By Jolene Parisio
When Ryan VanNest and Tom Saxelby combined their passion for and experience in the equipment rental industry in 2020 to form American Rental Services (ARS), a re-rental company with a specialized focus, the rental industry gained a valuable resource. These two industry veterans, whose relationships in the access industry span decades, saw an opportunity to help rental companies in North America find the right piece of aerial equipment for their customers’ applications.
For those not familiar with re-rental, the concept is quite simple. Here’s a common scenario to explain it: A contractor goes into his/her local rental company to request a specific piece of equipment, like a 180-foot boom lift. But because it’s such a large, specialized machine, the rental company doesn’t have that particular lift in its fleet. Not wanting to lose the rental opportunity, the rental company partners with a re-rental company, like ARS, to get the machine that will meet their customers’ needs — without investing in the larger, higher-reaching lift themselves. With re-rental, rental companies, and their customers can get the necessary machines on an as-needed basis.
Partnering exclusively with rental companies, ARS’ business model allows rental stores to fill in the gap where a specific piece of equipment is needed for their customers without worrying about competition.
Working with ARS
Here’s how it works: Local rental businesses can check for equipment availability with ARS partner yards throughout the United States. The local rental company picks up the equipment at the ARS partner yard and transports it to the job site. ARS rents by the day, week and month just like their rental center customers do.
When the end user is finished with the machine, they simply call the machine off rent, and the unit is transferred back to a partner yard in the area.
“It is a very simple process, and we try to keep the experience as seamless as possible,” said VanNest. “The end-user has no idea that the equipment has been re-rented from ARS, and that is exactly how we want the customer experience to be. We are the silent partner in the background, helping our rental yard partners with job site needs.”
Advantages of re-rental
What makes ARS’ business model unique in the rental industry is that VanNest and Saxelby understood how re-rental can offer a significant business advantage to companies that are cautious about potential recession or market fluctuations. Right now, acquiring aerial equipment is difficult, given the current higher interest rates and increased cost of equipment, and specialized models like high lift articulated or telescopic boom lifts and high-reach telehandlers have an average asset cost of $200,000 or more per unit.
Through ARS, these two can now provide rental stores with the equipment their customers are looking for without these companies having those large capital investments on their bottom line.
“Having access to renting specialty JCB, JLG, Genie and Skyjack equipment, such as super booms and large telehandlers, becomes a profitable way for rental companies to retain customers and compete on job sites they otherwise might have to pass on,” said Saxelby.
Working within the current business climate
ARS is also helping rental businesses navigate some of the unique challenges of a post-pandemic environment.
According to Saxelby, a lot of pent-up work broke loose after the world opened up again post-COVID, putting extreme pressure on the supply chain. “The biggest complaint we hear from our customers is that they can’t get equipment from the manufacturers, and at times, there is no clear line of sight as to when they will get the equipment,” said Saxelby. Re-rental through ARS offers these rental companies the opportunity to get the equipment their customers need right away, eliminating long lead times and uncertainly during the waiting period.
This pressure has impacted not only wholesale goods but also parts for equipment. Long lead times on parts can result in extended downtime, negatively impacting the bottom line. The cost of freight has been another large, unexpected expense for businesses, with high fuel prices and intense competition for trucks to move equipment across the country, driving prices up.
Re-rental through ARS alleviates these challenges. “We are starting to see some improvement in the industry, but it has a long way to go to get back to pre-pandemic levels,” said Saxelby. “As long as there is a need, ARS will be there to help.”
In addition, he says, these rental companies also benefit from the knowledge and experience that he and VanNest bring to the table.
Managed by a team of industry veterans
VanNest spent his entire career in the rental business, starting in the wash bay at Grand HI Reach in Grand Rapids, Mich., when he was in high school. That business was eventually bought by NES Rentals. In 2005, VanNest started Titan Equipment, building it to five locations in Michigan before selling the company in 2012.
Since 1989, Tom Saxelby has been involved in the aerial industry to include retail, wholesale and manufacturing, working first for Grove Manufacturing and then for Genie for more than 20 years. Saxelby’s industry knowledge, experience, and customer relationships are a natural fit for a re-rental business servicing rental centers throughout North America.
That experience is something ARS customers have come to recognize and depend on. “There is nothing our customers are dealing with on a day-to-day basis that our ARS team has not experienced at some point in their work lives,” said Vannest.
He points out that ARS isn’t just built on his and Saxelby’s years of experience. Together, the employees at ARS have well over 100 years of service in the equipment industry.
“Dirk Payne, our director of operations, has managed multiple locations and has been in aerial equipment rental since 2000,” said VanNest. “And, Tom DeGeest, our director of services, has been in the rental business since the late 1990s, previously working for me as the Service Manager at Titan Equipment.”
He mentions that although Jim Anderson, ARS’ chief financial officer, is new to the rental business, he has a deep background in finance from JP Morgan Chase and Fifth Third Bank, bringing fresh eyes to the finance lens. Brian Staub rounds out the ARS team as head of rental.
“There is credibility and value in experience,” VanNest said. “Our customers recognize and appreciate our knowledge of their business and our sense of urgency. We are well aware of the economic benefits of ‘up time’ and how it relates to our customers’ profit and loss.”
The current market conditions have prompted ARS to bump up its growth plans. Based on customer demand, Saxelby and VanNest hope to diversify their product mix in the next few years. “We have a great opportunity to expand our product offering to our current customer base,” said VanNest. “Our customers will lead us into products that we do not currently offer.”
Jolene Parisio is founder and strategic marketing lead for Cojective. For more information, visit www.cojective.com.