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Mass. Business Shares Its Recipe for Rental Success

Fri July 30, 2010 - Northeast Edition
CEG


Donnie Rowell gives a Cat mini-excavator a top-to-bottom cleaning.
Donnie Rowell gives a Cat mini-excavator a top-to-bottom cleaning.
Donnie Rowell gives a Cat mini-excavator a top-to-bottom cleaning. More than 125 attachments enable West County to meet just about any job, regardless of the time of year. (L-R): Three generations of the Sessions family — Norman, Tyler and Craig — are the driving force behind West County Equipment Rentals. Norman Sessions relies upon his more than 40 years of equipment repair experience to keep the West County fleet in top shape for the company’s customers. The newest location, in Palmer, Mass., has a spacious showroom stocked with a complete line of hand tools to meet the needs of the homeowners and contractors in the area.

Craig Sessions, owner of West County Equipment Rentals, said letting the machine do the talking is half of his recipe for success.

“Securing high visibility parking spots for our machines, so people can see them, touch them and get really tempted to rent them,” are key factors according to Sessions.

From the start, he put to work his concept of using the machines as 3D billboards, parking them in a visible spot with clear “Rent Me” decals.

The other half, though, is a bit more difficult.

“Give nothing but top-notch service,” he explained.

Giving top-notch service means a few key things to Sessions. One of them is being open seven days a week. Another is always answering the phone — after the fourth ring, all calls go directly to Session’s cell phone. And the list goes on to include, for example, taking the time to really listen to people and understand what they are trying to achieve, not just rushing to close the deal by renting them whatever they think they should rent.

“I do whatever it takes to get the rental,” he said, explaining that it may take him two hours to extract from somebody enough information to understand that what they really should be renting was not the piece of equipment they were inquiring about, but a different one.

Selling or trading anything with more than 2,000 hours, and washing and greasing every piece of equipment when it’s returned also is part of it, according to Sessions, so West County rental customers only get “shiny, new-looking machines.”

Besides the fact that a clean piece of equipment says “rent me” in a louder voice than a shabby, dirty looking one, there’s another advantage to being fanatical about renting only like-new, shiny machines, according to Sessions.

“They respect it,” he explained, adding that customers take much better care of a well maintained piece of equipment.

West County also doesn’t believe in raising its prices unnecessarily and works to be fair on its delivery charges, and to deliver in a timely fashion.

“We charge the same now that we used to charge in 2005,” said Sessions, adding, “Why would I increase the rates if it’s working well for everyone?”

According to Sessions, the answer to the typical customer question, “When can you guys deliver?” is simply, “When do you need it?” The only caveat? The neighbors.

“We always ask the customer about that, to make sure we don’t end up creating trouble,” said Sessions, who added that his father has been known to drop off a machine at a customer’s site at 4 a.m. “to make sure it was there with plenty of time, because he said he needed it at 6.”

And last but certainly not least — at West County, top-notch service means top-notch maintenance. The company does it all, in-house.

Standing in his well equipped service area at the Shelburne Falls location, Craig Sessions’s father, Norman, showed his tools and explained how he puts to work his many years of experience and the same “outstanding service only” philosophy his son has so successfully implemented across the business.

“We don’t count the hours we spend doing maintenance,” said Norman, “we just do whatever it takes.”

Craig’s son, Tyler, is learning the ropes and being trained to move seamlessly from one job to another, supporting his father and his grandfather, “doing whatever it takes.”

With 85 pieces of equipment, 125 attachments and counting, and four locations — Shelburne Falls, Palmer, Hadley and North Adams — there’s a good chance that nowadays, West County has a solution for any challenge.

In the Beginning

Craig Sessions started his rental business in 2005 with four machines he bought from Milton CAT in Milford, Mass., after working for 20 years in his car and truck repair business.

“I was getting a little stir crazy and claustrophobic,” he said in explaining the career change.

Working as a Caterpillar hose reseller at the time, it was a conversation with his hose representative, who put him in contact with the Milton CAT rental manager, that set him on his current path.

These days, two new employees have joined the Sessions family; one will work at the Palmer, Mass., location and the other one will assist with daily operations, including machine maintenance and deliveries. West County Equipment Rental’s customer list shows a 50/50 ratio of homeowners versus contractors and Sessions still believes time spent with a customer prior to actually closing a deal is never wasted time.

West County Equipment has expanded its product line to include compaction equipment, pumps, generators, concrete cutting, breaking and finishing equipment and landscape equipment.

“We also offer a wide variety of contractor’s supplies such as personal safety items, traffic control products, silt and safety fence, rain gear and hand tools,” added Tyler.