Abe Breuer is the CEO of VIP To Go and John To Go, servicing clients with luxury restroom trailers and basic porta potties across the nation. As a high-energy, successful entrepreneur, Abe has a hand in several business endeavors and has amassed a decent real estate portfolio. Humble, yet very confident, this driven business owner gets along famously with pretty much everyone — employees, colleagues, clients, and family and friends — while driving his businesses forward. He doesn’t take no for an answer in his quest for success, which is why his companies consistently show growth, year over year.
Abe also has an adventurous streak and believes in working hard while playing even harder. He’s traveled the world, enjoying new experiences in every corner of the globe, and has crossed helicopter and plane piloting off his bucket list. Abe’s excess energy is used to continuously help people. As a NY State-trained EMT, Abe has volunteered with local ambulance services for over fourteen years.
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Table of Contents
Welcome to your ValiantCEO exclusive interview! Let’s start with a little introduction. Tell us about yourself.
Abe Breuer: I was born and raised in Rockland County, NY, am married with 7 children, drive luxury vehicles, and love adventure. I started my first company at the age of 16, and have continued building companies ever since. I’m extremely determined to be successful at whatever I do in life and give everything my all: The world is your oyster and if you put your mind to something, you can achieve great things. While I’ve built up a business of hundreds of amazing employees, I still like being involved in daily operations. I never want to lose the pulse of my business — my baby. What I’m super proud of, is our 98% retention rate.
NO child ever says I want to be a CEO when I grow up. What did you want to be and how did you get to where you are today? Give us some lessons you learned along the way.
Abe Breuer: As a student, I displayed ADHD tendencies, and I wasn’t quite the teacher’s pet. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I did know that whatever I was going to do, I was going to be successful at it. The way I overcome challenges is by living on my successes. I celebrate even small successes, and they motivate me to continue.
Tell us about your business, what does the company do? What is unique about the company?
Abe Breuer: VIP To Go is a national provider of restroom and shower trailers; it is a high-end brand of outdoor restrooms and showers that are typically used for weeks, months, or even years.
We provide restrooms for many high-end outdoor events such as weddings, graduation parties, movie shoots, and the like. We also provide restrooms for malls, airports, departments stores, golf clubs, etc. on a long-term basis, to serve employees and/or customers. Our trailers are also deployed to disaster sites and construction sites for volunteers, the national guard, and others who come to help out at the site.
John To Go is a sister business of more basic porta-potties. These are used at construction sites or more budgeted events such as state fairs. We have locations in New York, New Jersey, and Florida.
What both companies have in common is that they serve customers in a way that leaves them completely satisfied. We are very focused on providing client satisfaction and we go out of our way to accommodate our clients’ needs. Keeping you as a satisfied client is far more important to us than gaining new ones. The attitude you’ll notice throughout the company is what sets us apart. If it’s feasible to accommodate a client’s request, whether it’s for a last-minute film shoot, an additional service visit, or a late-night dropoff, it’s done. This is largely what has led us to where we are now.
How to become a CEO? Some will focus on qualities, others on degrees, how would you answer that question?
Abe Breuer: In my opinion, a person can be anything they want to be as long as they set their mind to it and constantly work toward achieving their objectives.
The first and most important thing a person must do is persuade themselves. Then, build excellent oral communication skills. It doesn’t matter which of the two talents you choose to develop first; what matters is that you are extremely good and effective since the next most important thing for you is to be a very good, compelling, and industrious seller.
To answer your question, to be a CEO, you must be motivated, focused, and have excellent verbal communication skills. But before you convince anyone else of your qualities, you must convince and believe in yourself.
What are the secrets to becoming a successful CEO? Who inspires you, who are your role models and why? Illustrate your choices.
Abe Breuer: Don’t fear the what-ifs. We’re lucky that worries don’t take us anyplace, because if they would, we’d be worrying so much more than we currently do. The art of being a CEO is to dream as if you can never fail. And then act upon those dreams. Don’t fear failure, or you’ll be limited in what you try.
Many CEOs fall into the trap of being all over the place. What are the top activities a CEO should focus on to be the best leader the company needs? Explain.
Abe Breuer: Internally, I put a tremendous amount of effort into creating a happy, successful team. I am friendly with every single one of my employees and completely approachable. Our employees get up very early to do their runs, and we prepare hot breakfast for them. Sometimes we’ll have barbecues and other events in the summer. My operations manager provides a real listening ear to our employees as well. If someone is having a hard day, they know they can talk to him and he’ll try to accommodate them.
Another thing that is very important in our company is transparency. From top to bottom, every single employee in my company is aware of how well we’re doing, and the challenges we face. I constantly reiterate to them how they are what make the company successful, and they are the biggest solution to resolving challenges. Being transparent with them about what is going on with the company is right and smart.
The Covid-19 Pandemic put the leadership skills of many to the test, what were some of the most difficult challenges that you faced as a CEO/Leader in the past year? Please list and explain in detail.
Abe Breuer: One of the largest problems we faced was the recession brought about by the pandemic. When things are going well and the market is functioning as it should, people are going out, businesses are courting clients, and people are willing to splurge on expensive restroom trailers. When the pandemic hit, that sort of changed as events, film festivals, flea markets, construction sites, etc. started closing down. Everyone went into lockdown. Moreover, the prices of my products also had to be increased drastically. Not because I was price-gouging, but because the costs of raw materials were increasing dramatically. For example, a case of toilet paper that used to be twenty dollars is now sold for 50.
However, we didn’t despair. The pandemic gave us new opportunities. Testing stations needed handwashing sinks, events moved outdoors and needed portable toilets, utility companies wanted showers. We went after new opportunities.
What are some of the greatest mistakes you’ve noticed some business leaders made during these unprecedented times? What are the takeaways you gleaned from those mistakes?
Abe Breuer: Not focusing enough on current customers: Avoid looking after your existing customers and they will go elsewhere. The trick to being successful is to acquire new customers while retaining your older ones. If you lose your existing client base, you are not successful. You end up paying more in acquisition costs, and constantly chasing your own tail. A happy customer, on the other hand, comes back to use your services again and again, leaves nice reviews, and refers others to you.
In your opinion, what changes played the most critical role in enabling your business to survive/remain profitable, or maybe even thrive? What lessons did all this teach you?
Abe Breuer: One thing is for certain, we had to be flexible. In times of great uncertainty, flexibility is the key as anything that doesn’t bend, breaks. Firstly, we offered a full refund on order cancellations made within 48 hours which is something that definitely helped improve our sales. This was so successful that it is something we still do.
Improving communication was also crucial in enabling us to survive and thrive. We came up with a new strategy for communicating with clients, partners, suppliers, investors, and other stakeholders. Keeping them informed about our company’s policies, any changes to operations, and any new ways in which we could serve them.
I learned that the ability to pivot and be flexible separates the survivors from those that fall.
What is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Abe Breuer: Scaling. We are super proud of our 98% retention rate, while continuously adding new clients to our roster. This takes a lot of resources. We recently opened a new branch in South Florida for John To Go. I had to be very hands-on in finding the location, ordering inventory, hiring employees, merging some operations, etc. At the same time, I needed to make sure that we didn’t let down any of our John To Go customers in New York, nor our VIP To Go customers across the nation.
You already shared a lot of insights with our readers and we thank you for your generosity. Normally, leaders are asked about their most useful qualities but let’s change things up a bit. What is the most useless skill you have learned, at school or during your career?
Abe Breuer: I can’t say I loved everything I learned in school, but I try to make good use of every learning opportunity in some shape or form.
Thank you so much for your time but before we finish things off, we do have one more question. We will select these answers for our ValiantCEO Award 2021 edition. The best answers will be selected to challenge the award. Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make, this past year 2021, for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Abe Breuer: Since Covid 19 hit, there are so many uncertainties and volatilities in the market. From canceled events to difficulties in the supply chain, to the actual threat of Covid-19, most business owners have had a difficult year.
At VIP To Go and John To Go, we learned that our employees were extremely worried about the long and short-term repercussions of Covid-19 for them and their families. Our employees are like family, and we wanted to alleviate a bit of that worry. After much deliberation, we made a decision to adopt a comprehensive health care program for every single employee.
We were in flux, so to speak, where we didn’t know where things would go and how our bottom line would be affected. Rolling out this healthcare plan was a huge expense, and it took considerable back and forth in upper management, and consultations with health insurance experts. At the end of the day, we decided that our employees are our family, and if the bottom line won’t look as rosy as we’d hoped this year, we would weather it. The main thing was that our employees’ single, biggest concern of the year no longer be a concern for them.
We weren’t really looking for ‘payback’. We just did this because we care about our employees, but we’ve definitely been paid back in terms of renewed devotion and loyalty. Our employees once again got to see how much we care about them and wanted to show their appreciation in turn.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Abe Breuer for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Abe Breuer or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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