Heavy construction equipment provider Conquest Equipment began its operations 14 years ago when it was founded by Greg Hodgson and his son Lee. Many of those who started with Hodgson are still with the company today, including Rental Account Manager Sam Shimwell. He started his Conquest journey in marketing before moving into end sales but still does additional work in the marketing department. He says that, from the first day of operations, the company has had a positive environment with a strong internal emphasis on teamwork and abundant opportunities for employee growth.
Training and development are consistent themes in the company, and this further contributes to its strong and supportive culture. Marketing Coordinator Trinda Jocelyn came on board in March 2021, after Conquest grew large enough to require a bigger and more diverse staff, and became a full-time employee in a year. She agrees with Shimwell that the team has been very welcoming to her, saying that the staff members always have each other’s backs and have been very supportive of her growth in the company as part of its digital marketing wing.
Conquest is known as a compaction specialist rental company, which Shimwell says is due, in large part, to its considerable inventory of compaction equipment. While other equipment dealers may have anywhere from five to 20 pieces of compaction equipment, Conquest sports around 100 pieces in its rental arsenal. Combined with its emphasis on teamwork and a proactive approach to sales, it has already seen great success and is always looking into new opportunities for selling its brand.
He says that it is hard for a business to be everything to all people generally, so having a focus has paid dividends thus far. The business has also filled a gap in its corner of the construction space through Conquest Connect, its buyer and seller network that facilitates used equipment sales by clients. “We can help individuals with their logistics and finding customers and advertising for buying and selling equipment,” Jocelyn says.
Since our previous Construction in Focus spotlight on the business in 2021, Conquest Equipment has completed the move of its operations into British Columbia and moved to a bigger location in Abbotsford at the start of 2023. The B.C. market is growing fast for the company, with equipment yard expansions taking place in locations like Fort St. John and Kitimat.
Shimwell says that Conquest has also taken on a new line of articulated dumpers from AUSA, an all-terrain vehicle manufacturer from Spain, and now has its inventory stocked in its Saskatchewan and B.C. locations. The dumpers are built to be used in rough terrain while emphasizing ergonomic design for its operators, making it a key addition to its roster. The company is becoming more known for its unique brand and style in its markets, with awareness of products like its tow-behind wobbly compactors increasing, and ride-on packers still serving as the company’s number one product.
Jocelyn says that, at the beginning of 2022, Greg Hodgson began a company-wide initiative in which a team member decides on a charity to donate to at the beginning of every month. “Community is a big part of who we are,” says Jocelyn, and charity work, along with sharing what the business has with its communities, is a very fulfilling side of company operations.
The company supports the community in other ways as well. In 2023, it partnered with Southeast College in Saskatchewan to establish a scholarship program. The program will benefit students enrolled in the school’s heavy equipment truck and transport technician program, with the first scholarship being awarded in June.
Shimwell says that Conquest is well-placed in the southeast corner of Saskatchewan to target the Manitoba market—as Winnipeg and Brandon are big rental areas—as well as Saskatchewan and Alberta. The Estevan location is also close to North Dakota, which gives Conquest a foothold for its rentals in the oil field and infrastructure projects in the state.
However, the company saw a lot of opportunities waiting in B.C. with many upcoming big projects, especially in the densely populated Vancouver area. The region’s continued growth has allowed it to enjoy a controlled growth of its services, and this approach is paying off quite well.
Although Conquest continues to meet with success, the construction industry at large is seeing its share of challenges. Jocelyn says that, right now, many customers in construction are a bit nervous as interest rates continue to rise. This anxiety has translated into big projects being held back by potential customers because, given the state of the North American economy, businesses are being careful about stepping into the unknown with the hiring of contractors and rental of equipment. This means that sales and rentals have seen a slight drop over the past year or so, but Conquest is consistent in its customer relationships, which are all-important no matter what.
Shimwell says that equipment availability through dealers is improving, but equipment pricing is still quite high thanks to both interest rates and low market confidence. There has been no letup on the marketing side of the company, however, even during these slower periods; having come out positively of the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, Conquest is eager to maintain connections in its busier areas like northern B.C. and will not let a gun-shy market keep it from both meeting its goals and serving its customer base to the fullest.
The hard work continues as the year ends and a new one rounds the corner. The fourth quarter of 2023 will see the company reflect on its product lines, examine what is and what is not working, and move toward making small and incremental changes with equipment planning and buying.
As Shimwell says, “Even in slow or softer times, we keep building relationships.” That way, when business does bounce back, Conquest is still top-of-mind for those ready to hit the ground running with new projects. As the Abbotsford location continues expanding and adding more inventory, it will remain the company’s number one priority and the hub of exciting new opportunities for the business.
Despite any hiccups in the last couple of years, Shimwell says that there are overall positive vibes from customers, and as interest rates drop, a lot more projects can be released back into the industry.
Jocelyn notes that Conquest Connect will be another major focus; much like the company’s rental side, more attention will be paid to what is working and finding the space in the industry where this service can truly flourish.
As long as growth continues at the promising rate that has been established, and these untapped market segments continue to be discovered, Shimwell, Jocelyn, and the Conquest team are confident that the business will keep finding those customers that it can help the most in the field.