Humble Roots, Strong Branches

Gainsborough Waste/Texas Outhouse

Waste and refuse is a part of life and while it can be reduced, it will always exist. This is something the Carl family not only recognized but capitalized on. As the adage goes, one person’s trash is another man’s treasure, and with Gainsborough Waste and Texas Outhouse, they have found a way to make that a reality.

In the early 1990s, while operating Carl Construction and Carl Custom Homes, Noble Carl realized that there was a real demand for dependable and reliable waste and refuse pick-up and disposal services on job sites.

“It all started as just an idea and a way to provide a necessary service for ourselves,” said Paul Carl, who has served as president of Texas Outhouse since 1999. “We were homebuilders and there was a need to keep our own job sites clean,” as most sites had debris piles waiting to be hauled off.

“The roll off containers were available from other companies but primarily used in other types of construction and other applications, so we started trying the roll off containers to put our debris in. But the problem was, we couldn’t get good service, so the roll off containers would be overflowing with trash and when you’re trying to sell expensive, high-end homes, you can’t have debris piling up,” Paul explained.

In 1994, Noble, who always had an interest in heavy equipment, brought a truck and twenty-yard roll off containers into the Carl Construction mix, placing them at each of the company’s job sites to provide the standard of service the market was yearning for. In no time the phone was ringing from other homebuilders who wanted to take advantage of this effective waste disposal service as well.

To satisfy external demand in the Houston market, the waste disposal arm of the company was given the Gainsborough Waste name, as Paul explained, “so other homebuilders could use Gainsborough and therefore they wouldn’t have Carl Custom Homes or Carl Construction equipment on their jobs.”

According to Paul, “It was making their jobs look better as well, and it gave us an excuse to grow the business outside of just servicing our own jobs.” As the company grew to meet demand, Noble put more of his focus on Gainsborough while Paul assumed greater control over Carl Construction.

Only five years into Gainsborough Waste’s operation, the Carls saw another opportunity to service the company’s own job sites and a decision was made to further diversify its service offerings. Though diversification per se wasn’t the company’s focus at the time, an observation was made, action was taken, and Texas Outhouse was born.

Paul explained, “The first two things on every job site are a roll off container and a portable toilet,” and they already had the roll off container part of the equation covered. Call it a porta-potty, porta-john, porta-loo, or any variation you like – out of the need for portable toilet facilities, Texas Outhouse was born.

“Depending on where you are from, there are different names. We’ve heard stories where people have referred to them as the Texas Outhouse, which is getting more and more common the bigger Texas Outhouse gets. It’s unique when people call other companies asking for a Texas Outhouse,” said Paul.

The complementary services of Gainsborough Waste and Texas Outhouse made them a match made in heaven. Paul joked that while they certainly didn’t identify waste (both construction and otherwise) from a list of career choices, it has proven to be a great business decision. “Clearly trash and restrooms are a need that have been around forever and aren’t going anywhere,” he said.

While both Gainsborough Waste and Texas Outhouse got their starts on construction sites in the homebuilding sector in Houston, both have grown to service a diversified group of customers including commercial operations, plants and manufacturing facilities with their roll off dumpsters, transfer stations, compactors, white glove waste pickup and other waste disposal-related services. Events, for example, are a major boon for Texas Outhouse, as customers rely on the company for restroom trailers, handwashing and sanitizing stations, vacuum truck services, wastewater treatment, holding tanks, high-volume pumping and so much more, from standard to luxury offerings.

Today, customers include countless construction companies in the Houston area, landmarks around the city such as NASA’s Johnson Space Center, the Houstonian Hotel and Conference Center and the Houston Polo Club and the City of Houston, as well as events like the July 4th Freedom over Texas celebration, Wings Over Houston, and other festivals.

The companies’ reputation and demonstrated quality service is how it secures jobs like the ExxonMobil North Houston campus in 2011, the largest construction project west of the Mississippi River at the time, as well as projects for other major players like LyondellBasell and Dow Chemical Plants.

This year, Gainsborough Waste and Texas Outhouse are celebrating twenty-five and twenty-year anniversary milestones and while this is certainly a source of pride for the company, the Carls remain eternally humble and continue to take things day by day.

With humble roots, the branches of the Carl family businesses are strong and continue to expand in the market, doing so by maintaining a focus on customer service first and foremost. This personalized service is supported by a customer service team that boasts longevity with the companies and has built long-standing relationships with many customers.

“When they call in with service requests or questions, they’re typically talking to somebody they’ve spoken with before and have a relationship with, and they likely know the customer service representatives by name,” explained Gainsborough Waste Chief Financial Officer Donna Hunt.

The standard of quality, service and care is just different at Gainsborough Waste and Texas Outhouse. Paul highlighted the company’s “drive to make each customer happy and zero in on each customer’s individual needs because we care – because that’s all we had when we started: one customer at a time, making each customer happy and fulfilling their needs.”

Certainly, the Carls understand the importance of customer service because losing a customer would risk the ability to make truck note payments and payroll and as Paul said, “When you start small, all you have is your name, your reputation, the service and making the customer feel like you are in tune with their needs. When there are other companies offering the same services, you’ve got to come with a different angle and the personal touch is what we have to offer.”

At Gainsborough Waste and Texas Outhouse, there was no obvious path to success laid out. The team had to figure it out as they went and as Hunt noted, “It amazes me that they received no advice from another business owner because of the way the business is run.” It is simply built upon the principle of, “do the right thing, the right way. Provide the best service for a fair price.”

As far as doing the right thing, Gainsborough Waste has asserted itself as a leader in the reduction of construction waste, as an average of only one-quarter of the material received at its transfer stations ends up in landfill, which improves overall sustainability when it comes to waste. There are also countless examples of how the companies support local charities and events through both financial and in-kind donations. Despite not having a formula for success, the Carls and their business operations have proven to be viable and extremely impactful in the community.

Beyond service and doing the right thing, safety measures are another key priority for both Gainsborough Waste and Texas Outhouse. Operations are conducted in accordance with a defined safety plan and are facilitated and monitored by a dedicated safety manager. Safety has become inherent to the culture at Gainsborough Waste and Texas Outhouse and is reinforced at regular safety meetings and demonstrated in the quality service customers enjoy.

When asked if it has been a challenge to maintain personalized service delivery and a culture where safety and employee wellbeing is paramount despite having grown to over 200 people collectively across the company footprint, Paul responded, “We don’t know any other way, so I don’t know that it’s been a struggle; we’re just doing what is natural to us.”

He explained, “We want to continue to grow at a pace that we can sustain and keep up with and maintain a level of personal attention to our customers, our employees and our vendors. There’s no secret. We’ve made lots of mistakes along the way, but we did a lot of things right,” and because of this, Gainsborough Waste and Texas Outhouse is sure to thrive long into the future.

Building the Next Generation

As thousands of experienced workers retire across North America every day, it is small wonder many industries are concerned about the future. It has been a decade since the oldest members of the baby boom generation started leaving their jobs, removing from the workplace decades of experience and skills that are tough to replace. The situation is so dire that, when younger workers are not available or knowledgeable enough to take over, retired staffers are often called back to work on a part-time basis.

November 14, 2019, 11:18 AM EST