Tyler Burns always has had an affinity for earthmoving equipment. After talking with a friend who owns a rental operation in another state, Burns decided it was time to work with the equipment he loved. He closed his landscaping business and opened Diamond Rock Rental & Equipment in Gentry, Ark., in May 2018.
“This is something that has always interested me. I always have liked equipment, especially the earthmoving side. I guess you could say it was kind of Tonka trucks for grownups. I remember when I was growing up and my dad was doing land leveling, where you have a big farm tractor pulling dirt scrapers, or dirt pans, over rice fields. As a kid, I would ride with my dad on the tractor. I grew up with a love for that kind of stuff,” says Burns, who serves as vice president of the ARA of Arkansas.
Burns took a detour from that love when, at age 21, he opened a lawn and landscaping operation. “I was in that industry for 15 years. I kept thinking during midsummer that I couldn’t do this indefinitely. I needed something a little more stable and easier on me. That is when I started to have serious conversations with my friend who owns a rental operation in Alabama. I talked with him about the business. It seemed to be going well for him, so I decided it was time for me to give it a shot,” he says.
This was quite a leap for Burns, who had no experience in the rental industry prior to going off on his own and opening a business that offers compact moving equipment, aerial work platforms, some lawn and garden equipment, and a variety of general tools, including scaffolding, compactors, concrete saws, grinders and such.
“I just jumped in and started cold. It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. I have learned by trial and error. It has been quite a learning curve. I am still learning,” Burns says.
What has helped him navigate this new terrain has been the sound counsel of his friend, his membership in the American Rental Association (ARA), his ARA Insurance Preferred Agent Gates Goza and other ARA rental operators.
“I learned about ARA from my friend who is in the industry. He gave me a copy of Rental Management. He also uses ARA Insurance. That is how I was introduced to it and have liked everything about it ever since. That is the only way to go if you are going to be in this industry. I couldn’t imagine doing it without the help of the ARA,” he says.
He became involved in the ARA of Arkansas shortly after he opened his operation. “I opened in May and that summer, Chuck Stone, who is the associate member director of the ARA of Arkansas board, called me and said there was a vacancy on the board. He asked if I would be interested in serving. I told him that I was still learning everything, but I would be glad to help out. It has been great, even though I feel like I have so little to offer since I am brand-new,” he says.
He has found tremendous benefits from being involved with ARA. “Everyone on the board has been great. I can bounce ideas off of them. We held some socials before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit. It was neat just getting together with others who have been in the industry much longer than I have and get their take on things. I also attended ARA’s Leadership Conference in 2019, which was great. There were a lot of folks there with so much experience. And The ARA Show™, I loved that. It has been a wonderful learning experience every time I went,” he says.
Part of that learning curve has been discovering the best way to handle obstacles that crop up.
“Really, the biggest aspect for me has been the daily challenges of operating an equipment rental business,” Burns says. “For example,
I operated my own lawn maintenance business and it had its challenges for sure, like everything does. But everything was on a schedule. Everyone left the shop in the morning with a list of jobs that needed to be done that day and you just worked down the list. When I open the doors of my equipment rental shop, I have no idea what’s coming for the day, and even when I have several deliveries scheduled, or repairs to do, it frequently changes as the day goes on. So, learning how to constantly be adapting, changing schedules, dealing with the public, overcoming the myriad obstacles, large and small, that pop up throughout every day, those have been my biggest challenges.”
Even so, Burns knows his business is filling a need in his community.
“I don’t have a lot of competition. We are in Gentry. Siloam Springs is five miles south of us, which is four to five times bigger than Gentry. There were two rental facilities in Siloam Springs. One dealt only with small lawn and garden types of equipment and small contractor tools — concrete saws and that kind of thing. The same year we started, he sold out. The new owner was not interested in doing any rental. He is strictly doing lawn and garden sales now. Another rental operation had rented compact earthmoving equipment. He decided to retire about a year and a half after we opened. It was the luck of the draw. About 20 miles from me is Bentonville, the headquarters of Walmart. That stretch — Bentonville, Rogers and Fayetteville — all have the larger national rental companies. They are far enough away that they don’t really compete with me,” he says.
Besides having a local advantage, what makes Burns’ operation stand out is his new fleet and attention to customer service.
“My friend who is in the business has made a point of keeping nice, clean equipment that looks good and operates well. I have tried to do the same. I just traded into a new fleet. That is my goal. I want to keep a fleet that is no older than three years. Besides having newer equipment, I have done my best to work with everyone. If a customer rents something on the weekend and it doesn’t work for that person to bring it in Monday morning, I will meet them on a Sunday. I try to give them that personal touch and work with my customers. I want to be able to have the equipment so my customers can get their jobs done and let my customers know they are not just a number,” Burns says.
Looking back on the past three years, learning a whole new industry and dealing with the normal challenges that come with that, Burns knows he made the right decision. “I have not regretted my choice of getting into the industry. I definitely enjoy it,” he says.