By Jim Chliboyko
If there’s one way to celebrate becoming the new president of the Canadian Rental Association, travelling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras is not a bad option.
By Jim Chliboyko
If there’s one way to celebrate becoming the new president of the Canadian Rental Association, travelling to New Orleans for Mardi Gras is not a bad option. To be fair, the actual Mardi Gras falls a few days before 2015’s American Rental Association trade show in February, but the prospect of Mardi Gras and the convention aligning gives Dave Mintenko pause.
|Mintenko’s Hertz location serves Winnipeg and the rest of Manitoba. His building includes approximately 2,240 square feet of office, and showroom space with a parts department, as well as a large service, shipping and receiving area on 4.5 acres of land. |
“That would not be pretty,” he laughs. Mintenko, the current vice-president of the CRA, will become president in a few months during the depths of a Winnipeg winter. Mardi Gras or not, New Orleans will offer a pleasant break from the February prairie cold. The title is also a nice way to cap off Mintenko’s 40th anniversary in the rental business.
Canadian Rental Service spoke to Mintenko back in September, when the weather was still fine. He was at the Manitoba Hertz headquarters on a busy Monday morning, just off the corner of Waverly and McGillivray, alongside what might be called Rental Row – a light-industrial area where competitors like Battlefield and C & T Rentals also have locations nearby. He says it’s not been a bad year, though a couple of major projects in the city had wrapped up, such as the Investors Group Field stadium (home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers), and the construction of several big box stores. Some of the city’s larger projects, like the downtown MTS Centre and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, are captured in a 100-foot-long mural on the north side of the Hertz building, along with staff intertwined into the mural.
Mintenko is currently the senior branch manager of Hertz’s two Manitoba rental locations, which means he oversees both the Winnipeg and Brandon locations. There’s a staff of 19 in Winnipeg and six in Brandon. Mintenko has been involved in the rental business for four decades now. He entered into rentals after graduating from Churchill High School and after spending a single day employed full-time in the auto parts sector.
“I worked for a company called Princess Auto & Machinery for a couple summers while in high school, which my dad secured for me as he worked there as well,” says Mintenko. “And then I was going to start there full time after graduating. The first day on the job another co-worker and I were given the task of assembling small gas arc welders. We were supposed to put out about 10 or 12 units a day. By one o’clock in the afternoon we finally had the first one complete. I went to start it, wrapped my arm around the pulley, and I was on compensation for two weeks. While [I was] on compensation, my brother-in-law, who was the manager of Wyatt Rentals at the time, needed a person to work the counter and my career in rentals began at that point”
Through the years, Mintenko gradually grew into the role of rental manager. Wyatt Rentals had been Wyatt Construction at one point. It became Wyatt Rentals in the early 60s, serving mostly general construction contractors and homeowners. His experience with a mom-and-pop organization like Wyatt Rentals informs how he approaches business today, he says. He frequently uses the word “grassroots.”
“The people that I worked with, we had people of all cultures and backgrounds,” says Mintenko. “We would hire these individuals and provide training through schooling, manufacturers, and on the job through other experienced co-workers. These people proceeded, as I did, to make the job into a career.”
Wyatt Rentals, for a time, was located in an odd Winnipeg location on south Donald Street, across the river from downtown Winnipeg, where residential, light industrial and commercial zones all merge with the railroad, Winnipeg’s two great rivers and the infamous area known as Confusion Corner. “It used to be quite the interesting time,” said Mintenko. “On those rush-hour afternoons, we’d see the truckers pull out and hear the brakes squealing and tend to say a prayer or two for them! It was a tight, tight footprint.”
“I used to be on call and there were some interesting times. Those days provided some excitement. One of the more nervous ones was after hours in the evening when a group of kids lit a fire in the back lane and in behind us was Skills Unlimited, a woodworking shop. So, the kids started a fire right around there and it started into our yard and it’s lucky it didn’t hit our gas tanks, because it’s propane and it would have been one big boom. It was very fortunate that a bus driver spotted the fire in its early stages as it was spreading towards our fuel pumps and propane dock. And we had Northern Paint on one side – it could have been a big fireball.”
Mintenko, in some ways, is still with Wyatt. Wyatt was purchased by Certified Rentals in the late 1990s, which, in turn, was purchased by Hertz about a year later. And the Wyatt connection is even greater than that: Mintenko estimates that many of the people that he worked with at Wyatt are still at Hertz.
“I’d say 70 per cent of the people within Manitoba are still with us today. Averaging 30 years, of experience – incredible.”
As part of his duties, Mintenko also spends some time commuting to the Hertz Brandon location which is approximately a 2 ½ hour drive. “I would say definitely once every two weeks,” says Mintenko. “And I’ll spend anywhere from one to three days there, depending. We have some good projects: a large shutdown at the Koch Fertilizer Plant, some manufacturing, food processing plants, the farming sector and oil and gas are all prevalent in the area.”
Mintenko is, like many a prairie boy, of eastern European background: Ukrainian on his mother’s side, Romanian on his father’s (his surname, at one time, ended in the Romanian suffix “cu”). He was actually born in the northwest Ontario town of Emo, which lies between Rainy River and Fort Frances in Canadian Shield country – a town with a current population of 1,200 and home to the Emo Walleye Classic. The family moved around for a bit before eventually settling in Winnipeg.
Mintenko and his wife Joy have two kids, Rob and Christine, who work as a dentist and in provincial government human resources, respectively. Rob’s got a bit of an entrepreneurial streak; he currently has a hand in a pest control company in the southern United States, something he’s been doing for a couple of years. They have made both parents very proud of their accomplishments and their work ethics. The couple has recently downsized, purchasing a condo in the area, about a three-minute drive away from work. Dave jokes that he has no idea of what his wife purged in preparation for the move.
The most significant move of his life, though, came in the late 1990s. Mintenko went to work for Hertz in Regina for what turned out to be an almost decade-long stint. “I grew up all my life in Winnipeg, except for a nine-year stint in Regina where I was running the Hertz Regina branch there,” says Mintenko. “And we left our kids there; so, absolutely, Saskatchewan still holds a piece of my heart.”
“It was the best experience I’ve ever had in my life,” he says of Regina. “They are salt-of-the-earth people. A part of my heart is still there because of my kids, but also just people through work. That’s part of the thing; some of the people came up through the ranks when I was there, as with Wyatt. That’s the rewarding part – seeing people I’ve hired or been co-workers with over the years that have made rentals into a career. ”
Mintenko says that part of the Manitoba-Saskatchewan adjustment was more than just getting used to a new local football team. It was the change in the type of rental business he was conducting. In Winnipeg, the business was more of a general construction and homeowner crowd. In Regina, the work was with more of an industrial clientele. “Truly, it’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, though. It was tough leaving but at the time there were some personal reasons we came back. There was family —my wife, her parents weren’t that well. The opportunity to come back to people I worked with for 25 years previously was sweet. It was great of the people in the Hertz organization at that time to support me in my move back to Winnipeg.”
But like his career in rentals, his position in the CRA didn’t just come overnight either. He’s been involved at the local and national level for years. He estimates that he’s been involved with the CRA for between 25 and 30 years. Mintenko already has an idea of what he would like to address as president. “I think probably our greatest challenge always is, number one, obtaining new members, keeping your member base and succession with the CRA and the boards. Succession is my biggest fear as I see the baby boomers heading off into the sunset sooner then later. When I speak on a local level, just in my own office and my own organization, my biggest fear is that these guys are going to leave before I am.” When asked what he thinks is going to make a difference, he points to new CRA managing director, Natalie McGregor. “She’s got some great ideas about marketing, using our website. We’ve got a new strategic plan that’s just been put into place in the last year and I think following that plan is going to certainly help enhance membership and attract people that want to be part of our organization and sit on our boards and get involved. I really believe that strategic plan.”
“In the last year, there’s been big changes, with our new managing director and the move of the head office out of Winnipeg to Stoney Creek. Nathalie has brought a sense of professionalism that was missing in our organization. I think she’s going to take us to some new heights, some exciting times coming. We went through I guess you could call it turmoil and change. There’s always stuff in change, but I think this is definitely change for the better. And that’s not knocking any predecessors, she’s just a very smart cookie.”
In terms of how the CRA has changed over the years, Mintenko says that there is simply much more structure than there’d ever been before. “Way back when, you’d go to the local meetings where you’d have five guys sitting around and everyone would have their position and the next year you’d switch chairs. Just to see where it was and where it’s gone to is pretty phenomenal. It’s really turned into … well, it’s truly a business. Again, this is not knocking the predecessors – they were the pioneers! Seeing all the people involved now and all the people I’ve met. Probably the number one thing for me is the networking over the years. I’ve met some incredible people over the years. Some really big craniums in people like Marc Mandin, Jeff Campbell, Paul Kenyon, Wayne Beckett, Bobcat Brad, Doron Broadfoot, Paul Dorion – the list goes on and on. Big shoes to fill. It’s been terrific that way. Now you’ve got set directors from each province, with the women are on the rise, that represent the national board. You’ve got the vice-presidents, presidents, incoming presidents, chairman of the board. The structure is just totally very much more professional.”
Mintenko’s other upcoming challenge this year will be to balance Hertz business and CRA business. But he says that Hertz is fully on board with his new title, and the duties that will accompany it.
“My immediate boss definitely has shown full support for it. Obviously, in taking on the president’s position, you go to them and talk to them. There is commitment. There are five or six trade shows along with board meetings and that takes time away from your business, but they’ve shown support right through.”
So, after 40 years in the business, rather than mooning over a new gold watch, Mintenko has decided to embrace a new challenge with the presidency of the CRA. After a successful career in the rental business, he says he’s figured out the one big secret. “I always say it’s not rocket science. All I’ve done to make my career successful is to surround myself with smarter people. And so far it’s worked.”