Trending Content

Restructure puts 3rd-generation California rental operation on the fast track to growth

By Connie Lannan

July 7, 2023

Third-generation rental business owners Glenn Phares, left, and Rob Phares in their yard at BSE Rents, based in Bakersfield, Calif.

Third-generation rental business owners Glenn Phares, left, and Rob Phares in their yard at BSE Rents, based in Bakersfield, Calif.

BSE Rents has been a staple in the California Central Valley since 1952 when it was established by Glenn Phares as a contractor supply and rental operation. Thanks to the leadership of Phares’ grandsons, Rob and Glenn, this legacy rental business that caters to the construction and homeowner markets has experienced a growth resurgence, making it a Rental Management Market Mover two years in a row.

The operation’s growth has been impressive. As reported in the June/July 2023 issue of Rental Management, BSE Rents, which has four locations in California — two in Bakersfield and one each in Tehachapi and Visalia — generated $2.1 million in rental revenue in 2020. By 2022, that had jumped to $2.6 million — a 23 percent increase.

Rob, vice president, and Glenn, president, attribute that growth to their company’s restructuring.

“2019 was an eye-opening year for us. Before that we were floundering a bit regarding what our goals and vision were and where we saw ourselves as a company,” Glenn says.

“I had joined the American Rental Association (ARA) Peer Advisory Groups and started to see what some of our real successful peers around us were accomplishing. I came home from a meeting and talked with Rob. I said I think we need to restructure the way we run our company. We had done it the way our dad had run it, which was a little by the seat of our pants. We had always been into metrics and numbers, but I didn’t know how to formalize that into a plan of attack,” he adds.

Under the leadership of their father, Bob, who had served as ARA Region Nine director from 1986-1989 and was named ARA Region Nine Person of the Year in 1991, the business had greatly expanded its footprint.

BSE Rents logo“After our uncle retired from the business, our dad decided to go big or go broke. We had been at five locations, and then in 1995 we bought three more rental companies. At the height we had eight locations. In 2000, we lost the Porterville [Calif.] lease. Then we consolidated the Visalia and Tulare, [Calif.,] locations in 2003. That took us down to six locations when Rob and I bought the business from our dad in 2006. Then the great recession hit in 2008,” Glenn says.

Some of the BSE Rents team at the northeast Bakersfield location

Some of the BSE Rents team at the northeast Bakersfield location

The impact “was exceptionally hard on us. In Bakersfield and the Central Valley, the recession crushed the housing market. We were not able to renew our fleet at the pace others did. By 2017-2018, it was a problem. We weren’t seeing the growth our peers were seeing,” he says.

Members of Glenn’s peer group kept sharing that the brothers were too conservative in how they were running the company. “That was the best advice I have received. In order to be competitive in this game, you have to put assets out there that can compete with your peers. That really woke us up. They said we were not bringing in enough machinery to grow. We had to commit to refreshing our equipment. That was the first step in helping us grow,” Glenn says.

The next step was planning their goals and following the Entrepreneurial Operating System®.

“We set our big audacious goal to double our revenue in 10 years. We started with that and focused on what we purchased and why. Along with that, our overall goal was to focus on building relationships, being problem-solvers and being more flexible and agile than the other guy,” Glenn says, adding that “offering retail solutions a lot of other companies do not do” was a plus for the company.

Some of the BSE team members at the southwest Bakersfield location

Some of the BSE team members at the southwest Bakersfield location

“We adjusted our priorities,” Rob says. “We stopped doing things like how we always had done them. We changed how we interacted with our management team, too. Whereas we used to meet with them once a month, we began meeting with them for much shorter weekly meetings to stay on top of what is going on. We involved the management of our other locations more in future planning and goal-setting. The main thing is that we moved to a system that keeps everyone moving forward. We have written goals and have checks throughout the process.”

Some of the BSE team members at the Tehachapi location

One aspect they are looking at but haven’t yet implemented is hiring an outside sales presence. “We don’t have that, which I know is kind of shocking,” Glenn admits. “Face-to-face sales is still very important. Rob, our managers and I go out, but we do not have a dedicated salesperson as of yet. We do have a robust and strong online and web presence, and we have a very aggressive online marketing campaign that we use. We are constantly revamping our website to make it more user-friendly and reflect a more modern look.”

They have stayed on track even with the latest challenges of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the ensuing supply chain and labor issues.

They got through the pandemic with a bump in homeowner projects and have navigated the supply chain issues “by trying to order on the heavy side,” Rob says. “So when the product came in, we were increasing our fleet and had extra.”

“We have been blessed with long-term employees over the years. In 2021, we started to experience some of the turnover that I had heard about from other rental operators,” Glenn adds. “We lost some key people. We have revamped our onboarding process to attract a higher-caliber person. It seems to have settled down now.”

Now with 29 full-time employees, not counting Rob and Glenn, who are very active owners, the operation has found its footing. Not only has their growth exploded, but their entire company atmosphere also has been enhanced.

“I like our attitude at our stores — the direction our managers and staff have when interacting with our customers. I feel we have a good staff who want to help the people who come in. I think we are lucky that way,” Rob says.

Some of the BSE team members at the Visalia location

Some of the BSE team members at the Visalia location

Since starting this program, “our biggest mantra has been ‘customer first,’” Glenn says. “We always didn’t live that way. Our dad could be of the nature that if you didn’t like it, you could hit the road. That works fine when you’re the only game in town, but we have had to change our thinking. We know our customers are why we exist. We have to try to exceed their expectations. We are locally owned and operated. You don’t see a lot of that anymore. I think that fact differentiates us, too.”

Both brothers realize it takes a cohesive team to put that mantra into successful practice. “Our management and employees are a huge part of our success. Rob and I are just two people. There is no way we can do this by ourselves. Our success is a derivative of their contribution. They are a big part of what we do. We try to tell them that all the time,” he says.

As they look into the future, both brothers, with a renewed spirit of what their business can and is achieving, are set on growth. “We want to be a growth-oriented company. It may or may not make sense to grow our footprint. We will have to see, but if we continue to have the success we have had over the last few years it might make sense to grow and expand our footprint in both rental and retail. That combination can make a difference. Our customers can come in and rent a machine and get the supplies they need, too. It is like a one-stop shop,” Glenn says.