Colorado rental operation has become a community fixture
By Connie Lannan
April 11, 2023
As the second-generation rental operator of All Purpose Rental & Sales, Greeley, Colo., Jeff Jackson, president, is following the path of his father, Ron, who left the insurance world to purchase, along with his partner, the former McCann’s Rental. Their goal was to create a customer-centric business that addressed the needs of everyone in the area — from industrial to contractor customers and homeowners.
“When my dad and his partner, Ron Geek, bought McCann’s Rental back in 1978, McCann’s focus was on the homeowner and household rentals, including sewing machines, typewriters and plate sets for parties. They didn’t have too much equipment. That changed when my dad got involved. He and his partner moved the business across the street to an old gas station and began investing in more diverse construction and general tool equipment, everything from garden tillers and concrete power trowels to backhoes and trenchers,” Jeff says.
While they let go of the sewing machines and typewriters, they did keep a few items that every once in awhile a customer asks for today, including a “cherry pitter,” Jeff adds.
The new rental operation made quite a splash in Greeley. “There weren’t any other rental stores in the area, so they were the new thing in town — very unique for Greeley,” he says.
In 1984, the two Rons took on a third partner, George Broughton. “They moved up the street to another, larger location and changed the name to All Purpose Rental & Sales,” Jeff says, adding that the new location and name prompted them to expand their inventory even more, with a strong focus on construction equipment.
By 1998, Jeff’s father had become the sole owner. A few years earlier, he had moved the business to an even larger location up the street, where the business is still located. “It was an old lumber yard, so we have a lot of overhead coverage, with one equipment bay that is 25-ft. deep and 100-ft. long and another that is 25-ft. deep and 50-ft. long. Our facility is about 5,800 sq. ft. on an acre of land,” Jeff says.
Again, the new location afforded the opportunity to expand their inventory even more to better address the diverse needs of their varied clientele — a trait that continues to this day.
“We continue to serve a big mix of customers. We have a large percentage of homeowners. The rest would be split between industrial oil and general contractors, big and small,” Jeff says. “I am somewhat of a niche business in town. There aren’t many places here where you can rent the variety of equipment we have. I have trash pumps and jumping jacks — things you can throw in the back of a truck that a lot of the big companies don’t have. I also have big equipment. Our clientele is diverse and ever-growing. The oil world keeps us busy. The medium-size contractors are probably in here the most,” he says.
Today, the operation’s largest pieces of equipment include 45-ft. booms, skid steers, excavators, compaction equipment, trenchers and walk-behind utility loaders. The smallest includes everything from corded drills to sewer snakes. He also offers tables and chairs and some tents “that are usually rented by the city for festivals,” he says. Of all his equipment, the staples that are rented the most include “my 70-lb. electric jackhammers and 100-ft. mainline cleaners. Our appliance dolly also is popular — and one of the cheapest things we offer. Everyone needs one of those every once in awhile,” he says.
Jeff grew up in the business, working every weekend and summer while in school. After graduating from college with an art education degree, he turned down a job as a high school art teacher to come to work with his father in the family business, using his artistic talents in a different arena — the rental business.
An admitted “hands-on” boss who is very mechanically inclined, Jeff is involved with every aspect of the operation. “I do a little bit of everything. I sell, rent and repair equipment. I still sweep up the floor and sign the checks — and do everything in between,” he says with a laugh.
As soon as he came on board, Jeff knew he wanted to maintain two distinct aspects his father had started. First was maintaining equipment diversity to meet the needs of all his customers. The second was providing that personal touch with customers.
“My team and I pride ourselves on customer attention. People come in and I remember their name and I write their ticket without asking for their information because I remember it from when they were here before. Our customers seem to really appreciate that they have been remembered in this way,” he says.
Jeff, his father and their team of nine, including Jeff’s son, Rex, who wants to continue working in the business after he graduates from high school later this year, make a point to talk with their customers to see what type of project they are doing so they can rent the most appropriate equipment to them.
Providing the correct equipment and instruction on how to use it properly so the job or project can be done successfully is critical, Jeff notes. “We help someone complete their job by giving them quality equipment and my expertise. Not everyone will walk in here and be able to use a trencher, floor sander or concrete saw effectively without us imparting some knowledge on the operation. It is incredibly satisfying when they come in looking to do something and you offer advice and get them what they need for a successful end result. The gratitude I get for that help — that means a lot,” he says.
Jeff appreciates that he can work with his father, who is allowing himself more time away from the business — such as fishing this summer, etc. Yes, there have been times when they don’t see eye to eye, but “it is comfortable and we appreciate each other more,” he says, adding that in a family rental operation, “you spend a lot of time with your family, so you had better love them.”
Like all rental operations, they have faced various challenges, from finding qualified employees and dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to the more recent supply chain issues.
“During COVID-19, we never closed. We deemed ourselves an essential business. We did all the cleaning and wearing of masks. We had a longtime good customer who had a lot of foresight. He bought two semi loads of plexiglass. He is a cabinetmaker, and he turned his shop into a plexiglass production facility. He made some plexiglass counter shields. He gave me some and I bought two more. Regarding the supply chain issues, I never had to worry about getting equipment before. Now I have doubled my order because I don’t know when things will come in again. I still have a forklift, scissor lift, trenchers, mowers, tillers, engines and other things out on order,” he says.
But with all challenges, they have found or are finding ways to deal with them. Those difficulties haven’t taken away his enthusiasm for the industry, though.
This industry “is always changing. Customers and equipment are always changing. There also is a steady growth. I believe you grow with the population. The growth of your surrounding community will have a direct bearing on the growth of your rental store. We are in a town of 120,000 people. Everyone knows us. If you want something in town, they come to me or a big box store. I get a lot of people come in our door, particularly through word-of-mouth referrals,” he says.
And Jeff is proud of his company’s longevity and service to the community.
“We have been here a long time. We haven’t moved. We are one of one. There is no one like us in town. We are a community supporter — a community fixture,” he says.
As for what the future holds, Jeff says simply, “to keep growing. We won’t have immediate overnight growth, but eventually I would like to add a new location east of us in one of the growing communities around us. I see us putting up a store in the right town and watching it grow.”
Service runs deep in the Jackson family
Ever since Ron Jackson established All Purpose Rental & Sales in Greeley, Colo., a major focus of his and his son, Jeff, who now serves as president, has been to give back to the community they serve and the industry in which they have carved out their careers.
Ron has been a major supporter of various community events, including the Greeley Stampede. He was on the Greeley Stampede Committee for seven years, serving as chair his final year and overseeing the largest building project to date for the Stampede, the expansion of Island Grove Arena. Last year, he was inducted into the Stampede Hall of Fame. The business also has supported the Greeley Downtown Development Authority for many years, donating tents for its annual festivals, which include a 22-week-long concert series, Greeley Blues Jam, the Arts Picnic and Octoberfest.
As a member of the American Rental Association (ARA) as soon he and his partners bought the old McCann’s Rentals in town, Ron also has been heavily involved as a volunteer in state, national and philanthropic events for the association. He has served on the following boards, committees and task forces:
- The General Tool & Equipment Shared Interest Group, from 2004-2010, including serving as chair from 2007-2010.
- The ARA/ARA Insurance Services Member Risk Management Committee, from 2004-2006.
- The Construction U Task Force, from 2007-2010.
- A Rental Show speaker in 2007.
- The ARA of Colorado board, from 2010-2012.
- The ARA Insurance Board, from 2011-2014, including serving as chair in 2014.
- The ARA/ARA Insurance Services Member Risk Management Committee, including serving as chair from 2013-2014.
- The ARA Foundation Board of Trustees from 2017-2019, including serving as chair in 2019.
For his hard work, he received the Region Seven Person of the Year award in 2011. His business also was awarded the President’s Image Award in 1985.
Jeff has followed that path. “I was my kids’ Cub Scout leader and always served as an assistant coach to their soccer and basketball teams. I also have helped out our community and have had our business help community events, such as providing tents for the city’s festivals,” he says.
He became involved with the ARA of Colorado board in 2014 and quickly moved up the ranks. Since 2020, he has served as the state chapter president.
He also has volunteered on the national level, serving on the Government Affairs Committee from 2017-2019. During that time, he attended ARA’s National Legislative Caucus. “That was a huge eye-opener,” he says.
He volunteers because he receives so much from it. “I enjoy it, especially the rental-to-rental connection and networking. The rental world is very unique. That is a huge thing to have that business-to-business exposure. You can share information and learn,” he says. “The ARA is the only place you will find it. Any independent rental store that is not part of ARA will have a harder go of it. It brings a lot to you and your business,” he says.