PolyJohn- An Interview With The Family-Owned Company

One of our key advertisers at ALW Magazine is PolyJohn. They are a family-owned company that specializes in portable restrooms, but they are so much more than that. In talking with a few employees of PolyJohn, including Danny Schaver (their Marketing Director), Matt Pausma (the Process Improvement Specialist), and brothers Gus and Sam Cooper (a Sales Representative and Quality Control Engineer, respectively), we have gleaned a little more information about what makes this company so special.

PolyJohn Is Family Owned and Operated
Gus and Sam’s grandfather, Ed Cooper, started the company with George Hiskes and George Harding (who actually held the first patent for the plastic, portable toilet). Harding was a partner in the building of the Liberty Ship program during WWII, a member of senior management at General Motors in the 1930s, and even a business partner with Walt Disney at one point. He would engage with anyone who would really talk to him and had an entrepreneurial spirit his entire life. PolyJohn began in 1984 or ‘85, when that partnership was created.
Being a third-generation, family-owned company, PolyJohn’s current owners are Mike Cooper and Ken Cooper. They are training the next generation to eventually take over their roles as they retire. Mike Cooper is the CEO and President, and Ken Cooper is the Vice President.

Products and Services PolyJohn Offers
The innovation they offer makes PolyJohn one of the leaders in their industry by constantly working to bring new products to the market. PolyJohn makes several plastic products including portable toilets, sinks, showers, holding tanks, and other outdoor plastic products. The company has different departments that assemble everything from raw goods to finished products.
The company itself has its corporate headquarters in Indiana, right outside Chicago. They have warehouse locations across the country, in Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Oregon, and California. They also have International and Canadian divisions. Their International Headquarters is located in the United Kingdom; their Canadian division, located in Orillia, also manufactures some of their products. They also have distributors worldwide, including throughout Mexico and via their Central European distributor based in the Czech Republic. Their reach as a company definitely extends far and wide! But they are still family owned and operated.
One of the aspects of the crew is that they operate pretty lean, with a core group of people. They take a lot of pride in that. Most of their employees are long term, and they treat everyone like family, including customers and sales reps. The crew members are longtime friends, so the company culture is like a big family, even if you aren’t a Cooper.

All Their Staff Are Vitally Important
Every person has a very important role, and PolyJohn relies on each of them for their specialties all the time. They couldn’t function well without each person and the job they do. That was important to Mr. Cooper. Knowledge and expertise from having a core group of employees with an extensive history with the company has allowed it to flourish over the years. Everyone was able to grow alongside the owners and their knowledge of the industry. This speaks to the longevity of the company with the management team on board and training the next generation to run the company.

Technology Factors Into Their Business
The portable-toilet industry hasn’t changed much, according to Danny Schaver, PolyJohn’s Marketing Director. The main product line continually gets upgraded, so the units are better as the years go by. They are more durable and reliable for customers, with advances in parts and plastics improving, but how products are used hasn’t changed much. PolyJohn will continue to be on the forefront of innovations related to their industry, as well as plastics manufacturing in general.
PolyJohn controls product quality from start to finish, as they are the true manufacturers. Most components are made in house, but some are outsourced. All the products are made in America. The Canadian products are made partially in Canada and partially in America.

Why PolyJohn Isn’t an Ordinary Company
PolyJohn’s brand is to treat their customers like family. They are always there when the customer needs them. They take this very serious motto to heart. The whole team does everything they can to help the customer because it’s a partnership. PolyJohn is successful when their customers are successful. The product has to be excellent, but what sets them apart is their customer service and their devotion to that success. The only things that last longer than their products are those important relationships.
For example, Elton Tamplin has been with PolyJohn as Central Region Manager in Texas for 18 years. With gas shortages in Texas due to Hurricane Harvey, he drove 180 miles to a customer’s site with diesel cans to help one of his customers, so they could run their routes. They were out of diesel, and he fixed that problem for them. The PolyJohn team’s absolute commitment to the customers is special. They strive to do anything necessary to ensure their businesses succeed. All PolyJohn’s reps are tuned into this, and that’s the real difference. This type of story can be told for every one of PolyJohn’s sales reps. The brand phrase is, “We’re there when you need us.”

A Recent Example of Their Excellence
PolyJohn has locations where the 2017 hurricanes hit, so they were close to home and affected the company. Many of their customers were near their locations in Florida and Texas, so being prepared was something PolyJohn ensured at the time. They had an inkling what the aftermath would be and wanted to help people get through it. Portable toilets are extremely important for disaster relief, so PolyJohn took extra inventory from other warehouses across the country to set up on those disaster relief and recovery sites. Their products were ready and available for the situation, in large part due to their planning and working overtime in the region a few weeks before. Hurricane season is always a concern, and luckily, PolyJohn was ready. It was a huge team effort to ensure they could help their customers in the affected regions in any way they could.
PolyJohn’s continuous improvement as a company is the heart of their success. It’s rare to find a company like this. For the future, they are looking forward to automating and modernizing the manufacturing process when and where they can, and they are always looking to improve the quality of their products and services. PolyJohn aims to deliver when the customer needs them most. They give their crews the best knowledge to do their jobs well, and that will move them ever onward, toward a bright future.

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