Interview with Mike Adams, Managing Director of PolyJohn Enterprises

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your background, education, how you got into the business. What you did before you became part of the executive management team at PolyJohn? How does your background impact your business and your business decision-making strategies?
After college I went to work for a large national waste services firm and rose thru the ranks serving as a regional sales director and a division president. I later worked in the area of mergers and acquisitions. The solid waste business is very much like the portable restroom business in terms of trucks, drivers, routing and so on. At the end of the day no matter if you are servicing or manufacturing portable restrooms it all boils down to customer service. Just take care of the customer and usually everything else will work out. As a division president at the waste company, I purchased products from PolyJohn and was impressed by the quality of their products and dedication to high-quality customer service. When PolyJohn’s founder Ed Cooper approached me to join and help grow the company, I jumped at the challenge. I became PolyJohn’s Central Region Manager and opened the company’s first Texas Service Center in 1992. Since 2001, I have served as Managing Director, with most of my focus aimed at maximizing the level of service to customers and growing the business across North America and Mexico. What I have come to appreciate most is the relationships I have made over the years with our customers. As we say at PolyJohn, ‘The only thing that lasts longer than our products is our relationships,’ and that’s a fact we are very proud of.

Q: Tell us about some of the founders of PolyJohn and how they developed the company culture.
The founders were all risk takers and basically just took a chance on what was then a new and fledgling industry that was looking to be taken seriously as a valuable and needed service to construction contractors across the country. Mr. George Harding was certainly a visionary but the real work done building our business from a start-up was by Ed Cooper, George Hiskes and a team of hard working folks with a common goal. Ed cooper was the driving force in creating our culture at PolyJohn which includes an entrepreneurial spirit throughout the company and belief in giving employees the freedom to utilize their skills to contribute in many different ways. Ed’s true gift was recognizing real talent and letting it grow to its full potential. Our current owners and management team operate under the same premise and hopefully we are nearly as good as Ed was in spotting outstanding people.

Q: Could you please articulate 3-5 principles/guidelines/pointers that you have developed over the years to keep PolyJohn in the top class of the liquid waste products manufacturing industry?
Our goal is not to be dominant in our field necessarily but to be a well run family centered, customer and employee focused manufacturing concern that is the very best at what we do in the markets in which operate.

Q: Polyjohn is an undisputed leader and forerunner when it comes to new technological innovations. What are the factors that stimulate and lead to the reasons for coming up with ever new designs and technological innovations?
It is just in our DNA. From the very beginning we have had in-house design engineers on staff to work on continuous improvement in our existing products and processes and strive to deliver new products that will be of benefit to our customers and help them increase their revenues and profits.

Q: Please tell us a little about the newer or latest PolyJohn technologies.
You know this is still a fairly low tech straight forward industry. Much of the innovation we have experienced has been driven by legislation and more importantly the end user who is demanding cleaner and nicer restroom facilities across the board. The proliferation of hand washing units, flushable restroom units, and the luxury trailer type facilities are proof that people want more when it comes to insuring safe personal hygiene at events and on job sites. What we come up with next will most likely be driven by those end users’ wants and needs.

Q: Wow would you describe the company’s professionalism and work ethic? How does your company philosophy inform its work ethic, employee relations, and customer and business relations/situations?
We tend to hire for attitude more than skill sets. If someone has the right work ethic and drive to succeed and is the type of person to just plain do the right thing we can train them for any particular task. My personal motto is “hire good people, pay them well, give them all the tools they need to succeed and get the heck out of their way”. It seems to be working at PolyJohn since most of our employees have been with us 20 years or more.

Q: How have you established your particular and unique company brand?
I know this may sound like a cliché, but really our brand is who we are. A family; a family that includes customers who we have helped over the years to start and build successful businesses that many have since turned over to their children and grandchildren and the numerous second generation employees we have on staff now. For us that’s what it is all about and that’s what is at the heart of our core values.

Q: How do you position your company in the market with respect to your various product lines?
We have state of the art manufacturing facilities and make 99% of everything we sell ourselves. That is the key. We can control the whole process and make sure we are delivering quality goods when and where our customers need them. We also have strategic locations around the globe to provide optimal service and delivery to our customers at the lowest cost possible. I think we all have to remind ourselves that thanks to technology the world is now a very small place and that no matter what business you are in you are in some way part of the global economy. For PolyJohn, as we look to grow and improve our business it is critical to keep the big picture in mind. More than half of our revenues are now generated outside the USA so obviously we pay attention to the maturation of the portable sanitation industry as a whole around the world.

Q: What are the most challenging aspects of your business and industry? What hurdles do you confront and how do you handle them?
In our industry we are all under price pressure and we as an industry are a large part of the problem. In many markets I know service providers are now charging less for the valuable services they provide today than they charged a decade ago. I think they are allowing their competitors, their customers, and others to make restroom rental and services feel like somewhat of a commodity business and that is a dangerous path for us industry wide. We must remember our industry provides a very important environmental service that has a lot to do with the health and well being of the general public and service providers should charge and be compensated accordingly.

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