Growing as Rapidly as its Name

Rapid Equipment Rental
Written by Nate Hendley

Rapid Equipment Rental Ltd. is a heavy construction equipment rental company in Toronto that is growing, well … as rapidly as its name. Rapid offers a full range of brand-name construction equipment and four branches across the province of Ontario.
Rapid was launched in June, 2013 and has far exceeded its loftiest expectations. We hope to hit $25 million this year and $50 million over the next several years,” says President Steven Shinoff, “but that being said, we keep surpassing our budgets.”

Customers include “general contractors, trades, utilities, infrastructure, government agencies, schools and school boards,” says Vice President of Sales Jule Elia.

Shinoff and Elia founded the company along with Fleet Manager Joe D’Ovidio, Operations Manager Spiro Marinos and Chief Executive Officer Frank Heller. All five founders are all involved in their respective areas of expertise with the firm.

The company has an extensive rental inventory specializing in heavy equipment such as Excavators, Dozers, Skid Steers, Telehandlers, Generators, Compressors, Aerials, Heaters and Forklifts.

The number one equipment brand Rapid uses is Volvo. According to Elia, other major partners include JLG, Skyjack, Bobcat and John Deere. Rapid also stocks equipment from Case, Atlas Copco, Doosan and Sureflame for total inventory value of a little over $60 million. Rapid’s branches all offer similar equipment.

Elia identifies heavy dirt equipment as the company’s most popular rental category. “I would say we would be known as the heavy dirt people,” she states.

Including the Toronto head office, Rapid now has four locations in Ontario. The other branches are in Hamilton, Innisfil and Ajax. “We are miracle workers! Since November of last year, we’ve opened three locations,” laughs Elia. At this time last year, Rapid employed roughly forty-five people. Today, thanks to expansion, that number stands around seventy-five.

The area served by Rapid has grown with the firm itself, notes Elia. “Because of the Hamilton branch, we’re reaching right into the Niagara Falls area and St. Catharines. Because of the Innisfil branch, we’re going as far as Bracebridge, and with Ajax we access Peterborough and Belleville.”

Roughly ninety-five percent of equipment is delivered to worksites by Rapid staff. The remainder is picked up at one of the company’s locations. As a rule, Rapid delivers equipment within a one hour radius of its branches.

Rapid’s management says the company was a success almost from the beginning. “We were very fortunate in that things started happening relatively quickly. Within six to eight months, we could see that this was going to take off,” says Elia.

When Rapid began, it was based in a 20,000-square-foot facility in Toronto. The company now uses a 30 000 square foot original building and has added a storage facility for booms and other aerial equipment just up the road.

It has “a related company called A-1 Rent-A-Tool Inc. that we work with out of Montreal,” states Shinoff. A-1 Rent-A-Tool Inc. was founded in 1963 by Shinoff’s father, who still runs the firm. His father also opened a construction equipment rental company in Ontario in 1976 for which the five Rapid founders all worked.

Rapid deals almost entirely in rentals, though the firm does sell new and used equipment when a customer asks. We recommend that the rental route is the right way to go “unless it is a staple of their business,” says Elia.

As the company grows, it seeks new staff with specific qualifications. “Our focus is to hire individuals who have knowledge of the rental business, because it is not like any other business. It isn’t like retail where you sell a product, and it’s gone, goodbye. Our business is a constant revolving door, where things are moving in and out on a constant basis to the same customer. When you bring in people who have no knowledge of [the rental business], it’s difficult for them in the beginning to grasp that concept right off the hop. So I would say our dream is to always try to hire people who have some rental experience. Of course, we also like to hire from the heart when we believe the candidate has the right qualifications.” says Elia.

Elia says, “We’re not a corporate culture at all. We are a driven business with five partners who are quite dynamic in their own ways. We’re owner operated and we’re very keen on making our customers know we’re here for them, and we’ll do whatever it takes to help them through their situation.”

In addition to equipment rentals, Rapid offers safety courses and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training at its head office. Training is available for any interested party, not just rental customers.

WHMIS is the Canadian national hazard communication standard, and its training covers various work hazards (chemicals, biological agents and other potential health risks). Other courses offered by Rapid teach safety techniques for using forklifts, excavators and propane and working at heights.

“We have a training room, and we have embraced doing all the training that helps our clients and their staff be up to date on all their licenses and certificates. We call in trainers for specific dates. We’ve just commenced doing some training in Hamilton. The future focus is to have all branches with a training facility for their clientele within the reach of that branch,” says Elia.

Rapid equipment has been a major supplier for construction work at Toronto’s Downsview subway station. The work, which is just wrapping up, started last year and involved big equipment including “our 48 ton excavator and 30 ton rock truck,” notes Elia.

At the head office, Elia and Shinoff keep a photograph of another notable public appearance of company equipment. It was taken last spring and features Toronto Blue Jays’ pitcher Marcus Stroman practicing at the Rogers Centre stadium as an excavator rented from Rapid was being used to repair the pitcher’s mound.

Rapid management would love to be the preferred supplier for all its clients.

“Our fervent hope when we start dealing with customers is that all of them make us their number one choice. I don’t know if it would be possible today because so many contractors are so widespread. We may get the first call, but occasionally we may not be able to supply [the equipment they want], because it’s out. I would think there are clients that only want to deal with us, but [realistically] they would probably have to have a second supplier as well,” says Elia.

While Rapid has a website, nearly all of the company’s real promotion is done by its “eleven professional rental specialists with relationships,” says Elia.

As for the future, the VP of sales notes, “we see ourselves growing rapidly, no pun intended … we set a high goal for 2014/15 and we exceeded that goal. The partners here are seasoned rental specialists who were at our old company, and we each have a specialty. I drive revenue and the sales force. Joe D’Ovidio is responsible for fleet purchasing. Spiro Marinos supervises logistics and order desk fulfillment. Frank Heller, CEO, is in charge of the global picture. Steve is the President and overseas the entire operation. Steve and I have been doing this for thirty-eight years so we have a pretty good understanding of what customers want,” says Elia.

And what customers want, says Rapid management, is quality equipment and great service at fair prices.

“We have the best equipment in town. I think we treat people the way they want to be treated. It’s not rocket science. We try to go by the Golden Rule: do unto others what you want done unto you. We take round-the-clock phone calls. If a client has a flood, we can have a truckload of equipment onsite at one o’clock in the morning. It’s what we do,” states Shinoff.



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