Equipements Brossard shifts to B2B for a focus on service.
By Alex Mackenzie
The equipment rental industry has taken some hard hits this year. Between shutdowns, material shortages, shipping delays and the ever-looming issue of labour, it’s impressive enough for companies to have kept their doors open. But now that the world is getting back to work, and still waiting on the shipping channels to catch up to the surges in demand and the backlogs that piled up like log jams during periods of shutdown, rental equipment is at an all-time premium.
For Equipements Brossard, the key to their success during these trying times has been to lean in to their re-directed focus from direct-to-customer rental to a model more heavily reliant on business-to-business contracts. Regardless of the source of business, the true key to Brossard’s success is its focus on customer service and building relationships with clients that go beyond basic service and best pricing.
Equipements Brossard was founded in 1977 by the Hetu family. The company’s current co-president Andrea Hetu, granddaughter of the original founder, is poised to take on the solo role of president with her father set to retire at the end of 2021. But the exchange of power from father to daughter will not be a jarring one, as Hetu notes, “There’s not going to be any big changes in that role since my father is really not implicated in any operations anymore. Obviously any big strategic or financial decisions, we’ll make them together. It is a family owned business so we do speak to each other on a regular basis.”
The company services the greater Montreal region with over 180 employees at 10 facilities generating a total revenue of $25 million. As impressive as the numbers are, Equipements Brossard is far from finished. The company is currently in the process of building a new head office and is working on expanding its offerings and reach to encompass more, if not all, of the province of Quebec.
As for the equipment offerings themselves, Hetu states, “Obviously, we have general tools equipment, but we’re very strong in aerial equipment. We even have our own colours. We ordered them directly like that from SkyJack with our colours. It’s something I’m really proud of.” While something like the colour of a piece of equipment may not seem like a major selling factor on its face, the recognizable nature of a custom-coloured lift, especially one that’s bright green, is not to be overlooked. Hetu recalls the story of the first time the “green machines” were sent out to customers. “We had two customers that were working on the same field and it was funny because the one client was the first to have the green SkyJack and the other one was calling saying, ‘Hey, I want one too!’ so that was really awesome.” As shown in another article in this issue of Canadian Rental Service, “What’s in a Name?”, the power of brand recognition is a very real and palpable force in the equipment rental industry. As far as recognition goes, Equipements Brossard knows what it’s doing.
However, brand recognition and clever marketing will only go so far. The true value offered by Equipements Brossard comes from its customer service and client relationships. Hetu states, “Customer care is something that is in our blood. It’s something that we work on every day and it’s something that we really take care of and we take pride in. We’re always hammering on that, and it’s something that’s nonnegotiable. Clients, they see it.” This focus on service and the drive to build lasting client relationships make for a natural fit in the world of business-to-business sales.
While the company started out in the business-to-consumer market, it has been gradually shifting its focus towards the business-to-business sector with the intent of eventually focusing entirely on B2B. Hetu explains, “With the B2B market, what drives us is the relationship that we have with our customers. With B2C clients, you maybe see them once or twice a year and not really as much as in the B2B segment where we can talk to clients every single day and even multiple times a day.” This increased connectivity to clients allows Equipements Brossard to focus on and offer a higher quality of service through the cultivation of deeper, more meaningful client relationships. As Hetu notes, “What really drives us is the customer care, and the reliability that we can have for them is something we honour and work very hard on. It is something that our clients obviously appreciate, it’s really one of our strengths. The B2B customers value that part because they know us, we know them, they can call us and say, ‘Hey, I’m in trouble. I need something. Can you make a miracle happen?’ And we will because we know them and we’re close to them.”
Not Without Hardship
While Equipements Brossard has managed to stay ahead of the game, the past two years have not been without their challenges. Even with the rental equipment industry gaining status as essential business, Hetu notes, “In Quebec, there were a few weeks where construction was shut down so obviously we closed about half of our facilities.” Between shutdowns, delays, disruptions, new guidelines and the general dismay surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems as though no industry or individual has escaped its impact.
For Hetu, “The biggest challenge was laying off people and it was something that we really hated to do. When you are responsible for 180 employees it also implies that we are responsible for 180 families and that was a really hard part.” Fortunately, now that most of Canada is vaccinated and the number of positive cases are slowing, many companies, including Equipements Brossard, are facing the opposite issue: not being able to find enough qualified workers to meet the new demands.
Outside of the issues of labour shortages, one ramification of the COVID-19 pandemic that has been felt by nearly, if not every, industry is the materials shortage and production backlogs that have led to troubling trends in allocation and lead time. Hetu states, “Where before you could have a six-week delay, now it can be six to eight months, and that’s if you’re lucky. So, that’s really a pain, and customers kind of understand because they’re living through the exact same thing with their own suppliers. But we try to be part of the solution and not another difficulty that they have to face. It’s frustrating for us and frustrating for customers.” It’s difficult, bordering on impossible, to predict when these shortages and long lead times will start to ease back towards pre-pandemic normalcy but, in the meantime, Equipements Brossard is dedicated to providing the best service possible and sourcing solutions that keep its clients happy and its doors open.
Despite the burdens that have become the daily challenges of business and life as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Equipements Brossard is looking towards the future, and it’s looking quite bright. Hetu notes, “Everyone says they want to be the leaders, but we really want to be the best in service and have customers that appreciate what we do for them. It’s a mutual win-win relationship where we can work together.” With the inherent cultural drive within the company to offer the best service and its restructuring towards a focus on business-to-business clients, Equipements Brossard has placed itself in an excellent position to come out into a post-pandemic world at the top of their game and with an eye on the top spot in the industry.