Raska Sewer Service & Portable Toilet Rental LLC in Osceola, Wisconsin

Located in Osceola, Wisconsin, which is less than 40 miles from Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Raska Sewer Service & Portable Toilet Rental, LLC has been thriving for the past 17 years. It was started by Keith Raska in 1999 and has remained a family business. We had the pleasure of speaking with Keith and hearing about his company for November’s Spotlight.

Where did you grow up, and what job experiences have you had?
I grew up in Wisconsin and working on local farms through high school taught me to work like a farm boy. From there, I went to Minneapolis, Minnesota to work at a plastics factory. We made several products for Satellite Industries, including portable toilet shells. Later on, I worked for a large window manufacturing plant in Bayport, Minnesota.

Why and how did you get into the septic tank business , and other related businesses and services?
As a septic system owner, I needed my septic pumped so I called the local septic pumper. This happened back in 1998. So, he came and pumped my septic tank and then came to my door and handed me the bill. The bill was double the price of what he had charged me the previous time! Well, I “commented” on it and he said, “If you don’t like it, buy a septic truck and do it yourself.” So I did. And that is where my story begins.
I started out with a 1984 Peterbilt 3000 with a gallon rear opening door from Engle manufacturing. In 2002, I added 12 Maxim 3000 portable restrooms and a slide-in unit. Four years later, our local drain cleaning operator was too busy to serve our customers, so he kindly showed us the basics and made suggestions about the equipment we’d need from MyTana to do it ourselves. I found that my old relationships with the toilet plastics manufacturing plant and Satellite Industries became useful business contacts.

Please tell me a little bit about the history of your company—when it started, who worked there, and what changes or modifications you’ve made since it’s opening?
Raska Sewer Service opened in 1999 and I (Keith) worked primarily on my own, with help from my three sons, providing pumping services for septic tanks after work and on weekends. In 2002, I began renting portable toilets with 12 Maxim 3000’s. I expanded to drain cleaning services in 2006 and in 2010, my son Kevin chose to dive in full-time after college. Up to this point, I had been working two full-time jobs, but I couldn’t keep up that pace anymore and decided to focus solely on building Raska Sewer Service since the calls were coming so quickly and it was difficult keeping up with the demand. I’m thankful everyday that I decided to work for myself. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in my life.

What is your business model and how have you structured your business? What market research have you done to help make decisions on your business model and the equipment you bought when starting out?
I knew that running a septic pumping operation specializing in only one area would, supposedly, garner better profits, but telling customers to call someone else for portable toilets or drain cleaning services sends money away from us. So, I decided to provide my customers with ALL services necessary.
For example, a big portable toilet company could rent a unit for cheaper, but I have a great reputation in the local market and sometimes that’s the deciding factor when people choose a company for supplies. Our business structure is constantly evolving. We thrive off the wants and needs of our customers by adding equipment and providing higher quality and more efficient services.

Tell us about the different services Raska Sewer Service offers.
Raska offers septic and pumping services, portable toilet rentals, and the full line of drain cleaning and roto-rooting service.
All of our services are equally successful in their own right. It’s quality service that brings success to our company. Wisconsin’s colder months slow down construction, septic pumping, and holding tanks for cabins. But the cold Wisconsin weather is the very reason we offer jetting services and thawing frozen pipes and main lines. This work keeps us in the cold for up to twelve hours a day.

What are some of the distinguishing features and services of Raska Sewer Service that are unique? How did you arrive at creating a unique image for your company?
We distinguish ourselves from other companies by providing every service within the liquid waste industry. We’ve built our reputation on our quality work, and people recognize us. We’ll get called for a portable toilet rental and the same customer will call us back for a plugged bathroom drain or the required Wisconsin septic pumping inspection every three years.

What is your relationship with the other local businesses?
We work closely with multiple excavation and landscaping companies. We have a preferred outdoor plumber for on-site installations, and pipe replacements, and maintain a good working relationship with some local plumbers. I work hard at maintaining relationships with competing companies because you may need to work together at some point.
Arriving at an identity for our business has been an evolutionary process as we’ve kept up and expanded our services. Creating an identity has little value or meaning unless it’s backed by quality service that people get to know and trust.

What is the key to growing your business and, ultimately, your client list? What problems have you faced, and how have you handled them?
In this business, experience is silver and client relationships are gold. Competition can provide a great deal of growth, but it’s highly dependent on providing quality service. You have to have experience when performing a service to your customers.
As a business owner, I make sure my employees are experienced in their duties and dedicate themselves to providing the best service every single time.
If a toilet gets clogged, the customer calls us because we can find the problem, wherever it might be. That’s why our company grows by word of mouth. We show our experience and dedication in performing our job with excellence.

Who currently works at Raska Sewer Service, and what are their positions?
We currently have three full-time employees: Me (Keith Raska) as the owner/operator; Kevin Raska (my second son) an operator; and the newer member of our team, Melvin Raska (my nephew).
All of our full-time employees have always been family.

How do you boost efficiency in your jobs and your workers, and who trains them for excellence?
Our dedication to what we do is a natural boost to efficiency. In this industry, and being as small as we are, dedication is a must. As stated before, making my worker’s jobs easier is essential for success which brings us to our list of must-haves. We require a dependable source to get rid of tank waste.
Having good, reputable dealers within easy driving distance and keeping our business local works well for us. We expect the best from those we work alongside and, especially ourselves. We’ve trained all our employees from within and we have become the experts. If we’re exploring a new service, we make sure to learn from the people around us.

What kinds of trucks and other equipment would we see in your parking lot?
We have 160 portable toilets and 7 handicaps, 15 handwash stations supplied by three companies: Satellite Tufway, Five Peaks, and PolyPortable.
We also own a 2015 4-stall Jag Manufacturing luxury restroom trailer, an F-450 Imperial 980-gallon tank, and a Ford drain-cleaning work van filled with MyTana’s large and small jetters. We own a 150-foot push camera, a pipe locator, an m-80 small roto-rooter machine, and a large cable machine for 4-inch to 8-inch lines. We also have two Peterbilt pump trucks, both manufactured with Imperial tanks.

Who are some of your bigger and more important clients?
We treat all our customers as important. We try to keep our advertising budget minimal and have succeeded with just word-of-mouth advertising, the best kind. We had an interesting job last winter unplugging a clogged waste water retention pond. We stood on the ponds and used chainsaws to cut through ice two feet thick, then divers went down and ran the jetter hose through the pipes. We also service our County Fair, which saw 38,000 people just this year.

What are the most challenging aspects of your business and industry, and how do you handle them?
Hands down, the biggest hurdle in our industry is land spreading. Soon pumpers in Wisconsin will no longer be able to land spread.
I think the lack of waste treatment facilities accepting septic waste is the biggest threat to the environment, as well as a threat to any septic pumping operation in Wisconsin, especially in rural communities. We’ve worked successfully with our local municipalities to accept limited amounts of holding tank waste and are working to make them aware of this looming problem.

Business Name:
Raska Sewer Service & Portable Toilet Rental LLC
Address: 93 State Road 35, Osceola WI 54020
Phone #: 715-755-4888
Website: www.RaskaSewerService.com

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