MAY 2011

A Closer Look E-mail the author

Daily Disposal Services
Todd Ottonello • 619-702-3300

In the early years of his business, Todd Ottonello, then a sophomore in college, would sit in the back of a classroom with 200 other students and talk to drivers on his cell phone. Later, he and his brother, Nick, then a college freshman, hired someone to run the office while they were in school.

Ottonello wasn’t new to the waste business, though. His father had worked in the business, as had his father before him. Ottonello had started working in the industry as soon as he could get a job, assembling bins and doing odd jobs. “As soon as I turned 18, I got my commercial license,” he said.

But unlike some family businesses, Ottonello didn’t inherit his business; he and his brother started it from the ground up. He had been working for a waste hauler while he was in college, but declined to stay on when that hauler was bought out by a national company.

When the city of San Diego started taking applications for waste franchises, Ottonello applied for one, and then applied for a county franchise. He and his brother started the business in 1999 with one truck and driver, and have grown the business to nearly 50 trucks and 60 employees.

Ottonello said that when he started the business, he was more excited about that than about college, but his parents encouraged him to stay in school. Both he and his brother finished school with degrees in business administration while running and growing their business.

Although Daily Disposal isn’t a generations-old business, the name is a bit older. Ottonello’s grandfather had owned a waste business with that name, and when he passed away, Ottonello’s father, then about 19 years old, inherited the business, along with an older sister. At the time, it was decided that selling the business was the best option, and the business name continued.

In the 1980s the company that purchased the business let go of the Daily Disposal name, so when Ottonello started his business in the late 90s, the name was again available. So he took it. And unlike family businesses where sons go to work for their fathers, Ottenello’s father came to work for him after the business was on its feet.

While Ottonello enjoys the dispatching, sales and administrative work, his brother is “more focused on the mechanics of it.” With that expertise, Ottonello said, “we do everything here in-house, except transmissions,” with Ottonello’s brother supervising the mechanics.

Ottonello’s first truck was a roll-off for commercial customers, then he added on front-load commercial service. In January of this year, the company started offering residential service. To get new customers, Ottonello said, “We are going door to door. We have over 1,000 houses already.”

With the current franchise arrangements, they can operate anywhere within San Diego County, so he has plenty of doors to knock on, and he hopes to triple the number of residential customers by the end of the year.

While the company is now operating “on dirt with modular buildings,” they have purchased a 5-acre property on asphalt, and have plans for an 8,000 sq. ft. 2-story office space with a 12,000 sq. ft. shop with 3 mechanic’s bays. In the future, Ottonello would like to have his own transfer station, but for now he’s happy to have permanent office space, a good shop, and room to park and fuel his trucks.

Another thing he needs is a way to plug in his trucks, since regulations require that his diesel waste hauling trucks have diesel particulate filters that reduce emissions by up to 85 percent. Those require that the trucks be plugged in at night to burn off the soot.

Ottonello said that when the regulations were first in place, he had to have those filters installed on a smaller percentage of his fleet, but now 100 percent of his trucks have the filters, even though it’s a bit of a challenge to run 220-volt lines to reach every parked truck.

Two of those trucks are a little bit special, Ottonello said. A little larger than a pickup truck, they are mini roll-off trucks that can haul 10-yard boxes. Those are ideal for customers who need something larger than the 3-yard commercial boxes, but are in locations where a larger roll-off truck can’t fit.

In the testing stages now is a new computerized system for in-truck reporting, so that information goes immediately to the office. Ottonello said that he would like to add in-truck printers to the system as well, so drivers could give customers cleanly printed tickets instead of hand-written ones.

But the business isn’t all about the equipment. Ottonello stressed that at his office phone calls don’t get automatically routed to voicemail, and that a live person can answer customer questions. And because the company is small and the owners are hands-on, “we can make a quick decision.” Ottonello said. “We can hire someone right away,” if that’s what’s needed to improve service.

He’s even more proud that his company’s growth has been about “go get ‘em sales” rather than by acquiring other companies, and that the increase in customers has been “organic, natural, one-by-one.”

At the end of the day, Ottonello said that his favorite thing is to watch the trucks come rolling back in and fueling up for the next day.