Operating a smaller rental business
Machinery quality and reliability aren’t just important to Chris Quillen. Because of the size and location of his operation, they’re pillars of his business.
Quillen operates Grand Rental Station, a one-store equipment and supply rental business in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. In the largely coastal area near the state’s easternmost point, he’s got a dedicated clientele and depends on the same dedication in the companies that provide the machinery he offers his customers. That’s what initially drew him to Vermeer: The company’s commitment to service in offering a full lineup of compact industrial and tree care equipment.
“We’ve been with Vermeer for 25 of the 30 years we’ve been open,” Quillen said. “I’ve had everything from stump grinders and chippers to trenchers and compact mini-loaders. I’ve had really good luck with all their equipment.”
Operating an equipment rental company in a coastal area like his presents unique challenges larger businesses don’t face. Working with Vermeer Mid Atlantic for both sales and service has helped him overcome some of those challenges posed by both his location and the nature and types of equipment he carries for his rental customers.
“With a small operation, I don’t have six extra chippers here so, if one needs repaired, I can’t always get another one to replace it immediately,” Quillen said. “I don’t have that luxury, and that’s why service is so important.”
Grand Rental Station has offered eastern Delaware producers equipment rentals for 30 years. Quillen says for 25 of those years, Vermeer equipment has been a mainstay in what he rents. In that time, he’s learned a few things about how to operate a business with his kind of customers in his type of coastal location. And, Vermeer has been a big part of his continued success. Here are a few tips he shares on what’s helped him be successful:
- Find the right equipment. Quillen has worked with multiple equipment manufacturers in the past, and continues to do so. Regardless of the manufacturer, it’s especially important for a business owner in his type of location, operating his size of rental business, to put a premium on equipment durability regardless of price.
“Vermeer equipment is extremely durable and I generally have it for a long time,” he said. “Their prices may be a little higher sometimes, but their quality and durability are so much greater.”
- Work with the right people. Because he said his business is “off the beaten path,” service and repair work can sometimes be difficult, especially when he’s facing a tight timeframe for getting equipment back into service quickly. It’s important to work with manufacturers who are responsive when the need for service arises. That’s how Vermeer became a cornerstone of Quillen’s business.
“You need to know you will get service after the sale,” Quillen said. “The Vermeer dealer reps are always here when we need them. It doesn’t even matter if I’m buying something new. They have so little turnover there; I can only think of three reps there in all these years I’ve been with Vermeer. They have a good relationship with their employees, and that says something, I think.”
- Offer your customers what they need. Quillen recognizes his rental business is not the largest in the world and caters to a specific customer base in his area. That means he maintains a specific lineup of equipment in the right quantity. It requires constant attention to his customers and their needs.
“Sometimes people have a tendency to try to do more with smaller equipment than what is intended. We try to get the most powerful compact equipment that is available to eliminate that problem,” Quillen said. “We try to maintain our equipment the best we can so that we can have what our customers need.”
- Adapt and adjust. This is especially true in areas where service, product diversity and availability pose both rental businesses and their customers unique challenges. It’s important to stay up to date with the latest models and any improvements manufacturers make over time. Quillen said this is one of the biggest reasons he works with Vermeer.
“I always like to see how much they improve on products from year to year, especially with things like chippers and stump grinders,” he said. “They have to keep improving what they’re making for their customers, and I think they do it well.”
- Keep productivity at a maximum. Though his nearest Vermeer Mid Atlantic dealership is almost a 2.5-hour drive in Annapolis Junction, Maryland, he said the Vermeer sales and service teams have always been quick to help address any equipment issues to keep them operating. That’s important to the Delaware business owner.
“Having available service fairly close by is a huge factor for us in the rental business because we want to have the equipment available in order to remain productive,” he said. “Our Vermeer salesman goes out of his way to help us get parts or get repairs done. It’s really important to have that direct contact instead of dealing with middle management.”
Ultimately, Quillen said he’s looking ahead to the day when his fleet of rental equipment and machinery all bears the Vermeer name.
“The Vermeer relationship has become so important,” Quillen explained. “Even when I’m not in the market to buy something, their representatives come out to visit us regularly. They have always done that.”
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This article contains third-party observations, advice or experiences that do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Vermeer Corporation, its affiliates or its dealers. Advice or suggestions provided in this article are statements of general applicability that may or may not apply to individual businesses, whose circumstances and operations may vary.