Pat Lawlor sits comfortably in an office chair, drinking tea as he attempts to clear the jetlag from his mind. He’s in Dallas after two days of travel: First from his home in Glasgow, Scotland to Reading, England, then to Point of Rental headquarters in Dallas. His neatly-trimmed graying beard, short hair, and Scottish accent has turned the heads of his new co-workers who ask, “Is that Sean Connery?”
Lawlor, who became Point of Rental’s 100th employee on January 8, doesn’t pine for the cameras or the travel schedule of an actor, however. In fact, his three-week trip to the States is the longest he’s been away from his wife, Jacqui, and kids Sean, 17, and Grace, 14.
Built in Rental
Like so many of Point of Rental’s employees, Lawlor started his career in the rental industry. In a rebellious stage in his youth, he left the educational system as soon as he was legally able and started working at a local rental store within a mile of home. There, he swept the workshop, cleaned the yard, and loaded vehicles. Within two years, he was managing the store.
From there he moved on up to a bigger rental store, where he worked the front counter. After hours, though, he was laying the groundwork for an even more successful future.
Most importantly, he met his wife, Jacqui, who has since “always been a strong guidance.” She’s the one who encouraged him to return to school for night courses, where he took business studies, accounting, and sales courses after work each day for years. By the time he’d earned his degree, Lawlor was ready for a new challenge. And life handed him one in 1992, as the owner of his store was retiring. He and a partner bought the business, Power Plant Hire, and suddenly Lawlor was a business owner.
Constructing a Model Business
“When I took over the business, I got involved in IT as a way to drive the business forward. We were looking at ways we could manage the business better, get better information from the business to take it forward,” said Lawlor. “We were quite innovative with what we were doing; we put a network in, we put computers into the business, we put a system in that ran all the asset management. More and more, I found I was doing IT support rather than working on the [rental] side.”
Business boomed, and Lawlor kept innovating. Power Plant Hire won several Hire Association of Europe awards, including Hire Company of the Year, and keyed in on new technologies. In the late ‘90s, Power Plant Hire used custom-shaped CD-Rom business cards, featuring contact information, videos, and other relevant business information.
Eventually, Lawlor sold his business to Martin Plant Hire, who asked him to take over their IT infrastructure. He oversaw developments like digital signature capturing, digital proof of delivery, order tracking, etc. for Martin Plant Hire even before such services were available from rental software companies in the area.
While with Martin Plant Hire, Lawlor met another person that would end up changing the course of his life. Mark Goodrum, then a Syrinx salesperson (now a Managing Director with Point of Rental) had grown up in the rental industry like Lawlor. The two went to the same trade shows, and were both were keen on rental software and how it could streamline business.
“I knew Pat would make a great addition to the team the first time I met him. It is unique to come across someone in the [rental] industry who understands the business from controller to CEO and understands IT to the level Pat does,” said Goodrum.
After a couple of missed opportunities, one due to Martin Plant Hire having internal reasons not to switch, another because of the 2008 recession, Goodrum and Lawlor finally got Martin Plant Hire on the Syrinx system. Lawlor was ready to move onto new horizons and he wanted to ensure Martin Plant Hire’s information side would be in capable hands.
Even with everything squared away at Martin Plant Hire, he wasn’t ready to join Goodrum with Syrinx yet. He became an operations manager for a builders merchant, controlling operations in the north of England and all of Scotland. Within four years, he turned a company making £1-2 million into a £7 million profit-making machine.
Yet again, however, he found himself at a crossroads.
“I felt like I’d plateaued there unless I wanted to relocate to Northampton,” Lawlor said. Not wanting to uproot his family from Scotland, but seeking a new challenge, he turned to an old friend.
“I’d been speaking to Mark; he’d asked me to join in 2014 and it wasn’t quite the right time,” said Lawlor. “He called me again last year in the summer, asked me if I’d be interested in coming on for a project that he had in mind, and it sounded really, really good.”
“I knew we would get him one day,” said Goodrum. “Especially when we became Point of Rental.”
Goodrum and Syrinx had just been brought on by the American company, and their three products would soon be joining Syrinx as part of a portfolio of rental software solutions available on his side of the Atlantic. As someone who had helped large businesses succeed through custom software innovations, he was perfect to pitch Point of Rental’s new enterprise resource planning software, Rental Elite.
“I’ve come at IT from the perspective of ‘how do I improve my [rental] business? How do I create a unique selling point in my business with my customers?’” said Lawlor. “And I’ve found that through innovation. It’s showing people how innovative they can get on the back of someone else’s development. We’ll do the innovating; all you have to do is implement it and show your customers what you can do for them.”
With his new opportunity, Lawlor will live the best of both worlds: He’ll be stationed in Glasgow and spend time with his family, and he gets to explore the world as he visits clients in Europe, the Middle East, and South Africa to help them innovate with Rental Elite.
Midway through another day of training on the product, Lawlor is excited about his future.
“You don’t get too many opportunities at something new,” he says with a confident smile.
With that, he finishes his tea. After a minute or two of chatter about family and travel, Point of Rental Employee One Double-Oh returns to the training room for an afternoon spent on the intricacies of Rental Elite.