The American Rental Association this week announced the selection of two long-time rental industry veterans as the newest inductees into the Rental Hall of Fame. Robert Elmen of Sioux Falls, S.D., and Paul Coogan of Peoria, Ill., will be formally inducted during the keynote session on Feb. 11, 2013 at The Rental Show in Las Vegas.
Elmen is the owner of Elmen Enterprises and has been active in the rental industry for 49 years. His entrepreneurship is evident in his leadership, industry commitment and impact, ingenuity and his personal commitment to his community and the equipment rental industry, ARA said.
Elmen has been responsible for 53 general rental stores, a rental software firm, and rent-to-own and mini storage businesses. In addition, he had a television station interest and substantial property management initiatives. Elmen created and operated all of these interests with a central office staff of eight people located in Sioux Falls. He had a thin, flat management system that utilized field managers to make major decisions regarding their individual markets, stores, staff and future with operations in 11 different states.
Elmen spent more than 40 years managing rental stores, and grew his company to become, at one time, the largest privately owned general rental company in the U.S. He helped build the original United Rent-All franchise as well as the Nationwide trailer system. Elmen also designed and built a rental computer software system for his stores, which he then shared with the industry. He also trained hundreds of managers who found careers in the rental industry. His Elmen Enterprises was a perennial listee on the original RER 50 and later.
Foreseeing the impact of computers, Elmen installed IBM computer/cash registers in all his stores by 1977. He used his own rental stores to develop R.E.N.T.S. software and offered it nationwide, resulting in 250 user stores. He developed Mail Order USA, which was a time-use versus time-out rental program for rural markets, as well as the flex rate program that automatically changed rental rates based on time and availability.
In addition to his businesses he wrote Some Operational Aspects of the General Rental Industry in 1966 as well as articles for RER, Rental Age and Rental Management magazines. He was recognized on the “50 National Rental Leaders” list in 1963, was ARA Meritorious Service Award recipient in 1970, ARA Distinguished Service Award recipient in 1974 and ARA Region Six Person of the Year in 1990.
In 1999, Elmen sold his rental stores to United Rentals. He is currently the owner of Mason City Rent All in Mason City, Iowa, and does contract bookkeeping for rental businesses in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.
Paul Coogan, now retired, is the past president and CEO of Aggregate Equipment and Supply in Peoria, Ill., from 1958 to 1989. Coogan started his rental company and grew it into a multi-state, multi-million dollar company with more than 12 branches in just a few years.
Coogan sought out ways to diversify Aggregate Equipment and Supply by looking for diverse employee candidates to nurture. He developed a formal manager trainee program for his new employees referred to as “Coogan College” that was an intensive week-long program covering all aspects of the rental business. In addition, he encouraged employees to continue their education by providing reimbursement for business-related course work, allowing him to grow an educated and loyal managerial workforce.
As president of ARA in 1985, Coogan was an outspoken proponent of the rental industry and made it a point to help others expand their operations successfully. During his term, he and his fellow directors put into place management procedures for continued growth of the industry and ARA, strengthening its structure and program management.
Coogan’s ingenuity helped propel not only Aggregate Equipment but the entire rental industry with out-of-the-box thinking such as increasing equipment utilization with multiple stores and multiple state locations. The one-stop shop concept was another Coogan innovation that helped propel Aggregate and other rental stores to a higher level of profitability. The idea to build or erect one-source jobsite rental stores on or as near as possible to new building projects was part of his “mega project concept” that was incorporated by other rental businesses.
He also developed a plant shutdown and turnaround specialization idea that became very profitable for Aggregate and others. Coogan developed the idea of specialists versus generalists for both the rental and sales sides of the business. This concept showed that a rental store operation could compete with the very specialized stand-alone companies. In addition, safety and risk management were always at the top of mind in any business operation.
Coogan helped fund scholarships at the business school of Bradley University in Peoria and sponsored several of Bradley’s marketing students for internships. He believed in promoting from within and the use of incentives for his employees.
ARA created the Rental Hall of Fame in 2000 to foster an appreciation of the historical development of the rental industry and its leaders. Each year, nominations are accepted to recognize individuals who have made a substantial impact on the industry at the national or international level. The induction ceremony is held during the keynote session at The Rental Show.
ARA, Moline, Ill., is an international trade association for owners of equipment rental businesses and the manufacturers and suppliers of construction/industrial, general tool and party/event rental equipment.