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Taking the leap from farm equipment to construction equipment rental

By Connie Lannan

Weston Johnson in front of some of his rental equipment

Weston Johnson in front of some of his rental equipment

Weston Johnson, a native of Payson, Utah, started working for a farm equipment dealer right out of high school and continued to do so when he, his wife and children moved to Idaho. But a desire to be closer to family not only brought Johnson back home to Payson but also to a brand-new career — construction equipment rental.

“I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset and wanted to start my own business. I always liked the equipment side of things. I had been around equipment, so I felt comfortable with it. Growing up in Payson, I knew there was a need for a rental yard,” he says.

Before he left Idaho, Johnson started doing his research because, as he admits, “the whole rental thing was a new experience.”

That research led him to the American Rental Association (ARA) from a Facebook group. “It wasn’t ARA’s Facebook Equipment Rental group, but there were some ARA members who were part of this group. From there I talked with Shannon [Dinwiddie, ARA member services account specialist] and Josh [Nickell, ARA vice president, equipment segment leader] who told me about the benefits, ARA Insurance, which I now have, and The ARA Show™, which I first attended in October of 2021 in Las Vegas,” Johnson says.

After purchasing some equipment at that show, he officially opened Impact Rental in December 2021.

“I rent a yard space from a guy where I store all my equipment. It is on a highway location, so I have great exposure that way. I rent office space in town where I do my paperwork. Eventually I would like a shop with everything in one location. It is a growing area where we are and it is hard to find something that will fit everything we need,” he says, adding that he knows it is just a matter of time.

Leaving his full-time job in Idaho to begin a rental startup was scary, but Johnson says he has received plenty of help along the way from other rental operators.

“It has been quite a learning curve, but it has been good. I am learning something new every day,” he says. “The Facebook groups have been great, allowing me to ask questions of others. I also met a couple of guys at the first ARA show I attended. They have been willing to help me out and answer questions, which is great,” he says.

To get the word out about his business, he has relied on his Google listing — “an essential,” he says. “I also use KSL Classified, which is like Craigslist for Utah. I do a little advertising on Facebook and other platforms and do some mailers.”

His efforts have paid off. “I have some really good customers — a lot of small- to medium-size contractors who rent from me on a weekly basis. I also have been doing some things with a few large contractors. That has been a different experience altogether. They run things in a different manner as far as invoicing and P.O.s. The smaller guys are like homeowners. I also cater to homeowners. I offer delivery, which helps because a lot of people don’t have trucks large enough to safely transport this equipment. It seems the contractors keep us busy during the week and homeowners on the weekend,” he says.

All throughout he has been growing his fleet. “The largest pieces of equipment I have are my 5-ton mini excavators. I go down to 2-ton machines, too. I also have skid steers, both track and wheel skids, and some compaction equipment,” he says.

He is a stickler for new machines. “I bought one used skid steer last year to fill the gap while I was waiting for a new one to show up. It was a low-hour machine, but it was a money pit. It kind of cured me from buying used rental equipment. For the rental fleet, I stick with new equipment. I have mostly New Holland machines and also John Deere machines. I have things on order for next year. I am planning my growth on what my customers are asking for,” Johnson says.

He, like other rental operators, is learning how to navigate around the supply chain issues. He also has dealt with some challenges that are more specific to a new business.

“Some of the bigger ones for me would be setting processes. I am trying to do that as I grow. Not having an actual storefront can be challenging too. I have posted hours of operation, but sometimes I am here until 8 at night as people drop off equipment, not realizing my hours. Of course, there is working through the financial growing pains, too. That whole financial side has been a learning curve,” Johnson says.

Impact Rental logoAn important lesson around cash flow came this winter.

“This winter was a big learning experience for us,” Johnson says. “People said to set aside money. We did a little bit. I had equipment show up the first week of December that wasn’t supposed to be here until June. Trying to figure out how to pay for that and dealing with one of our longest winters was a big challenge and learning curve. We will be better prepared for next year and better able to manage our cash flow.”

Challenges aside, Johnson is glad he took the leap into rental. “I like what I am doing and I like my customers. I feel fortunate that I have a lot of good people who rent from me. It is satisfying seeing them complete a task. Some of these folks look forward to completing these projects for years. On the contractor side, it is about building relationships and even friendships with my customers. We respect each other,” he says.

As his customer base expands, he is growing other aspects of his business. He has already hired a part-time employee and is looking to hire a full-time employee soon.

He also is growing as a business owner. “Personal development is something I have been looking into the past six months or so. I have read more books this year than I have in the last 10 years. I think it is important as a business owner. Having a good mindset and good thoughts is a crucial part. I also am in a couple of networking groups with other business owners — not all in the same industry, but they are like-minded people who want to grow their businesses. I am looking to get into an ARA peer advisory group in the near future, too,” he says.

As Johnson gets settled and begins to build his new rental business, he also is looking down the road and setting goals. “My goal for the next five to 10 years is have more locations — perhaps three or four. Since we started last year, we have doubled our equipment. We have had some fast growth. Down the road I would like to have a few more stores, too,” he says, noting that he will be ready to take that next leap when the time is right.