Business & economy

PortaPros’ business culture draws plaudits

ONTARIO – About a year ago, the portable toilet company PortaPros got attention as one of the best companies to work for in the Treasure Valley.

The company, with branches in Nampa and Ontario, has, for more than a decade, strived to build a business with attention to customers and employees.

That moment in the spotlight earned company officials another turn in the spotlight, this time to give a major presentation at the industry’s biggest international conference of the year.

At the conference in Memphis, founder and CEO Carl Arriola shared the ingredients that led to business success, especially the need to cultivate and maintain a positive workplace culture.

Arriola, an Idaho native and former officer in the U.S. Army, he worked in senior positions in construction, rental, software and health industries.

Then, in 2012, he launched PortaPros with an ambition of “trying to do a little bit better” in the industry. Since then the company has grown to 50 employees with operations in Nampa and Ontario. 

A big part of PortaPros’ strategy, he said, is hiring the right staff. 

For Kendra Davidson, PortaPros customer care manager, the company’s success is contingent upon the people they hire. 

What is company culture? 

Kent Banner, a longtime Treasure Valley Community College business instructor, said a company’s organizational culture combines its history, leadership, rules, methods, practices, people and the overall “atmosphere.” 

He said company culture boils down to “how we do things around here.” However, he added that company culture also encompasses “the way people feel around here.”

Banner said that a strongly positive, supportive, and empowering organizational culture fosters high productivity, employee satisfaction, and robust performance. 

On the flip side, Banner said a toxic workplace often leads to low morale and so-called “quiet quitting,” when employees do the bare minimum of their jobs.

“Low morale and high turnover have real-world consequences for a company’s bottom line because both interrupt and reduce productivity and profitability,” Banner said. 

Banner said the customers and other stakeholders of a business can often feel the effects of a toxic culture. This, he said, can reduce customer loyalty and damage the brand’s reputation.

This is why Arriola and his managers emphasize finding and retaining the right employees and have made it part of the PortaPros business model.

“Our strategy is truly around how do we select the right people,” Arriola said. “How do we engage people? How do we have the type of environment that makes people truly want to be here?” 

For Arriola and his managers, one of the most important metrics they watch is the employee turnover rate, which runs significantly better than the national industry standard.

A low turnover rate, Arriola said, is a “competitive advantage.”

PortaPros managers measure the company’s performance through quarterly surveys of workers. Arriola said they ask basic questions such as would they recommend a friend or relative to work for the company He said the company is showing an 80% satisfaction rate. 

Such a  level, Davidson said, has a payoff for customers and the company’s bottom line. 

“Happy people equal happy customers because if they’re happy working for the company, they’re engaged,” Davidson said. 

Arriola said trust and team communication are other critical aspects that a positive company culture can build. 

“As we all know, we’ve been on many dysfunctional teams because we lacked trust and communication,” he said. 

Arriola advises new leaders looking to build a solid culture to first listen and learn, which he said is essential. Then, he said the values of a leader’s company must align with employee values. 

At PortaPros, those values are taking personal ownership, togetherness, doing the right thing, gratitude, and a growth mindset. 

Arriola said it takes time to build credibility within an organization, but it is also essential for a leader to be clear about what they expect from staff. 

“What you tolerate is what you get,” Arriola said. “If things are not going right in your company, whatever they might be, you have to get in front of them.” 

For his part, Banner said a friendly, upbeat, supportive, and respectful environment is fundamental to human motivation and cultivating a positive company culture. 

Conversely, Banner said, treating employees poorly erodes loyalty, goodwill and high performance. 

“Wise leaders recognize that their actions, policies, and treatment of employees greatly impact the culture and, ultimately, the likelihood of organizational success”

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