Refer to someone as living with his ‘head in the sky’ and you get an image of a scattered-brained air-head who has no touch with reality. However, this cannot be further from the truth when it comes to the guys at Book-A-Bakkie who have built and structured a thriving truck rental business aimed at the man-in-the street by using the internet as their main tool. This is a new era business built “in the sky” and it is working writes Patrick O’Leary
In America, mention the name U-Haul and everyone recognises it. I personally had experience of their services when I visited Savannah for my son’s university graduation. After getting his funny cap and gown, we had to move his furniture and I started to stress about where we would get a truck. He, though, was chilled. “We’ll use U-Haul. No problem,” he said casually.
It was all so simple. You arrive at a depot, hand in your driver’s license, pay a deposit and off you go. No checks, no balances, no having to hold an existing account, no nothing. Just – off you go to get the job done.
It is this kind of hassle-free service that Adam Freidman, the son of truck rental legend Arnold Friedman, CEO of Spartan Truck Hire and his mate, Jared Kangisser, wanted to create when they saw a gap in the market to cater to the needs of the private individual. Simple, easy, friendly and affordable is what was needed. Get the red tape out of the way.
“Our experience of the corporate rental market showed us it was not consumer friendly. It was not geared to cater to the individual consumer or SMEs.” They decided to change this and looked to the new era of on-line technology as their main tool to do this.
“We created a web-site and went all out to maximise search engine optimisation so as to get to as wide an audience as possible,” says Friedman. However, realising that personal contact would be needed after an on-line hit was recorded, they then set up a call centre starting with just two phones with Friedman and Kangisser answering the calls.
“Our business focus was to develop different rental options that would minimise and mitigate the risk while at the same time make it easy for the consumer to do business with us,” says Friedman.
It was decided to offer a vehicle range from bakkies up to 8-tonners as anything above that is not what the consumer needs. That’s when you start entering the corporate rental market which is not where they wanted to go. Options were also offered with or without a driver – although anything above a ‘bakkie’ has to go with a driver. “We then gave benefits such as a lower deposit if the vehicle went with our driver as that lowered the risk,” say Friedman.
I know many will ask where the vehicles came from. That’s an easy one. The corporate truck rental business always goes through peaks and valleys and Spartan Truck Hire is no different in this regard. There are always some trucks standing and it was from this pool that they drew the vehicles. This created a win-win situation for not only did it serve to optimise the utilisation of the Spartan Truck Hire fleet but also helped create a new business offering to a new market segment.
Has it worked? Has this ‘good idea’ become a viable business? You bet it has. In fact, it wasn’t long before they brought in techno-savvy Dale Goodwin to further develop the web-site and on-line offerings. Under his guidance, the on-line offerings have become totally user friendly with over 100 leads per day coming into the Book-A-Bakkie business.
Obviously the personal touch has had to keep up with the ‘on-line’ growth and in this regard, Kangisser now concentres fully on growing the call centre which now has seven full-time staff answering calls. From starting off with only two phones, the call centre is today a thriving hive of activity managing, in any one month, over 150 vehicles out on the road.
So what’s the next step? “At the moment we are an on-line brand and we need to now start thinking about heading in the direction of developing an off-line brand with the opening of branches,” say Freidman.
With the success achieved in just under two years of operation – and with the foresight and passion of these three men who have capitalised on modern technology to capture a new market – you can bet your bottom dollar that it won’t be long before Book-A-Bakkie becomes the U-Haul of South Africa.