Rental Center feature: Dream Team

Patriot Rentals & Equipment is celebrating its first anniversary, but it’s built on decades of rental industry experience.

In the aerial equipment rental industry, too often, branch and company buyouts result in weaker organizations and less, instead of more, customer service.

Patriot Rentals and Equipment owners
Although they have worked together off and on for decades, Dan Martino, Tim Reiss and Tom Fasnacht launched Patriot Rentals & Equipment in 2018.
Key rings
We got your back. Patriot Rentals & Equipment takes the extra steps to make rentals go smoothly and hassle-free. Unlike competitive rental centers, it doesn’t fine customers who lose or don’t return equipment keys.
Staff at Patriot Rentals & Equipment
The Dream Team: Back row, left to right: Joshua Porch, Tim Riess, Tom Guy, Ryan Parker; middle row left to right: Jay Rudy, Dan Martino, Rich Emmons. Front row, left to right: Stacie Rockwell, Tom Fasnacht. Not pictured: Allen Wild, their first employee, who was out on a call.

For three seasoned rental professionals in the St. Louis area, they have seen too much of the downsides of corporate mergers and private equity buyouts. That’s when Dan Martino, Tim Riess and Tom Fasnacht banded together to officially launch Patriot Rentals & Equipment practically a year ago.

Although the company is a newcomer to the St. Louis area rental scene, its owners – as well as its staff of 12 – are not.

Martino has 34 years in the rental business. Fasnacht has 28 years and Riess, the relative newbie, has 21 years serving the rental industry in the St. Louis area, coming into it after a career with the Marine Corps. All three had worked together at previous rental operations and it doesn’t take long to understand there’s a true mutual admiration club between them.

Fasnacht starts the process
When they had an opportunity to explore an opportunity to work together again, the three assembled their knowledge, expertise and skills. In the beginning stages, Fasnacht was the impetus. Riess, who was recently separated from his previous employer, was under a non-compete contract, so could not actively participate in the launch until one year had passed since his separation from the company. However, he had visions of such a company for more than a decade.

“Starting our own rental company has been a long-term dream of Tim’s,” recalls Martino. “Back in 2007, he was drawing up Patriot Rentals & Equipment logos on a yellow legal pad.”

After a few years of not working together, Fasnacht pulled up the courage to contact Martino, who had started a sign business. “When Tom called me about this opportunity, I told him I wasn’t interested if the end game was to sell the operation to another group. If this was going to be for the long haul, I would like to be a part of it. I was just coming off of working with a rental branch that changed hands three times in 22 months and I didn’t want to be a part of that again,” he says.

That’s precisely the attitude Fasnacht was looking for.

Fasnacht began developing a business plan to share with investors, bankers, suppliers and select prospective customers. Based on his years of experience, first turning wrenches on diesel equipment, then as an equipment service manager and then working the back-office functions of a variety of rental branches, he was well equipped to develop a business plan that could turn heads and win support. Patriot Rentals & Equipment would be in the business of primarily renting MEWPs, select utility vehicles, telehandlers and forklifts in the greater St. Louis area.

“As we shared Tom’s pro forma with others, they said it was one of the most complete business plans they have ever seen,” says Martino. Fasnacht went into tremendous detail. “The pro forma included everything, including premium items such as shirts and other promotional items we needed for customer giveaways, even fuel costs for the delivery, rental and service fleets,” says Reiss.

“We are not millionaires, and this is a capital-intensive business. We needed the trust and backing of our customers, suppliers and lenders,” says Martino. “Equipment suppliers got behind us when they realized we had the whole package and have been phenomenal partners in business.”

Off and running
Within the first six months, the trio’s company beat the business plan projections. With 500 pieces of equipment in its rental fleet, it plans on acquiring about another 150 pieces before the end of the year.

“It’s all new equipment. We are a dealer for Genie, JLG, Skyjack, MEC aerial work platforms and Hy-Brid Lifts. We are primarily an aerial lift and material handling rental company and we focus on high-utilization equipment,” says Reiss. Their MEWP fleet ranges from scissor lifts starting at 13 feet and up to 185-foot boom lifts.

“Our utilization is in the high 70-percent range. We aim to provide our customers with the ‘ground and pound’ equipment that’s needed throughout a construction job. We can also backfill with related equipment a contactor might need, such as light towers or generators. We find it for them and help reduce the headaches of getting equipment for our customers,” says Riess.

The company takes great pride in its 24/7/365 approach to business. “Our slogan to customers is, ‘We got your back!’ For example, our competitors send out equipment with key tags that inform them of a $25 charge for lost keys. Ours say, ‘Lost key? No worries, we got your back!’ Customers soon understand we want to make it easy to do business with us and that we can meet their equipment rental needs,” says Martino.

Opening logistics
Patriot Rentals & Equipment started from scratch: no home base, no equipment; just a vision and a well-written business plan. Finding a site for the rental yard was an important piece of the puzzle. “We wanted a location that was close to major highways and close enough to the downtown St Louis area. We are fortunate to have found a two-acre site with a 5,000-square-foot building not far from I-70 and only 10 miles from downtown,” says Martino.

The site they chose was a fenced former maintenance facility for a gated industrial park. Fasnacht used his experience and how-to skills to repurpose building into its office and shop. “We do 100 percent of our own maintenance and repair on equipment,” adds Martino.

Finding staff was comparatively easy, even in today’s tight job market. They simply contacted professionals with whom they worked with in the past, recruiting nine additional members to be a part of their dream team. “We don’t consider anyone here an employee. They are like family; brothers and sisters,” says Reiss. “We know who is passionate about this business and what it takes to take care of customers. We can’t be any prouder of this team.”

Martino says the company’s reputation as a great place to work is spreading. “Nearly every day, we have people we know in the business showing up to inquire if there are any positions open.”

Presently, about 30 machines are delivered daily to job sites across the St. Louis metro area. “It’s totally transparent to our customers,” says Martino. “Some have very specific requirements on how equipment gets delivered or picked up. We keep track of that and deliver it exactly how they want it. We’ve found other rental companies can’t accommodate those kinds of requests,” he says.

“One thing we emphasized early on that the equipment rental business isn’t rocket science and to that end, our systems should be simple and effective,” says Riess. “We learned this from working at other rental companies. They had systems in place that were more like launching the space shuttle than delivering and tracking rental equipment.”

To keep their system as simple as possible, Fasnacht has implemented InTempo as its internal software package. “It incorporates the processes we have developed to assure the maintenance and check-in and check-out process is efficient. It works well for planning maintenance and ordering parts and supplies,” Fasnacht says. “It helps me spot areas where we are losing money and from there, we can find ways to prevent that loss.”

Fasnacht’s system provides the information the service department needs to complete the maintenance and repairs needed in the fleet. “The last thing I want to do is micromanage our maintenance staff. They are all very professional and are good at what they do and they can make the decisions. When we run into an issue that needs solving, all who are involved are asked for their input and ideas,” he says.

Secret sauce: Passion

While the three owners are very passionate about their new business venture, Riess is the most articulate about it. “We all have a passion for this business. That carries through to all who work here,’ says Riess.

“Each of us has a special set of skills for the business. I am outside sales. My talent is to get out in front of customers and help identify their needs and find ways to fill them. Tom’s skill is to keep the back-office functions working and keeping tabs on the business. Dan’s the captain of the team, even though he doesn’t like it when I say that. He takes care of the inside front-office responsibilities and sometimes has to reign me in when I make requests for more equipment or make a promise to a customer that’s going to stretch our ability to deliver. On the other hand, I am so confident about our team’s capabilities that I never doubt that we can deliver what I promise.”

Riess says his skills are being further sharpened as the new ANSI MEWP rules come into effect. “It’s my job to more completely understand the job, its needs and its restrictions so I can help assure our customers are getting the best unit for the job they are trying to do.”

The future
Like other areas of the country, the forecast for equipment rental is very positive in the St. Louis metropolitan area. While investors, suppliers and future customers were impressed with the Patriot Rentals & Equipment business plan, many were perplexed by the lack of an exit strategy in the pro forma. “We did that on purpose. We are here to stay. We have no plans to jump in and out of this market. We are here for the long haul, and as time goes on, we look forward to expanding to serve other areas,” Martino says.

This article originally appeared in the July-August 2019 issue of Pro Contractor Rentals magazine. ©Urbain Communications,LLC. All rights reserved.