Dave Arnold, an EquipmentShare district sales manager, remembers almost every moment of March 2, 2009, a date that was both the low point of his professional life and the launch pad for all that came after.
He can tell you the weather that day in Richmond, Virginia — unseasonably cold, with a late winter storm moving in. He remembers telling his wife, Lisa, in a morning phone conversation that he needed to put some diesel fuel in his truck before returning home. He recalls her response: “Don’t spend too much money, because we only have $20 left in our account.”
That, as he colorfully puts it, was his “Oh, s---, moment.”
For most of his young life, Arnold had been good at whatever he tried. He was a standout tennis player in high school. He breezed through college, majoring in “Wiffle Ball and beer drinking” — his actual degree was in history, but you get the idea — and then slid right into his dream job as a teaching pro at a tennis club in Richmond. Three years of daily tennis started to take a toll on his body, so he transitioned smoothly into the truck rental business and soon became one of the company’s top sales reps, with a Rolex watch he earned as a bonus to prove it.
Then Arnold decided to take out a home equity loan, pool all his savings and start his own company, a mobile fleet-cleaning company. In six months, he burned through all but the last $20. He was so focused on growing the company, he neglected the need for positive cash flow along the way. Now, he was in his early 30s, not a kid anymore — in fact, he and Lisa had three kids — and he faced the very adult problem of figuring a way out of this mess of mounting debt and shrinking cash.
That afternoon, as the snow fell outside, Dave and Lisa Arnold sat at their kitchen table and discussed whether salvaging the business was even possible. They decided it was — but that it would require analyzing every process and being willing to admit mistakes and make drastic changes. One idea would lead to another in what he called “an avalanche of change,” both professional and personal, that ultimately would lead him to EquipmentShare, a company that didn’t even exist during that dark day in 2009.
“When you’re backed into a corner, you’ve got nothing left to do except fight,” Arnold said. “I had such a focus on finding a way to cash-flow this business to feed my family, everything else went away. All of my friends melted away because I didn’t have time for them. I stopped playing tennis. The business was everything.”
The story resumes in the same kitchen five years later. Lisa is stirring a pot of tomato sauce, and Dave is, well, getting on her nerves.
The changes to the fleet-cleaning company had paid off. A new system allowed one worker — rather than three — to clean a tractor-trailer. Employees were paid per truck washed rather than per hour, so they were rewarded for efficiency. He found equipment that could stand up to the cleaning chemicals and last longer.
But turning his company around and keeping it successful required nearly round-the-clock attention. So, in 2014, he sold it for a nice profit to prioritize being a more attentive husband and dad. That meant lots of domestic leisure time with his family, which was a good thing.
Maybe too much of a good thing.
“One day, Lisa was tweaking her spaghetti sauce, which she is very proud of, and she turned to me and said, ‘You need to go find a job. You’re driving me crazy,’” he recalled with a laugh.
Looking for a new challenge, he took a sales manager job with a construction equipment rental company despite “not knowing what a scissor lift was.” He threw himself into the job, figured out the details as he went and made a nice living. But as someone who experienced the struggles and accomplishments of running his own business, Arnold felt stifled by the “corporate bureaucracy.”
In 2019, he heard about an opening at a young equipment rental and technology company called EquipmentShare. It offered general managers the autonomy to act as the CEOs of their branch. He jumped at the opportunity to start a new branch in Virginia Beach.
“Owning your own business changes you,” he said. “When you live on margin, you get to know the real value of a dollar and how to earn it and the effort it takes to earn that dollar of profit. At EquipmentShare, you could create your own team, your own culture, whatever you wanted it to look like. That really intrigued me.”
Arnold used his sales and operational experience to quickly build the Virginia Beach and then Richmond branches. He prioritized hiring people with the right qualities, regardless of their work background. He said about 70% of his hires at the Richmond branch had no experience in the equipment rental business.
“You get good people, and you train them, you coach them,” Arnold said. “That’s ongoing, not a singular day, week or month. Business is all about people. That’s all it is. You get the right people onboard, you can take over.”
A big selling point for EquipmentShare, which has rapidly grown to include more than 165 branches nationwide, is employees have the opportunity to rise in the company if they earn it. Arnold is proof of that. In January 2023, he was promoted to district sales manager, supervising 15 territory account managers throughout Virginia and Maryland.
EquipmentShare has been a great fit for Arnold, giving him the action and challenges of running his own business but with a healthy work-life balance. He no longer plays tennis, but he still gets an adrenaline rush from “winning deals.” He also appreciates the feeling of accomplishment when he helps a sales rep, dispatcher or rental coordinator grasp the big picture of their role helping the company succeed.
If they have their own moment of doubt or despair, he can tell them from experience they might look back on it with a different perspective — that it’s an opportunity for reinvention.
“I reminisce every March and think, ‘Did I really do that?’” Arnold said. “It was a dark time, but it was the best learning experience of my life. I could not be successful without March 2, 2009, in my life.”
EquipmentShare is growing nationwide, and we’re on the lookout for talented team members in all departments. Check out our job openings.