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Succeeding Your Father in Business – Part 1

Posted on: 11/15/2021

In the spring of 2021, I interviewed Alberto Pianelli from F&B Rentals about his ascension in the company. We focused on continuation planning which involves succession to the next generation. We looked at the operational transition of Alberto into leadership. We also touched on the financial and legal transitions of a business. Alberto started in rental like many young children do in families that are focused in the rental industry. In his case, he took some time away from rental and did not come back till he was about 27. At that point, he committed himself to getting back involved in F&B, learning all aspects of the business, especially, managing people and systems. He also began to serve his industry through his activity with the American Rental Association. As of this writing he is acting as the president of ARA of California. He also served on the first Young Professional Network board in the ARA and was involved in the Anaheim, CA planning for The ARA Show. Alberto has been active with legislative issues in California, as well as on a national level by representing the ARA with Washington Caucus trips. – Dan Crowley

Our business started with my grandfather, Grandpa Shipley. After coming out of the Korean War he had the opportunity to work with a cousin in Southern California at a nearby gas station. Later he opened his own gas station and began running U-Haul from that station. Although he performed well for U-Haul, they decided to open three more stores around him. Grandpa Shipley did not like that. He said, “you know what? I bet I can be more successful if I open my own store if I bought my own trailers and I rented out my own stuff”.

During the sixties, he rented everything from trailers to motor homes to whatever you can think of. And that is how we got started. He eventually opened three stores. Two were called Shipley Rentals, then one called F&B Rentals. F&B was founded July 5th of 1975. F&B stands for Fran and Bob, my grandparents. My dad, Robert, came along, and when he started, he expanded us into several rental asset categories. It was literally just him and one other guy running the show for a long time. Overtime he built it into what it is today. I have also been able to contribute to our growth since I have joined.

I came into the business when I was a teenager. Really, it was my mom keeping me out of trouble during the summertime. I was kind of a wild child, so they thought it was best that I come to work with my dad and, you know, started washing machines. I remember we had dogs guarding our place and I had to clean up the dog poop. I had the opportunity as a teenager, even like preteen, when I was doing little odds and ends. This was also around the time I got to learn how to drive. I learned the rental equipment. I learned how to wrench on stuff. I learned a lot of the basics. There is so much with rental industry, you know, just trying to understand and look at different things being done. At the time, of course, I thought it was annoying and boring, but looking back at it, I am really grateful for those experiences of learning how to tie down things, learning to change the oil, how to change a tire, etc. It’s something that is super valuable to me. I mean, I learned how to drive stick shift, and you know, all these different things. When I turned 18, I jumped in the truck and I started doing deliveries, you know, and for an 18-year-old, jumping in a rollback truck with 10,000 pounds on the back and doing deliveries was the dream. That was my dream. I loved it. I love making deliveries and that service aspect of our business. I was always good on the phones and taking orders and it was awesome. I am glad I grew up with it.

My father, Rob Shipley is a great owner, manager, but I think what his greatest strength is that he remembers everything. Also, when it comes down to numbers and looking at return on investment and things like that, he can process it all, calculate it in his brain. I am the kind of person, where I need to put it in a spreadsheet. I need to see the visuals for it to make sense. But with Rob, you talk about numbers with him and he is doing the math in his head and he will tell you whatever a piece of equipment cost or rental rate. Like, a certain asset only made 71% utilization of hours and he can tell you exactly what that number should have been.

He grew the business from very small to what it is today just by knowing and servicing the local community. He has been great at that as well. It was the weekend warriors doing home repairs. A lot of the equipment we have is small, like little demo hammers, and different things. He knew everything that he needed to know about that equipment. He knew in his mind, “okay, this equipment is going to be useless in 20 years”. That equipment is good for seven years and that is when we know we need to replace it. He has a good grasp on this whole business, and he is good at figuring out what works, what niches work, for us as a business. I give him a lot of credit for that. – Alberto Pianelli

Part 2 coming soon…

This was transcribed from a Peer Talk Podcast –

Episode 19: Alberto Pianelli – Continuation Planning

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