By Jim Chliboyko
It began, like a lot of these things, by accident. “It started on the farm just north of Regina (in Southey) back in 1959,” says Don Flaman, of his family’s business, the Flaman Group.
By Jim Chliboyko
It began, like a lot of these things, by accident. “It started on the farm just north of Regina (in Southey) back in 1959,” says Don Flaman, of his family’s business, the Flaman Group. “My father actually was a farmer and he just, kind of by accident, got into it. He bought some grain bins. He needed some for himself and to get the dealer pricing, needed to order a few more. He put a little ad in the paper and sold what he didn’t need and this was real easy and so he went back to the factory and bought some more. And that is how it started.”
|Flaman owns nine rental stores across Saskatchewan, in addition to its many rental dealers across western Canada and Montana. Rental division manager Wayne Beckett says his current priority is standardizing procedures and service across the large network.|
But rental is still just a portion of the Flaman Group’s business.
“Short line agricultural equipment sales are probably the biggest part of our business,” says Flaman. “Also, light industrial trailer sales. Flat decks and enclosed trailers are another very big part of our business, and sales of fitness equipment, too.”
Fast-forward to today, 45 years after the genesis of the business off that farm at Southey, and Flaman Rentals is chugging along. It’s got a number of corporate locations, including some international representation (Montana!), dozens of franchisees and, according to Saskatchewan Business Magazine, it is number 49 of the top 100 companies in Saskatchewan.
“We have been in agricultural rentals for a long time. I am going to say more than 30 years but it is really only less than 10 years ago, I guess, that we got, you know, more involved with the commercial/industrial rental equipment,” says Flaman.
It was Flaman’s father, Frank, who saw the benefits of getting into rentals.
“He has always believed in rentals and thought there was a bigger need for it. And we had some good success at our own stores so we wanted to duplicate that,” says Flaman.
Like much of the rental industry, Saskatchewan’s Flaman Rentals has found the value in specialization, specifically looking at the opportunities provided by the market of small-town agricultural equipment rentals. And it has spread.
“We have nine corporate stores in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and we have about 100 rental dealers across Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C. and Montana,” says rental division manager Wayne Beckett. “A lot of these tools and agriculture products are somewhat specialized. So they tend to lend themselves better to a rental application than an ownership.”
Amongst their offerings are things such as vertical tillage.
“It’s a tool that gets rid of stubble or trash, after harvest,” says Beckett. “And it prepares the seedbed for earlier planting in the spring. So it’s kind of a new tool to the area and it’s caught on quite well.”
Beckett’s position over the last three years has been to, in a word, standardize Flaman’s rental offerings and just the basic way it handles its rental business.
Because we’ve never really had somebody in charge of all of our rental divisions…I guess I’m trying to get everybody following the same policy and procedures,” says Beckett. “So if you go into this Flaman store, or the one in Saskatoon, you’ll get treated the same way and the procedures as far as the renting and the contracts and whatnot are all the same. So you really shouldn’t be able to tell one store from the other as far as that goes. We have different inventory but essentially the contracts are the same and customer service hopefully is the same, the quality of the equipment is the same. That’s one thing I’m focusing on, trying to get everybody to play the same game, and I think customer service was always a big deal in my world. And it’s a big deal in Flaman’s world of course, but we just didn’t all do things the same because we weren’t monitored by, you know, one particular person that could set any common practices.”
According to Beckett, there’s little difference between Flaman rental dealers and the company’s corporate stores.
“They are fairly similar in that every corporate store rents short-line ag equipment and trailers. But retailing these items is really the corporate store’s bread and butter. Every store also does a certain amount of equipment renting, primarily trailers and short-line ag equipment. The exception to that would be our Moosomin and Yorkton stores. And I should mention Swan River in there as well. These three stores are full line construction equipment rental stores as opposed to the rest that are mostly trailers and ag equipment.”
Beckett describes how someone becomes a Flaman rental dealer.
“The popular scenario is (with) the bulk fuel dealerships here in the Prairies,” he says. “So they have the yard space, the customer base being ag-based, and so they take on our equipment lines so they have our signs out front that they are now a Flaman rental dealer and they rent out our ag equipment that we supply.”
“Some of them stick just to that side of it. Some of our dealers, because of the markets that are available to them, have expanded into some construction equipment as well but it is still all run under the Flaman name. We supply the signage and we do some marketing for them. And then we do some training and a lot of support.”
The company deals in certain brands for some of its go-to products.
“So Wishek disks are a popular one. With trailers, a popular brand is Trailteck and Aluma is another popular brand. Other brands that they deal in is Wheatheart, Schultey, Rightway, and, construction-wise, we’re a pretty big Skyjack and Genie dealer,” says Beckett.
The safe operation of the products they rent out is also a concern. Beckett, turns out, has a safety background.
“I opened that can of worms and, boy, I didn’t know how big that can was when I opened it,” says Beckett. “I approached Don and we talked about it. He’s really adamant about a safety program as well. So, it’s nice to have upper management on board. It’s something again that I’m trying to co-ordinate with all our stores and set a policy and, you know, get everybody playing by it. We’ve got a very good track record. But you know, we want to keep it that way. We spend a lot of time and energy, recently for sure, to get our equipment safety standards up and make sure the safety shields are all in place and all our staff are well aware of the safety rules and the policies that go with it.”
That includes encouraging safety consciousness in customers.
“We force it pretty hard that we get our guys to show them how to run it safely. We make a concentrated effort to show everybody how to run the equipment safely, as opposed to just saying here’s the equipment, there’s the door.”
In terms of where the future might take Flaman Rentals, Beckett says that while the spike in activity generated by the potash industry over the past several years looks to be levelling off, there is some potential activity coming in the form of as-yet-unbuilt pipelines.
Says Beckett, “Out here, the pipelines go right past town so it’s like having the oilfield in our backyard.”
As for any specific future plans, says Beckett, “it’s always a work in progress. Of course, expanding to new dealers; we’d like to get our new dealers down to our annual dealer meetings and let them meet the rest of the guys and learn pretty quickly what is good and bad about the rental businesses.”
Needless to say, with former CRA national president Wayne Beckett at the helm, Flaman Rentals is an active and appreciative CRA member.
“Kudos to the CRA,” Beckett says. “I fall back on my affiliation with it an awful lot. Either the contacts or the information, you know, from the various trade shows and the people, I really do fall back on that quite a bit.”