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The Men Of Durante Rentals On Building An Equipment-Rental Empire

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When Durante Rentals first set up shop in the Bronx in 2009, its future was, at least to outsiders, uncertain.

The construction equipment-rental company—which rents out forklifts, excavators, generators, and more to general contractorsopened its doors during one of the worst economic climates in recent history. Further, the business was facing competitors with billion-dollar operations and publicly traded stock.

But steep challenges proved more motivation than hindrance. Durante—now with locations in Elmsford, Mount Vernon, the Bronx, and Queens—has grown spectacularly. In 2014, it became the largest independently owned equipment-rental company in New York City. And revenue has increased by between 45 and 48 percent year over year, says CFO Christopher Jones. “It’s been amazingly consistent,” he reports.

Explosive growth makes life interesting for those keeping the books, Jones notes: “It’s been a fun challenge from a financial standpoint.” Durante buys millions of dollars of equipment each year, which requires deftly handling debt, credit, and assets—and, in the early years, it required skillfully charming wary lenders.
And so Jones is meticulous. “I’m maniacal about my notes,” he says. “I have been since day one. And that helps.”

Durante’s roster of employees has kept pace with revenue. Head count is now at 50—a 1,000 percent increase over six years. “And we are continuing to hire,” Jones says.  
But even steady success comes with growing pains. “It’s challenging from a planning standpoint,” Jones says. “We have a constantly changing forecast—we’ll change our budget five, six, seven times during the course of a year.” Jones notes that everything from new hires to leasehold improvements and equipment purchases drive Durante to recalibrate the budget on short notice.

The growth has been so explosive and their locations so bustling, that the team felt compelled to coin a new phrase: “Durante speed.”

“Everything moves so fast,” Jones explains. He notes that, at first, the pace can be jarring for new employees. “It takes them a little bit to adjust to the pace, how fast we work.” But it’s the nature of the business—if a piece of equipment goes down on a construction site, wasted time is wasted money, Jones says. So, customers are understandably impatient.
John Durante, the company’s president, notes “Durante speed” permeates the entire company—from deliveries and repairs to major financial decisions. “It starts at that operational level and goes all the way up to the top,” Durante says. “We’re very quick to make intelligent decisions.”

Durante speed has also netted the business a spate of accolades including multiple appearances on Inc.’s “Fastest Growing Private Companies” list and cover stories in trade publications like Rental Equipment Register and Pro Contractor Rentals. For the three men who launched Durante and remain at its helm today, success always seemed a matter of course. Cousins John and Anthony Durante—who serve as president and CEO, respectively—weren’t banking on blind luck: The cousins, now both 41, drew on experience running Durante Equipment, the equipment sales company founded by John Durante Sr., John’s father. Both John and Anthony played critical roles at Durante Equipment while still very young.

“By 16 or 17, I was in a leadership role. I had my own employees under me,” John recalls. “I grew up doing literally every job in the company—from accounts payable and accounts receivable to rentals and parts. It was a great education.” The duo helped expand the rental part of a business that was predominantly sales. In 2000, John Durante sold the business to United Rentals, one of the biggest players in the equipment-rental market. In the following years, John spent time in law and real estate; Anthony continued in the world of sales. But, when they crossed paths with Christopher Jones in 2006 (they met at a Business Council of Westchester event), the cousins were soon nudged back onto their initial career path.
“John and I became fast friends,” Jones says. “We had similar business philosophies. We’re very, very compatible from a business standpoint.”

With Jones’ financial acumen and the Durante cousins’ equipment expertise, the table was set. Six years ago, Durante Rentals launched with a small but balanced leadership team. “Where each one of our abilities stops, the other one starts,” Jones says. “Between the three of us, we’re all a very good complement.”

The trio also leans on their fraternal-like bond. “We fight like brothers,” Jones says. But there’s one rule they follow religiously: “We never leave the room if one of us is still charged. We sit and we talk it out until we come to an understanding. We never leave angry,” he says. Another trick for maintaining momentum? Keeping employees happy.

“We have an environment of no limits,” Jones says. “Whatever [an employee’s] career path is, we try to guide them. You can build the career you want here.” Take, for instance, the former Durante truck driver who’s now the company’s vice president of logistics. “He went from driving a truck to being an executive,” Jones says.

To Jones, it makes sense. “It’s our job as managers. Without our people, we’re nothing,” he explains.

Jones also credits Westchester’s economy for Durante Rentals’ success. He looks at traffic patterns to measure local economic growth. Jones says the time it once took to drive from Tarrytown to White Plains has tripled in only seven years. “You can tell just by traffic that the economy is doing really well in Westchester. [Westchester] is still expanding, still growing,” he says. A vibrant Westchester also means competition. Durante spars with small, single-location equipment-rental companies and “the big three,” the sprawling, national companies United Rentals, Sunbelt Rentals, and Hertz Rentals. “It is a hyper-competitive market,” Jones says.

Even so, Durante is planning for continued success. “There’s so much opportunity,” Jones says. “We really want to own Westchester. We’re not in areas on the eastern side of Westchester. Don’t be surprised if you see us there in the next year or so.”

“We’re working on [adding] three or four locations, a couple of them in the Westchester area,” adds Anthony Durante. But Jones says no level of growth will change certain parts of the company. “We [will] figure out a way to continue this growth while still maintaining the closeness with our customers, maintaining our corporate culture.”

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