It’s not every day that a homeowner or small business needs heavy machinery like a forklift or a bulldozer. Those monster machines are costly to buy and maintain, out of the reach of all but the biggest companies.
Six years ago, the Schlacks brothers saw this as an opportunity to enter an untapped market and shake up the contracting industry. They launched EquipmentShare as a way to bring the “sharing” economy to the equipment industry.
From its origins as a 2014 entrepreneurial startup contest winner, the company quickly carved out its own successful spot in the equipment rental industry, a sector of business that has a projected market size of nearly $60 billion for 2021, according to the American Rental Association.
Back in 2014, brothers William and Jabbok Schlacks saw two issues in the construction industry. Many contractors had loads of equipment not in use and sitting around, while others were having to pay high costs to lease equipment from rental companies or buy it outright. The Schlacks brothers, with experience in the construction industry, knew there was a more innovative way to approach these issues to make jobs easier for contractors.
“There’s a lot of construction equipment that sits on the side of the road or the side of a job site as it waits to be utilized,” Amy Susan, a spokesperson for EquipmentShare, said.
The Schlacks wanted to fix this and help contractors better utilize their assets. EquipmentShare was first formed to create a ”marketplace of equipment” where contractors could rent out unused equipment to others who need it. Since then, the company has grown to offer equipment purchases, maintenance and a vast network of technological capabilities.
With lots of high-cost equipment moving around, it’s imperative to be able to keep tabs on it.
“That’s where the beauty of EquipmentShare truly comes in,” Susan said, referring to the innovative technology systems the company has in place. In 2016, the company rolled out its ES Track system, which gives it the ability to analyze all kinds of data points on equipment in real time and puts it in an optimal position to give advice to contractors on how it’s running, when it needs to be serviced and when the equipment has run its course.
Nobody wants all kinds of data being thrown at them, but ES Track presents this data in a way that’s simple and easily understood.
“We make it very easy for them to digest,” Susan said.
Contractors can see on one page where their equipment is and how it’s doing, and they can have real-time, instant access to see any issues that arise.
For example, a contractor on the job utilizing equipment may see no flaws in its use and effectiveness, but EquipmentShare could see a data point suggesting the machinery is close to overheating. The operator themselves may not notice this until it’s too late, but this technology puts users ahead of the curve, allowing them to deal with these issues before they arise.
This technology also creates a sort of ecosystem among all parties involved, so contractors, EquipmentShare service teams and independent service teams all have access to data that pinpoints every aspect of a machine’s status.
“Everything is connected,” Susan said. “It’s the first time where there truly is a fully connected job site where equipment, people and materials come together.”
Outside of independent contractors, EquipmentShare has also used ES Track to help original equipment manufacturers unlock data that helps better perfect the manufacturing process.
“That’s what makes us really unique,” Susan said. “We don’t care what brand name it is, we can put (ES Track) on it, and we can track it and unlock data for the user.”
This opens doors to all kinds of new business for EquipmentShare, as it is able to lend a hand in both the manufacturing of equipment and the entire lifespan of the equipment.
One of the aspects of EquipmentShare that makes the company so attractive is how employee-friendly it is, making it a very desirable place to work and build a career.
“The most important pillar or driver to success is having healthy, happy employees,” Susan said. “If they’re happy and they feel empowered and supported, they’re going to work hard.”
EquipmentShare wants employees to do just that and focuses on creating an environment where employees are truly a vital part of the company.
Walk into the company’s office on Columbia’s far east side, and you might see Segways rolling about. Bringing pets to work is common, as is the option of a chef-prepared meal. Susan said the comparisons to Google and Amazon come around often when comparing the fluidity and freedom that employees have around the workplace.
The company also boasts a fitness and nutrition program where healthy meals are provided daily, and it is even looking into accommodations for families. Employee perks like these are hard to come by, and the company feels that it’s well worth the effort and resources to make them easily available for all who work there.
In addition to making sure workers are happy and healthy, EquipmentShare has devoted resources to doing the same for its home community of Columbia through different philanthropic efforts. The company was recently awarded one of Missouri Business Alert’s inaugural Kindness in Business Awards for its work in the community after providing over 45,000 meals to No Child Hungry during the pandemic. “That’s what gets us going,” Susan said. “At EquipmentShare we empower people to solve problems on the jobsite, but so often that drive to solve problems flows off the page of the workday. We really care about our communities because we aren’t in business if our communities aren’t thriving.”
EquipmentShare has expanded from Columbia into cities in Texas and Florida with its sights set on doing business internationally. The company continues to innovate on the technology front, using newer forms of tech like virtual reality and 3D-printing to find even more efficient ways to help customers.
The company that started out as a 2014 Startup Weekend winner in Columbia is now working with other new startups to pave the way for a new generation of the construction industry that is much more efficient and productive for contractors, both professional and independent.
“We’re a company that continues to evolve, continues to innovate, and we truly believe we are driving the future of construction here,” Susan said.