Rapid Growth Thanks to Service, Values-Based Leadership and Great Construction Equipment
Later this year, Houston-headquartered CBS Rentals will open its twelfth location in Bryan-College Station, a metropolitan area in Texas. The rapidly-growing construction equipment rental firm takes pride in its vast inventory, stellar service, and values-based leadership style that emphasizes more than just the bottom line.
“A little over half of our fleet is aerial construction equipment, including aerial booms and scissor lifts and material handling equipment such as forklifts and telehandlers,” states CBS Rentals’ Marketing Manager Ethan Tucker. The company’s sizeable earth-moving fleet has backhoes, mini-excavators, bulldozers, and skid steers.
“We also have a general rental line consisting of air compressors, generators, sweepers,” he says. “We offer just about any equipment you would see at a construction site.” The company “tries to keep a pretty young fleet,” and as it regularly replaces older gear with new, the older gear is sold.
The company’s clients are primarily sub-contractors, and all clients must have an account and proper insurance before they may rent any of the valuable equipment. The company will also rent to individual homeowners who might want a mini-excavator to dig up their backyard to put in a pool, for example.
It acquires its gear from a wide variety of manufacturers, and Tucker says that equipment is routinely shared between branches, with locations supplying gear to each other as per demand. “If a customer in Houston needs something and the Dallas branch has it, they will coordinate to make sure we take care of the customer,” he explains.
Having a big fleet of rental equipment on hand is not the only way CBS stands out. Among other things, the company offers second-to-none service. “We want to provide legendary customer service. We have a very strict preventative maintenance schedule. With a car, you want to make sure you’re changing the oil regularly. You want to make sure you’re washing it. You want to keep the car healthy. We do the same thing with our equipment,” he states.
In addition to regularly-scheduled in-house maintenance and tune-ups, the company utilizes telematics to keep an eye on equipment to see how much fuel a machine is using or to check on the health of the battery. The idea is to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Should problems persist, the company will offer a quick diagnosis followed by speedy maintenance or repair. As it fully understands, downtime due to equipment failures means lost money for contractors and construction firms.
“If something were to happen out in the field – even if it’s an hour or two away – if we know if a hydraulic hose is blown, we have service technicians who are ready to get out there and fix the problem and get the client up as fast as possible. We want our customers to have the security of knowing that if they rent from CBS, if something goes wrong, we are going to make it right,” says Tucker.
Values-based leadership is another differentiator. Core company values of integrity, service, innovation, and performance are embraced at all times, in all actions. This style of leadership also entails taking the personal lives of its workers into account and recognizing how issues at home might affect behavior at work.
Each quarter, the company holds a meeting with managers to discuss specific leadership lessons. Meetings might involve forty to fifty people, with the expectation that lessons learned will eventually be imparted to all employees.
As an example, Tucker cites something he calls “the iceberg principle.” Just as only a tiny part of an iceberg is visible above the waterline, managers should not judge staff merely on the basis of their actions at work. A worker who is persistently late might be dealing with deeper issues, for example, such as a sick child in the hospital, he explains. In such cases, managers are encouraged to find out if there are causes at play and show empathy and support.
The iceberg lesson is all about determining “what’s going on with people truly, not just what’s on the surface,” he says.
The company also believes in equal opportunity for all staff, a belief exemplified by an initiative called ‘Women Leaders of CBS.’ This is a “women-only program committed to encouraging, educating, and empowering others and creating a path for women leaders,” he explains.
“In our industry, it is mostly male. What our company wants to do is make sure that we’re not overlooking any top talent or any employee based on [gender]. Jason Herin is our owner, but our CEO is a woman named Elizabeth Loge. When she became CEO, our company hit record numbers across the board – in revenue, employment, and more. We, as a company, are committed to making sure we are a workplace that has women in it to make us better.”
It employs roughly 180 people at present. While some positions require a degree of education and experience, the firm wants all new hires to understand the importance of the company’s core values. “Everything else can be learned, but I cannot teach an adult what the values are. I cannot teach them why integrity is important,” he notes.
CBS was founded in July 1965, in Corpus Christi, Texas by Jimmie Lanphier (Jason Herin’s grandfather). The focus of the company was different in the early days. In fact, at one point, it went by another name: CBS Rental and Supply, with the acronym CBS referring to ‘Contractors Building Supplies.’
“CBS Rentals started as a construction supply company, selling construction consumables and materials. It wasn’t until Buddy Herin (Jason Herin’s father) purchased it in 1979 that it began the equipment rental segment of the business. That’s when they started opening new locations,” states Tucker.
Branches in San Antonio and Houston were opened in 1986 and 1999 respectively, and in 2005, the company acquired the Dubose Equipment and Rental Company. Buddy Herin died of cancer in November 2013, and his son Jason became sole owner in early 2015. When Jason Herin took over, there were five locations.
Under Jason Herin, the company continued to expand. Herin poured profits back into the business, with a growing emphasis on equipment rentals over construction supplies. It currently boasts ten branches in Texas and one in Kingsport, Tennessee. Once it opens, the Bryan-College Station, Texas branch will push the total number of locations to an even dozen. The Corpus Christi and Kingsport branches still offer construction supplies, but the focus otherwise is most definitely on rentals.
Another major development occurred this May when the company officially changed its name to CBS Rentals to more accurately reflect the nature of the business.
The company wants to open more branches once the Bryan-College Station location becomes operational. “Absolutely,” he says. “We do plan to open new branches next year and the next.”
In addition to supplying top-of-the-line construction equipment, the company is also active on the technology front. An online portal called CBS 360 on its website offers “an overview of everything our customers may need to see in terms of rentals. It allows them to rent equipment, schedule service, schedule pickup, see when invoices are due. In our industry, you rent something until you’re done with it, but it’s important to know when the bills are coming in. We want to make sure if someone logs into CBS 360, they’re getting that information right on their home screen,” explains Tucker.
A new website is in the works, scheduled to be launched in summer 2020. The updated site “will come with a more robust version of CBS 360 that will have more features and allow customers to truly manage all aspects of their rental with the click of a button,” he says.
The company is also “working on a big service platform,” internally, he adds, “so our service department can become even more efficient, to take care of our customers even quicker.”
Down the road, Tucker forecasts that CBS will enhance its position in Texas and reach out beyond the Lone Star State. Within five years, “I would say we would no longer just be in State of Texas and one branch in Tennessee. We will be a regional player, with many more branches. I would not be surprised in five years if we were double or triple our current size,” he says.
This growth agenda will be complemented by an ongoing commitment to core values, adds Tucker. “We’re going to grow fast, but we’re going to grow with our values in mind. We’re going to hire based on our values. We’re going to select customers based on our values. We’re going to select markets based on our values, and we’ll see how that allows us to grow,” he says.