Pit Stop Portables, Chattanooga TN

Here’s a different kind of portable restroom business. Pit Stop’s owner, Charlie Hatler, stands out in the industry with his unique and highly effective business model and world-class marketing ingenuity. We’re grateful to Charlie for taking time out of his busy morning, between fielding calls, to share a little of his company’s story and some truly fresh and fascinating general business insights with ALW readers.
The First Pit Stop in Chattanooga
My dad started in the business in 1964, when he partnered up with Portalet, which was nationwide back then. They wanted to set up a satellite office in Chattanooga. He worked with them for a few years. Then they pulled out, and he bought the inventory from them. He changed the name to Porto Toilet.
I started working with him in 1983. At that time, we only had around 100 construction-grade toilets and about 10 for special events. I had been running the company since 1983. I was just out of high school when I came to work for the company and almost immediately took the reins. My dad would come by now and then. Then, I bought the business from him in 1993.
Pit Stop’s Unique Southeastern Business Model
Charlie has taken an unusual approach to building Pit Stop’s inventory of portable toilet rental units for event services. For one thing, in addition to the company’s luxury restroom trailers, the Pit Stop offers an abundance of very attractive white porta potty units for special occasions. In addition to their appealing soft white color, the toilet units have a rather decorative appearance created by the molded shapes indenting the entire outside of the door. This model has been so well received by the Chattanooga outdoor events market that Pit Stop has amassed an inventory of around 150 of the white units, to accommodate demand.
In addition to the white special events units, and its 2-stall and 8-stall luxury trailers, Pit Stop has about 1,100 of the more familiar standard blue porta potty units for construction site use. The business’s unique business model is further diversified to include trash receptacle rental. Pit Stop’s rental inventory includes about 20 15-yard roll-off dumpsters. Charlie’s decision to operate three revenue lines, porta potty units, luxury trailers, and roll-offs has worked out very well for Pit Stop and his Chattanooga customers. About 90 percent of Pit Stop’s revenue is from toilet rentals and about 10 percent is from rentals of the roll-offs.
Creating his business plan with this intriguing service model has taken Charlie Hatler’s company through growth and expansion of the business into new markets over the years. Those have included several branch locations throughout Tennessee and parts of northern Alabama and Western Georgia. He has reconfigured his interstate services system more recently, consolidating into a single, more cost-effective center of operations in Chattanooga.
Responding to the Tennessee Restroom Rental Market
Reflecting on the history of the seasonal business, Charlie looks at what’s stayed the same over the years and what has changed in the Chattanooga portable restroom market. Construction is pretty stead year-round for us. It used to get slow in winter, but winters have gotten so mild that we stay busy year-round. Spring is busy, but fall is our busiest time, because of weather.
We don’t do any jetting or plumbing line cleaning. We just do toilet rentals and the roll-offs. We keep a waiting list for the roll-offs. We’re kind of overwhelmed with it right now. At this stage, I’m kind of looking toward retirement. My son is going to be taking it over in a few years. I’m kind of comfortable; we have more than enough to do.
Portable Restroom Rental Marketing and Sales in Chattanooga TN
“Your Number 2 Business is Our Number 1 Business.”
That’s a bold, and yes, pretty adorable marketing slogan. It has, in fact, put Charlie Halter’s Pit Stop Portables in the league of the United States’ most cutting-edge enterprises, in terms of marketing style.
The company’s attractive, ideally-functioning website further reflects an advanced grasp of US American business marketing. This is In an industry where many providers are still catching up with concepts of SEO and the need for a comprehensive online marketing methodology. Charlie explains his secret.
I use a company called Biz IQ to maintain the website. The marketing company keeps me apprised of how many hits we get, how many inquiries, and other results. We have good traffic on the website, and we do get a lot of business from it. Most of my new business comes through the website. I’m sure it’s from Google searches. We serve contractors from out of state, and we have a lot of repeat customers. We don’t do sales calls. I do quite a bit with Google (Google AdWords). We get a lot of our new customers that way.
Asked about the surprising presence of strong blog content on the site, Charlie explains that his web marketing company comes up with good content for him. I don’t write most of that. It’s just to keep some good information out there for people who visit the site. Every once in a while I may add a little information myself.
The company website even has a 45-second marketing video featured on the Home page, showcasing Pit Stop’s services. This is a first-class marketing tool we’ve rarely seen anywhere in the US American liquid waste services business subsector.
On the low-tech end, all the porta potty units have stickers with the Pit Stop contact information. Employees’ shirts bear the company logo, and all trucks and trailers display the logo, the business name and phone number.
The Pit Stop Operations Team
We service all the TVA. We have the contract. We have an alliance with two other companies, to do all of their business all over the country. (The Tennessee Valley Authority, which services much of the southeast and eastern coastal United States).
We have three route drivers, three pick-up and delivery guys, and an office manager. I use an accounting firm for bookkeeping and payroll. The office worker answers phones, does monthly billing, and keeps routes out. My son is still in college, working on his degree in general business administration. He comes in and works part-time, when he’s not in school.
Asked about special issues involved in sending his team and equipment into surrounding states, Charlie discusses the requirements and logistics. We have to have dump permits, to operate in Georgia and Alabama. We maintain those permits whether we’re currently doing anything in there or not.
We currently service about a 35-mile radius, which includes Cleveland and Dalton Georgia, and every place in between. Especially for construction, we try to stay within the 35 miles, because those accounts require weekly servicing. For special events, we’ll go farther out, because those involve just a delivery and a pick up.
The yard guys pick up, and the delivery drivers will do some repairs before they go out. Delivery route guys can also do small repairs on customers’ sites, instead of bringing the units all the way back in for something minor. I usually clean the restroom trailers myself, to make sure they’re up to my standards.
Key Challenges for Pit Stop Management
The challenge is keeping the quality of service up as employees come and go. Employees are the biggest challenge. I’ve hired a lot of people through friends and family members of current employees. Charlie commented that, in many cases, when people have got a family member judging them, they do a better job.
The Pit Stop owner said he has three people from the same family working for him currently. They’re cousins, uncles, etc.. This offers a helpful alternative perspective for business owners around the industry who worry that hiring family members of current workers might somehow lead to performance issues.
Advice for Industry Newcomers from Charlie Hatler, Owner Pit Stop Portables, Chattanooga TN
We’ve grown the business by service. We’re basically in a service industry. So, to succeed, the important things are to provide good service and keep the equipment in good shape. We have to keep the trucks in good shape so that we’re not breaking down and missing service. Provide good service — that’s the key.
You can charge a little bit more. You might not get them at first, but you can later, if they’re not getting good service. They’ll be willing to pay ten dollars more for a well-serviced unit than for one that’s not being cleaned. If you do a good job, you’ll be alright.
We will add here, for new entrepreneurs in the portable restroom rental industry, by any means, follow the example of Charlie Hatler. Respond to your market’s particular needs, as he has uniquely done with Chattanooga’s demand for an upscale appeal in porta potty units for many local events. Recognize stages of scaling during which consolidation may be more advantageous to achieving more robust controls on logistics and costs. Above all, any by any means, fully utilize your critical online marketing resources, as Charlie Hatler has done so effectively for Pit Stop Portables — a preferred provider for the TVA as well as Chattanooga’s events and construction markets.

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