Canadian Rental Service

Opportunity seized

By Treena Hein   

Features Profiles

Brothers united by a love of business drive GTA Equipment Rentals.

Here’s Achille and Wes with a piece of history – the first Bobcat they bought in 2008. all Photos: xxxx

It was just over 15 years ago in 2008 when Achille Ettorre got “the call” from his brother, Wess. “The economic downturn was in full swing and equipment prices had dropped substantially,” Achille explains. “The prices were especially low for equipment being brought in from the U.S. Wess called and said he thought it was time to make our move. I agreed and we purchased two skid steers on a credit card.”

This moment was the culmination of years of dreaming about owning their own rental business.

“We knew we could do it,” says Wess. “Of course, if it didn’t work, we could always sell the equipment. But business took off, and there was no looking back.” 

Shortly after, with the skid steers on the way, Achille and Wess let their parents know they were going into business for themselves. “They were excited for us but also a little concerned,” Wess says with a smile. “They had immigrated from Italy and wanted us to get a good education and find secure, well-paying corporate jobs. And we had taken this guidance seriously. Both of us had graduated from Western University, and Achille had obtained an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business. At that point, he had been in executive roles at several very well-known companies.”


Wess had meanwhile been working for different rental companies in the Greater Toronto Area, learning as much as he could each day about industry operations in preparation for the day when he would start his own company with Achille. 

Like so many who go on to own their own rental house, Wess had been exposed to the industry early and had found a passion for it. He’d started working summers at a rental company firm at 16 and he’d even focussed some of his projects on the sector. There was no other pathway for him. 

“I like the variety,” he says. “Rentals touch on everything – logistics, equipment, business growth, HR, marketing and so on. It keeps you on your toes.”

In starting their own rental business, the brothers would harness all of this education, experience and passion – but also carry on a proud family tradition of entrepreneurship as well. 

Their grandparents in Italy had owned a butchery business and had always been an inspiration. Their grandfather had always stressed that there was liberation in owning your own company – to make your own decisions, to chart your course, to own your time. 

They were about to find out about all that, because GTA Equipment Rentals had just been born. 

Early years
Success for GTA Equipment Rentals came fast and stayed steady. Those first two skid steers were rented out from Wess’ garage and were paid off very quickly. “We had a celebration,” says Achille. “We like to celebrate small wins. Our parents were pleased and happy to see this success and hear our plans.”

Their strategy was actually not to grow too much too quickly, but rather build the business organically over time. Achille stayed in his corporate role for many years, contributing from a strategic perspective while Wess handled daily operations. 

“We wanted to keep growth at a level we found comfortable,” Achille says. “Maybe we should have tried to grow faster, but we were happy with our substantial progress each year. We were busy enough managing it all, and we also wanted to keep a good work-life balance.”

As it grew, GTA Equipment Rentals moved four times, from a small building and yard, to a shared space with another rental company, to another location that didn’t work out, to their present location in Oakville, Ont. There are eight employees, several of them long-term. In terms of inventory, in the early days the Ettorres bought more skid steers, then excavators and wheel and track units, later adding lifts, booms and other items to meet the needs of their growing customer base. They may add a second outlet in the future, as their growth rate continues upward. 

Recent investments have included some newer lifts and excavators. Serving all three sub-sectors of the equipment rental industry has meant GTA needs to keep a versatile fleet capable of meeting most needs without being too specialized or over-engineered. 

Factors in success
For a long time, GTA has served three main markets: DIY, infrastructure projects and the industrial sector. This flexibility has provided a consistent revenue stream, but also enables the company to be ready to handle a disruptive market event (such as a pandemic) with relative ease. 

As mentioned, the brothers’ shared education and work history has also strongly supported their success, but their shared values have also played a critical role. 

“We conduct the business with honesty and integrity,” says Achille. “We love our business and it’s part of our identity. We are very proud of our reputation and the trust customers place in us. From the early years onward, we evolve with our customers as they grow and expand their own business.  Our investment in rental equipment aligns with our customers’ requirements for equipment solutions.   

Wess adds that relationships are also very important, and not just those with their customers.

“We work with competitors anytime it’s needed,” he says. “We take the attitude that we’re here to help whoever needs help. And we are constantly focussed on improvement and innovation.”

Digital era
One of those areas of improvement and innovation began about six months ago in September 2023. At that point, GTA Equipment Rentals embarked on a journey of digital transformation, aiming to streamline processes and enhance operational efficiency. The brothers view this endeavor as essential to staying competitive, emphasizing continuous improvement and the freedom to adapt and learn. 

Achille’s expertise in analytics has played a crucial role in this transition. He has extensive experience and passion for this topic, and is currently an advisory board member for the Analytics AI Graduate Program at the Smith School of Business at Queens University.

“Some aspects haven’t been as easy as we thought they would be, but we’re getting towards the finish line,” he reports. “We’ve made significant investments in time and money and we’re quite pleased with our progress. At this point, we’re digitizing the equipment repair/maintenance workflows and also overhauling our online presence. Customers will be able to login, see their order history, reserve equipment and pay their bills at any hour, and much more.”

And while Wess and Achille are uncertain how many other independent rental businesses are undergoing digital transformation (at all, or to what extent), they believe that when GTA is transformed, their digitization will be quite close to that of the big chains. This investment will keep the company on a level playing field and empower the Ettorres to better handle whatever the future holds. 

GTA’s yard is on a busy strip in Oakville with a couple national rental chains nearby. The Ettorres say, if anything, the presence of their big competitors helps business. They frequently cooperate with re-rents and referrals.

Flexibility and future
Of their three main three main markets, Wess and Achille surmise that infrastructure may turn out to be strongest over the next few years. “But perhaps interest rates go down and people are doing renovations and installing pools in droves again,” says Achille. “If so, we’ll be ready for that too, while the industrial market will likely remain steady. We are confident that we will be able to handle whatever comes.”

Whatever the future looks like, through GTA Equipment Rentals, the Ettorres will continue to support their community through sports teams, local soccer clubs, Habitat for Humanity projects and other initiatives. And the Ettorres will also remain committed to a journey of growth. Their story is one of resilience, adaptability and a steadfast commitment to their values and vision, one that they hope inspires fellow entrepreneurs, pays homage to their ancestry and serves as a testament to the dynamic nature of the rental industry. This journey, in the end, is one of two brothers and a shared dream.

Wess and Achille are pleased with their success, but also pleased that Achille’s three children are learning the business – and that Achille and Wess have been able to work side by side together in recent years after Achille decided to join Wess full time. 

“I enjoyed my corporate career very much and I have still have strong ties and leadership roles with several initiatives, but one detraction was being away a lot,” Achille says. “While the rental business doesn’t necessarily end at five every day, it’s been quite amazing to be home for dinner every night and spend so much more time with family during the critical years.”  


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