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PROFILE: One huge leap

Less than two years ago the owners of Stayner Rental, Paul and Edina Van Staveren, moved their rental company to a new location in Stayner, Ont. Although it was a short distance down the road from their previous location, the newly built multi-complex facility was a huge leap for their rental operation and testament to the company’s success in the industry.


May 28, 2009
By Chris Skalkos

Topics

Less than two years ago the owners of Stayner Rental, Paul and Edina Van Staveren, moved their rental company to a new location in Stayner, Ont. Although it was a short distance down the road from their previous location, the newly built multi-complex facility was a huge leap for their rental operation and testament to the company’s success in the industry.

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All members of the Van Staveren family participate in the family business in one way or another. From left, Paul, Edina, their children Karen, Peter and Diane.  
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Two 8,000-square-foot buildings on the property are used for storage and are separate from the main building. One building houses seasonal equipment and lawn and garden machines while the other building stores larger machinery and scaffolding.  
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Stayner Rental has an extensive line of agricultural equipment such as a livestock trailer, rock pickers, windrowers, cultivators and seed drills. About eight per cent of the company’s business is for agricultural applications.  
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Stayner Rental operates from a multi-complex facility combining 30,000 square feet under one roof. The main building is 14,000 square feet and features a 60- by 40-foot showroom.  
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Stayner Rental operates from a multi-complex facility combining 30,000 square feet under one roof. The main building is 14,000 square feet and features a 60- by 40-foot showroom.


 

Paul started the business 19 years ago while the economy was slipping into an economic recession. He left a promising career as a manager with the TD Bank to pursue his passion for machinery, something he developed while studying agricultural mechanization at the University of Guelph. “My manager at the bank used to call me a ‘machinery junkie’. To me it was common sense, if you love machinery the best business to be in is the rental business,” he says.

Stayner Rental opened its doors in 1990 operating in a 24- by 40-foot building stocked with a mix of small equipment, one mini-excavator and one skidsteer loader. “I sold all of my worldly assets to start this business. I bought one pick-up truck and did deliveries in the early morning. At first it was more of a side-business,” he says, adding that he was working as a water pump installer at nights to make ends meet. “I was committed to make this work and every dollar I made went back into the rental business.”

Paul is quick to credit his friend Kent Perry, the previous owner of Universal Rentals, and an experienced rental veteran, for helping him during the early stages.

“Kent took me to my first rental show and advised me on what equipment to buy. I piggy-backed off of his purchases for Universal Rentals. Kent would buy 10 of one item and add a few for me that he would sell to me at cost,” he explains. “I do that to help other companies now who are in a similar position, bulk buying with friends.”

Devoted to his business, Paul kept up both jobs but rentals became his primary focus.

“I was single so working day and night was something I could do back then,” he says. That changed when he married his wife Edina who left her job as a teacher to become involved full time with the business, taking accounting courses, and now manages the company’s books.

What did not change was the couples’ commitment to their business. Soon little steps turned into big steps and Stayner Rental added another 1,200 square feet to the building and another 20 feet to the building on the property acquired next door. “The local economy was doing well and we kept buying equipment. I would personally buy every machine and make sure I knew how to operate it,” Paul says. “All of the small items were paid for in cash. Once I own a machine I will not refinance it. I don’t use credit to operate my business I use credit to expand it.”

With another move eminent the Van Staverens planned their next rental facility from the ground up, designing and building much of it themselves. Completed a year and a half ago, in time for the company’s upcoming 20th anniversary, Stayner Rental now operates from three separate buildings combining 30,000 square feet under one roof.

The main building is 14,000 square feet and features a 60- by 40-foot showroom that is well lit from high overhead windows. Two shop areas, separated by a firewall, take up the other side and special item storage rooms and offices complete the second level.

Two more 8,000-square-foot buildings on the property are used for storage and are separate from the main building. One building houses seasonal equipment and lawn and garden machines while the other building is where larger machinery and equipment is kept. There is also a room inside dedicated to storing scaffold sections, something that is normally kept outdoors. “Have you ever tried pulling a section out of a snowbank?” asks Paul with a chuckle. He says one of the benefits of constructing their own facility, other than digging the waterlines himself, was specifying what the storage buildings are made of.

“The buildings are constructed with wood to allow air flow and prevent rust on equipment. The 15-foot overhang keeps the snow off the equipment that is stored around the perimeter and the buildings are distanced far enough apart so if there is a fire in one it won’t spread to other buildings,” he says.

One of the luxuries of having so much property usable for a rental yard is that the mini-excavators stored outside have their buckets and other attachments sitting directly opposite them to help match them up quickly for customers.

The company has an impressive fleet of 17 mini-excavators and 20 skidsteer loaders, consisting of just about every brand and model from several different manufacturers. “I always like to tell people that I have no brand loyalty, only dealer loyalty. In town we are lucky to have Kubota, John Deere and New Holland close by. When we first started we had to depend on suppliers from Toronto to get parts out here,” he says. “When your service is based on the quality of equipment you need the same quality of service from product support to back it up especially with today’s computerized machinery.”

In addition to construction equipment Stayner Rental also has an extensive line of agricultural equipment Paul’s son Peter, says the company offers unique items not traditionally found in rental yards such as a livestock trailer, rock pickers, windrowers, cultivators and seed drills. About eight per cent of the company’s business is for agricultural applications, two per cent is industrial, 60 per cent is contractor based and 30 per cent is from the homeowner market. The company employs between 15 and 20 people and has 10 service trucks covering a 70-kilometre radius. Most of the company’s trucks have a custom fabricated beaver tail fold-down ramp fitted onto a regular flatbed. “We like to build them for speed and efficiency, no hydraulics. We started with one truck in 1998, now all trucks have them except for one with a hydraulic system,” says Paul.

With such a large rental operation that has so much equipment to move it could be easily assumed that Stayner Rental has a team of sales representatives on the road visiting job sites and project managers. “No, we don’t have any sales reps…not even one,” says Paul. “The equipment is my sales rep. Having a clean, properly serviced machine with your company name on it is the best sale rep a rental company can have,” he says. “We are in a small community and the company’s reputation sells itself based quality and service,” he says, adding that these are two essential elements in his business plan that never waiver. “If you offer this consistently you don’t have to cut rates to be competitive. I refuse to enter into bidding wars and I don’t give price cuts. Once you start discounting you can’t go back because customers will come to expect it,” he says.

With the current economic downturn it is easy to understand that customers are trying to get more for their dollar, but Paul says there are other ways to give customers more without discounting. “I believe in giving customers a little extra but in other ways. I might drop off a machine for free if we have a driver going by the area already, or throw in an extra attachment. Don’t cut rates! You can give them a little extra to give them a warm and fuzzy feeling, but get your price,” he says, adding this is the type of flexibility independent operators can take advantage of without a head office to answer to.

Summing up his company’s growth in this market, Paul says there is no secret recipe in the rental industry, citing that service and the quality of equipment has been the key to his company’s success; backed up of course with a good dose of self-determination.

“I remember the doubters and I heard a lot of people say that I wasn’t going to make it, but every time somebody told me ‘no’ I found another way to do it. I learned not to let anybody tell you what to do. I took my own steps in this industry and this is where I am now,” says Paul. “The family business is alive and well.”