Duvalpilot Outfits Southeast’s Smaller Contractors

Wed September 15, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Jennifer Conway

When Bill Gulliford founded Jacksonville, FL-based duvalpilot Equipment Outfitters last year, he realized one important thing: it’s not always easy being the small guy.

“It was obvious there was a genuine need for a dealership to supply equipment to medium-sized and smaller contractors,” said Gulliford, explaining that into the 1980s and through the ’90s there was heavy consolidation both in distribution as well as rental.

“Consequently,” he said, “those consolidations took a lot of attention away from some of the smaller contractors.”

Responding to this, Gulliford, who has spent much of his life working in the construction industry, developed his company’s strategy around the “little guy.” Duvalpilot strives to make smaller contractors feel important by letting them know they’re not being taken for granted

“In my experience, that’s what a lot of them were feeling going into some of these branches of big, big companies,” said Gulliford. “There’s an assumption out there that small doesn’t necessarily reflect quality.”

But quality is what duvalpilot prides itself in. Following its slogan, “Tired of Renting Tired Equipment,” the company rents only low-hour machines that are turned around quickly. From light towers and generators to small compaction equipment, duvalpilot has mainly smaller items in its 180-piece rental fleet.

The focus on small equipment carries into the new iron lines duvalpilot sells as well, including Terex, Gehl and Toro-Dingo.

“We’re selling equipment that’s classified as compact equipment –– it’s not big off-road trucks or cranes. It’s loader backhoes. It’s not crawler excavators, it’s mini-excavators … it’s forklifts, wheel loaders and vibratory rollers.”

Employees Making it Happen

Gulliford knows what stands behind a successful business is its employees. Having run his own company and worked for larger firms, he also acknowledges that often how an employer treats his or her people determines the business’ life. So when Gulliford started up duvalpilot, he brought with him only what he deemed the best of the best.

“I was blessed in that I picked up folks who used to work for me and some others I found because of those people,” he said. “We’re building a solid reputation and there’s plenty of opportunity.”

Employees play such a key part in the company that six of them have an ownership interest in it –– from a senior technician to the rental manager.

“I think with the local ownership and the principals of the company being involved in day-to-day operations the company will grow substantially,” Gulliford said. “Nearly everybody says employees are the most important thing but then they often don’t do much about it. I’m convinced when you put one company beside another company and you attempt to compare … there is no other variable than the people.”

In its shop, duvalpilot has four technicians on staff and operates three road-service trucks.

One problem –– or opportunity, as Gulliford sees it –– is a lack of Terex servicemen, because of the manufacturer’s relatively sparse population in the marketplace. To help correct this, the company hired technicians who have worked on other brands similar to Terex.

“And, we’re looking to bring some younger people along … We’ve got some older folks who are available to offer additional training,” he said.

With its focus on smaller equipment, duvalpilot is increasing attention on repairing that machinery.

“There’s not a lot of attention paid to that in this town,” Gulliford lamented. “It’s hard for a contractor to find somebody to work on his plate compactor or other such item. We think this area offers a great opportunity to service people who right now are having a hard time finding [a dealership] to work on their stuff.”

Additionally, duvalpilot stocks parts for all the lines it carries.

In fact, Gulliford noted, “One of the things we like about Terex, which is located on the outskirts of Memphis, is that if we don’t have a part, they are a [FedEx] hub customer. We can order something as late as seven-o-clock in the evening and have it here by morning. And … the FedEx cost is 30 percent less than for anybody else who ships via FedEx.”

Gulliford also noted that duvalpilot plans on expanding its after-hours service in the near future.

“We’re working on that. It’s something that customers are demanding,” said Gulliford, also noting other future plans such as having three facilities bracketing Jacksonville and possibly picking up other equipment lines.

“I don’t see us ever going after the large equipment business –– the big articulated trucks, the big excavators,” he added. “We want to be able to grab customers and we don’t want to let go. And we know the kind of customer we’re after, if we do a good job they’ll stick with us because there’s still a good bit of loyalty, especially if you give the customer strong service and support.”

Duvalpilot Equipment Outfitters is located at 12849 Philips Highway in Jacksonville and also has a branch location in St. Augustine, FL.

For more information, call 904/268-6554.