By Sukanya Ray Ghosh
Flaman Rentals’ franchise-type system works very well.
By Sukanya Ray Ghosh
For nearly three decades, Flaman Rentals has been offering its services and equipment to agricultural concerns across Western Canada. The company was born in 1993 but its roots go many years back to the establishment of its parent group.
The Flaman Group started its operations in the Flaman family farm near Southey, Saskatchewan in the year 1959. Frank Flaman, the group’s founder, bought a brand-new baler and swather with his initial investment of $3,000. He used the equipment to do custom harvesting in his area. Frank was in fact renting out his equipment as well as his expertise during this phase of his business. He also set up a feedlot on his farm. However, not one to dream small, he decided to move on to agricultural sales. He started with grain bins and proceeded to add more products and locations as the business expanded. With a 10-store, three-province farm supply store chain that would see him serve customers through seven decades, Frank made Flaman Group highly successful in Western Canada.
When Flaman Sales was primarily selling grain bins and aeration equipment, Frank took on heavy disks and grain vacs as additional products. However, these pieces of equipment were expensive to purchase. Therefore, Frank would often receive requests to rent them. Thinking that it would be mostly of interest to locals, he rented them out when needed.
Interestingly, the demand did not stay local, with requests to rent equipment coming in from further and further away. Frank realized that there was a great need for rentable farm equipment in rural areas. There were hardly any options to rent short line farm equipment in the prairies during this time. Thus, Flaman Rentals came into being in 1994.
With the rental demand coming in from far and wide, one hurdle that had come up initially was how to provide equipment to farmers far away from Flaman stores. Frank decided that if the farmers could not come to the equipment, he would take the equipment to the farmers.
Understanding the needs of the farmers, the company currently offers a wide range of equipment on rent. On the agricultural equipment side, the company offers field prep items such as field discs, field tillage equipment, harrows, rock pickers, landscapers, dozers, and land rollers. Water pumps, mowers and grass seeders are also available. The company also rents out a full line of trailers from utilities, dumps, flat decks, enclosed and even cattle trailers. Equipment for grain cleaning and handling; hay and livestock equipment as well as lawn, garden and acreage equipment are rented out. Besides the different types of farm equipment Flaman Rentals also offers construction tools and even some event rental equipment.
What was started by Frank was taken forward by the next generations in his family and all the people who came on board to further the group’s success.
Carter Flaman, the rental division lead in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, says that the group now is in the transition phase between the second and third generation of the family. Carter, who is 27 years old, stepped out of his high school and stepped right into Flaman Rentals. He has been with the company for nine years now. The story is similar with most Flaman family members who wished to join the group.
Carter has been a part of the farming industry his whole life. He grew up on a farm and his father still farms. This, he says, gives him the additional advantage to understand his customers’ needs.
The Flaman Rentals network works on a franchise-type system. However, Carter notes that Flaman Rentals is still family owned and operated.
“We still operate the company on family values. Really, Flaman is just the name that is being used on the signage. The actual family consists of all the employees that work here,” he explains.
An expanding dealer network
The Flaman Rentals segment has been set up as a franchise-type system where the owners of the stores are known as authorized Flaman Rental dealers. The rental dealers work under the Flaman Rental umbrella and rent out farm equipment that is only occasionally used.
In the first year of its inception, around nine to 10 such dealers had joined up to become a part of the Flaman Rentals network. Today, there are more than 80 rental dealers across Western Canada, in the provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia and Alberta. The company’s success in expanding its operations has even allowed it to cross the border into the U.S. Three territory managers oversee the rental operations. Flaman’s rental segment also receives support from the company’s marketing, administrative and information technology departments.
Flaman Rentals differs from a typical franchise system as it is not the brand name that the dealers invest their money in. Carter explains that they actually invest in the equipment itself, which is actually tangible. At present, for rental equipment, the investment is $200,000. As the rental segment is part of the larger Flaman Group, the dealers are able to purchase the equipment from Flaman Sales at a discounted price that is not available to outside customers. The discount can be as high as 25 percent. Carter explains that this is possible due to the well-established relationships with several equipment manufacturers. When a rental dealer is interested in joining the Flaman network, the following example is given to explain the difference in pricing – a rental fleet consisting of a land roller, harrow, flatdeck trailer, post pounder, heavy disk, enclosed trailer and grain vac would cost $213,020 for a Flaman Rentals dealer. The same fleet would cost a private dealer $258,930 when purchasing from Flaman Sales.
A supportive system
Carter notes that at Flaman Rentals, all dealers enjoy a support system.
“My role as a division leader is to support our frontline employees. I am there to see that they have whatever they need to make their day to day job easier,” he explains.
This is the support system offered to all Flaman dealers. A contact is provided to every dealer so that they can call for anything they need anytime they need it. All Flaman Rentals staff are given full access to the rental business and are therefore able to answer all queries. In fact, several dealers often direct questions regarding rates, policies, and procedures to their rental representative. These representatives are in place to enable the dealers in establishing and maintaining customer relationships and even resolve any conflicts that come up.
When a dealer joins the Flaman Rentals network, they have to pay a $10,000 advertising and set-up fee. This fee allows the company to provide initial advertising support such as SEM and SEO advertising on Google and Facebook, print advertising, mail outs as well as phone calling. The goal for the company is to ensure that the dealers are successful from the first year of business. Further advertising support is also provided every year such as signs, business cards, flyers and all rental contracts.
Under the Flaman rental system, when dealers rent out their own equipment, they receive 85 percent of the pay and 15 percent goes to Flaman Rentals. Since the dealers have access to the entire rental network of the company, they can even earn by renting out the equipment of another Flaman dealer. On this, they are able to earn 15 percent of the payment. Conversely, if they wish to rent out their equipment from another dealer’s location, they receive 70 percent of the payment, with 15 percent going to the other dealer and 15 percent going to Flaman. Carter explains that this allows the dealers to expand their equipment base as well as location range without further investment.
In recent times, one of the biggest challenges in the industry has been COVID-19. However, with agriculture being an essential sector, Flaman Rentals has been fortunate on that count.
“We are very thankful to have a diverse product offering. The agricultural side being deemed essential helped float us through and keep our doors open. We did have to close our doors to the public for a couple of months at the start of the pandemic and do curbside pickups and drop off,” explains Carter.
He further adds that the company’s trailer business dropped about 30 percent in the first couple of months but later picked back up to where it should be. Construction equipment rentals came to a halt in the that initial phase when construction processes had stopped.
Carter notes that the company’s HR team has been instrumental in ensuring the health and safety of employees and customers. Extra cleaning measures and sanitary practices are in place. Any construction equipment that has a cab is fully disinfected.
“We even added some disinfecting mister equipment to our rental fleet so that customers can rent them when needed,” says Carter.
With a successful system in place, Flaman Rentals has no intension of stopping its expansion to broader geographic areas as well as increasing its rental product lines.