Ready for Company Changes and Industry Shake-Ups
From its home base of Saskatchewan, Conquest Equipment has been operating as a heavy construction equipment renter and seller since the 1990s, primarily in western Canada, with additional markets in the northern United States.
Founder and President Greg Hodgson feels that Conquest’s focus on compaction equipment is what sets it apart from other rental businesses in the market, as the company sports compactors with a broad range of size, age, and type. “Compaction is our specialty,” he affirms, “but we also have excavators, dozers, loaders, and even more.” This assortment allows the company’s products to serve a variety of needs throughout its industry.
Conquest is rolling out more self-manufactured equipment like its new tow-behind compactor: the Wobbly CA1600, which was introduced officially in the latter part of 2019 and will continue to be presented in 2021, as will a new line of walk-behind compaction equipment. The ‘Wobbly’ is named because of its wheel design, which allows for even compaction on variable terrain types.
Since we last spoke to the company in 2019, Conquest Equipment has relocated from its facility in Oxbow, Saskatchewan into its new location in Estevan, some sixty kilometres west; in addition, the company has established another office in Abbotsford, British Columbia to aid in the further spread of its services across Western Canada. The moves have “worked out great,” according to Hodgson. He notes that the markets in Saskatchewan and BC are similar enough to pose no difficulty to the company’s development.
Its workforce recognizes the importance of establishing and maintaining connections with customers and suppliers alike. Hodgson believes that, on both sides of the client-supplier relationship, open and honest communication is key. “It removes the fear of the unknown,” he explains. “We are not a transactional business… We do not come along, sell equipment, and leave. We are here to build relationships with our clients.” Conquest always endeavours to be open with suppliers about its plans so that “everyone can come along for the ride.”
Complementing its belief in meaningful business relationships, Conquest’s unique, free advertising program advertises its customer’s equipment at no charge if they have surplus to move, either through its own website or on trade-related sites like Supply Post, Rock & Dirt, or MachineryTrader. The advertising program is a growing part of the business and has been a great help in developing the deep relationships that Hodgson endorses so heavily, and it saves customers the extra work of having to deal with buyers and sellers.
He laughs when asked about the company’s fortunes during 2020, noting that it has been “an interesting year for everybody.” Due to companies in the rental industry being deemed essential, Conquest thankfully avoided having to close its doors during the lockdowns, as many businesses were forced to. The company’s more aggressive plans for growth did slow somewhat because of the pandemic and were below early expectations for 2020, but it adapted by augmenting its already considerable cleaning regimen for its in-house operations and carrying on in the face of a challenging global situation.
Adding to the unforeseen issues of COVID-19 in 2020, was an unprecedented dip in oil and commodity prices. Hodgson remembers that “you could basically get oil for free,” when the price of oil went below $0 at one point in the year, because of a combination of overproduction and less transportation demand resulting from the pandemic. This had a huge effect on the energy industry, “even more so than COVID itself,” Hodgson says. The consequences were especially felt in both the Western Canadian and the Northwestern United States economies like North Dakota – one of Conquest’s most heavily served areas.
Dealing with energy industry regulation is an ongoing challenge for companies in this sector. Hodgson believes that the current Canadian government seems to be against the energy industry at times, as pipeline projects are constantly under regulation, and parts of the industry are even being phased out entirely.
Internally, Conquest is growing extremely rapidly, which also brings more challenges, such as how to bring on further staff in a timely manner, but Hodgson counters that the brand is becoming more recognizable in the industry and continues to adapt well to its changing circumstances.
After such an unpredictable year, Hodgson observes that the industry is beginning to improve again, and 2021 is on track to be a positive year. As oil prices have rebounded to a reasonable level, related large construction projects have also begun again, and a greater industry understanding of exactly what COVID-19 entails has led to many companies adopting effective safety measures.
Because the company has a lot of projects in the USA, the end of the presidential election will be positive for Conquest’s clients, regardless of the result. Hodgson observes that the uncertainty around the election always affects customer habits and the industry at large, so a concluded election means a welcome return to normalcy, apart from the lingering pandemic measures.
In 2021, Conquest Equipment is bringing a couple of new products to market including the Wobbly CA1600, which Hodgson teases will launch in a major way, very shortly. He adds that the company facility in Estevan will soon be offering a new repair service that the company is excited to introduce. These introductions, along with more mechanics being added to the staff, are leading to what the company regards as an exciting opportunity.
“We’re all about building a strong brand,” Hodgson says, indicating that Conquest will continue to offer the same high-level products and customer service for which it has become known for three decades and counting.