Leading environmental services company builds on its entrepreneurial roots to expand professional services and solve its customers’ ever-evolving regulatory and compliance challenges
Patriot Environmental Services started in 2002 as an ER (emergency response) business, but over the past 16 years it has grown to be much more. While Patriot is generally spoken of as an ER or OSRO (Oil Spill Response Organization) company in the press, those services only made up about 20 percent of the business in 2017. The company does the majority of their work in heavy-duty marine and industrial cleaning, waste management, remediation, and has recently acquired non-hazardous industrial waste water disposal facilities.
Brian Johnson, CEO of Patriot Environmental Services, met the Patriot team for the first time in 2015 when he was the president of hydro-excavation services provider Vac One in Houston, Texas. He was impressed by Patriot’s multi-service business model, their knowledge of the California and national regulatory and compliance environment for industrial services, and the passion of the management team. When the opportunity presented itself in June 2017, he was excited to join the team as CEO. He knew that the company had a fantastic reputation for caring about its people and its customers and had developed strong relationships over years of providing quality service.
Brian Johnson, CEO of Patriot Environmental Services, explains that he has three pillars for running and building the company: safety first, giving people data to support their gut instincts, and using technology to drive improved customer service. Focusing on these three pillars is providing a solid foundation for Patriot to build upon and diversify as it moves ahead, while still maintaining its reputation as the premier spill and emergency response company on the west coast.
Much of Patriot’s day-to-day operations involve providing industrial cleaning services in the field, cleaning up everything from spilled fuel and lubricants from truck accidents, to dealing with container leaks in the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, to spills in warehouses and distribution centers. After the cleaning is done, Patriot makes sure that waste generated from these jobs is properly classified, labeled, and disposed of in accordance with all local, state, and federal laws. Most of these spills and projects are relatively routine, but once or twice a year, the company is tapped to provide its expertise in support of big, headline-grabbing projects like pipeline ruptures or other large scale industrial accidents.
One such job involved the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010, the biggest oil spill in history and the biggest job Patriot has undertaken to date. Although the company is an inland Oil Spill Response Organization (OSRO), founder Tom Scranton saw an opportunity to help in the response to this massive spill by setting up and managing decontamination yards that cleaned marine assets in continuous shifts so that they could return to duty containing the spill offshore.
At the time, Patriot only had around 125 employees but they were able to hire temporary workers and eventually had 2,500 to 3,000 local workers on hand in support of the response. Working on shore, the employees of Patriot cleaned boats, booms, and other equipment that came back to land before they headed out to the Gulf for more utilization, in order to prevent a secondary contamination. The workers also cleaned any other oil-ridden objects that found their way to shore.
Safety and Company Culture
Cleaning up, transporting, and disposing of waste materials is not always a safe or easy job. That being said, Patriot Environmental Services upholds its focus on the three aforementioned pillars admirably, despite the challenges. Part of this, according to Johnson, is due to the roots of the company.
Patriot's years of expertise as an Oil Spill Response Organization has served as the calling card of the company over the past 16 years, and is still very much in the company’s DNA. The company knows that the quickest response isn’t necessarily about being the first to the scene of the job. It is just as important to show up “prepared and professional” (as the company’s motto says) with the right people equipped with the right supplies and expertise to get the job done.
Johnson explains, “We’re there to make sure that we’re doing things in a way that not only supports our customers’ ability to have jobs that are free from incidents and accidents, but also in ways that protect the public.”
Always being “prepared and professional” also means constantly focusing on that first pillar, safety. Over the past six months, Patriot has rolled out a new behavior-based safety (BBS) program that is a form of self-directed auditing in which employees look out for people doing the right things with regard to workplace and public safety. The results are telling; over 1,000 reports are generated each month, and 2017 had the lowest Total Reportable Incident Rate (TRIR) in the company’s history, despite Patriot being the largest it has ever been.
People and Resources
Similarly, in an effort to find people with an understanding of the needs of the customer, Patriot takes recruiting very seriously. According to Johnson, a big part of being successful in this field is understanding the needs of the customer and matching them with the right people who are equipped with the appropriate knowledge and tools.
He further explains that Patriot Environmental Services focuses on finding people with “an understanding of customer’s requirements, and making sure we’re a source of strength in helping them live up to their safety requirements and sustainability commitments.”
Of course, any company that continues to experience growth begins to find it more challenging to find the right employees and people who are on the same page every day on every project. A big part of the effort to help employees be successful is taking advantage of new technology as they move forward.
Johnson expounds, “You need processes and systems to grow with you, and you need more strategic resources to work with dedicated operations people to decide where you want to plant your flag next.”
Profitability and Technology
It is precisely the new resources and technology that helps to increase the profitability of the company. As the new CEO, Brian Johnson is working on process standardization and introducing automation into the field management processes. The goal is to find a way that facilitates more timely and accurate invoices to customers and makes life easier for workers.
Field automation at Patriot looks to collect data from the field and have it flow all the way through the company, from the people on the job to payroll, billing, and accounting. Such streamlining ultimately saves time and money because rather than repeatedly checking numbers, people can now focus on safety, customer service, and growth. Electronic daily work orders and Power BI dashboards that provide a clear idea of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) have been put into use. This information is then shared with those in the field, allowing for better decision-making that affects the three pillars—and profitability, too.
The new CEO plans on maximizing profitability by using his experience to introduce professional sales and marketing to an already successful business that has largely been built on relationships and customer service. Patriot has more than doubled in size over the past five years, and Johnson thinks the company has the potential to double in size again by more effectively digging in and solving the same kinds of regulatory and compliance challenges it has been solving for customers in California for years.
Regulations in California
For Johnson, an intriguing aspect of working at Patriot was the opportunity to head such a business amidst the strict regulations in California, which are much more stringent than he had previously experienced in Texas. In fact, the market in California is driven by regulations and compliance.
Johnson says, “Patriot can rely on that regulatory underpinning that promotes people wanting to do things the right way. We love the opportunity and responsibility to really play the role of a regulatory and compliance solving company, as opposed to being somebody out there who simply has available assets and people and is competing on price.”
Patriot has a 16-year long track record of providing services to a variety of clients in the western United States, a reputation that often precedes them. The company has forged good working relationships with the EPA, the Coast Guard, Cal Fire, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, and other customer-specific agencies it has encountered over the years while dealing with disaster relief, large industrial spills, oil leaks, and more. On their responsibilities as a company, Johnson says, “We’re here to help our customers, as well as the public, not have to worry about that stuff.”
While Patriot has field offices that cover the state of California from Sacramento to San Diego, the company sees opportunities in adding fixed disposal facilities to the mix. This allows the company to provide a fully integrated vertical solution of environmental cleaning services and separates Patriot from single-service providers and mom-and-pop price competitors. The company currently operates a non-hazardous waste water treatment and disposal facility in Orange, CA, and a hazardous solid drum waste yard in Anaheim, CA. Patriot is also in the process of permitting to build an oil field solidification yard near Bakersfield, CA to meet increased demand associated with improved oil prices over the past year.
Johnson sums it up, saying, “We’re happy to talk to anybody who has industrial waste, cleaning, disposal, and compliance problems that need solving. We have the experience and the people, we have a full solution, and we have the ‘prepared and professional’ attitude to handle the job from beggining to end.”
Patriot Environmental Services offers more than just another choice in full-service environmental contractors. Beyond providing reliable industrial and emergency services at competitive rates, we offer insight and alternative solutions to our clients by combining the newest technology and resources available while incorporating the most stringent safety requirements in the industry.
Patriot Environmental Services was founded in 2002 on a simple premise: Gather and combine the knowledge of the best leaders in our field and provide the industry a first-rate alternate resource for services. Over a decade later, with branches throughout California and into Nevada, Patriot remains absolutely committed to this mission. We have earned a respected reputation within our region and have provided our services nationwide during national disasters. We are proud to continue to offer a positive impact to our local area as well as remaining available to assist our neighbors throughout the nation.
Our mission has always been “prepared and professional,” words we adhere to continuously. As a company, we are 100% committed to our industry and look forward to working with our customers, our regulatory partners, and the public to keep the world clean and safe.