2019 is Associated Equipment Distributors’ historic 100- year anniversary, but, for incoming AED Chairman Michael Brennan, it also marks a career of nearly a quarter-century in the heavy equipment industry.
“This will be my 24th year in the industry,” Brennan said. “I am honored to serve as the Chairman for AED in 2019, its’s historic 100th-anniversary year, as the organization has meant so much to the development and success of equipment dealers in North America for the last century.”
Unlike many in the industry, Brennan found his way into the world of heavy equipment through a financial background, rather than a mechanical one. He spent a decade working for an international accounting firm – including a one-year overseas assignment in beautiful Auckland, New Zealand – before accepting a position as vice president of finance for Bramco Inc. in 1995.
Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Bramco Inc. is a family of equipment companies that includes Brandeis Machinery and Supply Co and Power Equipment Co., two leading heavy equipment suppliers with a diverse range of products. Also included is BramcoMPS, a crushing and screening distributor; and Certified Rental®, a separate rental division that provides short- and long-term rent-to-rent construction equipment.
When Brennan joined Bramco in 1995, the industry was experiencing a period of rapid growth, with a dramatic shift toward rental businesses that included the consolidation of rental companies. It was during this time that Bramco made the strategic decision to sell its general rental company, RESCO Rents, to Prime Energy – a company that was subsequently acquired by United Rentals. This decision gave Bramco the opportunity to develop and launch Certified Rental®, a new and different rental business, just a few years later. Considering the central role that rental businesses play in today’s heavy equipment industry, entering the industry at a time of explosive growth in the rental market, has given Brennan a valuable edge.
“I was very fortunate to come into the construction equipment industry during this time of rapid growth and consolidation of the rental industry,” he said. “In the early 2000s, we started a rental business inside our distribution company, Certified Rental®. My early experience and the company’s history within the rental industry has served us well with our current rental business model. I am fortunate to have spent my early years in this industry immersed in the rental side of the business. I anticipate this will continue to be a a key component to success for construction equipment distributors.”
Once at Bramco, Brennan found he was a perfect fit for the industry, and his role at the company quickly evolved. After joining Bramco as vice president of finance in 1995, he was promoted to vice president and chief financial officer (CFO), followed by executive vice president – a role that included direct responsibility for Certified Rental®, which allowed him to show off the rental business knowledge he’d picked up early in his heavy equipment industry career. In late 2012, Brennan became chief operating officer (COO) of Bramco and gained direct responsibility of both Brandeis Machinery & Supply Co. and Power Equipment Co. Just two years later, Brennan was appointed president and COO of Bramco, as well as CEO of Brandeis Machinery and Power Equipment. In this current role, he oversees the growth and success of the entire Bramco family of companies.
Bramco, has a long and storied history that’s intimately entwined with AED. starting with Brandeis Machinery, founded in 1908. Not only was Brandeis Machinery one of the Association’s founding members in 1919, but it also has the distinction of being the only founding AED member company still in operation today. Brandeis Machinery, together with Power Equipment founded in 1946, have been steadfast in their support of AED, its mission and its goals since the beginning, according to Brennan, and have greatly benefited from the relationships AED has helped each of the companies form with other North American distributors.
“Bramco, through Brandeis Machinery as the only surviving original founding member of AED and Power Equipment another long term member, has provided unwavering support for the organization and its goals,” he said. “We strongly believe in bringing together the collective strength and wisdom of equipment distributors throughout North America for the betterment of the entire industry. Our management has made an ongoing commitment to serve on a variety of AED boards, committees, projects, etc. Additionally, we have been active participants in Summit, other professional development programs and AED’s business services. Since its inception, we have been very active with The AED Foundation and believe strongly in education and training as the cornerstone for long-term success in this business. Likewise, we have been enthusiastically engaged in AED’s governmental affairs program, as we believe having a strong voice in Washington, D.C., is critical to the long-term success of our business and industry.”
AED was originally formed after the president of one of the founding member companies expressed a desire for a trade organization that would allow equipment distributors to network, discuss good business methods, and become more efficient. Today, AED continues to deliver on that vital mission, in addition to offering exceptional professional and educational development programs.
Brennan’s involvement with AED began in the summer of 1996, just months after he joined Bramco, when he attended a program for young executives. That experience led him to join AED’s Young Executives Committee and, from there, he was hooked. Brennan started attending the AED Summit and Washington Fly-In events in the late 1990s/early 2000s, joined the AED board in the mid-2000s, served as the board’s vice president of finance in the midst of the Great Recession and has sat on the AED board’s executive committee since 2009.
“With the exception of a one-year hiatus, I have been on the AED board’s executive committee since 2009,” he said. “The thing I treasure most about my AED involvement is the relationships I have developed with other dealers throughout North America. I have formed great bonds with dealers representing many different manufacturers around the country and have learned a great deal from those relationships. The connections I have made at AED have helped me to consider and implement new approaches in our business.”
Bramco focuses on learning and implementing the best business practices throughout the industry. The company’s commitment to ethics and values has proven popular with manufacturers, employees and customers alike. In 2019, Brandeis Machinery celebrates its 111th year of business and Power Equipment celebrates its 73rd year. The more-than century-old company has achieved great success through the years, in part because of its reputation for operating with honesty and integrity. Another key to Bramco’s success: its talented and dedicated employees.
“We are focused on long-term success and are driven by a mission, vision and statement of principles,” Brennan said. “Our Statement of Principles begins with the words, ‘We do not lie, cheat or steal.’ This is purposely a clear statement to our customers, manufacturers and employees regarding the value we put on honesty and integrity in everything we do. We pride ourselves on being our customers trusted partner. This helps us attract and retain the most talented employees in the industry who are dedicated to our company and our customers. Our employees know they will be treated with both respect and honesty, and will be given many opportunities to grow and flourish. This develops a value-driven culture from inside our doors. Our employees take our core values and beliefs and translate them into outstanding daily support of our customers. We work really hard to have the most engaged and dedicated employees in the industry who are truly part of the Bramco family. Our customers can see and feel the dedication of our employees which we hope ultimately translates to the success of their businesses.”
Treating employees with respect, offering opportunities for growth and making workers feel like part of the family may be a part of Bramco’s values and good for customers, but it also serves as a surefire workforce retention strategy. Many members of Brandeis’ workforce are longtime employees – in fact, one service technician will celebrate his 54-year anniversary with the company later this year.
Along with their commitment to operating ethically and employing a skilled, dedicated workforce, Brennan credits the company’s success to the emphasis it places on developing positive relationships – with everyone from manufacturers to other distributors, employees and customers. These powerful business relationships have benefited Bramco over the years through the exchange of ideas and the building of both employee and customer loyalty. For Brennan, these relationships are what he loves about his positions as president and COO of Bramco and CEO of Brandeis Machinery and Power Equipment, as well as his work in the heavy equipment industry in general.
“My favorite thing about working in the heavy equipment industry and my role with the company comes down to the role of relationships in conducting business,” he said. “This is such a great industry to work in because of all the outstanding connections that make this business successful. There are three keys I see as to our success: connections with our customers, support from our manufacturers and lifelong bonds with our most valuable assets – our employees. I enjoy my role in nurturing these relationships and realize how fortunate I am to be a part of an organization that not only has a long legacy, but is focused on future success.”
Bramco’s longtime commitment to honest and ethical operations, industry relationships, dedication to employees, and having a skilled workforce has worked out well for the family of companies. Today, Brandeis Machinery & Supply Co., along with its sister company, Power Equipment Co., make up one of the largest construction and mining distribution networks in the United States. Together, the two companies serve as distributors for major manufacturers such as Komatsu, Wirtgen Group, Epiroc and Sennebogen and boast 14 branch locations throughout Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, northern Mississippi and eastern Arkansas. Additionally, Bramco-MPS serves three of the top 10 leading states – Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee – for the production of crushed stone, sand, and gravel. Both Bramco – MPS and Certified Rental® offer services and equipment rentals from each of the aforementioned service branches.
Brennan has a keen eye toward the future and looks forward to helping lay the groundwork for success in AED’s second century. Supporting AED’s government affairs program and increasing the Association’s political presence in both Washington and Ottawa will play a large role in its advancement in the coming years. Therefore, these issues will be a central focus during Brennan’s AED chairmanship.
Getting involved with AED’s governmental affairs program is as easy as contacting the program’s Washington office, which is staffed by attorneys with extensive political and equipment industry experience. Governmental affairs staff can help AED members stay up to date with important policy and legal developments, create opportunities for distributors to get personally involved in the policy process, and even schedule appointments for members to meet with their members of Congress during the upcoming two-day AED Washington Fly-In. The event marks the start of an all-new Congress and will include information on engaging elected officials on issues that are important to the heavy equipment industry, including infrastructure investment, commonsense regulatory policy and policies that address the skilled workforce shortage.
The 2019 AED Washington Fly-In will be held June 11-13 on Capitol Hill. Early registration is open now and ends on March 28. Regular registration ends on May 26. You are encouraged to register for the 2019 AED Washington Fly-In at www.aednet.org/aed-events
While his roles with Bramco and AED keep him busy, Brennan makes time for what’s important: his family. And with both he and his wife, Elaine, coming from large families, there’s a lot of family to love.
“When not working or serving AED or other civic duties, I find my time often filled with family activities,” he said. “My wife, Elaine, and I have three children: Matthew, Meghan and Patrick. I am from a family of five children and Elaine is from a family of 12 children. When you include my parents, who are now well into their eighties, that’s a lot of family! Elaine and I also enjoy traveling, socializing and competing in spin class at the gym.”