Industry pros peruse the equipment at World of Concrete.
Oscar Einzig Industry pros peruse the equipment at World of Concrete.

You are smart enough to estimate which is more prudent—renting, leasing, or purchasing your equipment. Still, are there really ever enough 90-pound jackhammers to go around? When it comes to renting, it’s not “if” but “when.” If you sub out most of your cutting, don’t buy a new Target walk-behind for one project. If you have a few weeks of coring, you might buy the Husqvarna drilling rig.

I’m not crazy about renting equipment, but it is unavoidable. Many smaller companies depend heavily on rental shops until they gain the capital to acquire their own big-ticket items. That’s the nature of the beast. Renting/leasing is inevitable if you are going to grow your business.

Since renting/leasing is necessary, but in the long-run it usually isn’t cost-effective, how can you get the most out of renting with the least frustration? Move beyond asking if you need to rent, lease or buy equipment. Needing to rent is a good challenge to have, since it means your output is surpassing your inventory. As long as you manage this properly, it is advantageous.

Here are some simple steps you might not think of in the heat of the moment.

  • Think about transporting your rented equipment. Rental companies will deliver for a price, and while sometimes that saves on manpower, does it always balance out? Who do you send to pick up rental equipment when you absolutely have to send someone? A common mistake is sending the low guy on the totem pole. Don’t send a greenhorn to pick up a troweling machine—the spider ring with the most buildup will end up in the back of your truck. While you know to test-start all equipment before you pick it up and to refuel your rentals before you return them, will the new guy know this?
  • Find a one-stop-shop that has it all. Save travel time and paperwork by dealing with the company that can consistently fill your entire order. I’m not against the mom and pop shops, but outfits with the right variety of equipment/attachments saves you time, and time is money, especially in the rental industry. Also, have you set up an account or are you still digging for credit cards or sending blank checks with your crew?
  • While you look into an account, consider potential rebates or high-volume discounts. Companies are not going to freely offer every incentive they have. Sometimes being frugal feels uncomfortable, but it pays off. Therefore, the wise contractor will ask his main rental shop how much do they value his loyalty and what can they do to prove it. But this will never happen if they don’t recognize your face or know your name.
  • Rental shops have a pot of coffee brewing, so take advantage of their hospitality, build a good relationship, and get on a first name basis. Seek their advice. Even though they don’t work in the field like you do, they are typically more up to date on the latest breakthroughs in technology and tool. In addition, a good relationship with the rental shop pays off for the residential guys, since a lot of homeowners ask their rental shop for leads on which contractors they can trust.
  • Finally, make the best use of your rain days. When you can’t form, pour, or strip a job, you can organize your rental needs. Unless you can entrust someone from the office with these details, you need to shop around, negotiate, and develop your network.

Craig Cottongim is certified in conflict resolution and is a long-time concrete finisher who’s also a writer and communicator. E-mail