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Rodney Coker — Rental Management's 2023 '12 to Watch Under 40'

By Brock Huffstutler

August 23, 2023

Rodney Coker

Rodney Coker, 32, president/CEO, Coker Rental Co., Powell, Tenn., was raised in a family that owns a chain of Ace Hardware stores. He became an official employee at 15 but, in the tradition of many family businesses, says, “I have been working since I was much younger than that.”

Coker’s desire to spearhead businesses of his own trumped a childhood interest in another career path. “I wanted to be a lawyer, but I knew entrepreneurship was in my blood,” he says. Coker assumed management of one of the Ace locations at age 21 and, looking for ways to increase sales and find new product niches, discovered equipment rental as an opportunity.

“One day at our local Ace dealer group meeting, I saw that the location was renting some Bobcat equipment. I was intrigued and asked the store manager about it, and the rest is history. We re-rented equipment for about four years and started buying our own fleet in 2019,” Coker says.

Equipment rentals fit like a glove for Coker. “I’ve run skid steers since I was five years old. Being around equipment is something I enjoy and never get tired of. I love researching and buying the best equipment I can get my hands on, but beyond that is knowing our equipment is being used by our customers to make the job easier and to transform their projects.”

Coker offers a Swiss Army Knife analogy to describe his business. “We’re resourceful and reliable,” he says. “We rent a modest selection of general tools to complement our core earthmoving equipment and aerial fleet. Our target customers are small- to medium-size contractors and handymen but will always include our great support base of everyday homeowners and weekend warriors.”

As an independent business owner, Coker is gratified with how his rental company serves its employees and the community. “We have created a business which now employs 11 people and provides for them and their families,” he says. “We are able to serve many people’s everyday needs with our equipment and can give back to the community both financially and with our time.”

Coker, who serves on the ARA of Tennessee board of directors, credits further professional growth to his involvement in ARA. “I got connected with ARA before we started buying our own fleet, with Ace Hardware being a co-op-based model. I knew firsthand how ARA was by us and for us. Words are hard to find to describe how much my involvement has helped me,” he says.

Looking ahead to the future of the rental industry, Coker sees a blend of “more technological advances and safety, but also more regulations. If the past is any predictor, I believe the future also will bring a customer base that expects more on-demand service both in the field and in the office, so I suggest looking into a good CRM [customer relationship management] program and manager to get ahead of the curve.”