easyToolhire emerged during the initial lockdowns after co-founder, Dennis Helderman, found that many construction jobs were going on as usual, and the prevailing situation meant easyEventhire, another brand Helderman is involved in, couldn’t operate.
The tool hire brand now has a presence in the U.K., Italy and Spain. easyToolhire approached the European continent with the mistakes of those who had gone before it in mind. Instead of opting for continent-wide branding and naming, easyToolhire opted for localization in every European market it entered.
We sat down for a chat with Dennis Helderman, co-founder and chief commercial officer, about how easyToolhire started, where it is headed and how it has approached Europe.
RP: What precipitated the creation of easyToolhire?
DH: It was actually the pandemic. We ran a very successful event hire business franchise under the brand easyEventhire, and that was something that we really focused on and we’re getting good results on.
But the pandemic hit. Luckily, we had a supply chain that also matched up with the equipment, rental industry and construction.
We launched easyToolhire in the height of the pandemic in 2020. That’s the short and punchy answer to that.
RP: Where in Europe are you planning to expand into?
DH: We’re currently trading in the U.K., Italy and Spain. We already have a European presence; our business is incredibly international.
The next markets that we’re going to be expanding into are France and Germany. Those two are very sizable markets, for our industry, and that’s what’s next on the roadmap.
France first, just because it’s easier in terms of the language barrier, since we have a good Francophone culture in our business, and then Germany second. We should be launching in both of those markets by the end of this year.
RP: Has the recognition of the easy brand made franchise development easier?
DH: That’s a double-edged sword. It definitely has made it easier in the sense that there’s very wide consumer brand recognition. easyJet, of course, is the reason for that. In Europe alone, there’s 90 per cent consumer recognition when people look at that easy affiliated brand, especially in terms of the logo.
The flipside of that it’s come with a lot of expectations, as always, so that’s something you always have to manage because you’re really creating a partnership here. It has to be a two-way relationship. It can’t be just one party delivering, the other party has to execute as well. That’s the double-edged sword of it, but it’s been great and it’s opened many doors.
RP: Are you focusing more on signing deals with existing tool hire firms or developing and constructing new locations?
DH: I don’t know if we’re unique in that sense or not, but we definitely do focus on existing independent, hire businesses. With emphasis on the independent, we work with some fantastic businesses that are delivering great products and services to their local markets.
We partner with these existing independent hire companies, and the reason why that works, is because we’ve invested seven figures into our technology stack; we’ve invested seven figures into our marketing and we have a very widely recognizable brand all across Europe.
For an independent to be able to achieve that same level of recognition, especially to acquire a new business or to kind of make that level of investment into an engineering team is incredibly challenging, it’s not even feasible for most. So, we allow them to operate exactly as they would in their local market.
We’re really selective with the companies that we work with and have a very rigorous vetting process.
RP: How important is the digital component to your franchisees?
DH: Traditionally, construction plants and tool hire, I wouldn’t say are pioneers when it comes to technology, but they’re really catching up.
Especially due to the pandemic, people have an expectation to be able to order online, to do contactless pickups and they expect that information to be available at a click of a button. I think the pandemic has accelerated the digitization this industry has seen dramatically. We were in an opportune position to being able to capture that, because we invested heavily and built our own tech infrastructure.
So, we’ve really been able to provide a product that allows our franchise owners to be able to serve their existing customers, as well as new customers more effectively. They’re now also able to advertise and showcase themselves better too.
RP: Why do you think Europe has such a thriving franchise community, rivalling that of even North America?
DH: From my experience, when people tried to bring a franchise to Europe, they viewed it as a single market since that was the concept of the European Union, but it really isn’t. Everything needs to be hyper localized in terms of language and culture.
That’s really happening now. From the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) industry to others, I can really see that there’s been a huge push to adapt and localize and not view Europe as a bloc by itself, but as many different independent countries and languages.
That’s exactly what we’ve done. For example, easyToolhire in Italy and in Spain is localized. easyToolhire is easyNoleggio in Italy, which means easy rentals in Italian. Then we took it into the Spanish market under easyAlquiler, which means easy rentals in Spanish. It was important to us because after conducting consumer research, we realized that people wouldn’t pronounce English correctly, especially for the demographic we serve.
So, we went as far as actually localizing the brand offering, which has worked really well in terms of consumer brand recognition, as well as our CTR (click-through rate) and performance marketing.
I think that’s probably one of the reasons why Europe is catching up: everybody’s embraced this idea that it’s not one bloc, you have to localize and a lot of franchisors are doing a better job at that.