“Rental’s The Bottom Line” Podcast: Insights into how COVID-19 is shaping tech driven companies with Scott Cannon, CEO of BigRentz

Tech-enabled BigRentz gives an update on the latest mergers and acquisitions and talks about how some businesses will survive and even thrive in the COVID-19 economy. Rental editor Alexis Brumm speaks with Scott Cannon, CEO of BigRentz, the nation’s largest equipment rental marketplace.

Audio Transcription

Welcome to the “Rental’s The Bottom Line” a podcast featuring conversations and interviews with people from around the rental industry with a look at the challenges questions goals and tips that business owners want to know about and have answered. 

Alexis Brumm:
Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of “Rental’s The Bottom Line”. I’m editor Alexis Brumm. I had the chance to sit down with Scott Cannon, CEO of BigRentz. BigRentz is an online construction equipment rental Marketplace who’s more than 4,000 rental Partners in 10,000 partner locations represent the largest Equipment Rental Network in the nation. Scott and I talked about the future of BigRentz as well as Covid-19 and the impact it has had on the industry. Let’s get to the bottom of that right now. 

Scott, thank you so much for joining me today. We are so excited to have you. 

Scott Cannon:
Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. Glad to talk.

Alexis Brumm:
So, let’s jump in here – can you tell me a little bit about your background in the rental industry and what brought you to BigRentz?

Scott Cannon:
I am a 4-year veteran of the rental industry. My entire experience is with BigRentz. Prior to this I was in the international logistics industry and I was partnered with St. Cloud which is a private equity investment company and they are an investor in BigRentz. There are a lot of similarities in the business models. Tech enabled platforms. They had complex customer solutions in mind and really rental logistics is what we do today. We figure out how to place equipment in the right place and the right time for a customer and is very similar to complex logistics challenges I had in my former life.

Alexis Brumm:
BigRentz made a lot of big moves in 2020 and not only that you’ve been able to turn a fairly negative situation into positive ones for the company. Can you give me an update on all the new things that are happening? 

Scott Cannon:
“Big Moves”, no pun intended. I would say there are a lot of great things going on at BigRentz. The first and foremost, it’s an environment that favors online dynamics. The recovery will be digital. The whole world – you see ten years of innovation done with a matter of six or seven months. The fact that you know all conferences instead of being handshakes are now zooms is indication of that. We have seen our online performance become extremely robust, the best of all time, and it’s an area of our business that is growing fastest – is new customers online digitally. We’ve emphasized that in our approach this year. You have also seen us raise Capital with a company called ITOCHU, which is a large Japanese Trading Company. And, we are positioning ourselves to expand BigRentz around the world and to make us much larger. We have some big things that I can’t discuss there on the horizon for us over the next year or two. 

Alexis Brumm:
One of the things that we have talked about I know you recently had to mergers and acquisitions, one with Lizzy Lift and one with EMG. Can you give us an update on those M&As?

Scott Cannon:
Yes, we have integrated quite well. There are certain reasons we actually pursued both those companies. In Lizzy Lift’s case it was really bringing expertise and tenure in relationships and a different way of looking at the business than we did and it’s really paid dividends immediately and their ability of the talent that we brought in really a changed our views on things are on a horizon and so they’ve been a great partner so far. EMG has got us a whole new marketplace We are looking at site services – dumpsters, porta potties and there’s been a lot of crossover selling that our existing customer base. It’s allowed us to think of BigRentz as a bigger and broader service offering to our customers. We’re going to look to do that going forward as well and we’re highly active in M&As discussions. Look over the next year to add a telematics solution, a software solution, maybe some repair and maintenance so we are a full-stop-shop not only for our customers but also our rental company partnerships as well. 

Alexis Brumm:
That goes into our next question which is – are there future Acquisitions in the works?

Scott Cannon:
Yes. I think you’ll see things over the next few months. For obvious reasons I can’t really discuss specifics but we are looking for more tactical and some of the more strategic that I just mentioned. 

Alexis Brumm:
The online re rental businesses seem to be taking the industry by storm. How do you set yourself apart from the companies that have popped up?

Scott Cannon:
First, with our relationships with our rental company partners. They are significant and they are deep and they are long standing. The other thing I would say is scale. There is nobody close to our scale being an online marketplace for the rental industry. We’re light-years ahead and we paid for that with a lot of mistakes and a lot of bruises. But, we are much larger and are able to offer online prices down to the county level for days, a week, or four-week or every piece of equipment that we have and that is unique to us. 

We are also unique in that we are not trying to disrupt the industry. We’re trying to partner with the small or midsize rental companies to make them better. Our pricing online is more market-driven; it’s not the low-cost provider. We take the holistic approach that if our partners are healthy, we are healthy and it has to work both ways. 

Alexis Brumm:
That’s great, Scott. Speaking of changes Covid-19 has obviously shifted the world in a huge way. You briefly talked about it in the beginning where we talked about technological innovation. What did you learn or observe about how businesses were impacted. What have you seen a BigRentz in regards to Covid-19 really how’s that shape the company in the rental industry as a whole? 

Scott Cannon:
I think one thing is you see a little bit of economic Darwinism. The good companies and a good management teams have survived and flourished and the ones that don’t, haven’t. And, as I mentioned earlier you have seen companies transition to a digital world and I think that plays very well with what we built at BigRentz. We also have a very strong platform and a unique offering that goes well with where companies are going.

I also think you make your own luck. One of the things we did back in February was create a pandemic plan. I was in the recent panel where we were the only business out of I think 10,000 surveyed that actually had a pandemic plan. It was the luck of the draw because we had brought on a board member that’s on a public company and had suggested it. And, with our Japanese partner, Covid-19 was a big deal in Asia at the time and suggested it, so we were prepared for when we had to shut down. I think that’s something different about us. 

The other thing we saw was changes to productivity. Everyone initially rallied around remote work because you had to do it to survive but what I have seen now is a third of the population will flourish in that environment, a third will be a hybrid, and a third will need to be in an office environment closely managed and I think that’s kind of the thing we’ve seen about Covid. 

And, the last thing I will mention is mental health. I think people are at the breakpoint, have kids at home, learning with them and having to be teachers, and I think everybody’s ready to get back to a more familiar setting 

Alexis Brumm:
Absolutely. You know some industries were hit harder than others. Was this a matter of being more vulnerable to disruption before covid-19 or where the hard-hit sectors unable to or unwilling to adapt? 

Scott Cannon:
I think it’s a little bit of both. If you look at the rental industry specifically the party rental industry. That’s their business and so if you can’t have parties you kind of get wiped out – there’s nothing you can do about it. Airbnb started doing more online events but there is only so much of that you can actually do. Part of that is just being vulnerable to it and then others are resistant to change and technology. Long term you don’t have to be the first but you do have to be a little bit ahead of the curve. And, we have seen that in our customers – the ones that have flourished have done quite well and others who have been resistant to technology within their own businesses have really slowed down. 

Alexis Brumm:
This is obviously something that many of us have never seen or even imagined happening so how was this disruption different than any other disruptions that have or possibly will occur? 

Scott Cannon:
I think we’re in uncharted territory. If you made a story up about 2020 I don’t think anybody would believe you. This is a combination of everything – it’s financial, it’s systems – other things that could happen could be telecommunication systems go out, power grids, internet, you can’t foresee these things – this is definitely uncharted territory 

Alexis Brumm:
What can businesses do online to recover faster and regain that stability and growth? 

Scott Cannon:
Online. Online. Online. It’s about using partners like BigRentz to accelerate your business. If you think about our rental partners – don’t go out there and try to be an expert on digital marketing – you have a platform to do it. Get behind us, let us partner with you and let us drive customers that are national accounts that maybe you couldn’t get otherwise or wouldn’t be available to you and partner with companies like us – we’re the future. 

Alexis Brumm:
As a CEO of a Technology based company what tips and tools can you share with businesses to help for the next disruption we may encounter?

Scott Cannon:
It sounds like common sense but have a plan and test that plan out. If you have a disaster recovery plan test that plan out once a quarter or once a month on a Saturday – basically shut the company down and go through the process and if you’re not really set up to to go through a situation like this you’ll be caught flat-footed and a number of people were in this case. 

Alexis Brumm:
Is there a post-Covid-19 roadmap moving forward where technology-enabled companies are well positioned to thrive and survive the pandemic? 

Scott Cannon:
I think there is enough evidence out there to see that’s the case. The world has moved and the paradigm has shifted and it’s not going to go back. We live in an Amazon.com world that has intensified through Covid. I think that when people understand that they can rent equipment online and it’s not scary and it’s actually going to show up, it’s going to be in good shape and work correctly, and the whole process going will be handled the way it would otherwise, I think it just becomes part of their day. We are seeing that adoption, it’s likely to continue, and it’s never going to go back. 

Alexis Brumm:
You are right! I really appreciate you being here with us today and sharing these thoughts. I think it’s great that you’re able to offer these tips and tricks to other business owners. Thank you so much for joining us.

Scott Cannon:
Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity.