Posted April 21, 2020

Rental Center: Cutting the cord

What started out as a pet project for A.T. “Red” Glass, Brandon Rental Centers has turned into thriving operation with two equipment rental centers in the Tampa, Florida, area.

by Clair Urbain

When Red started improving his cabin on weekends in the ’70s, he was frustrated by the lack of equipment he needed. He found that while he desperately needed a piece of

Rental Center

Brandon Rental

Dan Kozsuch
General Manager

equipment to finish a job, once it was finished, he really didn’t need it again. That dichotomy launched him into getting into the equipment rental business.

Although Red recently passed away at 92 years of age, his son, Robert has taken over ownership and today, the facility’s day-to-day operations are run by Dan Kozsuch, vice president and general manager and 23 other employees. It has two rental centers, one in Seffner that also features party supplies, and Riverview, which is focused on equipment plus a warehouse.

Battery-powered hand tools Stihl
Increasingly, customers are preferring battery-powered tools. They are simple to operate, create less noise and do not emit fumes. From a rental standpoint, maintenance issues are greatly reduced.
Dan Kozsuch, Brandon Rental Centers
Dan Kozsuch, vice president and general manager, says Brandon Rental Centers has refined its product offering to serve small-to mid-sized contractors who work in tree and landscape maintenance, light earthmoving, painting, concrete and mortar work.
Brandon Rental Center counter persons
Each branch features three counter persons and one manager. At the Riverview center, George Urbana, purchasing manager mans the phone while Dan Kozsuch, general manager and Alison Johnson, store manager, confer on a parts order.
Brandon Rental Center tent sale

Brandon Rental Centers holds a two-week garage sale every year to sell equipment it wants to get out of inventory. It also provides an opportunity for bargain hunters to become more familiar with its extensive line of tools and equipment if offers for rent.

In the past 30 years, Kozsuch says the company has refined its product offering to serve small-to mid-sized contractors who work in tree and landscape maintenance, light earthmoving, painting, concrete and mortar work.

Its rental inventory falls into three main types: earthmoving and concrete tools and equipment; aerial lifts; and lawn and tree care equipment.

“We do well with the towable and self-drive lifts, which are mainly Niftylift units up to 64 feet in reach. We also have an earthmoving equipment from Takeuchi, Bobcat and Wacker Neuson that includes skid steer loaders, small backhoes, front-end loaders, excavators and compactors; you’ll also find other light equipment that ranges from pumps to generators to concrete machinery.

“We also rent core drills and hand tools, many of them are Hilti models,” says Kozsuch. “We switched over many of our tools to Hilti several years ago because Hilti has an excellent warranty
program and their service and support is
excellent. We love to deal with them. Their reps are in here all the time.”

He has found Hilti salespersons’ advice especially helpful when assisting concrete contractors implement OSHA Table 1 requirements for crystalline silica dust protection. “

The tool and equipment inventory values at just over $1 million; the firm averages $2.5 million in equipment rentals annually.

“We like to carry and rent equipment that the customers can haul themselves without paying to transport it. We don’t have semi-truck haulers or have to pay to deliver equipment. We also rent many chippers, which serves our tree care, landscape and Stihl equipment customers well,” he says.

Earthmoving equipment is mainly Takeuchi and Bobcat models. “We’ve been very happy with the overall maintenance and the life of these equipment brands. They are very well built, are very low maintenance and the service and support is also excellent when we need it,” he says.

For lawncare and landscaping hand tools, Stihl is the predominant brand because Brandon Rental Centers is an Elite Stihl dealer. “We rely on Ryan sod cutters and aerators because they are well built. We have more than 40 sod cutters in our fleet,” he says.

Focus in a downturn
Before the Great Recession, Brandon Rental was much like other rental centers throughout the Tampa area. It had a wide smattering of equipment in different sizes appealing to a wide range of contractors.

“When the housing market slowed in 2008, we narrowed our focus. We really developed our niche with the landscaping industry and renting equipment and supplies to support them. We added bigger aerial lifts for landscapers. We also have a party and event division and that stayed a little steadier and at that time invested more into that side of the business. The main thing we focused on was sticking with what we were good at, taking care of all of our long-time customers as they were struggling. We extended credit to customers to help them get through the tough times and now they only use us,” he says.

“Before the residential housing collapse in 2008, it was just like a gold rush. Everybody had brand-new trucks; everybody was a masonry contractor building homes, but when the market disappeared, so did many of those contractors. It really weeded out those who didn’t have insurance and the ones who weren’t legitimate companies. The ones that survived are our customers today.”

Since that time, Kozsuch says the equipment philosophy of Brandon Rental customers has changed. “We noticed customers were being more aware of their spending. When the landscape contractors are looking to purchase equipment with the landscape companies, customers seem to be more meticulous on what products they’re buying to fit their needs. They also seem to be spending more to repair some units rather than just purchase new. Our customer base is renting large chippers or lifts instead of purchasing them. They are finding it more economical for them to rent,” he says.

Going electric
One of the most significant changes that Kozsuch has seen in the small equipment rental business in the last five years is the adoption of battery-powered tools. “Landscape contractors are going with battery-powered tools because they are quieter. We have one customer who is purchasing battery-powered weed eaters because he can’t operate anything gas-powered before a certain time in certain subdivisions. We first noticed the trend with homeowner customers. They like the ease of operation. They don’t like to have to worry about maintenance or mixing fuels correctly. Now that the technology in some of the battery-powered equipment is more geared toward commercial jobs, we’re seeing more interest from commercial guys as well,” says Kozsuch. “We have battery-powered cut-off saws that can be used indoors because there isn’t exhaust. They are popular rental items.”

Kozsuch says they are working toward standardizing on battery systems. “We don’t want to have six different kinds of batteries and six different kinds of chargers. We want everything interchangeable. We are aiming to have a fleet of batteries and chargers and don’t have to worry about assigning a certain one to a certain unit. Like the tools, the batteries are serialized and numbered. The battery is treated just like a piece of rental equipment, It has its own item number, even its own maintenance history,” he says.

Online ordering increasing
Kozsuch says DIY customers are increasingly surfing the web for rental information. “We are definitely seeing a big increase in traffic through social media and websites, but it’s mainly homeowners. Our contractor base still seems to be over the phone or by email,” he says.

Brandon Equipment Rental counter persons are continually training on the equipment it offers for rent. It’s how it makes sales more consultative sales and less transactional. “I want our counter persons to know how to use it because that’s how we sell it to the customer. When a customer calls and is not quite sure what they may need, and our counter person knows exactly how a concrete saw, for example, works and how to use the dust containment, then we’re helping them in a way that’s not really being a salesmen,” he says.

Identifying equipment demand
Through its Point of Rental system, Kozsuch says they are tracking equipment usage and making more intelligent decisions about equipment acquisitions. “The data that we get through the Quantity Overlap report is really helpful in making decisions on purchasing. I can take a look at a piece of equipment like the track loader and say, ‘Okay, we’ve had four track loaders out on one day, 10 times.’ It can tell you how many times you’ve had multiple pieces out or, on the other hand, helps us to identify high inventory of an item that goes out once or twice a month. It’s helped us to really analyze and keep our inventory level to meet the demand,” he says.

When it comes time to sell off equipment, Kozsuch says the Tampa area has a demand for it. “The majority of it we sell ourselves. We have sold some items online, but we’ve found there’s always a high demand for used equipment in this market. We really never have any problems selling any of our used tools and equipment – even the small hand tools.”

For two years, Brandon Rentals has held a two-week garage sale to move used equipment. “We’ll gather up things we’re selling and set it up at each store. It is gaining popularity; people look forward to our yard sale and we leave it up awhile to give people a chance to cycle through and look at things. We’re finding that it’s getting to the point where people want to be there on that first or second day,” he says.” It also brings customers into our yard where they can actually see our inventory and makes them aware of other tools and equipment we offer,” he concludes.

This article was originally published in the May-June 2020 issue of Pro Contractor Rentals magazine. ©2020 Urbain Communications LLC. All rights reserved.