Charlene’s Waste Services LLC, Wentzville MO

Charlene’s Waste Services (CWS) is a waste management company founded in 2016 in Wentzville, MO, located near O’Fallon in the outer western area of St. Louis metro. The company provides services in the collection of liquid waste and disposal. CWS serves St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jackson County, and the greater St. Louis metro region within a 100-mile radius of St. Louis.
From a humble startup launched by Tommy and Charlene Endsley, the story of the couple’s success over the past half-decade in business has unfolded into a spectacular one, by any industry standards. The company has grown to more than 15 times its original size in portable toilet rental units, and its service vehicles have multiplied from one old gigantic truck to a substantial fleet of immaculately maintained toilet trucks and other field service vehicles.
But, how does a new entrepreneur parlay his industry knowledge gained through previous job experience into such rapid growth over just a few years? To track the progression of this amazing suburban family business, Tommy takes us back to the beginning:

Small Midwest Startup – Huge Potential

In 1998, I went to work for an outfit in St. Louis, a sanitation company (a porta potty rental business). I worked for them for about 15 years. I had about 7 to 10 employees reporting to me. After I quit, I went to work for a trash company, because I had a non-compete agreement with the porta-potty company. I drove for the trash company for a couple of years.
After the non-compete term was over, we started up Charlene’s Waste Services, with little money we had saved in the bank. We bought a used porta-potty truck out of Pumper magazine, from a little company in Michigan, and bought around 200 porta-potties, to get started with.
I was working nights, picking up commercial routes, and Charlene was working for a title company, on home titles. I would go in at midnight. I would get off work at 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning, then make deliveries for my other job. For a year, we did both at the same time, until we grew our customer base enough that we could sustain the business with both of us working for it full time and quit our regular jobs.

Endsley Leverages New Equipment to Generate Growth

We made a deal with the guy we bought the toilet units from, which allowed us to keep them on his lot and get them when we need them. He had enough land in central Missouri to store them, so we were able to pick up a couple of loads at a time, as needed.
At that time, we were just renting a small space. We didn’t have a yard for the equipment yet. So, we ended up renting a couple of spots from a storage dealership, and that was our first location where we stored our truck and equipment. As we grew, we ended up renting a spot to store everything.
Tommy’s and Charlene’s business quickly grew to nearly 300 porta-potty units. Two new trucks for hauling portable toilets were added to the original old truck, to form a tiny fleet of three portable toilet trucks, enabling the couple to take on larger routes, a new market, and more challenging work. So far, so good, so the entrepreneurial team then planned to buy an additional 100 toilet rental units.
The company has continued on a steady and rapid growth trajectory. Today, Charlene’s Waste Services has grown to an inventory of about 1,000 portable toilet rental units, more than five times its original size five years ago.

Charlene’s Waste Services Business Model

Tommy explains the breakdown of locations utilizing his company’s portable toilet units: Our equipment is on large construction sites, at power plants, remodels, residential building sites, and on industrial sites. We have several units permanently located throughout the year in public parks and in quarries. In addition to portable toilet units. We also rent hand washing and hand sanitizing stations, and we do water hauling for job site trailers for bridge-building companies.
We’ve put out about 200-250 units per year for special events over the 5 years since we’ve been in business. But, we’re not doing too much business in events services. That’s not an area that is doing well, due to COVID.
Currently, we’ve got 5 service trucks. We put those together with every 200 or so units we have out. Each driver tries to service 200 units per week or so.

CWS Equipment

We currently have about 1,000 portable toilet units. We use Samson Industries, Satellite, and Armals toilet units. We have around 55 to 60 handicap units. We also have about 2 dozen trailer units that can be towed for use on highway jobs. Those are single toilet units on trailers for use in a quarry or on highways, for example.
We probably have about 200 handwashing stations and about 250 hand sanitizer stands. Those are a commodity nowadays with COVID. When customers started dealing with it (the pandemic), they wanted hand washing stations, and then they found they wanted both washing and sanitizing.

Marketing and Sales at CWS

Our new business mostly comes from customers I have known for a long time. We have grown that way. Our marketing is word of mouth and repeat business. We’re not in the phone book, not on Google, and we don’t advertise. Other than a few things on LinkedIn that I post on job sites, we don’t do any kind of marketing.
We succeed because our customers choose to stay with us and are loyal to us. They use us constantly because they like our service better. New customers tell their friends about us, and we keep growing that way. As Tommy said in a previously published interview, “We do whatever it takes to make our customers happy. We go above and beyond.”

Tommy Endsley’s Strategic Growth Plan

Our volume has continued increasing, so our plan is just to keep going and growing as we have been. We want to focus on continuing to get more construction jobs, to compete with bigger companies in the St. Louis area. Eventually, we would like to get to 3,800 to 4,000 porta potty units, and when we get to 3,800, we will have 15 to 18 trucks. That’s what we’re shooting for.
We want to continue to grow and evolve the business, and see where the road eventually takes us. I was thinking about possibly getting into temporary fencing in the future and roll-off containers.
Our main philosophy of growth, mine and Charlene’s, is that we want the business to prosper and have the market share, and then we can venture off into the roll-offs, or residential, or commercial trash pick up.

Charlene’s Waste Services Workplace Culture

Our staff includes me and Charlene and 3 other drivers. We’re in the process of hiring a fourth person, for a total of 6 people. A lot of people think working with porta-potties is a nasty job, but it’s not like that, of course. Employees discover that after they’re on board.
We try to treat employees like family. We treat them like we want to be treated. Not every day is going to be peachy. Some days are going to test your ability.

Key Challenges for Charlene’s Waste Services

Embarking on their new business venture, finding financing for equipment and other business needs was challenging for the Endsleys. Typically, banks are hesitant to take risks on new small businesses. Tommy overcame through persistence, ultimately finding a lender who understands the needs and importance of startups and is motivated to help new entrepreneurs succeed. In another published interview, Tommy credits the success of his business much to the growth opportunities made possible by his primary equipment lender.

Advice for Industry Newcomers from Tommy Endsley, Charlene’s Waste Services, Wentzville MO

Stay dedicated, and keep on track toward your goals. Don’t let up on them. Even on days when what you’re doing doesn’t seem like it’s working, keep your goals in sight, and keep going. Set your quota for the year, and try to pass your annual goals. Especially, treat every customer like it’s your first one, no matter how big you grow or how long you’ve been in business.
As Tommy Endsley advised readers in the previous interview, “If you go above and beyond for your customer, then they will keep coming back.”

For more information about Charlene’s Waste Services in Wentzville MO, call (636) 887-0312.

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