Green Latrine Introduces Green Revolution in Portable Toilet Industry

Will and Kyleen Niccolls’ Green Latrine in Seattle Washington is providing a rare portable restroom benefit for the company’s customers to pass on to their own environmentally conscious customers—green portable restroom service.

Seattle Youths Become Green Entrepreneurs
We asked Will Niccolls to walk us through his move into the portable toilet industry and the process of deciding to make his new business green. In 2015, I left my job. That was scary as heck, leaving behind benefits and good paychecks. It was a plunge into icy waters. It’s not for everybody, Fortunately, my wife was in a job that enabled us to take the risk. A friend of my brother has a small portable toilet company in Canada. He invited me to come up there to get an introduction to the business.
I spent a week there, working with him in his business, and then I was more sure than ever that this was right for me. I really enjoy the outside part, the manual labor. The inside stuff, billing, invoicing and the other administrative stuff is not what I like to do. My wife, Kyleen, handles those responsibilities. So, I got going with our first purchase of toilets, truck and tank, and started building relationships with vendors and building a client base from there.

Quality Commitment Sustains Green Latrine
Business was slow at first. But, over the years, customers kept coming back. I’m not sure if it’s accurate to say we’ve never lost a client, although I can’t think of anybody off the top of my head who hasn’t come back to us after using our service once. Events are the majority of the work we do. We also do some residential construction. There’s a lot of commercial building going on in downtown Seattle too. But, we don’t do a lot of that.
We’ve worked really well with other vendors for the events we service. For example, we know the tent rental guys, so we can work directly with them, to make sure we know exactly where is best for us to set up units. We also know the barricade companies, the trash can companies and other vendors. So, we can get good work done without bothering our clients, the event coordinators.
Our phone rings pretty consistently with a lot of repeat customers and the occasional new business. With new projects from current customers, we’re lucky to be able to maintain the steady flow of business that we have without any marketing.

Simple Growth Model at Green Latrine
When I ask new clients how they hear of us, they usually say something like, “I saw your toilets at an event and thought yours were cleaner than I’ve seen anywhere else.” That’s probably the most common way we gain new clients. We’ve been extremely fortunate to have several loyal clients who’ve become friends and who sort of evangelize for Green Latrine. They sometimes introduce me to event producers, and we get involved in small events they’re doing. Then, they’ll ask to us to service their bigger events.
One of the larger events we’ve done more recently was providing service for the Special Olympics USA, a regional event that was on ESPN. It got national attention, and many thousands of people attended the event, which included activities at multiple locations. Green Latrine provided hundreds of toilet units across the sites where the events were held throughout the region.

From Academics to Entrepreneurial Enterprise
Asked about his personal background and how it prepared him for the entrepreneurial challenges of business operations and planning, Will explained that he has a master’s degree in organizational leadership. I always thought I’d be working in a big corporation where I would lead a chunk of the organization. That’s what I got my MA to do. But, this little toilet deal came out of left field. My brother said his buddy in Canada was running a portable toilet business and that I should give it a try. I would have laughed if anyone had said I would be working with portable toilets, but when I got introduced to it, I loved it.
We’re in a market where there’s a ton of competition here in Seattle. There are national and huge regional portable restroom companies. Breaking into a very well established portable toilet market has really been an education. Our growth has been phenomenal year to year. Sales tripled one year, and quadrupled another. We’ve been extremely fortunate. We really focus on the service. We provide very good stock and high-quality deodorizing. We’ve done a really good job and, as a result, today we have hundreds of rental units and three trucks and drivers.
Competitive Philosophy of a Savvy Entrepreneur
When I first started, I felt like I should do whatever it took on pricing to get a client. So, I was playing the pricing game—matching prices, deeply discounting, etc., and really devaluing my own product. I came to realize that by doing that, I was saying to prospective customers, and to myself, that I wasn’t worth my own price. At some point I thought, “Take pride in yourself man!” Now, as the years have gone by, I tell prospects, we’re not the lowest priced service in town, but we have amazing service. In fact, customers are stunned at how amazing our service actually is. As time went by, I learned to let new business go, if I don’t believe the client will pay a reasonable price.
Will shared with an inspiring story about elevating a peer competitor and the portable restroom rental industry too. He mentioned this only as an aside, but we love the dual messages of helping peers in one’s market and of appreciating business owners’ role in protecting the image of the industry in more ways than just by giving good service.
One customer we worked with who became a friend shared with me that when his company got the bids for the work we did, they had collected three bids. There was a higher priced bid than mine. There was mine, which was about ten percent less, and there was a third bid that was about 35 percent less than mine.
I called the underpriced competitor and told him, your bid was 35 percent lower than mine, and even lower compared to the highest bid, vs. a more normal ten or fifteen percent below. That’s leaving a lot of money on the table unnecessarily. But, it’s also concerning to prospective customers. The customer in this case ended up coming with me, because they were concerned that the bid you offered was too low to deliver quality.
The competitor took it well, and I’m glad I made that call to help that person. We had a nice conversation. He had actually been in the business longer than I had. Since then, I’ve had the same discussion with two other competitors. I believe in the power of the industry. Everyone in it needs to do our part to preserve it, for our own, and everyone’s best interest. There’ s a very large portable restroom company here in town. I’ve seen that company invest in the industry. I want to be a guy who engages in growing and improving the image of the portable toilet industry.
Asked about some of the things Will suggests for portable restroom business owners to do to help support the industry, he offered some simple and important ideas. I want to show up at association meetings. I’m a member of the American Rental Association (ARA) and of several other associations. Recently, the PSAI held its conference in Portland. I attended that. It was a great event. I met other portable toilet business owners from around the industry. I also read all of the industry-related magazines, to see what others involved in the business are doing.

Green Latrine Quality Control Innovation
Green Latrine’s unique 10-point Clean Guarantee is another industry ground-breaker. We’ve seen such guarantees across a number of other industries, but this quality checklist for customers concept appears to us to be a fresh one in the U.S. American portable restroom market. So, we asked Will about the origin of the concept and his motivation for promoting it as the centerpiece of his service policy.
Early on, I went on a ride-along with a different toilet rental provider. Their service guy dropped off a toilet at a higher-end home, where the homeowners were having a fall festival event in their barn. The toilet that was delivered was not worthy of the home we dropped it off at, in my opinion. It was dirty. It actually had residue on the toilet seat.
I remember thinking, here’s a really nice house with a really nice barn for a nice party. It was kind of embarrassing to have been there as that toilet was being dropped off like that. I want to be proud of what we deliver, and I want to be comfortable with my own family using it. To me, the cleanliness is the top priority. That’s the mark I want to leave.

Green Latrine Business Model
We asked Will about possible future plans for service diversification. We’ve thought about adding new revenue streams. Early on it was a question of capacity. Now, it’s more a question of margins. If you do a good job on your business of portable toilet rental service, you can grow your business. So, we’re very focused on doing a good job at our core business. But, in some more years, I imagine that we could go into other related services that make sense and that don’t strain our long-term reliable employees.
My wife does the books and handles countless other responsibilities. I do our routing and scheduling. All the client interface is through me. For really big events over twenty toilets, I’m out on site doing the event, and I’m also the backup for guys when someone is out. I do all of the sales. When we first started, it was just me really getting out there and beating the streets and shaking the trees. Now the phone rings a lot more than when we started. Will explains that, in fact, the company needs to do very little marketing or advertising with the way it’s currently operating.

Green Latrine Management Model
Asked about his experience in finding and retaining good employees, Will relates his experience to the difficulties we said other owners throughout the industry have told us about in interviews. I think we encountered the exact same thing as others in finding employees. We’ve certainly had folks who needed to move on. It was best for them and us. But, overall, where we’ve been successful is in retaining employees. (This summer we’ll need to add a part time or full time, or a seasonal employee as we come into the busy summer season. We’ll have to decide.)
For our employees, we’ve offered experiences and opportunities. You do have to be willing to share some of the wealth. We provide a competitive salary, but we also want to give our employees positive experiences, gifts, tokens of appreciation, lunches dinners to celebrate success, a Christmas, etc., to try to make things fun for the guys and do things that other companies may not do to show respect and appreciation for loyal employees.

Equipment and Technology at Green Latrine
In our fleet of trucks, we’ve had both brand new and really old trucks. An old truck seems appealing on price, but you pay a price, because an old truck requires a lot of maintenance. We’ve worked really hard to focus on investing the money we do make in new trucks. Maintaining new equipment is so much easier, and I think employees really appreciate the bells and whistles that come with a new vehicle. We’ve bought a new truck each year over the past two years.
We asked Will if he keeps informed on new technologies that might have a positive impact on his business. His response reflected his take on the irony of being a Seattle local without a lot of tech interest. I’m in Seattle, the city that Amazon, and that Microsoft and all the tech companies call home, but I’m not a flashy tech guy. I’m the least “tech” guy out there. I’ve found success in focusing on the fundamentals of the business—providing a clean toilet, an abundant stock of paper, a good blue, and the other things it takes to deliver an excellent product and service.

Advice for Industry Newcomers from Will Niccolls
As I mentioned, the experience of doing this for a few years has given me time to build the confidence to price my services at the level that I’m worth. At the start, I didn’t do myself any favors with my rock-bottom pricing. I’ve since had to drag those early customers with me through rate increases, while trying to maintain good relationships with them. There shouldn’t be any gouging with prices, but there shouldn’t be rock-bottom, no-margin prices either.
As an industry, we should respect ourselves, which means pricing at a fair rate and delivering amazing service. Remember that fair customers are willing to pay that, because they’re receiving really good service and fair prices. So, it makes no sense for someone to race to the bottom, slashing prices.

Being Green in Today’s Portable Restroom Industry
Will and Kyleen Niccolls are pioneers in the industry, virtually standing alone as green portable restroom business owners in an economic subsector that has not yet gone green. Green Latrine is ahead of its time, though, fortunately for its owners, it appears clear enough that the portable restroom rental market will necessarily need to catch up very soon.
At this point, Will Niccolls says, it’s a neat element. I’m really proud of it, and we do have some green conscious clients. However, he adds that, so far, typically price has driven more business for his company than green motivations. Will reflects on his experience with the difference that the green aspect of his portable toilet business has actually made to-date on Green Latrine’s success.
I think that, when we started, I believed customers would be willing to pay more—not a lot more, but at least a little more—when they found a company that brought a lot of value for the environment. But, in our business, it too often comes down to price. If there’s a comparison in which everything else is otherwise equal, someone may choose our company based on the green factor. But, so far, typically, it’s about price. Still, he emphasizes, I’m really glad that we do it.
Based on Will Niccolls’ experience, portable restroom clients who rent units for their events or construction sites aren’t yet quite ready to go green exclusively based on the environmental merits of doing so. However, their customers (both external and internal), as in virtually all industries can be expected to become increasingly ready for all of the products and services they utilize to be as green as possible over the coming years. That growing demand is naturally likely to include the portable restrooms they use at public and private events they attend and at remodeling or construction sites in which they have professional or personal interests.
Green Latrine offers an exceptional opportunity for its event planning customers to appeal to their own up and coming Millennial and Gen X decision-makers and event attendees. It’s an opportunity for such portable restroom customers to get out ahead of a market inevitability for them. The Niccolls’ service model provides one more green initiative that is of fundamental importance to generations who are soon-to-be the predominant groups of employers and services consumers.
What Green Latrine offers is forward thinking of the highest order, in terms of both corporate responsibility and organic marketing methodology, to benefit itself and its customer companies. Therefore, the impending broader shift in green marketing indeed appears to bode well for Green Latrine. The transition to eco-friendly everything also promises a significant soft marketing bonus for Green Latrine customers who can market their companies as ones who’ve long chosen only green suppliers whenever possible.
Congratulations to Green Latrine for contributing to a better environment and for a spectacular example of ideally positioning the future

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