Sarah Bolich never saw herself running her family’s mobile elevating work platforms rental business, Arrow Lift Rentals Corp., in Dallas. However, when her father was ready to retire and thinking about selling the operation, Bolich knew she had to act.
“I was going to nursing school when my dad called me one day and told me he thought it was time to sell the business,” she says.
“I remembered working here all throughout my teenage years. My mom and dad started the business in 1987 out of our garage with five scissor lifts and one truck. My dad was working as a salesperson for JLG when they adopted me, and he wanted to be home more. That is why they started the business. My dad worked hard and gave up so much for the business. It was his baby for more than 30 years. He was always there for me, but he devoted so much to the business, treating our employees and customers like a second family, and I admired that. I value the family morals that my parents put into the place. There is something to be said for that. You don’t see that these days in very many respects. I wanted to show my support, and I couldn’t see it being sold off, leaving all our employees needing to find something else. One employee has been with the company for 23 years and is almost like a brother to me. I wanted to come back and honor my parents’ efforts and dedication by carrying on the family business, which would also allow my parents to reap the benefits they had worked so hard for over the years,” she says.
That was four years ago. Since then, Bolich, now CEO and owner, has been intentional with every step she has taken to prove she is not just the boss’s daughter but a truly knowledgeable and thoughtful owner who can successfully guide the business into the future.
“When I came back into the business full time, I wanted to make sure I gained the respect of the employees. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere without having their respect,” she says.
To achieve that, “for the first couple years I sat back and listened, learned and did my research. A lot of what I know now is from experience, learning and being diligent in self-development by reading leadership and personal growth books in my spare time,” she says.
Bolich admits that she manages differently than her father, “but as a woman, I have needed to. I wouldn’t ask any of our team members to do something that I am not willing to do myself. I get out there on the trucks and have learned how to load and chain down machines. I am not afraid to get dirty, operate the machines and continue to learn in all aspects to better myself so I can try to be the best leader I can be for this business. I have done every job here. I believe if I ask employees to do something, I need to know how to do it correctly. It is not just growing up in the business and being the boss’s daughter, but it is showing respect for the hard work the employees put in and being willing to do it myself as well,” she says.
It's all part of being a servant leader, Bolich adds. “I believe that my employees don’t work for me. I work for them. I am here to serve the people who I lead.”
That approach has been successful. “We are a very tight-knit group. We have 26 employees and a very particular type of atmosphere that you don’t see in corporations. It is like a second family around here. We care about each other. It is about being a team and we all pitch in. I feel we have a mutual respect for each other. I do my best to show them that as I continue to grow this business, I will do it with the family morals that my dad established. My team trusts me to take care of them and I trust them to take care of our customers. That has made our relationship what it is,” Bolich says.
Of great importance is growing the company responsibly, she notes.
“My dad started out with scissor lifts. One major change for him was expanding the fleet to include boom lifts and then some of the material lifts — staying within his niche of aerial lifts but then branching out and expanding into different pieces of equipment such as telehandlers as well. That was a big step for him. When I came in full time, he asked me to put together an idea of what I wanted the business to look like in two years. I drew a diagram and laid out different departments, titles and a management team, even having professional service techs with years of industry-specific experience. That is something we were able to put in place within those two years. My dad was hesitant as he is more reserved, but I pushed him to grow and expand. I knew that to keep up in the industry and market, it was time to stop sitting on top of the fence and jump over to the other side. I wanted to see this business get somewhere it had never been, which meant doing things we had never done,” she says.
Under Bolich’s leadership, the company is looking at expanding. “We cater to general contractors, subcontractors — electricians, plumbers, HVAC, drywallers, etc. — and anyone in commercial construction who needs mobile elevating work platforms for commercial job sites. I like staying within our niche of aerial rental equipment, but there are other pieces of equipment we may want to include in our fleet to fill some more specific needs of contractors. Possibly adding some ultra-booms will be something to entertain within the next couple years, but finding a larger property to give us more room to grow is higher on my priority list,” she says.
Expansion will never come at the expense of excellent customer service and safety — “our top priorities,” Bolich says.
“Our customer service is what makes us stand apart. Our goal is to keep the contractors up and running so they can work as efficiently as possible. That includes providing them with well-maintained, high-quality equipment and being there for them when they need us. We know the reason our doors are open is because of our customers. We are in business to serve and work for them,” she says.
Backing up that service is the constant focus on safety.
“We have to be safe. We are operating equipment weighing anywhere between 1,000 to 15,000-plus lbs. We have to be aware of what is going on around us and follow safety regulations. Safety is critical. Besides our customers, that is our No. 1 priority. If we aren’t safe, we are not only endangering the lives of other employees but also others around us,” she says.
The company takes training very seriously. “All employees are trained to work safely and efficiently,” Bolich says. “We believe that accident and injury prevention is fundamental, and it starts with the right safety training. All our employees go through various fundamental training within their first 90 days. First day is orientation day where they get comfortable watching HR and safety training videos. We have two drivers who are experienced trainers who new drivers ride along with, learning the entire process. All employees who operate our equipment go through certification for operational safety as well.”
The company also offers operational safety certifications for customers. “We have two in-house trainers providing operation safety certifications on our premises or theirs,” she says.
Bolich admits that the last four years have been kind of a whirlwind. From planning on a career in nursing to running a rental operation has been quite a transition, but it is one Bolich is so glad she made, “thanks to my parents and the people closest to me for their support, guidance and for always believing in me,” she says.
Just recently she was asked by one of her customers to relate the one thing she really enjoyed about being in this business. “I told him that it is fascinating to watch all the personalities intermix — to learn everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, to see where they succeed, where they need work and what opportunities I can provide to help them grow and become better. To me it is very important that they know I support them — their growth, success and happiness,” she says.
For Bolich it centers around “integrity, which is one of the most important values I believe in,” she says. “I have to lead by example. It is all done through consistent actions. I can’t say one thing and act another way. Neither my employees nor my customers would trust in what I say if I didn’t stand for what is right and practice what I preach.”
Because the end goal is to “create a true legacy — something that stands for good customer service, quality people and a quality business,” Bolich says. “One of my father’s fears in growing the business was losing quality when gaining quantity — that he couldn’t manage well enough and keep the quality of business the same. If I have the right mindset and train this team in the core values my parents built into the foundation of Arrow Lift Rentals, they will continue to pass that on. Having a solid team to support this business not only means success for us but our customers as well.”