By Mike Davey
When we talk about progress, we’re often really using it as a synonym for technology or scientific progress.
By Mike Davey
When we talk about progress, we’re often really using it as a synonym for technology or scientific progress. However, that doesn’t really tell the whole story. Make no mistake: inventors and scientists have made many valuable contributions to the human race. But all too often, we overlook the role of the entrepreneur in driving us forward.
|The staff of Classic Rentals in Truro, Nova Scotia. From left: Chris Bell, Perry Brightman, Helen Brightman, Nancy Crosby, Derek Gay, Gary Prest, George Boyce and Randy Crosby.|
The entrepreneurial spirit can be hard to pin down. For some, it’s a simple desire to be their own boss. For others, it’s because they have an idea that they simply have to see come to fruition. For Perry Brightman, it was a combination of the two.
Brightman is the owner/operator of Classic Rentals, a family owned equipment rental store located at 244 Queen Street in Truro, Nova Scotia. The business was founded in 2003, but Brightman’s experience in the equipment rental industry goes back quite a bit further than that.
“I’ve been in the business since 1973, working with a local machinery company,” says Brightman. “They had a sideline in the rental business, and I worked as a mechanic in the rental operation for about six years. At that point, they decided to get out of the rental business, and gave me the job of selling it.”
He sold it to a local entrepreneur, and worked at the newly independent rental operation for the next 22 years. At that point, the store was bought by a large chain. Brightman continued to work there for the next two years, and slowly but surely came to the conclusion that working for a large company just wasn’t for him.
“It turned out that my son-in-law Randy wasn’t happy doing what he was doing at the time either,” says Brightman. “In 2003 we started our own operation.”
At that time, the entire staff consisted of Perry Brightman, Randy Crosby, and Perry’s wife Helen doing the books. A bookkeeper by trade, Helen put in hours on evenings and weekends making sure the financial statements came out even, while Brightman and Crosby got their hands dirty in the shop, making sure that the money would keep rolling, or at least trickling, in. George Boyce, who had worked with Brightman at another rental company, provided his services on a part-time basis.
A few things have changed since 2003. Perry Brightman is still the owner, Randy Crosby is still the manager, George Boyce still works there part time, and Helen Brightman still does the company’s books. But a few new faces have joined the company over the years.
|The next generation at Classic Rentals: Randy and Nancy Crosby.|
Chris Bell joined the operation in 2005, working alongside Crosby on the counter. Adding to the family feel of the operation, Crosby’s wife (and the Brightmans’ daughter) Nancy joined the company in 2006 and currently runs the office. Derek Gay came onboard as a full-time mechanic in 2007, and Gary Prest was hired in 2010.
Classic Rentals reached another important milestone in 2008, when the company purchased the land and building that been leased since Classic Rentals opened in 2008. It’s an important indicator that this is one business that’s in the game for the long haul.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate in some ways,” says Brightman. “Because we’ve been in the rental business for so long, our potential customers already knew us. The big company that I used to work for got bought out by a different outfit, which then pulled out of town. Sometimes timing can be with you.”
It’s true enough that sometimes the world will hand you an opportunity. But you have to have enough savvy to exploit it. The philosophy at Classic Rentals has been one of slow, steady growth, and it’s a philosophy that has paid off for the rental store.
“We’ve gone for manageable growth and it’s worked well for us. We try not to buy something that we can’t handle,” says Brightman, noting that for a small business it’s incredibly important to keep a watchful eye on the finances. “We’re kind of fortunate, in that we’re located in Truro. It’s a hub town, an intersection in the province. We don’t have the big spurts in construction, but we don’t have the deep lulls either. I think it’s a bit easier to keep things even than it would be in the big areas.”
Classic Rentals has two areas of customer focus. The first, and biggest, is the light construction industry. The second area of focus is that of the do-it-yourself homeowner.
“Light construction is definitely our bread and butter, but the homeowner rental market really helps out when the weather isn’t co-operating,” says Brightman. “If we get a week of really bad weather, it kills the light construction business. We lean back on our homeowner trade at that time, and make sure we have lots of the stuff people need to do inside work.”
Part of appealing to the homeowner market is having brands that people are certain to recognize, even if they’re not in the construction trades.
“We’ve had a lot of great luck with Bosch,” says Brightman. “They make good stuff, and people react well to it because they know Bosch. We’re big on Kubota and we have a Bobcat, for something of the same reason. They are brands that people recognize and respect.”
Brightman also notes that the store carries a fair amount of Mikasa compaction equipment and other Multiquip products, as well as Haulotte scissor lifts. Classic Rentals also does a lot of business with Uniquip.
Classic Rentals has been a member of the Canadian Rental Association (CRA) since the business first opened its doors in 2003. Of course, Perry Brightman’s history with the association goes back a lot further, pretty much to the beginning of his time in the rental industry. He says this will continue, and the new generation at Classic Rental will help to continue the tradition.
“We have the trade shows, and we try to support those as much as we can,” says Brightman. “We do a lot of our main buying through the show. It helps support the association and our local suppliers.”
Brightman also points out that a large part of the value of trade shows lies in expanding knowledge of trends and technology.
“I’ve never gone to a show where I haven’t learned something,” says Brightman. “Keeping up to date with technology is something you really have to pay attention to. Compaction, anchor systems, different kinds of adhesives…you name it. You have to be up-to-date, and you have to stay up-to-date. We read as much as we can, and go to as many shows as we can. As an independent operator, it can be tough to find the time, but it’s something that you owe to your customers.”
In just seven years, Classic Rentals has become something of a fixture in Truro. In fact, the business was honoured with the Small Business of the Year award by the Truro Chamber of Commerce in 2008. It’s something that Perry Brightman takes pride in.
“We certainly did appreciate the award and received many congratulations from a wide range of people and still do. This is something that will stay with us for a long time,” says Brightman.
For more information, please visit www.classicrentals.ca .