Member profile: Success boils down to well-maintained equipment and following the ‘golden rule’
By Connie Lannan
March 14, 2023
Since 1981, Ram Rent-All, Monroe, La., has been serving the rental equipment needs of small- to medium-size contractors and homeowners in the greater Monroe, Quachita Parish and West Monroe areas. Customers keep coming back for two reasons: They can count on receiving well-maintained, newer equipment and know they will be treated fairly and with respect.
Jay Rivers, owner, wouldn’t have it any other way. “Since we opened, we have tried to treat customers the way we would like to be treated. We try to be fair. We also strive to have as few problems as we can and do a thorough job to make sure the equipment is ready to rent. We also take the time to find out what customers are doing, so we make sure we give them the right tool for the job. We try to do things right and treat customers how we would like to be treated. We haven’t been perfect, but we try to be,” he says.
Rivers, who started Ram Rent-All with four partners while he was still in college, didn’t grow up in a rental family. Autos were his family’s business.
“I was planning on running an auto dealership that my dad and uncle owned. Then I realized that they were looking to sell it. I knew this wasn’t going to be an option for me after I graduated from college,” Rivers recalls. “My dad had a friend in Mobile, Ala., who had a rental store. My dad thought it was an interesting business, so I went down and watched this gentleman’s operation for a couple of days. I enjoyed it. I always was good with working on equipment — lawn mowers, trimmers, trucks and stuff. I thought that was an interesting concept. A couple of months later — in February of that year — with two investors I rented a building from my father and had a bunch of equipment. I traded my jackets and suits I wore to class for jeans and a shirt that could get oily so I could work on equipment.”
While a semester away from graduating with his business degree, Rivers admits he missed a lot of classes during that time. “I would talk with someone and get their notes and take the tests. I didn’t go to school much because I was working. We had only three of us at the shop,” he says. But it all worked out. He graduated in May and has never looked back.
Throughout the years, Rivers stayed away from investing in “huge equipment,” he says. “We have a large variety of equipment, though, from trenchers, gardening equipment, power tools and generators to 42.5-horsepower tractors, cement mixers, water mixers, pumps, forklifts that are 8,500 lbs., towable booms and self-propelled booms up to 45 ft.,” he says, noting that he has what his customers need.
Now at his third location in Monroe, Rivers has plenty of space for that all that equipment. “We have been here for 22 years. We are on 2 acres of land. The showroom and offices take up about 6,000 sq. ft., and the shop and parts area is in another 6,000-sq.-ft. area. We have a lot of covered area where we keep the smaller equipment,” he says.
As with all rental operations, there have been challenges along the way. “When we were first open, there was 21.5 percent interest rates, so that was difficult,” he says.
Even with this obstacle, Rivers was able to buy out his partners within three years. Within nine years, he was able to buy out his father, who had invested in the business.
While finding good employees, training and retaining them hasn’t always been easy. Today he has a strong crew of 15 full-time employees and one part-timer. Some have been with him for a long time, including his accountant who has been with him for 28 years, a counter person who has been with the operation 12 years and an employee in the shop who has been there 10 years. His two sons, Blaine and Brett, came back to the business full time five and two years ago, respectively, which has helped tremendously, Rivers says. This has allowed him to move from being a completely hands-on owner who dealt with customers every day to one who can strategize and work on the big picture portion of the business.
When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit, Rivers was afraid it would significantly hurt his business, but the opposite happened. “Our business increased because we had so many people doing projects at home. We were fortunate that we were well-stocked. We have always tried to stay ahead on purchasing equipment and parts we need — on things we know we will need and equipment we planned to turn that year,” he says.
His business sells equipment, too, but when the supply chain issues hit, he, like other rental operators, “shied away from that because we had to see what the availability was and what the prices of the equipment were. That has been tricky with the supply chain. We were fortunate that we had a lot of items ordered before the pandemic started. We replaced most of our fleet in the last three years, so we were fortunate and had our orders in before there were huge price increases,” he says.
Getting parts has been another story. “It has been a nightmare because some of the manufacturers don’t have the parts. We have had more items in repair because we have been waiting so long for parts,” he says.
Yes, there have been challenges, but what has helped him deal with those is the networking with other rental operators he has been able to accomplish by attending The ARA Show™, visiting other rental operations and getting involved with the ARA of Louisiana, serving as president from 1994-1997, and returning to the board in 2022 as executive secretary.
For Rivers “the ability to talk with other rental people, learn about their operations, discuss new technology and such is important,” he says. “I also think it is fun to see other rental stores. Many times when I am traveling, I stop at a rental store and ask questions of the owner. I learn a lot through all of that,” he says.
What also helps is using the educational offerings available through RentalU, the American Rental Association’s (ARA) education platform. “We want to use even more of the RentalU training resources, especially the driver and safety training,” he adds.
After 42 years in business, Rivers still finds it satisfying to “watch the flow of busy days and see equipment go in and come back in having very few or no problems for our customers. We have fulfilled a need for our customers,” he says.
So what does the future hold? “We will continue to work toward growth, if the economy holds,” he says, adding that he and his team will continue to focus on providing well-maintained equipment and offering the best customer service possible. It’s a recipe that has worked all these years, and Rivers is confident it will continue to serve his business in the years to come.