Go to any of the major construction projects in town, such as the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame or Children’s Hospital, and it won’t be hard to find construction equipment from one of Colorado Springs’ family-owned rental companies, Bill’s Equipment & Supply.
Formerly known as Bill’s Tool Rental, the business was opened in 1954 by Bill Lewis’ father, Bill Lewis Sr., and eventually the younger Bill took over as president. His sons, Hunter and Wylie, serve as the vice presidents.
Now the family-run business is in the process of rebranding, and will combine its rental company, Bill’s Tool Rental, and its sales company, Springs Contractor Supply. The rebranding is intended to inform customers of both old and new services, Wylie said.
“We kind of made the assessment that we don’t rent tools,” Wylie said. “It started because my grandfather was a carpenter. He had a lot of tools and he’d loan them out to his friends. … But over the years … we started to rent equipment and machinery. Now the majority of what we do is equipment for construction, landscaping and the compaction industry, so we thought we would properly delineate what we do.”
Customers can rent or purchase equipment such as forklifts, generators, ground augers or electric tools for large and small projects from Bill’s, which had 23,000 contracts in 2017.
“People rent for many reasons,” Bill said. “They don’t want debt, they don’t have mechanics on staff. [Equipment] needs to be repaired and serviced and oil changed. …The customers don’t want to do that — they want to build houses and commercial buildings. They don’t want to maintain equipment, they don’t want to license the equipment. We save people a considerable amount of money who need large equipment.”
As part of its rebranding, Bill’s Equipment & Supply provides service repair for leased or sold equipment.
“It makes sense we offer that as a service to our existing rental and sales base,” Wylie said. “A lot of our customers own their own equipment, and they sometimes struggle with [finding] a service solution. Part of this rebrand effort is to better communicate to our existing customer base that we can handle your purchasing needs, your rental needs and your service needs all in one integrated format.”
Bill said his company helps contractors and subcontractors avoid challenges that come with owning large equipment.
“Emissions [standards] have gotten tighter through the years,” Bill said. “As the [standards] get tighter, the manufacturers have to add equipment to machines to comply with emissions regulations, which has boosted the cost of big equipment.
“When you’re talking a boom lift — that’s $100,000-plus [just to comply]. That’s a lot for a contractor to justify. That has helped our business a lot. It has helped the rental business in general. … When you’re paying $120,000 for a machine, it’s hard to justify that just for emissions equipment.”
The Lewis family had their best year in 2017, according to Bill and Wylie, and for the past five years the company has seen 7 percent growth year-over-year.
“There are a lot of people moving to Colorado Springs and there’s a lot of development here,” Wylie said. “We have a lot of contractors that are from out of state because there’s so much action happening here right now. That’s really great for business because you build new relationships with customers that come through town.”
The Lewis family also said the business’ success is due to customers who have shopped there for 40 years, when Bill’s father owned the store.
Though successful, one hurdle for Bill’s Equipment & Supply is competing with consolidating rental companies.
“A company that has thousands of rental yards certainly has more buying horsepower and financial horsepower than we have,” Bill said.
To stay ahead of competitors, Bill and Wylie say it’s important to give customers the best experience possible.
“We’ve always thought that it’s our responsibility to help whoever rents from us to be successful in what they’re doing,” Bill said. “It’s important for us that you’re successful, so we give you a great piece of equipment, we give you instructions and any other support you need.”