Why Cooper Works and Here Come the Buyers

Aug. 16, 2017
I hope you enjoy this month’s story about Cooper Equipment Rentals. I think you’ll find the story of their dramatic growth to be extremely interesting and relevant.

I hope you enjoy this month’s story about Cooper Equipment Rentals, one of the fastest-growing companies in the equipment rental industry. Cooper has a very progressive ownership team, with two partners who grew up in independent equipment rentals in the Toronto area. One of the partners, Doug Dougherty, also worked for United Rentals in regional and national positions, thus combining large company experience with that of a small independent. I think you’ll find the story of their dramatic growth to be extremely interesting and relevant.

I couldn't cover every aspect of Cooper’s story, and I probably make it all sound easier than it really was. I don’t want to in any way underestimate the amazing achievements of Darryl Cooper and Doug Dougherty who obviously put a whole lot more thought and countless late nights into what they have achieved at Cooper, as well as the rest of its management team and other staff. And so many of the company’s employees clearly have bought into the vision Cooper and Dougherty have in creating what they call the Cooper difference. I went to the company’s Burlington, Ontario, branch, about 40 minutes southwest of Toronto and was impressed with the enthusiasm of the staff.

The Cooper philosophy is that each branch, while it cooperates with and shares fleet when necessary with other branches, functions as a complete full-service branch. While some rental companies are going towards a centralized dispatch model that can help to eliminate or reduce crisscrossing trucks and wasted miles, Cooper found that model took away from each store’s ability to fully serve its customers. The reason is simple.

Cooper empowers its branch managers to do everything within their power to service their customers’ needs. They found they could not promise their customers that they’ll deliver a machine at 6:30 in the morning and be absolutely certain they could keep the promise because central dispatch might have different priorities in trying to coordinate and schedule deliveries for, let’s say, 10 stores. But for that branch manager, the primary priority he has is taking care of the particular customer he has made a promise to, and therefore making sure he can get that piece delivered at 6:30 is paramount. If the driver has to deadhead back to the store empty so be it because his priority is to keep the promise to that customer and get him the equipment he needs when he needs it.

So for this reason, while centralized dispatch might work well for some companies and systems, the Cooper staff determined that it doesn’t work for them. It has helped some companies be more efficient, but I could understand why CER felt it wouldn’t work for their company in their market.

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If you look at Industry News this month you’ll see a lot of acquisition stories crammed into just a few pages. BlueLine Rental acquired five-location Capital Rentals. In a huge transaction, H&E Equipment Services acquired Neff Rentals, a transaction still pending at press time and subject to change since Neff was given a window to shop for a higher offer. Rental Equipment Investment Corp. continued its buying spree in the Pacific Northwest. And Sunbelt Rentals established a platform in eastern Canada by buying 28-location Contractors Rental Supply. And there have been more recently. Sounds like old times? For those of you who were around in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I imagine it does. A few other rental people I recently talked to said, “Yeah, the buyers are coming around again,” and not just the usual suspects. Major rental companies knocked on their doors, as did other investors possibly interested in the equipment rental industry.

If you are considering selling, this might be a good time to make sure you’ve got your act together and hear what the offers sound like. If you are not interested in selling, nobody is forcing you to answer the phone! These waves seem to come periodically. While some people feel the big players are taking over, new start-ups have continued to come along since some rental industry participants pronounced small independent rental companies a phenomenon of the past. If you look around at other industries, the rental industry is still relatively fragmented with plenty of independents out there operating. Keep your eyes open and your ears tuned to the ground.

About the Author

Michael Roth | Editor

Michael Roth has covered the equipment rental industry full time for RER since 1989 and has served as the magazine’s editor in chief since 1994. He has nearly 30 years experience as a professional journalist. Roth has visited hundreds of rental centers and industry manufacturers, written hundreds of feature stories for RER and thousands of news stories for the magazine and its electronic newsletter RER Reports. Roth has interviewed leading executives for most of the industry’s largest rental companies and manufacturers as well as hundreds of smaller independent companies. He has visited with and reported on rental companies and manufacturers in Europe, Central America and Asia as well as Mexico, Canada and the United States. Roth was co-founder of RER Reports, the industry’s first weekly newsletter, which began as a fax newsletter in 1996, and later became an online newsletter. Roth has spoken at conventions sponsored by the American Rental Association, Associated Equipment Distributors, California Rental Association and other industry events and has spoken before industry groups in several countries. He lives and works in Los Angeles when he’s not traveling to cover industry events.