Each new year brings a renewed sense of optimism and commitment. It recharges our batteries.
The new year also naturally makes us think, what’s new? It’s the time when the portable sanitation business owner asks, what opportunities and advantages will the new year present to my company? What’s going on in the industry and in current events that could affect my business? How are my colleagues and competitors gearing up for the year?
A good start to the year begins with reviewing your business plan and acting on it accordingly. The standard advice is to revise your plan annually. But especially in light of the ongoing, fluid pandemic, the logistics delays, the heavy workload, the difficulty in hiring, and a host of other challenges, up-to-date preparation and organization take on even more importance.
One of the most helpful and enjoyable means of obtaining the information and news you need to make projections for the coming year is to hit the road and meet up with your colleagues and other professionals in the industry. Yes, ’tis the season for tradeshows and conferences!
For many PROs, the event that dominates their conference plans is the PSAI Convention and Trade Show. It’s the heavyweight. For many, it’s also the only tradeshow they will attend.
However, we want to bring to your attention another option you seriously need to consider. There is a lot to be gained by attending local tradeshows, which are usually sponsored by state, provincial, or regional organizations. These shows aren’t substitutes for PSAI but are complementary. They offer their own benefits and are well worth your time.
The PSAI Convention and Trade Show is typically one of the first industry tradeshows of the year. It is entirely “PRO-centric,” meaning it’s focused exclusively on the portable toilet industry.
The schedule of events includes presentations on important industry topics, an open board meeting for all PSAI members, as well as roundtable discussions and hands-on learning sessions.
The PSAI Convention is recognized as a fun, educational show related exclusively to portable sanitation, meeting with other operators, and learning about emerging best practices in the industry.
PSAI is one of the go-to sources of info for PROs (along with JohnTalk of course!). They are true experts and have their fingers on the pulse of the portable toilet industry.
Another tradeshow to consider is the Water & Wastewater Equipment, Treatment & Transport Show. It is the world’s largest annual tradeshow for wastewater and environmental service professionals.
One thing to think about is that the WWETT Show embraces a much wider audience than PSAI, billing itself as not only for portable toilet rental professionals, but also municipalities, plumbers, septic contractors, sewer contractors, and wastewater professionals. More and more, vendors are highlighting technology such as high-end cameras and focusing on subjects such as municipal sewer and water, much of which does not apply to the portable toilet industry. Classes and educational sessions have less focus on portable sanitation.
Because the audience and emphasis can be diluted, some suppliers in the portable toilet industry as well as PROs don’t feel they get as good of a return on their investment on WWETT as they do with PSAI. They feel money and manpower are better spent on shows and events that focus completely on the PRO industry.
Also, the WWETT Show is held every year in Indianapolis. The PSAI Show has a different host venue throughout the U.S. every year. It’s a real perk for manufacturers, vendors, and attendees to visit a new location each year! It makes PSAI more accessible and more intriguing for repeat show visitors.
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The large-scale and comprehensive offerings of PSAI give attendees the big picture of the portable sanitation industry.
In contrast, local tradeshows scale down the action to a more personal level. They are held, usually at small venues, throughout the U.S. and Canada. Many are scheduled early in the year, especially in colder climates, when the sanitation business tends to be slower and it’s easier to find the time to attend.
While you can discover any number of satisfying reasons to attend your state or provincial tradeshow, we highlight these fundamental appeals that should have you making reservations year after year:
The guest speakers, exhibitors, and colleagues you meet and greet will often have a better understanding of your particular area on a “granular” level. Educational sessions, roundtables, and Q&As can be geared more specifically toward issues that affect your portable sanitation business, such as geography and weather, state and provincial laws, municipal codes, and popular events unique to your area.
Numair Uppal is the Executive Director of OASIS (Ontario Association of Sewage Industry Services), which hosts an Annual Conference & Trade Show. He said, “The biggest benefit of attending a local trade show is that the program has been designed to meet the needs of the local businesses. Take the OASIS Conference and Trade Show as an example. The training programs help businesses operate in compliance with Ontario regulations and guidelines, the exhibitors provide products and services to Ontario businesses, and the speakers cover topics that are relevant in Ontario. The other great benefit to mention is the travel and expense associated with attending a trade show are reduced when it is local.”
“Two of my board members are part of the portable industry. One participates as a vendor and an educator,” said Roxanne Groover, Executive Director of FOWA (Florida Onsite Wastewater Association), which also holds an annual convention. “We think it would be beneficial and would love to have the portable folks who don’t usually attend to be here.”
Lesley Desjardins, Executive Director of WCOWMA (Western Canada Onsite Wastewater Management Association – British Columbia) and AOWMA (Alberta Onsite Wastewater Management Association), noted, “A key reason for attending more local trade shows is to ensure you are marketing in the regions that you service. I know that in our regions, if we had a more comprehensive knowledge of the portable sanitation operators, it would be helpful for our training events as well as for our installer members to set up contracts for service on their job sites. There are excellent presentations to help with business management, sanitation practices, and health risks with cleaning and managing portable sanitation units as well.”
Desjardins advised, “The WWETT Show and PSAI are excellent, but they are national. Make sure you are active and marketing in your local community as well.”
Smaller crowds mean you can network with greater depth. Exhibitors and speakers can answer your questions in greater detail or demonstrate more products and services. It’s a highly productive way to meet with other PROs like yourself in a professional and welcoming setting.
The MSTA Conference, run by the Michigan Septic Tank Association, was described by an attendee who represents an industry manufacturer as a “must-attend” event. He said, “Local tradeshows are a private setting for like-minded people. In the wastewater industry, befriending your competitors has a large upside on your business. And the local tradeshows help connect you with those closest to you. Being able to bounce ideas and issues off others that go through the same day-to-day operations is a powerful tool.”
For most states or provinces, you’re close to your local tradeshow. Local travel gives you quick access, and travel and transportation costs are manageable. Should business or family call you back home unexpectedly, your return time is relatively short. With all the benefits you gain by attending, going local is a wise investment of your time.
Michelle Gunia, of WOSSA (Washington On-Site Sewage Association), said, “We have a well-attended show I think will be an excellent fit [for portable sanitation business owners].”
She added, “Our local porta-john industry is in a dynamic growth phase and attendees include contractors from all over the west side of the country. Many onsite wastewater companies/attendees are exploring this industry both to begin porta-john offerings as well as partner with existing firms. Vendors with porta-john accessories and units have demonstrated and rented booths in past conferences and are very popular. As attendees, you’ll find we have business tracks relevant to anyone in industry and business at large. Local health officials will be in attendance and available to discuss disposal. The opportunities and benefits are numerous.”
As with the PSAI Convention and the WWETT Show, attendance at local tradeshows is a confirmation of your support for and commitment to the portable sanitation industry. You’re attending because you want to learn how to be personally involved in making the industry better by better serving your customers and your community. The feeling of camaraderie that you help generate can be a real motivational boost to your spirits.
The size and scale of local tradeshows offer advantages, but keep your expectations in check.
There will likely be fewer exhibitors, speakers, and educational sessions. Meeting with other attendees who are only from your area gives a narrower view of the industry as a whole. However, these are limitations only when compared to PSAI. As we’ve noted above, when you attend PSAI, your local tradeshow becomes a complementary event. It’s a good reason to attend both.
You will find that some local tradeshows are especially or exclusively beneficial for septic service companies or portable sanitation operators who also offer septic services. In other words, similar to the WWETT Show, they’re not really PRO-centric.
For example, according to Trevor Dickerson, Treasurer/Education, IOWWA Board of Directors (Iowa Onsite Waste Water Association), the main focus of the IOWWA Conference is septic. However, there will be at least one pumper truck company that is an exhibitor and will have a new pumper truck on display.
Randy Chelette, Executive Director of TOWA (Texas On-Site Wastewater Association), observed of their conference, “We do have OSSF industry professionals with a pumping segment of their business that also pump portable toilets, but it is a very small percentage of the industry.”
Tradeshows with this emphasis are nevertheless excellent occasions for portable sanitation owners who are either already servicing septic or interested in expanding their business into septic. You can network to gain a perspective on the local septic market, check out the equipment and technology involved in septic, and learn about the challenges and advantages of being a dual portable/septic provider.
If you’re not a member of your state or provincial portable sanitation organization, consider the benefits of joining – such as its tradeshow. Check out their website for an overview, and feel free to contact them for more information. They will be happy to answer your questions. For information about some of the state and regional organizations, visit this site.
If your state or provincial organization doesn’t offer an annual tradeshow, you may consider starting one! You can gauge the interest of other PROs in the state or province by networking on social media and making inquiries with the organization. It takes a lot of work and involvement to pull off a successful local tradeshow, but it could be the start of something great.
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