After Tim Hyer had a nightmare of a time renting a bicycle to compete in a far-from-home triathlon, he knew there must be a business opportunity in the leasing space. So, he gathered some money and worked with a few partners to establish Rentcycle, a centralized service where renters could find virtually any product they needed. For three years, Rentcycle operated successfully, but then Hyer and his co-founders made the conscious decision to revamp the company and focus solely on one industry. For a variety of reasons, they choose construction equipment, and the company was rebranded as Getable. Now, three years later, Getable continues to serve those looking for construction rentals, from contractors to homeowners, and offers them a wealth of information and discount opportunities. Hyer went Behind the Business Plan with Business News Daily to discuss Getable's success and what he's learned as an entrepreneur through the last six years.
Business News Daily: In a nutshell, what service does your business provide?
Tim Hyer: Getable is the easiest way to rent construction equipment. We position ourselves as “your equipment rental concierge” to take care of anyone who needs construction equipment – whether contractors, installation professionals, facilities managers, homeowners, etc. We offer all types of equipment needed on a job site, from site services to specialty equipment. We leverage rates data and guarantee pricing so there’s never any hidden fees. We show an out-the-door price, something no one else does, and we leverage technology to be available on-demand 24/7. Our app automatically sends alerts and notifications so you have a record of everything that happens and Getable gives three percent loyalty credit on every order which can be applied to future rental reservations. Getable offers all users the sorts of perks that were previously only available to the largest construction companies.
BND: How long have you been in business?
Hyer: Getable has been disrupting the rental industry for six years, and has been squarely focused on the construction category for three.
BND: Did you start with a formal business plan? If not, how did you lay the groundwork for your business?
Hyer: Getable was born from personal pain. My wife and I were living in California, competing in a triathlon in North Carolina. We needed to get our bikes to the race site and were appalled by the expense and hassle of shipping them cross-country. Fortunately, I discovered several bike shops at our destination that rented bikes for a fraction of the cost. But the process of evaluating our options took several hours of calling around to ask the same questions about price, size, location and availability. When we finished the race, I suddenly had time to put together a business plan. Next, I joined a startup incubator called The Founder Institute where I began networking with peers, mentors and possible investors. I finally quit my job, brought on co-founders, and raised a round of capital. That was six years ago and I’ve never looked back.
BND: How did you finance your endeavors, both initially and as your business grew?
Hyer: I personally funded the business for the first year and a half, until we raised our Seed Round. During this time, my early employees and I did not take a salary. We were extremely frugal with our spending which forced us to prioritize efforts and focus. At one point, we won a startup competition that granted us $25,000 which was a really big deal at the time. We invested it into critical business needs, including an industry trade show where we launched our idea to the public.
BND: How much did you invest personally?
Hyer: At the earliest stages of a startup, all energy goes into breathing life into an idea. Your startup is all you can think about so it becomes difficult to separate work and life. For this reason, it becomes easy to invest personal money into the business, which makes it difficult to track. My lawyer advised me early on to track large expenses for future reporting. I did this sporadically and racked up $75,000 in spending by the time we raised our first round of capital. It’s amazing how quickly business expenses add up.
BND: Is your business today what you originally envisioned at the outset or has it changed significantly over time?
Hyer: Getable has changed significantly over its life. So much so that we had to change the name. The original business was called Rentcycle -- a site to rent anything online. Because the company was inspired by my experience renting bicycles, this happened to be our first product to really take off -- and also what inspired the name “Rentcycle.” As the business grew, we added all sorts of products for rent -- snow skis, limousines, bouncy castles, jackhammers. After our second round of capital, our investors pushed us to focus on a single vertical. For several reasons, the tool and equipment rental category made sense due to the frequency, ticket sizes and levels of fragmentation. This led us to construction and the rest is history.
BND: What are some lessons you’ve learned? Is there anything you would’ve done differently?
Hyer: So many lessons learned. Probably the biggest is the importance of focus. By nature, a startup is extremely resource constrained. The last thing it needs is to be spread even thinner than it already is. When working on a brand new problem that no one has attempted to solve before, the possibilities are limitless -- as are the distractions. We learned this lesson the hard way when we pivoted the business from “rent anything” to “rent construction equipment.” We are so much better off for this focused approach and I’d recommend the same to any startup company.
As tough as some of the phases of this company have been, I can’t say I would have done anything differently. I believe learning is one of the most important aspects of running a startup. You need to make mistakes early on to develop the muscle memory required to recognize patterns and avoid bigger issues down the road. There have been many hard times along the way, but the company is only better for them.
BND: What were the most important factors that contributed to your success?
Hyer: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Early on, and every step of the way, I’ve tried to surround myself with people who are smarter than myself. This started by joining a startup incubator, networking with peers, mentors and investors in a world I did not understand. This continued when I brought in co-founders to run areas of the business where I was deficient. This surfaced again when I formed a board of directors with the strongest relevant experience I could muster for the business we were trying to build. And it continues today with each new hire we bring into the company. My goal is to be the dumbest person at the company which will be a great way to know that I have succeeded.
BND: What is your best advice to someone with a great business idea who is ready to give it a shot?
Hyer: One of the biggest mistakes I see new startup founders make is a reluctance to share their business idea out of fear that someone will steal it. Although it may seem counterintuitive, I believe founders hurt themselves much more by not sharing than by sharing their ideas. The risk of an idea getting stolen, executed upon and succeeding is so infinitesimal, especially when compared to the risk of what is lost by not sharing. When you share ideas, especially at the earliest stages, you receive invaluable feedback in the form of perspectives you hadn’t considered, connections you didn’t have, and ideas you wouldn’t have thought of on your own. My advice would be to share with as many people as you possibly can, especially at the earliest stages. It will make you smarter, your idea stronger, and your likelihood of success a lot higher.