Building a bigger Budget
Patrick FlanneryFeatures Profiles
After almost 30 years in business in Quebec City, Location D’Outils Budget has entered a new phase of growth and expansion driven by president Luc Bourassa.
After almost 30 years in business in Quebec City, Location D’Outils Budget has entered a new phase of growth and expansion driven by president Luc Bourassa. This Lou-Tec-affiliated rental house has successfully made the jump from walk-up neighbourhood rentals to rentals of larger equipment to larger construction contractors right across the city and its surrounding area.
|The Bourassas have fuelled the move into bigger contracts and heavier equipment with major investments in fleet inventory. Their fleet of booms, lifts, excavators and other heavy equipment has at least tripled in size over the last three years. Photo credit: Martine Frigon
Budget is still owned in part by its founder, Jean-Claude Bourassa, who started the company in 1984, but is now run almost entirely by his 41-year-old son, Luc. The company is celebrating its first anniversary in a new, much larger location with an open house designed to thank its loyal customers and to raise awareness in the community about the new facility and what it offers. “The company has in the last five years doubled its business,” Sylvain Lenden says. “So we have more inventory and our yard was too small. We have had some major clients come on board, so things have grown drastically.” As an example, he points to the company’s fleet of lift equipment. “When I came in about three years ago, there might have been 20 scissor lifts,” Lenden reports. “Today we have probably around 70. They had two or three booms. We are up to today, I’d say, 25 to 30 booms. We had seven or eight excavators and now we have 25.” Budget has expanded its generator offerings, too, going up to 150-kilowatt units.
After a big fire in which Location D’Outils Budget lost everything in 2005, it was able to turn around quickly. The fire took place on a Thursday, but Budget opened on the following Monday just three doors away at one of its customers’ warehouses. Bourassa conducted business there for the next eight months until moving back into a new store. Location D’Outils Budget operated from there until its move in February 2012 to its present location.
The new location on Rue du Haut-Bord is only about a mile away from the old place on Hamel Boulevard. Lenden estimates it covers 10,000 square feet with three service bays and a large showroom. The yard is at least five times larger than at the previous location. “Now all our equipment is mostly located in the same place and it is a lot easier for us,” Lenden says.
Lenden has worked in the rental business for 16 years and is the operations manager. Richard Martel has been in the rental industry for 35 years.
Location D’Outils Budget’s growth has generated expansion in its workforce. The company is up to 22 employees, including six mechanics and a shop foreman, Jean Aube has been with the company since the beginning. Serge Duplain, the logistics supervisor, also has more than 25 years with Budget. Serge makes sure every driver is dispatched on time and is polite with the customers. Bourassa also employs four drivers and three counter staff, some of whom have over 25 years of service with Budget as well.
In addition to the main location in Quebec City, Bourassa is partner in three branch offices on the south side of the river. The branches play an important role in serving the different markets in those communities. “One is more for homeowners, the other one is situated in an industrial park, and the third is just off the highway near the Ultramar refinery plant.”
The transition to bigger rentals for bigger customers followed Bourassa’s awareness of what was happening in the city. Construction in Quebec City is booming, Lenden says. There are a number of large projects underway, including the $400-million NHL arena the city is building for the return of the Nordiques. Lenden estimates Location D’Outils Budget moved from 80 per cent walk-up cash business to 60 per cent charged accounts coming in over the phone and only 40 per cent casual renters.
|Budget is proud of its ability to retain staff. Everyone in this photo has been with the company more than 20 years. From left to right are Yves Laverdiere, Denis Drolet, Richard Martel, Jean Aube, Luc Bourassa, Jean Claude Bourassa, Sylvain Lenden, Guy Duplain and Serge Duplain. Photo credit: Martine Frigon
For the first 15 years, Budget’s original business plan relied on a highly visible storefront and casual use by homeowners in its neighbourhood. Most of its business came from right around its location in the city and from the few businesses in the area. The addition of Martel and Lenden brought Budget major contacts from many of the larger contractors in town. And Bourassa was ready to support them with a big investment in Budget’s fleet. “It was quite a challenge for us because we were dealing primarily with homeowners and contractors instead of major companies,” Lenden remembers. “There was not the same demand for paperwork and inspection reports. Having bigger equipment meant we had to update our mechanics and give them training and bring things up to par with CSA standards and all that.” Budget was able to find most of the information it needed to stay abreast of the new demands online. “We went through the Internet to the OSHA and the CSA websites. We got the forms from there and gave training to our mechanics from the suppliers. We had our mechanics certified by the suppliers.” Lenden remembers Skyjack, Wacker and Genie being especially helpful in bringing its staff up to speed.
With the bigger contracts came bigger responsibilities for the safety of employees and renters. “The business here started like a mom-and-pop shop,” Lenden says. “We had a lot of safety issues. Glasses weren’t being worn in the shop, harnesses on booms and scissor lifts weren’t being applied. We decided to start back from zero at the new shop and gain compliance with all these safety issues as a major point. Safety meetings are now held monthly. We have brought in help from our insurance company. They come now twice per year to give us hints on what we should be doing.”
Lenden says Location D’Outils Budget was able to convince larger contractors to give them their business with a promise of more personalized service. “We think we hear their needs better than the big [rental chains],” Lenden says. “Sometimes they will need special service. We are able to do it and apply it to the customer specifically based on his demands, compared to a bigger company that just goes on site and delivers. We can take that special step to make them happy.”
Part of the upgraded service has been more organization in the back with designated parts staff, scheduled maintenance and a service manager, Aube, to oversee it all. Aube has assembled a team of on-site mechanics that go out to job sites to maintain equipment in the field.
As operations manager oversees the implementation of all the policies and procedures that the company has put in place in the last two years.
Jean-Claude affiliated with Lou-Tec in the shop’s early days in 1986. He became president of Lou-Tec from 1990 to 1995 and Lenden says the buying group is still effective today. “There are about 80 Lou-Tec stores in the province of Quebec, so they are able to negotiate better pricing,” he explains.
After 29 years of service and its recent surge in success, Location D’Outils Budget is in a mood to celebrate. On May 23, it invited all its customers to an Open House and Happy Hour at its location, with tabletop displays from its main suppliers.
An owner willing to take risks in a bid for aggressive growth and an experienced sales staff with all the right numbers in the Rolodex – it looks like it all adds up to a major new force in Quebec City-area equipment rentals.
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