, all meat, no beans. I think some of them use road kill.”

 

For more information about Can Doo Budjet Rentals, call 800.638.1795 or visit the website at www.candooportablerestrooms.com.

 

 

Story by Anne Biggs

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