A Great Solution: Rent the Equipment
As construction booms in Nevada County, many are finding that renting equipment they use infrequently makes lots of sense. So that means business for companies such as Gold-N-Green and HBE is also doing very well, thank you.
John Olson inherited his business from a man, who although no blood relation, was like family”Ed Lorentzen, a bachelor who started the business in 1967 and who first employed Olson when he was a sophomore in high school. The name Gold-N-Green pays tribute to the gold country and our plethora of green trees.
Olson rents everything from furniture dollies to back hoes, the biggest of which is a John Deere 310, and construction tractors. He rents them to home owners; he rents them to contractors–everything for, and around, a house or business. While he rents big equipment, he also sells such things as weed eaters and chain saws, both new and used.
Most often the way renting big equipment works is you tell Olson your project, and he’ll tell you what machine is the right one. On occasion, says Olson, “someone will say ‘I need that machine there,’ and I’ll have to say ‘Sorry, it isn’t designed to do that.’
“We’ll show the customer how to use it (a 5-minute crash course),” he continues, “but because we can’t explain 100% of everything, they need common sense too.”
Sometimes, sadly, common sense is lacking, as when a customer was towing a concrete trailer down the freeway, speeding, and ended up flipping the truck and trailer over. “It crated a heck of a mess and took a lot to get all that concrete off the freeway,” says Olson with a sigh. “Most accidents are due to carelessness, not paying attention.” When they happen I just turn it into my insurance company.”
Pet peeve: an old motto of the company’s–‘If we don’t have it, you don’t need it'”that seems to keep cropping up.
“I hate that,” says Olson, “simply because it’s not true.” But, while he might not have absolutely everything, he comes pretty close, considering he has 500 pieces of equipment on his 1 1/2 acres in Nevada City.
What is the biggest change he’s seen over the two decades he’s been a business owner? “Back in 1985 things were done with a hand shake. ‘When you get done, pay me,’ was typical. Now I have to charge a deposit. Don’t like to do it, but there are people I’ve had to chase for months (for payment).”
Another change is the number of women renting equipment. “It’s not a man’s world anymore,” he laughs. Indeed, one of his own children, Kayla, 16, works in her dad’s business, not only running the counter, but servicing the equipment too.
“It’s been a great experience, owning this business,” says the father of three, who is active in kids’ sports programs. “I love helping the community that way.”
The biggest piece of equipment HBE Rentals has is their CAT 312 excavator, weighing in at 30,000 pounds; their smallest, air nailers; and their most popular are back hoes and bull dozers. “The up and coming area of growth,” says manager Craig Arthur, “is mini excavators and small tractors.”
There are a lot of tools and equipment in between, close to 1,000 items, which home owners love to pick around in.
The wisdom of renting is clear, not only to home owners but also to contractors. “They own their own key equipment,” says Arthur, “but if they need something only once a month, it’s more cost effective to rent it and not have all the overhead, like a full-time mechanic.
Businesses are focusing more on what they’re good at, like landscaping or building, and not maintaining lots of equipment.”
As dealers for Makita (small power and electric hand tools) and
Takeuchi (compact excavators and track loaders), they also sell new and used equipment and tools.
Giving safety instructions, as well as operating details, is part of the
deal, says Arthur, who recalls one customer who came into the store to learn to operate a paint sprayer. Even though she was too young to drive (15, and her mother drove her there), she had just bought her first car, a silver Honda, and wanted to repaint it. “We were all pretty impressed,” said Arthur, “that she was tackling this on her own.”
Business has been good in the ten years they’ve been in business, increasing from under a quarter million to over $1,500,000 last year, and from two employees to ten full timers.
Gold-N-Green Rental and Sales
302 Railroad Ave., Nevada City
Hours: 7-5 weekdays; 7-4 weekends; closed only 5 days out of year
11727 LaBarr Meadows Rd., Grass Valley
web site: http://www.gohbe.com
(up and running 3/1)
Hours: 7-5 weekdays; 7-4 weekends
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