RER Interviews Rick Dahl, CEO of Metrolift, Sugar Grove, Ill., No. 96 on this year’s RER 100, about how Metrolift strengthened its performance, improving rental rates, its strong beginning to 2012, and its increased penetration in the industrial market.
RER: You had a better year in 2011 than in 2010. Was there any particular customer sector that contributed the most to the improvement?
Dahl: We definitely have increased our market penetration in the industrial segment and with customer-owned unit repairs.
Were there some things that your company did, either in 2011 or before, that helped make improvement possible?
We focus on three areas that we measure and follow closely. They are on-time equipment delivery, service response time and correct billing. We have a fantastic team that executes these initiatives daily. When there are issues, we handle them immediately, effectively and emphasize communicating what we did to solve the problem. Another huge advantage has been our financial strength to react quickly when this market turned more positive. We did not have the financial difficulties that many of our competitors were challenged with and still are faced with today.
What are your expectations for 2012?
We are budgeting and projecting our numbers based on a 10-percent increase in revenue from 2011. We were up 23 percent in 2011 over our numbers in 2010. Our best revenue year was 2008 and then our numbers ultimately leveled off after a 33-percent decrease from our highs. We are closing in on our 2008 highs and started the year out early at a 20-percent increase. We have leveled off a bit and keep in mind there are many more months to go in 2012, but we are encouraged with how we got out of the gates.
What about rental rates for your company and in your markets in 2011 versus the previous year?
We have taken the lead in our marketplace and have seen a definite increase in our rental rates. The concern is that this increase is not keeping in line with the new equipment cost increases we are seeing. There are union labor cost increases coming, fuel increases and the normal cost of doing business across the board is increasing. If a rental operator is not looking at the pricing of their fleet they may not be around long.
Do you have any particular expansion or growth plans for 2012 that you are able to share?
Yes, we are very positive about 2012 and forward. We added $4 million of original equipment value to our fleet in 2011 and already ordered $3.5 million in the first quarter of this year. We have added a Safety and Compliance Director to our team who will be handling safety issues, training and keeping Metrolift Inc. up to date with federal and state compliance issues.
Any other observations about the market that you’d like to pass along?The Chicagoland market is slowly healing and hopefully will be back to a more normal (if there is such a thing) rental market with challenges that include revenue increases and managing costs. This is much more fun compared to the overall market conditions we have faced the last four years. Now we can get back to running a rental business and improving our operation each day.