Royal Restrooms of Jacksonville FL

Andy Christian had been in communications for a long time. He was a rep for various major carriers, like AT&T, T-Mobile Sprint, and others, handling zoning and permitting for their major utility installations all over the southeast United States. Prior to his communications career, he had a series of jobs, including real estate, owning a cold storage business for about eight years, running a South Beach music studio (which recorded a lot of reggae and a major rock band for about 4 to 5 years), and running a chain of convenience stores for an owner in Jacksonville.
Ultimately, Christian settled in Gainesville and into his career in the communications field. There, he met his wife, Linda Carlyle, who was also in the business. At that time, he was working for a company that placed antennas on signal towers. It was the 1990s. It was cutting-edge, exciting. Still, he was not entirely satisfied. His employer wanted him to spend his time behind a computer, not out selling. So, he was looking for something different. Around 2005, somebody mentioned portable restrooms to him and said that someone in Savanah Georgia was looking for someone to franchise.
So, Andy drove up and met the two owners, David Sauers and Robert Glisson. He was very interested. They showed him some restroom trailers. He was sold. But he had to convince his wife, Linda. The two went together on what was Andy’s second trip to Savanah, to explore the idea further, and in 2005, Andy and Linda Christian became the first franchise owners of what is now one of the industry’s leading national brands — Royal Restrooms.
First Franchisee of Royal Restrooms
With the franchise, Andy and Linda got two trailers to rent. Andy was still working with T-Mobile, and at that point, he thought of restroom rentals as a sideline. In fact, one of the two trailers sat in the Christians’ driveway for months, until one day someone called and said they could rent it. Andy and Linda sent the trailer to Louisiana for its first rental. They started getting income right away. Another company in Jacksonville saw one of the Christians’ trailers, and they started working with the owner. Things started to take off a little.
Andy and his wife remained consultants in the communications field for a while, working out of their home in Micanopy Florida, just south of Gainesville. But they started getting a lot of calls from people wanting to rent restroom trailers. The couple soon found that they couldn’t do both jobs. So, after a couple of years, Andy left the communications business, cashed in his 401K, took the tax hit, and bought more restroom trailers.
A Unique Path to Success in the Portable Restroom Industry
In the beginning, Andy and Linda were delivering trailers all over the state of Florida. For example, they would leave on Fridays to go to Panama City, drop off a restroom trailer for a wedding or other special event, and then they’d go spend time on the beach, while standing by until time to bring the trailer back to home base. Then, they’d pick up the trailer and do it all over again the next weekend. They worked this way for a year and a half.
Then, they found a shop north of Gainesville, in Hawthorne Florida, and created a base of operations there. Around that time, they brought Linda’s son, Michael, on board. Andy recalls that, from the beginning, he helped tremendously. He could fix anything. Michael is now the company’s General Manager.
Andy and Linda were constantly on the road. They were hauling trailers to Mississippi for emergency use after Hurricane Ike. They also worked Hurricane Sandy in New York City. They still have some trailers in use in Daytona, as work is still being done following Hurricane Michael.
Ultimately, the Christians formed a second business, a shower trailer rental company, for use during hurricane disaster recovery work. The couple partnered in the new business with the Royal Restroom principals, Sauers and Glisson, and have since been providing shower trailers for emergency use, summer camps, such as for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, as well as for the National Guard and numerous others. Even the Canadian Army has used their shower trailers, along with a laundry trailer that the company also rents.
The Royal Restroom’s franchise owners have done a considerable amount of Caribbean island travel over the years, renting and transporting their restroom trailers to Jamaica, for long term rentals there, as well as to Bermuda, for the Island Games, which is sort of a Caribbean version of the Olympics. The couple flew down to the islands, set up the portable restroom trailers. Some units remained in use for as long as two years for some customers.
Linda and Andy developed a routine of traveling back and forth from Florida to whichever island their rental restrooms were located, to maintain a schedule of servicing the trailers. An employee stayed with the units, in some cases, depending on customers’ particular needs. The Christians fit scheduling of some of their vacation time, to spend some quality time on the island beaches after completing their work on the islands, whenever possible. Altogether, they had developed the American dream, an idyllic working lifestyle.
Royal Restrooms Growth Throughout Florida
Their story sounds, up to this point, may sound like one that’s more about finding professional bliss than growth, but they were certainly growing along the way. Eventually, they took on other territories, including Orlando and Tampa, which covers Tampa through St. Petersburg, and on down the coast through Naples. The Christians set up another franchisee in Miami to service the South Florida coastline, up through West Palm Beach. They’re partners with the Miami franchisee on the territory from West Palm up through the Melbourne area. They also control the area from Orlando through Daytona and Gainesville through Jacksonville, completing the franchise’s territorial control of virtually the entire eastern Florida seaboard, as well as control of the entirety of the most heavily populated length of coastline on the west coast of the state.
Today, the Christian’s Royal Restrooms franchise in Florida has a total of about a hundred rental facility trailers, including its luxury restroom units and shower trailers. The company has a staff of around 15 to 16 people, including full-time and part-time employees and Andy and Linda.
The franchise’s business model is straightforward, involving a few now regionally well-proven revenue channels. About 75 percent of the business generated is from restroom rentals and 25 percent is from shower rentals. The company also has a laundry trailer, which provides a good resource for customers in emergencies. They also supply water tanks and electricity generators for use where hook-ups are not available at customers’ sites. In fact, Andy notes that renting generators is a significant revenue source for the business.
The Customer Reigns at Royal Restrooms
Talking to Andy Christian, it’s notable that he gravitates back to talking about customer service throughout the discussion. At this juncture, he simply turns the discussion to talk directly about this core of his operational focus, “It takes a real commitment. It’s all about customer service.” He goes on to mention that some vendors will try and sell services by emphasizing new trailers.
He reflects that while it’s important to offer appealing, up-to-date facilities, that can only get a business owner in this industry so far. He indicates what he means, “The number you’re calling me at right now is on all of our trailers.” That’s a rather staggering management model for service business owner provisioning virtually an entire state with over a hundred large, labor-intensive units being transported, and especially in an event-heavy region like the sunshine state.
Andy admits to being “kind of a workaholic.” But, he adds, “It’s been very satisfying.” He attributes his good experience in the business and much of the company’s success to having very good managers. Linda does most of the accounting, and currently more of the general running of the business is being transitioned to Michael. Andy reflects, “It’s been very rewarding, but it’s been a lot of work too.”
He emphasizes that keeping really clean trailers has been his best marketing tool. He says simply, “We have the cleanest trailers.” The company does do some marketing through the website, and he does call on customers, but, he notes, “There’s probably a lot more I need to do on marketing. I’ve just always been concentrating so much on clean trailers and customer service…”
He adds that the little things that are also critical. For example, in addition to heating and air conditioning, the company provides a lot of comforts for users of the rental restroom trailers. They provide premium paper products and attractive décor, including rugs, flowers and pictures. Andy says that the mints are really popular. He jokes, “If those are empty, we hear about it.”
Taking stock, Andy shares, “Even though we’ve grown and are pretty big, we’ve never lost sight of customer service and responding to customers’ needs on any issues. We pride ourselves that we take care of an issue quickly. I’ll drop everything. There’s are always going to be some issues, a clogged toilet, a storm knocks out power, etc. There’s always something that can go wrong.”
He continues, “For our customers, having that phone number is important.” He’s talking about his cell phone number, allowing all customers to reach him directly, 24/7, “I get a lot of calls on weekends. It’s really a commitment, but it’s been worth it.”
Learning Along the Way
The Christian’s franchise rents a lot of luxury restroom trailers to brides for outdoor weddings, sporting events, wine festivals, art festivals, as well as for commercial renovations, like to Walmart or McDonalds and for other temporary uses. Andy emphasizes, there’s a lot of hard work involved. The trailers require a lot of maintenance and repair.
The Florida weather is actually very rough on the trailers. People also abuse the facilities at stores and at parties. Andy says that after getting into the business, he soon learned that he needed to have an attendant or two present at large events, to do maintenance and restocking, which provided better customer services, and had the side-effect of helping protect the equipment.
Operations at Royal Enterprise
Andy handles the overall operational oversight, pricing, sales and customer relations. He says he’s learned to delegate more now. (After 18 years in the business, at age 68 he’s been phasing himself into a less hands-on role.) Michael expertly fixes anything that needs repair, and he has also built up a set of customer relations skills. The business has a couple of very good managers who work along with Michael, to help him run the business, including scheduling pickups, managing the cleaning crew, and other tasks.
The management team uses cell phones and computers, calling, texting and emailing to stay in communications. Tracking devices are used in the trailers and trucks, so management can keep an eye on activities and the condition of trailers throughout the day. Andy evaluates that device as an exceptional tool for his operations team. He notes that the new cleaning products that are continuously being rolled out for use in the industry have helped a lot too, and adds that his team is always looking for new products to help enhance their trailers.
Andy says, “I’m not a big meeting person, but once a year we have a meeting with the managers, to go over what’s happened in past year, and to share plans for future. Then, management has an annual meeting with all the employees (in January each year). The managers have a great relationship, and Andy notes that they’re around the employees more than he is these days. He says that’s part of his kind of stepping away from the daily management and leaving more and more to Michael and the management team.
Michael has been working with Andy almost since the beginning, and some of the employees have been with the franchise for 6 to 7 years. Like all entrepreneurs in the industry, Andy has had his own challenges with personnel turnover, but he has found that things have stabilized over recent years. He says his current crew is probably the best his business has had. Andy comments that the maintenance of the trucks is paramount, of course, and presents its own set of ongoing challenges, “Getting the right mechanic, has helped us tremendously.”
He reflects on the history as a process of trial and error, always looking for strong performers to join the team. He says he’s delegating more and more, “I’ve been giving up some of my responsibilities, empowering the management team more.” He says they asked for more duties, so, operations have been in a phase of gradual transition, to give them more responsibility.
Future Opportunities and Future Risks
Asked about ideas for adding new products or services, Andy says there’s always the thought about going into the porta potty business, but, he doesn’t really want to spread himself out that much. Instead, he refers customers to porta potty vendors whom he’s confident will provide good service. In turn, he also supplies a lot of his trailers to other vendors who need luxury units, “Some of my best customers are other people in the business.”
As for possible future threats to the business, “What I’m seeing in this industry is bigger companies buying out smaller ones. In Florida, there’s not as much competition. I think the service has gone down, and that’s not good for the industry. A couple of companies are getting bigger and bigger. We ‘ve been approached, but we like what we do and want to keep in going. But it can push out the smaller companies. That means customers are less likely to get customer services that is as good as when competition is stronger. It also affects the pricing when there’s less competition.”
Advice for Industry Newcomers from Andy Christian
“When you come into this business, you’ve got to be pretty well capitalized. Once you get things moving, it all depends on you, and how far you want to go. If you do give good customer service, you’ll do well and you’ll need to buy more trailers, trucks and generators, and those all have to be maintained. Other big expenses include insurance — liability and Workers’ Comp. That’s a huge expense, and you’ve got to have it.
There are just a lot of expenses involved. My wife and I were working other jobs when we started and were able to put money into the business. That enabled us to do it, and today we’re debt free. But I think some people get into business too early, and they’re not financially ready to do it. So, I wouldn’t advise it for someone who is not well capitalized.”
On Royal Restrooms of Jacksonville FL
Here we will add our own bit of advice for new luxury portable restroom rental market entrants, based on our conversation with Andy Christian. It is certainly a high-quality approach to a business lifestyle, to map onto the general operational model provided by Andy and Linda Christian, if you’re up for it:
Offer customers the flexibility to acquire your service at locations that require you as a service business to make special logistical accommodations. The willingness to help customers by filling that kind of need can offer exciting rewards for portable restroom rental business owners. These rewards are in the form of amazing opportunities to enjoy necessary stays in the vicinity of your trailers when they’re in use in venues located in the some of the world’s most gorgeous and exotic places.
Beyond following this fascinating approach to doing business on a subtropical coastline, any portable restroom business in the country that expects to do well in its market, should emulate the Christians’ consummate commitment to trailer cleanliness and service quality as the core principles of the business.
Further Andy and Linda Christian’s conscious choice of life-long learning is a classic feature of great business leaders. Their approach has been through welcoming a uniquely adventurous business management lifestyle, embracing a trial and error approach, and rising to the call to meet customers’ specific needs not only in special event services, but in disaster recovery zones as well.
Royal Restrooms in Florida has built out the business’s inventory to serve both the celebratory and emergency ends of the spectrum of customer use cases. That service model ideally represents the possibilities in the industry for service conceptions in other regions — possibilities that can inspire others, both in and outside the industry to think in terms of this kind of dual role in the market and in the society.
Source

Upscale Mobile Bathroom Trailers


Andy andychristian@bellsouth.net
Linda llcsites@bellsouth.net

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