At 60, Arvada Rent-Alls honors its past while focusing on the future
By Connie Lannan
November 7, 2023
When Art Tidwell, who had owned a series of service stations, saw the concept of rental picking up steam, he jumped on board, opening Arvada Rent-Alls in 1963 in Arvada, Colo. Back then the operation offered primarily small tools that catered to the homeowner market. Sixty years later, the company has expanded to where it offers a wide range of equipment that addresses the needs of its homeowner and small- to large-size contractor customers.
It’s been quite the journey. “Our region’s golden hour of rental was in the 1960s when a bunch of people realized that people didn’t always need to own things. Art, being a visionary and entrepreneur, decided to start buying things and renting them out as people were asking for them. That is how we started, always focused on the equipment side,” says Andrew Heesacker, ECP-SM, president/CEO, who also serves as American Rental Association (ARA) Region Seven director.
Heesacker’s father, Luke, joined the company in 1971. “My dad was a customer of Art’s. He joined after Art asked him if he wanted a change in his life. My dad ended up buying the business from Art in 1986 with two partners — Dave Erickson and Randy Engstrom. I joined the company in 2013 after working for a large rental operation. My dad bought out his partners in 2015, and in 2020 I purchased the business from my dad,” he adds.
Heesacker and his team have followed in the tradition set by Tidwell and his father of making it their mission to “listen to our customers. We try to make sure we are being as efficient as possible, but what really matters is what the customer needs — being empathetic and putting ourselves in their shoes. We actively listen to see what our customers want as far as equipment, service, timeliness of the delivery, etc.,” he says.
That has translated into having a wide breadth of inventory. “Our smallest piece of equipment is a carpet knee kicker and the largest is a 50,000-lb. excavator,” Heesacker says, noting that the company is also a large Stihl dealer. “We bring in the fleet that we have lost rentals on, that customers tell us they need. We don’t buy things for the sake of buying them. We are targeted according to what our customers need.”
Embracing new technology also has been a core component. “We try to hone in on technology wherever possible. Everything from our point-of-sale system and leveraging that to the best of our abilities and integrating with other technologies within that point-of-sale system, such as telematics and website services, including online reservations and things like that. We also have a customer portal. The customer is able to log in and see all their invoices and pay them. That has been huge. We also use SmartEquip, which enables the techs to order parts. We are trying to maintain the fleet and make sure we are staying focused on what it takes technologically speaking to keep the fleet fresh and new,” he says, adding that he hopes in the near future to incorporate artificial intelligence for predictive modeling and making the workload easier for yard and counter personnel as well as drivers.
That strategy of active listening, taking action on what customers need and integrating technology where appropriate has paid off. Arvada Rent-Alls was named a Rental Management Market Mover in the June/July 2023 issue. In 2020, the company generated $3.3 million in rental revenue. By 2022, that figure was $5.1 million — a 55 percent jump.
Heesacker is quick to point out that this is a team achievement. “We are all working toward a common goal and we genuinely care about what our customers have to say. Our customers know we will take care of them,” Heesacker says.
For instance, “we have inside and outside salespeople. I tell them I don’t care what level our company gets to. If we are about to lose a rental, I want our leadership team to know about it ahead of time, if possible, to see whether we can pull a rabbit out of the hat and turn it around,” he says, noting that everyone works together.
That requires a level of trust and commitment between all levels of the organization. Heesacker and his team continually nurture that. “I would say our culture is 360 degrees. I tell people if you need something from me or I am doing something wrong, provide me feedback. As a company, we are constantly asking for feedback — at every meeting, either directly or anonymously. We ask that of our staff and our customers,” he says.
That culture is linked directly to Heesacker’s concept of leadership. “The best piece of business advice I ever received was to learn to manage people without being their boss. What I mean is that leadership is not just a title. You don’t get to put on a special hat and tell people what to do. There is no magic potion. It is more of an art form to lead people and head them in the right direction,” he says, adding that it takes a team to achieve success.
That sense of team helped Arvada Rent-Alls get through the worst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the aftermath of labor and supply chain issues. “During the pandemic, the construction markets slowed in Colorado. By June of 2020, we were really busy with our homeowner customers. Overall, we were pretty flat through 2020 and 2021 as construction rental accounts for 65 percent of our rental revenue and homeowner accounts for 35 percent, but that 35 percent keeps us just as busy,” he says.
While the company has had a few issues with labor here and there, it hasn’t had to deal with it to the level that some other rental companies have.
“We try to build around the culture of maintaining and growing people. We pay well and center around ‘Traction’ and the Entrepreneurial Operation System® (EOS) that makes sure we have one-on-one conversations with every employee every quarter, give constant feedback and have a lot of transparency within the organization, from top to bottom. We generally want the best for everybody. We are always on the hunt for certain positions as people leave for college or move to another opportunity, but we are never in the position where we are short-handed. We love that,” Heesacker says, adding that the company now has 30 full-time and two part-time employees.
Through the years, the company has expanded its footprint. In 2019, Arvada Rent-Alls acquired Chatfield Time Rentals in Littleton, Colo. “It was an opportunity. We were looking for a second location. From a geographical location, it couldn’t have worked out any better. It is 30 minutes from Arvada, which is a healthy distance when going for a second location. It is in the western part of town, which is an underserved area. The only way to grow in this area is through acquisition,” he says.
Heesacker sees more growth in the company’s future. “We will continue to focus on the customers’ needs and what they want and continue to focus on growth. We will continue to stay on the horizon or look past the horizon in terms of technology to make sure we continue to have a competitive advantage. We look to offer more locations regionally, serving Colorado and Wyoming and New Mexico. I know at the end of the day, contractors and homeowners would much rather go to a smaller rental operation rather than a Walmart,” he says.
While the focus is very much on the future, the company took some time in September to honor its rich history and 60th anniversary with an open house, complete with food, live music, discounts on rentals and lots of giveaways.
“We are thrilled to have been a part of this community for so long. Our company’s success has been built through the years with a lot of hard work and dedication from all levels of our store teams. It’s been an honor for all of us to move the company forward through the last six decades,” Heesacker says, adding that the Arvada Rent-Alls team is committed to continuing that service to their customers for years to come.
American Rental Association membership is a key partner for success
Membership in the American Rental Association has been a mainstay since Art Tidwell founded Arvada Rent-Alls in Arvada, Colo., in 1963.
“From what I understand, a lot of the draw was about having a collective voice — basically having other like-minded visionary type of people together to have a voice with government affairs, etc.,” says Andrew Heesacker, ECP-SM, president/CEO of the company, who also serves as ARA Region Seven director.
Heesacker’s father, Luke, became involved with the ARA of Colorado, serving on the state chapter board from 2005-2011. “I was raised around all these people. I knew some of the original folks who started the ARA of Colorado,” Heesacker says.
When Heesacker joined Arvada Rent-Alls in 2013, his father told him to check out the ARA of Colorado. “Part of it was legacy, and then Beth [Hoff Blackmer, president of Aspen Rent-All in Basalt, Colo., and former ARA board president] grabbed me and put me on the ARA of Colorado board. I started becoming involved in the Young Professional Network (YPN) and began developing relationships and making friends with people from all across the country,” he says.
That involvement grew as Heesacker moved up the ranks in the ARA of Colorado, serving as president of the state chapter from 2017-2019. He also was a member of ARA’s Construction/Industrial Services and General Tool Shared Interest Group from 2017-2019 and served on ARA’s Government Affairs Committee from 2019-2021. He was listed as one of the “10 to watch under 40” by Rental Management in 2015, received the Region Seven Leadership Impact Award in 2020, received the Rising Star Award in 2021, was elected to serve as Region Seven director in 2021 and began serving in 2022 as chair of the Young Professionals Committee, which he will continue through December of this year.
Heesacker says he has appreciated “having a voice, having ARA listen to younger people and having my ear to the ground regarding government affairs issues and such.”
Saying he has gained much personally and professionally from becoming so involved in ARA, Heesacker adds, “I am so proud that I have been asked to step into these various roles. I have gained valuable relationships and networking [opportunities]. I have people I can call and have conversations about what brand of mini excavator is working for them, talk to them about situations I am working through. During COVID, we had weekly Zoom calls, which helped all of us get through this time.”
The business has benefited, too. “Our business has gained so much — the networking aspects, the tools and the training. Now we are taking the ARA Certified courses as well as the general training. Being part of ARA, we have a collective voice on issues that impact our business,” Heesacker says.
Just because his term as Region Seven director will end at the conclusion of The ARA Show™ 2024 in New Orleans this February, he has no plans to stay on the sidelines. He and his team will continue to be involved with ARA in some form or another, whether that is serving on a committee, using the educational resources of RentalU, ARA’s educational platform, or advocating on legislative issues that impact rental businesses in Colorado and throughout the nation.
For Arvada Rent-Alls, ARA will continue to be an important partner in the company’s overall growth and success.