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The keys to 75 years of Kennards Hire

By Lauren Mau

April 3, 2024

Watch as members of the Kennard family and Kennards Hire discuss their 75 years of success.

Seventy-five years ago, Harry Truman became the President of the United States, a dozen eggs cost $0.70, and across the world in Bathurst, Australia, Wally Kennard said words that are ingrained in the history of Kennards Hire, “I won’t lend it to you, but I’ll hire it to you.”

For three quarters of a century, Kennards Hire has grown and spread across Australia and New Zealand, raising the standard in the hire industry while maintaining its family values. In New Orleans at The ARA Show™ 2024, Rental Management sat down with Andy Kennard, second-generation owner, Angus Kennard, third-generation and, with his siblings, a future owner, and Peter Lancken, former CEO and non-executive board director, to talk about this achievement. The common threads of success were so evident: People, standardization and technology.

People. Early in his career, Andy Kennard spent time in America, learning lessons to bring back to Australia.

“We saw what they did there, buying new equipment, buying in bulk, having really nicely laid-out stores, and said, ‘that’s what we have to do,’” Andy explains. “We copied, particularly what was happening in California at that time, and we transformed the business thanks to kind ARA [American Rental Association] and CRA [California Rental Association] members who opened their doors to us.”

Andy credits these trips to helping him get a head start over his competitors.

“Like my dad, I was in the business early,” says Angus Kennard. “I came into the business in 1996 managing some of the franchise branches. I soon realized I wanted to open some specialized stores. It was the first time in Australia that there were hire stores that were an inch wide and a mile deep as opposed to general rental stores that are most known for offering a mile wide and an inch deep of equipment.”

Today, Kennards specialty stores stretch across Australia and into New Zealand. Angus, however, is most proud of the culture they’ve maintained.

“We have more than 1,800 people now and it’s important how we bring the culture and values to life. It’s easy to put words on the wall. We want to recognize people who have lived the values and the culture, not just the people who meet our KPIs [key performance indicators].”

Standardization. As the business grew in its early years, the most important thing to the Kennards, Andy and his brother Neville, was to maintain uniformity between stores. “We hired people who loved the high standards, the discipline of doing it, and it didn’t take long before we turned it into a competition between the branches,” says Andy.

“I started with the company in 1994 — I came with an acquisition,” Lancken says. “I became the CEO a year later and ran Kennards Hire for 15 years. Andy has always been forthright about wanting to run the business true. It’s been carefully thought out by the family to have a professional board with family and non-family. When I came into the business we employed less than 100 people and we had less than 30 stores. The challenge was to build the infrastructure into the company to allow it grow.”

Left to right, Angus, Prue, Andy, Rory and Cam Kennard with Kennards Hire 50-year International Membership Award

Lancken worked on computerizing the business and standardizing operations. He believes it was one of the most exciting times to work at Kennards Hire.

“Our ambition has always been to have a standard fleet of equipment. So, when we acquire companies we get a smorgasbord of equipment, and in 1995, we had to figure out how to standardize that quickly and scale it.”

Last year, Kennards Hire opened its 200th store.

Technology. Technology adoption is one of Lancken’s proudest achievements.

“Adopting a rental software helped us grow in the 90s. Later, when the Internet of Things (IoT) and other telematics technologies became available, we jumped on it. There are so many remote areas of Australia that we needed this to succeed and monitor our fleet,” says Lancken.

Lancken believes there is a groundswell of opportunity to grow.

“The new equipment is exciting and what’s happening with new energy sources brings a new dimension to the growth of rental. I’m very bullish about where the industry is headed internationally and certainly for Kennards. We’ve built a company capable of growth,” Lancken says.

Left, Peter Lancken and Andy Kennard at the Kennards 70th Anniversary Gala

The way of working has changed in the almost thirty years since Angus Kennard, the third generation, has worked in the business. He predicts even more change in the future.

“Environmental concerns will accelerate the adoption of battery and hydrogen equipment,” Angus explains. “Kennards has the first two hydrogen generators in the Australian hire industry. We’re not afraid to innovate. Technology will continue to give companies the opportunity to be more efficient and improve the customer experience. In the digital space, you’re not judged by your competitors, you’re judged by Amazon so you have to constantly improve to keep up with customer expectations.”

The next 75 years. Angus knows that the company is in a good space to take advantage of whatever opportunities are next.

“We have strong people, we’re investing in really exciting things, and we’re going to grow,” he says.

When asked what he wants the legacy of Kennards Hire to look like 75 years from now, Andy says, “I hope it’s still run by family and family-owned. I know that’s not always easy but I hope it’s owned by the family and professionally managed with high standards. Our board is critical to the ongoing performance of the business. The format of hire may look different 75 years from now. It’s going to be up to the next generation.”