Fenn Channeled his Entrepreneurial Spirit to Launch Budget Dumpster
John Fenn, co-founder of Budget Dumpster, a broker specializing in renting out dumpsters for homeowners and contractors, made a leap in confidence in 2005 when he turned down the role of a fire paramedic to start his own garbage disposal company, Cleanup Contractors.
While running this business, he discovered a gap in the market for affordable and powerful dumpster rental services for first-time dumpster renters and home improvement, and decided to create Budget Dumpster to cater to this population group.
For the past eight years, Fenn has built the Budget Dumpster to provide services in more than 150 cities in 46 states.
“Fenn defines the entrepreneurial spirit. He has had a stable career building the Budget Dumpster business from the ground up with no outside investment, ”says Fenn’s associate, Sean Nally. “Fenn found that many waste disposal services only host those who rent dumpsters on a regular basis. Budget Dumpster focused on a severely underserved market and rented more than 80,000 dumpsters in 2016. Not only did he fill a niche in the market, he also created a company designed to help people. “
Waste360 presented Fenn with a Waste360 40 Under 40 Award this year. The company also ranked 67th in the Waste360 Top 100 2016 ranking. Fenn recently spoke to us about how he came up with the concept of the Budget Dumpster, how the company has managed to achieve double-digit percentage revenue growth per year since its inception, and company goals for 2017.
Waste360: Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came up with the concept of the budget dumpster.
John Fenn: In 2005, I founded a garbage disposal company called Cleanup Contractors with my brother-in-law, Mark Campbell, who is still my business partner today. At that time we thought we were going to be like 1-800-GOT-JUNK? And our goal was to get our garbage disposal company as far as possible. We did all of the work for our garbage disposal projects with a small crew, renting dumpsters from a local Cleveland company to dispose of the garbage. Usually our projects consisted of whole house cleaning or attic / cellar cleaning.
While working with the local dumpster company, we received contractor awards due to our volume of work, but we did not receive the best service. We also received numerous calls about dumpsters, even though we didn’t offer them. After a while, we spoke to one of the dumpster companies here in Cleveland about the potential of offering dumpster rental services to our customers, as we found that the majority of local dumpster companies were not interested in serving customers who only wanted to rent one or more dumpsters twice . In the end, we worked out an agreement with this company and started providing dumpster rental services as brokers and eventually became Budget Dumpster.
As a broker, we live within the span between retail cost and wholesale discount to provide our customers with the best possible prices and services. In addition to high costs and services, we can provide our customers with waste containers for longer periods of time. We market and sell on behalf of all of our freight forwarders and deliver service orders to them that they would not normally have received because they mainly serve commercial customers.
We are now in our eighth year of business and are active in nearly every major US market. In 2017 I expect around 120,000 garbage container service orders with more than 300 carriers across the country.
Waste360: Budget Dumpster has recorded double-digit percentage sales growth every year since 2009. What factors helped the company grow further?
John Fenn: In the beginning it was easy to grow quickly because we could apply our model at the national level. Every time we expanded into a new market, our sales went into double digits and the business grew. Finally, we expanded into all of the country’s important markets, which made further growth a little more difficult for us.
In 2016 we ended the year with sales of around 40 million US dollars, which for us is still in the double-digit range. Although we continue to meet our sales targets, it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to meet them as we don’t have that many new markets to move into.
Waste360: Explain your implementation of flat rate prices and how you were able to optimize the company’s consumer waste container rental process.
John Fenn: Flat rate prices are one of our big selling points. It doesn’t work particularly well for people in the know and doing demos or remodeling, but it works well for the average homeowner cleaning up their attic or basement.
Many of our customers, who are the average homeowner who rent a dumpster once or twice in their life, often don’t understand the tonnage and dimensions of a dumpster. That’s why we’re trying to simplify these things for you by packing all the different fees and costs into one rate. Customers end up only paying an additional fee if they exceed the weight limit of the dumpster or if they fail to comply with local regulations and dispose of materials that are not allowed in dumpsters, such as: B. Electronic waste.
Waste360: Tell us a little about the proprietary software and how it reduced pricing errors and improved efficiency for both customers and internal sales reps.
John Fenn: Our proprietary mapping software is based on the API console from Google and is equipped with a lot of data from the US Census Bureau, which is available free of charge. To create the software, we hired a man from Hungary who works for a geospatial company that focuses on the exploration and forwarding of oil ships to help us develop a very specific geospatial program using map technology.
Before we developed the software, it took us between 10 and 12 minutes to process a dumpster order as we had to ask a lot of questions and look for available carriers and dumpsters. With the new software we are able to process garbage container orders in about 4 to 6 minutes. This is roughly half the time it took us to process orders.
The new software has been beneficial for both us and our shippers as it allows us to keep track of inventory, routing, new rules and regulations, exactly what can and cannot end up in the trash in each community. As we continue to grow, we will continue to introduce new features to make the process easier for us, our carriers and our customers.
Waste360: What are some of Budget Dumpster’s goals for 2017?
John Fenn: In the past, we only worked with our freight forwarders to provide temporary roll-off services to our customers. From 2017 we will also offer our customers permanent commercial frontload services. To achieve this, we are working with new carriers who can offer this type of service.
Additionally, we work every day to become a better company by providing improved services and entering smaller niche areas. In the past we have stayed away from smaller cities because there was no point in moving into these markets, but now we’re in a place where we can expand into these smaller markets and see the benefits.
We also focus on improving our relationships with our carriers and making them more intimate. There has always been a strange dynamic between freight forwarders and brokers, but over the years we’ve built great relationships with all of our freight forwarders. If our carriers fail to meet certain standards, we will switch to other carriers as our only concern is customer service. In the past we have had problems with our carriers working with us to correct our mistakes. Now that we are bigger and more of their businesses, our carriers are more willing to work with us to improve the services.
Finally, we are investing in various technologies to improve our services and become more engaging with local communities through charity events, sponsorship and environmental cleanups.
Waste360: How do you stay ahead of your competition?
John Fenn: This industry is a rough industry and it can be very labor intensive at times. To differentiate ourselves from our competitors, we focus on customer service and have a very strict hold time of less than 10 seconds. All of our employees go through a comprehensive training process to familiarize themselves with the areas they work in so that they can answer questions about the location of landfills and transfer stations, what materials can be put in the dumpsters, and which carriers service certain areas, etc.
Many companies in this industry target larger customers like construction companies because they want the repeat business, but we really designed our business for the homeowners who need extra training and help in choosing the best dumpster option for their needs.
We also have an easy-to-navigate website with helpful tips, resources, and videos. I often refer to ourselves as Hotels.com or Priceline.com of the dumpster industry because we give our customers the best options so they don’t have to go through the hard work like comparing prices and figuring out which carriers are serving their area.
Waste360: If you weren’t in the waste and recycling industry, what area do you think you would be working in?
John Fenn: Before working in the waste and recycling industry I was a paramedic for a few years and I was very interested in becoming a fire paramedic because I love helping people. In fact, I got a full-time job offer to become a fire paramedic and I declined to run the junk shipping business because I’m very entrepreneurial and always wanted to start my own business. If my business hadn’t become what it is today, I would be sure I would continue to work as a medic.
Waste360: What advice do you have for the next generation of industrial workers?
John Fenn: There are many opportunities in this industry and there is always room for improvement. I know people are probably saying that about a lot of other industries, but that is very true of waste management. For example, more and more companies are developing and using technology to do some cool things like waste-to-energy and diverting organic matter, and I’m sure technology will be used for a variety of other things in the future.
I would also advise the next generation to focus on a specific area that they are interested in and how you can make improvements in that area. This industry has so many different moving parts and knowing what you want to do is important so that you can get the most from your career.