As a self-proclaimed “talker,” it’s hard to come across anyone in the industry who doesn’t know the giant personality that is Patrick Clark, but in the best way possible. Clark was one of the very first people I met when I first entered the crane and rigging world two years ago. From hosting an uber successful Lift & Move USA event to his key role at a national headquarters with over 70,000 pieces of equipment, he tackles every task with knowledge and unprecedented enthusiasm.
The road to his role as national rental support manager at Lifting Gear Hire is both motivating and interesting. I sat down with Clark in Louisville, KY at the SC&RA Crane & Rigging Workshop to try to discern what has made Patrick Clark the rigging-savvy leader he is today.
Before he found his way to Lifting Gear Hire, Clark had his fair share of quirky jobs. Growing up, he had a paper route, worked at a flower shop and even drove an ice cream truck. Having played hockey for most of his life, he also worked off and on at an ice rink scoring games, refereeing and running the Zamboni. He swears that to this day, he can still get behind the wheel and cut a fine sheet of ice.
“It wasn’t until I was a little bit older going through college that I got my first big boy job, and it was at an appliance store as an inside salesperson in the contractor division,” said Clark. “Then later I got into financial selling of mutual funds, financial instruments and insurance products.”
True to his competitive nature, Clark actually found his way to Lifting Gear Hire through his connection with a former hockey rival, current LGH president Tony Fiscelli, in addition to a good friend who also worked there.
A businessman, a father and a caring confidante to those around him, Clark has been a strong presence at Lifting Gear Hire for almost 14 years. He has high hopes for the future of LGH and refuses to cut corners when it comes to maintaining a company that he describes as the “Rolls Royce of the industry.” Simply put, Lifting Gear Hire has its rental business down to a science.
What is the history of Lifting Gear Hire in the USA?
In 1990, we brought our operations to the United States. It was started by Pat Fiscelli and about three people in a 5,000 square foot warehouse. If you needed a piece of equipment, you quite literally had to unpack it. Imagine working out of a storage container. Pat came from another industry, and he had been the operations manager for many years, but not within the sales realm but operations. So, he got involved with Lifting Gear Hire, and never considering himself a salesman, knew he could not fail.
It took him a while, because we were the first company of our kind in the United States. That first order really got some momentum. From that point, once people had a chance to use the equipment and see how easy it was, especially compared to their own fleet, they started using us.
The second location was up was in St. Louis, and it took some time to get the brand awareness out and to teach customers about the philosophy of rental rigging. So, from 1990, we just continued to expand, somewhat conservatively. Fast forward to 2018, we’re at 22 rental centers in the United States, with one in Canada. We’re taking a breather because we’re hoping to average two to two and a half distribution centers per year. As we expand geographically we will likely expand equipment lines so long as they fit our six major headings. We don’t want to be a general rental facility. What makes us special is the laser focus we have in those areas.
What is the scope of services of LGH?
From one perspective, it would be that we are a customer’s rental warehouse for hoisting, jacking, pulling, rigging, materials handling and safety equipment. But, the other part is the value that Lifting Gear brings, and that’s taking a burden off the customer’s plate.
One of the things we have is a robust training program internally, and we are able to really pass on information to our customers that our representatives and our sales staff are taught. They are taught the value that Lifting Gear brings to power the equipment, how to service it, they’re taught rigging application, formulas, and it’s a two-way street. We need our customers as much as they need us.
I think one of the other parts of the scope is really the partnership that does develop. I’ve seen time and time again that it’s no longer about the equipment, but you’re now renting the knowledge and tenure, the safety, the liability and the right tool for the job.
What is it that distinguishes LGH?
We have always promoted constant training. We are looking for avenues where we can continue somebody’s skillset, and over the last 18 months alone, we have built up a tremendous system library for our operations people. For me, that’s my next step. I want to be able to connect the dots for people that don’t work in the field.
We’re also the highest priced supplier for rental equipment in our industry. And I make no apologies to that. The difference is very simple. We’re the best at what we do for a reason and that’s because we don’t cut corners. We know the true cost of rental. Profit is important to us and that allows us to get higher capacities, greater specialized equipment and that of course opens up new markets for us.
How many pieces of equipment do you have in your inventory?
We have over 70,000 pieces of equipment.
What are the challenges of having so much equipment and so many branches?
The biggest challenge is it’s a dynamic fleet. What may be here today might be gone tomorrow. That’s the tricky part of our business. We still may have that equipment, but it could be that now it’s at a different location and we have to transfer it in. That’s the cost of our business. You know it’s going to add an extra burden to your customer that wasn’t expecting those costs. Other than that, we’ve really got it down to a science. Just like any good science, you continue to learn and test and see what works. We keep getting better.
What would you say is the typical LGH client?
We work with a lot of mechanical contractors, people that install pipe and HVAC. We work a lot with millwrights and elevator contractors. As far as the markets themselves, we still work within power plants, steel mills and data centers, but really what makes Lifting Gear good is that we go where other people don’t. I would rather have 1,000 orders at $200 per week than five large jobs totaling the same dollar revenue.
What is it you like about working in this industry? What keeps you engaged?
It’s fast paced, and the conveyor belt never stops. I love competition. I’m blessed with what I think is good vision. I enjoy coming up with ideas, getting them vetted and starting them. I feel the impact that I have on the company, and I think I have the ability to affect other employees at Lifting Gear, whether it’s training or sales.
If we’re doing well in sales and profit, we’ll be able to not only retain their services but hire more. It is a bigger responsibility in that regard. I really enjoy working with the people on the team. We’re also starting to reestablish our markets over in Europe, and I think that’s really exciting. In large part, the success in the United States was very instrumental in helping that.
There’s a labor shortage in the lifting/rigging industry. How does LGH approach employee recruiting and retention?
We have the same challenges as many companies. What I’ve found since the last Lift & Move USA event, is this is not just affecting our industry, it is going on across a lot of other markets. Not everyone can be a computer programmer. We need people to service things. We need people to think and change directions and have intuition. But instead of importing labor, I’d rather see parents talking with their kids about their options. They don’t need a four-year degree to make a six-figure income. In this industry, you see more successful people that don’t have the higher education than you’d think. I want to develop the future leaders of our company. I want to get somebody who wants to grow. If it’s the right fit, I’m going to give them all the tools I’ve got. I have to make sure that I’m focusing on continuing to learn myself and add skills. If I don’t, then I can’t teach them anymore. I want to bring them up to the next level to the point that if they ever become my boss, that’s okay with me.
What’s your best business advice?
Be tenacious. Never, ever, ever give up. If you’ve got a vision and a passion and the drive, continue to stay the course. Because if you bend, or concede, will you really be happy? They all say you’re not really working if you love what you do. And I love what I do. But again, it comes back to if I wasn’t that type of person, and I didn’t go after what I want, I don’t think I’d be here. It’s a high-pressure job.
What do you do in your leisure time?
I’m currently rehabbing a house, I’m hoping to move in there soon. I’ve got a girlfriend, and my kids and her kids enjoy spending time together. I play hockey and golf, but not as much as I want.
Over the last year I’ve changed quite a bit, and what’s really important to me now is spending time with people and developing real relationships. I’ve discovered that I have the talents to help men who have been in the same position that I’ve unfortunately had to go through the last couple of years. And it feels good.
When I meet people, I don’t ask them what they do. I like to ask what’s their passion, and people are often taken back by that. But then they can see you’re being genuine. When people start talking, it’s really amazing to hear. When you’re willing to put yourself out there, it’s a completely different world.