ICS Magazine

Shopping for Major Equipment

August 1, 2006
Take your time and select the best equipment to fit your needs.

You've probably heard the expression "You've got to spend money to make money." Well, when it comes to a cleaning- or restoration-service company and its equipment, this old saying certainly applies.

When you consider that on the average equipment costs represent only about 10 percent to 12 percent of gross sales, while labor typically represents about 40 percent to 45 percent of gross sales, it makes pretty good sense to spend a little more for better equipment that will allow your technicians to work faster. The equipment cost may go up a little, but the labor will likely go down more. The net result is an overall better bottom line.

It has been my experience that, generally speaking, the only way to make equipment less expensive is to either use cheaper components or cut corners in the manufacturing. Either of these options is probably on track for more frequent breakdowns or a shorter life span before being ready for the junk pile. We all know there is nothing more expensive or frustrating than down time due to poor equipment performance.

When selecting the best equipment for your business there are several key points that should be kept in mind. First, have a clear picture of exactly what the equipment will be used for. The jobsite location, e.g. residential vs. commercial or high-rise vs. single story, will surely play a part in equipment selection.

The second point to keep in mind is who will be operating the equipment. Employees will generally not take as good of care of your equipment as the owner/operator. Sometimes special features or extra power might have to give way to simple design or easy maintenance. Reliability and ease of operation are many times more important than extreme importance.

Another key point will be how the equipment will be transported. You might consider a trailer mount if you need your truck for hauling other things besides your machine.

Obviously, budget has to be considered. However, as described above, lower price may not always mean less expensive. Stretch a little and buy the finest equipment you can afford and, most likely, you will be money ahead at the end of the day. When considering the price of equipment, whether it's a truck mount or expensive specialized drying equipment, don't just think in terms of how much you will pay, but consider how much this equipment can earn for you if kept busy. Once the equipment has earned its monthly lease or finance payment, your profit margin opens up every hour you use it after that.

Never order expensive equipment from a supplier that isn't willing to demonstrate it and/or let you try before you buy. Most will give you the names of other satisfied customers who have previously purchased similar units as well. Take the time to follow up on these references. You'll be talking to people like yourself who are not trying to sell you anything, and are more likely to give fully honest appraisals.

Finally, make sure your supplier is an authorized service and warranty center for the equipment you are considering and is able to service what he sells. Even the finest equipment is not perfect and access to key parts, emergency service and the like may someday be needed, and that's not the time to find out that your supplier doesn't service this equipment.

Having the right tools for the job is critical to running a successful service company. Don't cut corners on major equipment purchases. Do your homework before you buy.