By Lyle Carter
A recent business trip to Nashville, Tennessee provided Allan Baird with the lifetime experience.
The founder and owner of Baird's Septic Tank Pumping Ltd. was attending the Portable Sanitation Association International (P.S.A.I.) trade show and convention during late March.
It was then when he was presented with a prestigious international award - the M.Z. "Andy" Gump Distinguished Service Award for 2014.
"I was almost in a state of shock," Baird, 67, said. "I never imagined in a lifetime winning an award like this. I was almost broken up emotionally. When they announced my name, it was like I wasn't ready and when I walked up to the stage from my seat it was all so unbelievable."
Baird is one of more then 1,000 P.S.A.I. members located in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and countries from all over the world who was eligible for the award. Baird has been an association member for 25 years.
"Our local staff were really pleased with the announcement," James Baxter, 14-year operations manager with Baird's Septic Tank Pumping Ltd., said. "We were all overjoyed. The award has been in existence for some time and it's just astounding for a man from Nova Scotia to win an award like this. Allan is the first Canadian to ever win the award.
"Allan is so highly respected in the industry. I've received calls from Turkey, Germany and other long distances who wanted to get Allan's opinion and expertise on business matters."
Along with Allan, his wife Doris and employees Deanna Baird and Virginia Blondon attended the convention.
And as a surprise, Baxter also arranged to have Allan's son Tony and daughters Belinda and Tracy attend the event.
It was only minutes before receiving the award that Baird noticed additional family members.
"I happened to look around the room of about 250 members and guests," Baird recalled. "That's when I saw my son Tony and daughters Tracy and Belinda. I kind of wondered, ‘is there was something going on I didn't know about?' But within minutes I was presented with the award. I didn't even have a chance to talk with these family members before going up to the stage. But it certainly made it all the more wonderful having Tony, Tracy and Belinda along. James did a great job making arrangements without me knowing."
Baird's company operates with a staff of eight. There are two tandem vacuum trucks for septic pumping and two smaller single-axle trucks for servicing portable restrooms. The business has 250-plus restrooms and a VIP trailer with flush toilets, hot water, air conditioning and piped-in music, available for outdoor concerts, family reunions and weddings.
Baird's Septic Tank Pumping Ltd. is also the Atlantic Canada distributor for Five Peaks Portable Restrooms located in Muskegon, Michigan.
Baird began in the septic tank business in 1980.
"For the first two years I did it as a sideline," Baird, who had a staff position at Crossley Carpet Mills at the time, said. "I had one pumping truck and six portable toilets. There was no one offering portable restrooms for construction sites or special events in the Truro area at the time."
Baird said there was a time people made fun of him for wanting to run a septic tank business.
"I guess I had a vision or something," he said. "During those early years I would think about how nice it would be to be able to have another employee working with me. Things were pretty rough my first three or four years in business. A number of years later I attended my first P.S.A.I. convention and I came back home thinking, ‘we have to change the image of the portable toilets.' We now call them portable restrooms.
"I feel that service is the key to success. I learned that from P.S.A.I. we may charge a little more but we provide quality service and cleanliness. I find that this means a lot to our customers."
Lyle Carter's column appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you have a column idea contact him at 673-2857.