Alvarado Portable Toilets

Alvarado Portable Toilets in Reedley California was founded in 1989. Cindy Alvarado explains that she and her husband Sergio started the business because there was a need for a portable toilet company to provide field service units. In our area, it’s all ag (agriculture). We were told that regulations were going to start getting tougher on field sanitation. So, we decided that that was a service we could provide.
My husband still had his job when we started the business. So, my father-in-law Gabriel and I were the original ones running the routes. It wasn’t very long before the business started building up. Soon, we needed for my husband Sergio to come over full-time. And, within a couple of years, we were both working only at the business.

Strong Roots in Ag-Related Service
Sergio and I were both just working regular jobs when we met. We started an ag-related business together in 1984, and we got married a year later. It will be 30 years in April that we’ve been in the porta potty business. There was very little competition when we started.
As other people started providing field service, competition grew in our area, and now there are porta potty trucks all over the place. Since competition inevitably grew and took a share of the ag market, we adapted and moved into servicing construction sites and special events too. But, today, 75-80 percent of our business is still ag-related, and we still have some of the customers we started with.

Growth for Alvarado Portable Toilets
We now also provide porta potties for weekend events like birthday parties. Our large Hispanic community here have a lot of baptisms, quinceaneras and other family events. A quinceanera is like a Sweet 16 party, but it’s for 15-year old girls.
We have another business—Wright’s Pumping and Plumbing septic company. We bought that business ten years ago. The business was based out of Visalia. Our septic driver is Dan Wallis, he came to work for us having experience in the business, both septic and porta potty, and my husband Sergio is the back up driver. We provide both residential and commercial septic service.
Our porta potty business is about three times larger today than 20 years ago. We currently have about 80-100 accounts on the porta potty side, depending on the time of the year. April through October is non-stop for us. That’s harvest time. Right now, in the fall and winter they’re pruning. Things are a little slower on the porta potty side in the winter , but things get busier in the winter on the septic side.
We currently have around 150 porta potty units and three portable toilet trucks, and 2 septic trucks. We have 4 employees, plus ourselves. So, we have six people working at the business. Our daughter, Eavie, is one of our four employees. She’s our office manager, and she does all of the billing and administrative work for the porta potty business. I take care of all the billing for the Wright septic services business.
We’ve never really had to do sales. We’ve been here for so long that we’re so high profile in the community that people just know about us and show up. Between the website and word-of-mouth, we stay busy. We were kind of the first in our area. Out of Visalia, another operator we know has built a good porta potty business too. We refer each other to new customers in our areas.
The porta potty business is really our primary business. We’ve gotten to know many of the packing houses and other business in our area, and we provide units for some of those.

Alvarado Team in Fast Action Day to Day
April through October, my husband and I work many more hours, and we often have a person coming in on Sunday to help pick up units from parties that were held on Saturdays. Sergio and I also rent and service units at a local Christmas tree farm that does a lot of business. So we go up there on Sunday mornings to make sure everything is clean.
We have two teams that run routes. One team is our brother in law Carlos Villarreal and his brother Jaime Villarreal. Sergio and I run the other truck. The two brothers were working in ag prior to coming to work for usl
Another brother in law, Luis Alvarado worked for us for 19 years. We’ve mostly had family working with us. Our daughters, grandsons, brothers, sisters, brothers in law and sisters in law, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. One of our grandsons Aaron used to go on the route with us when he was little and then worked every summer through college and finally full time until he got a great job working for a local company.
All of our nieces and nephews joke about how many of them have worked on the porta potty trucks with Uncle Sergio and Aunt Cindy. Now, those kids have grown up to become engineers and teachers. We know our business is very challenging for new workers. So, we tell the kids when they come onboard for summer jobs, if you can do this, you can do anything in your life.
Clearly, the Alvarado extended family has generated a great pool of employment candidates—all of whom have proven to share an exceptional work ethic.

What the Future Holds for Alvarado
Asked about growth strategy Cindy explains the kind of simple one-foot-in-front-of-the-other planning that successful long-time entrepreneurs are inclined toward. The only thing we’re going to try to do is extend a little more into special events for the weekend. If we decide to scale back on the ag side, because that’s very labor intensive, we’ll look at moving more into the special events, because it’s quick turnaround.
Especially when our guys get to retirement in a year or two, we may want to shift a little more toward servicing events. We’re still just kind of looking at it to see if that’s what we want to do. Jaime, my brother in law’s brother has been working with us for 12 years, and his brother Carlos has been working with us for 3 years. Dan, who works on the septic side has been working with us for 4 years. Everyone working at Alvarado is well over 50 years. Except Eavie, shes the youngest. One of our route workers is 68 years old and another is 69. (My husband and I are both 63.)
One can imagine that the Alvarado company picnics must be very similar to the Alvarados’ family picnics. Cindy, tired from running the route left open by another employee who just retired from the business after many years, laughs at that notion. We do company birthday parties, instead of picnics. I just pick up a cake at the local bakery.
Cindy Alvarado, eager to finally get some sleep after working long hours filling the hole left on the service route due to the retirement, wears all the hats in any given week, even during the smoothest of operating periods.
However, the fact that she still takes the time to run to the bakery for cakes for her staff birthday parties reveals new dimensions of the special culture of this stable family business and its charming, relentlessly devoted owner, Cindy Alvarado. Mrs. Alvarado was exceedingly generous in sacrificing some very precious sleep time ( resting only because she was sick) to give this interview during what was clearly a week to overwhelm the most enduring of entrepreneurs. But, given what we’ve learned in the interview, it’s not surprising that she would respond to our voicemail requests to share her experience to benefit readers in her industry.

Major Challenges for Alvarado
Our biggest issue here is the state of California regulations. It’s just so much more expensive to do business here. We’re a company that prioritizes maintaining full compliance with all requirements. There are a lot of environmental regulations, especially for the septic trucks. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is very strict. They’re making us retire one of our trucks. So, we will go and buy another truck soon.
Keeping the equipment running properly all the time, to avoid breakdowns is another challenge. That’s a high priority for my husband. He’s always working on equipment.

Advice From a 30-Year Success in the Industry
For new entrants into the industry, some of the very best advice you’ll get is from long-time successful industry veteran, Cindy Alvarado: Don’t undercut. It’s doesn’t do you any good, because then you have to cut somewhere else.
A lot of people go out and undercut, and then they don’t make it. You’ve got to know what it takes to stay in business and then set your prices accordingly. A lot of people tell us our prices are too high. We explain that we have to be able to stay in business.
Then, they go to a new competitor that’s offering an unreasonably cheap price for services. They come back to us later and say things like, “The porta potty stunk worse after they cleaned it.” We’ve heard a lot of things like that.
Also, keep clean units. Portable toilets already have a bad reputation for being unsanitary. But, we’re one of those companies making progress on changing that image. Keeping the units properly serviced all the time is our top priority. You won’t do well for long unless you make yourself one of the companies that offers clean, sanitary units.

Special Distinguishing Features
Asked what are some of the business’s distinguishing features and services that she and Sergio have developed in order to strategically position their business in their local community, Cindy says there actually aren’t many, per se.
We just have the sticker with our name on the porta potty units. We primarily use Satellites and Poly Portables for parties and other special events. Otherwise, it’s really about providing excellent service, consistently. We haven’t really had to focus much on ways to stand out. After so long in the business, we’re really well known in our market here.
The Alvarados’ website is actually very distinctive and beautiful. It stands out as one of the more attractive and functionally intuitive for users that we’ve seen in the industry this year. It features beautiful, serene, colorful agricultural panoramas as well as complete and easily navigable pages with well-working internal links.

Learning From the Alvarados
In their ongoing business management example, the Alvarados have solved one of the two most common challenges confronting business owners across the portable restroom industry. Alongside the vehicle maintenance challenge—hiring reliable, effective long-term employees is the single most difficult issue reported to us by business owners throughout the industry.
As we’ve read above, the owners of Alvarado Portable Toilets have not been exempt from the typically serious challenges of costly vehicle maintenance. Looks like nobody in the portable restroom business can avoid that one. But, Cindy and Sergio Alvarado have certainly found the formula for completely overcoming the otherwise seemingly universal hiring challenge that plagues the industry.
The solution to the portable toilet rental industry hiring problem—have an amazing family like the Alvarados, in which you and 100% of your relatives and their relatives have an absolutely ideal work ethic and can all work effectively together to support a business for decades.
Listening to Cindy Alvarado, an entrepreneurial natural, we recognize that the Alvarados have achieved the classic purist’s dream of new entrepreneurs. That is the dream of becoming so well established in your business community that branding has taken care of itself organically.
That’s what business owners can achieve by identifying a couple of robust revenue channels, delivering high-quality service, and making good hiring decisions (even if they’re counter to ageless caveats about working with family). And, include building a great reputation as a reliable and nice person to work with among people you serve, your local industry peers and the people you employ.
The husband and wife team have proven that mastering such a straightforward small business formula serves to fortify daily operations against needless complication. They’ve also proven that such mastery can sustain a small startup portable restroom business through a successful lifetime entrepreneurial career for its owners as well as create good, reliable long-term employment for other high-quality, dedicated people.

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