Environmental lab looks to FSBDC at USF for industry insight
Phoslab Environmental Services, Inc. of Polk County
Upon moving to Lakeland in the mid 1960s, George Fernandez Sr. took notice of the growing phosphate industry in Polk County. In 1965, Fernandez started Phoslab, an analytical laboratory providing phosphate-testing services to local companies.
Fifty years and two generations later, the company is now run by his son, George M. Fernandez, and his grandson, George A. Fernandez Jr, and now operates as Phoslab Environmental Services, Inc. After witnessing the growing environmental movement in the early 2000s, Phoslab decided to extend their services to include all environmental tests.
“We do a lot of waste water testing for the mines and hazardous waste testing to determine if things can go into the landfill,” Megan Skeen, lab director, said. “We find out the leachability; we do a lot of organics, gasolines, hydrocarbons, metal testing, a lot of nutrients to see how much is going into the lakes and rivers to see if its causing a problem.”
When Fernandez Jr. took over the company in 2013 the business was running smoothly, even through the recession. Although there wasn’t one large pressing problem, he knew there were small things that could be improved. He reached out to the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida in 2014 and started working with Javier Marin, a certified business consultant.
“I wanted some consulting in certain areas, as far as our operations and our marketing goes,” Fernandez Jr. said. “I really needed help learning more about our industry and I wanted to help push our business forward, and I think we needed a little boost, and they’ve provided that.”
In May 2014, Marin completed a Growth Acceleration report, which is an in-depth business assessment, for Phoslab Environmental Services. “The thing that really stuck out was the competitive analysis they did,” Fernandez Jr. said. “We looked at the industry as a whole and I found out a lot about our website and our Internet marketing stance.”
Through various website improvements says they have landed significantly more clients from online and Google searches this year than any previous year.
With the guidance of the report, Fernandez Jr. hopes to increase the number of tests they are able to complete with the purchase of new machines. They are currently in the process of switching from a manual paper system to an automated digital system, allowing the lab to function more efficiently.
While a challenging process, Fernandez Jr. and Skeen say they look forward to shaping the business to allow for future growth. They plan to continue working with Marin to help ease the process of new machines and tests.
“Working with the Florida SBDC at USF has really challenged me personally and as a small business owner I think you can always learn more about your business. Fernandez Jr. said. “You can always learn more about your industry. I’ve learned more about marketing, competitive advantages, our industry, our operational side and internal side and how we function. I’d really recommend them to any small business looking to improve and advance their services.”