Avoiding “downtime” and maximizing “uptime” are key to controlling costs in construction.
With Xtend Rental Services — a new business opening Aug. 10 in Ladysmith — Bill Robinson intends to give contractors as well as DIY homeowners the tools to get the job done on time and on budget.
Market research told him that timing is right for an innovative approach, a mobile equipment rental service that will take a complete line of construction equipment and supplies straight to job sites.
Various phases of construction call for specialized equipment. To obtain that equipment, a contractor might typically make a 15-minute drive from the site, but lost time quickly adds up, Robinson explained.
“That means a 15-minute drive to any wholesale or retail outlet, then at least a 15-minute wait in line, then driving 15 minutes back,” he said. “You’re taking at least 45 minutes and the cost of that is approximately $62.50. With our mobile truck, we start with a delivery cost of $25 (minimum charge).”
That could amount to significant cost savings when extended over the period of construction, a crucial factor with new-home costs on the rise. Robinson is keenly aware of that cost consideration, having spent the last 26 years as a plumber and pipe fitter in the construction industry in the Lower Mainland.
Wanting a change for family and lifestyle reasons, he and his wife Bonnie saw a solid opportunity to put his construction knowledge to work on the Island. They relocated to Ladysmith a year ago with plans to set up shop in the rental business.
“My family has been here for quite a long time and we visit regularly,” he said. “We love the people over here. We find, generally, people over here are a lot happier than they are on the mainland. It was a pretty obvious move for us, for a lifestyle change and for family.”
You don’t need a trades ticket to know the construction industry is rolling in high gear.
“It’s very strong right now. My feeling is that it’s going to get stronger here considerably over the next year. There are a lot of people from out of province and on the mainland who are interested in retiring and living on Vancouver Island.”
Starting any new business can be a lot like constructing a home from the ground up. Entrepreneurs look for a niche to fill, a thriving market to build upon and a home base that will satisfy employee as well as family needs. Robinson feels he’s found all three in Ladysmith and region as he gets set to open at the corner of Ludlow and the Trans-Canada Highway.
“It’s a lifelong dream, actually. I’ve always found the rental industry to be intriguing. When I moved to Vancouver, I didn’t want to stay in the plumbing business because I’ve been in it a long time and wanted a change, so we decided we would try our hand in the rental industry. We’ve proven there’s a demand for it so we’re proceeding.”
They first tested the market to determine demand, purchasing and renting a small John Deere excavator. That gave a strong indication of the viability of renting more construction equipment. They plan to become one of the premier rental companies in the field within a few years.
“We’ve got a mobile rental truck, so we do daily deliveries all day long from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., basically from Duncan to Qualicum and everywhere in between. You can call us anytime and book your rental, we’ll deliver it to you. And you’ll find that truck is completely stocked with a full list of safety gear and consumables, things like cords, hoses. It’s one-stop mobile shopping.”
Even larger construction firms have turned to Xtend to supply their clients’ needs. Again, it comes down to controlling costs and remaining competitive.
“The industry has become a lot more specialized over the years,” Robinson said. “Not only that, but tools you need to complete a certain task have become a lot more expensive. Fifteen years ago, you could buy a quality jackhammer for $800 or $1,000. Now, a good-quality Hilty jackhammer would start at $2,500. You’ll find more and more a lot of people just don’t want to spend that much money on a tool that they use once or twice a year.”
Their rental inventory ranges from small parts and consumables such as saw blades and drill bits right up to loaders, tractors and trailers. Excavators, skid steers and compaction equipment are most in demand, he noted. They rent and sell Hilti equipment, one of the most respected brands in the construction trades, as well as serving as a dealer for Atlas Copco, manufacturers of air and gas compressors, generators, excavation equipment and tools.
Beyond supplying tools, gear and equipment, they intend to step up with top-notch service.
“We’re going to focus on being service oriented more than our competitors on the Island. If you want to get ahold of me by text by 10 p.m. or if you’re calling me by nine o’clock at night, I’ll answer.
“We’re trying to do our best to build a bit of a friendship with our clients so that they know they can stop by and ask for advice at any point. We’re building a crew of very well-educated people with a background in the construction industry.
“We want to make Ladysmith proud,” he added.