American Companies 2021, A Midwest Institution

A few years ago in our Spotlight featuring American Companies, we called Gale Holsman, President, and CEO a force of nature. Today, he is, of course, still the same industry dynamo that has been leading this flourishing enterprise for the past 37 years. The track record of Gale Holsman is inarguable. His thriving Midwest corporation, American Companies is an increasingly formidable competitor in Kansas City waste management systems.
American Companies was selected by American Liquid Waste magazine as our August 2018 Spotlight featured business, because of the extraordinary entrepreneurial march of Holsman across the greater Kansas City area. He has veritably dominated the portable restroom rental services market in terms of gains of combined restroom rental, industrial power sweeping, waste hauling, and event services since he started with a single truck and his boundless energy and imagination back in 1984.
During our earlier interview with Gale, he reminisced about his first-weekend job in the site services industry. It was for The Michael Jackson Victory tour. He swept the parking lot throughout the three-day event at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. He recalls, “They liked me. And, today we have hundreds of toilets in the parking lots there and control all trash flow and control from the stadium. It’s crazy how much business can grow from a simple, but great start.”
We spent some time with Gale again recently, catching up with the company’s fresh history of the past few years since our original opportunity in 2018 to learn the fascinating story of this self-made regional business wonder and his aggressively organically expanding business. Now, in the mid-first quarter of 2021, there are captivating updates from American Companies. Those include the company’s progress since 2018, leading up to 2020, and the profound effects of last year on both the business and personal experience of 2020 for the company owner and his truly amazing team.

American’s Diversified Business Model

Gale Holsman’s business consists of four separate entities under the American Companies umbrella: American Waste Systems Inc., American Sweeping Inc., American Pavement Maintenance Inc., and Total Venue. Under these distinct operations, the American Companies do it all. The diversified service organization provides true one-stop-shopping for commercial, industrial, and municipal customers in need of:
Street Sweeping for:
Construction
Industrial Sites
Municipal Contracts
Roll-off Containers
Powerwashing Portable Toilet
Models for:
Construction
Special Events
Luxury Use Event Clean-up Services, including:
Trash Containers
Stage Rental
Other Event Site Equipment and Services Rear Loaders for Commercial and Residential Needs
Asphalt
Sealcoating
Pavement Striping
Other Services

This expansive array of service channels is all the stuff of the classic great American success story: There was a time when a local Kansas City boy named Gale Holsman was a sales manager for Waste Management and saw an opportunity to acquire a sweeper truck. He bought it and took the plunge into sweeping parking lots for a couple of big box store chains. Lots of growth and diversification characterized the next decades for his company, as he built a budding national enterprise, with site services companies expanding from Kansas City to St. Louis, Columbia, Atlanta, and their metro markets.
American buys its portable toilets, trucks, and equipment from Satellite. The company currently has around 3,500 Satellite toilet units, mostly gray construction-grade porta-potty units. They also have 2 trailers with 4 and 8 toilet units each, and a third one coming soon with 8 units, and they have about 55 to 60 ADA gray units and some construction-grade trailers for highway construction and maintenance jobs.

Updates from American Companies KC Since 2018

Revenues were flat on roll-offs last year for American, with no significant up or down change. Gale commented, “There are so many guys now who want to be in the roll-off in business. There are 17 new companies in the roll-off business. We’ve been in business in Kansas City for so long and working with contractors, so when they add, we add.” Fortunately, Kansas City is still in a pretty good growth period, so that’s good for us.
“Sweeping is generating substantial revenues for us. We have some industrial accounts. Revenues have stayed steady in the sweeping, toilets, and roll-offs. Toilet rental revenues are probably around 18% to 20%. Roll-offs are probably around 11%, and residential and commercial trash pickup is about 60%, and sweeping accounts for the rest, about 10% to 11%.”
As an outdoor services contracting company in the heart of the Midwest, the American Companies field staff totals fluctuate with season changes. Of course, it also fluctuates with startups and completions of special projects, and with bringing on major new accounts. American’s team includes division managers, night supervisors, admin staff, sales reps, drivers, mechanics, and technicians.

The 2020 Odyssey

We asked Gale Holsman how American Companies fared during 2020 and what kinds of adaptations, if any, the leadership team has implemented in its various areas of operations, budgeting, sales, and planning, as a result of the 2020 experience.
Gale, being Gale, did not spin or otherwise deviate from simple truth well expressed, “Last year stunk. “The Kansas City Chiefs use around 375 of the toilet units during the regular season, but last year in 2020, it was only 100. “With that said, I’m very grateful we had the 100. A lot of others are just going out of business.”
He observed that the construction business in KC stayed pretty solid, which helped keep American’s numbers steady. “We kept everybody (employees) on last year. John King, who ran the St. Louis branch until we sold it, now runs KC toilets and roll-offs.”

American Companies Growth Strategy

The American Companies’ strategic planning for 2021 and longer-term was, Gale acknowledges, performed in the new light of what effects such as those of the health and economic events of last year can mean in potential impacts to a growing business in the portable restroom rental services industry.
Even while Gale (as one of the so many entrepreneurs across the country) is calculating the right moves for his customers, employees, and his brand’s interests, current weather conditions are of epic proportions. He describes the current workday in KC, “Right now (February 2021) we have sub-zero temperatures and a lot of snow, so we’re running behind.”
Back in 2018, Gale offered the portable restroom rental business’s wisest perspective and advice, for aspiring entrepreneurs in any industry, and it seems even more meaningful today. He says that although it’s all about growth, the quality approach to growth must be through focusing on ideally serving the customers you already have, “We spend our time on account retention. We want to provide the best service so that our clients have no reason to go to our competitors.”
Beyond that simple strategy for organic growth through passive marketing to current customers, Gale emphasizes that to succeed, growth plans need buy-in from the entire team. He stresses that everyone must understand and support following the roadmap that has been laid out for the way forward toward achieving the set objectives and goals.
He accomplishes this strategic team follow-through by weekly meetings in which each manager discusses their ideas and feasibility is evaluated, modifications are made, as needed, and decisions are made.

Marketing and Sales Approach at American Companies

Gale’s business is one of those so well-established in its market that word-of-mouth is the only marketing necessary. He explains that word-of-mouth between business managers long familiar with his team’s quality and reliability in KC is one of his company’s major sources of new business, “Longevity naturally brings customers through those sources.”
On the other hand, he also emphasizes, “Our website is also one of our #1 sources of new sales.” He says it’s like having 24/7 salespeople. The company’s marketing team, led by Gale’s daughter Shannon Holsman Lock, a serious marketing management talent, does all the coding for the company’s dazzling and intuitive site. He commented, “We have a significant and terrific website. We change it daily. In addition to the website, we also advertise on television, radio, billboards, etc., to stay out in front of the public.”
Further, he explained that the American Companies sales team members “do a great job going out and bidding for new jobs.” Gale explained, “Our sales team provides bids to parks and recreation departments, cities, events, and various entities, to make sure we have that good live communication going.” Unlike a majority of successful portable restroom rental businesses we speak with, American Companies leadership pulls out all stops on marketing and sales channels, to continuously drive the company’s sales success over the top in the competitive KC market.
Further, the branding philosophy Gale succinctly shared, in a nutshell, has universal applications, “Our growth depends upon our reputation. Our reputation rides on the perception of our company, our containers, trucks, uniforms, and everything that presents us to our current and prospective clients. It has to be first class. Perception is everything. What you have left at the end of the day is your reputation, which relies on those critical perceptions of your business and your team.” (NAS, August 2018)

Process and Quality Control at American, KC

The company’s management does proactive outreach to customers to ask about their experience with the service and comments about the quality of the rental products and services provided at their sites. As Gale notes, “That‘s what keeps our service level up in our sweeping company. We always want to check-in. On the toilet side, it’s different, especially in construction. It’s not quite as delicate. We’ve got check off sheets in the toilets, and there’s no reason to bother the site superintendent unless there’s a problem.”
He continues, “GPS allows us to keep control of what our drivers are doing on the job at all times, including locations, driving speed, time frames at various locations, historical operating data. It’s a very convenient and accurate way of supporting quality assurance.”
But, as in the past, Gales stresses that above all, “We rely on our stellar team to handle our businesses with confidence and care; and to continue to take us into the ever-changing future in our industries.”

Budding Conglomerate Kansas City

In addition to the four companies that constitute the American Companies services enterprise, Gale Holsman has other going concerns, outside these industries. He owns Holsman Classic Cars, race cars, offshore boat racing, and a ranch that houses 57 horses.
His fiancé, Gail (yes, it’s Gail and Gale) owns a Powersports dealership as well as Shawnee Mission Cycle Plaza, with a total of over 120 employees. (Gale says he works for Gail when it comes to those thriving businesses.)
He is active in the oversight of all the business components of his thriving Midwest U.S. empire. Yet, one gets the sense that he would always welcome more to do and is utterly impossible to exhaust.

Advice for Portable Restroom Rental Business Newcomers from Industry Expert Gale Holsman, American Companies Inc., Kansas City, MO

As in 2018, today Gale Holsman reminds portable restroom rental service providers to be aware of their operating costs and remember that “profit is not a nasty word.” He emphasizes, “Remember to sell customer service and benefits, not price.” And, finally, “Don’t be afraid to charge for your services. If you don’t get paid sufficiently, you can’t provide good employees and services. If you can’t afford to do business, then your customers can’t stay with you.” (2018)
In our observation, another pillar of Holsman’s structure for sustained success in the portable restroom rental business and related service industries is building strong relationships, with all members of the company team, customers, vendors, and peer business owners. Time spent talking with Gale Holsman about his business and his leadership philosophy makes it clear enough that his manner of dealing with everyone around him is much responsible for the extraordinary cohesiveness of his team.
It also appears to have fostered the attitudes and performances that have yielded the spectacular achievement of 35-year life spans of many of his customer accounts. That same leadership style has even appeared to make a significant difference in his company’s ability to weather an economic storm like 2020 and remain standing fiscally strong in its aftermath.
This is the kind of track record that is only possible in organizations with leadership that makes itself about helping others, and by doing so, makes itself an indomitable presence in its industry and the broader regional business sector.
Unsurprisingly, Gale Holsman is a highly respected motivator and portable restroom industry expert. He is frequently requested to address many types of leadership groups throughout the United States. He proves to be just unstoppably driven and to have powerful effects on everyone and everything around him and the system he has built, all in the most positive possible ways.

For information about the American Companies organization or its portable restroom rental services subsidiary, see americancompanieskc.com.

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