Beyond Control

Beyond Control: Scott Dols

SPECIAL GUEST

Scott Dols

Founder, Big Truck Rental

Big Truck Rental operates the largest fleet of rental garbage trucks in North America. BTR came into TGIF I in 2018 and exited in 2021 — one of the early success stories that further validates our non-control private equity offering in the lower middle-market.

“It’s a Dirty Job, but Someone’s Gotta Do It”

TONY HILL

Scott, welcome to the inaugural edition of our new interview series Beyond Control, where we profile current and former CEOs who have worked with the Trivest Growth Investment Fund, also known as TGIF, and showcase their experience. It’s great to have you. Before we start, let me congratulate you on Big Truck Rental’s acquisition by Alinda Capital Partners (now Astatine Investment Partners) late last year. That was an incredible outcome for everyone involved, and I know the TGIF team in particular loved working with you.

SCOTT DOLS

Thanks, Tony. Great to be here, and, yes, it was it was a very, very successful transaction. It was also bittersweet, though, moving on to another family. We’ve just gotten so close working with the Trivest guys and gals the last three and a half years. But you know, they took a really good company that I had and helped me make it into an incredible company. And that was the difference that led to this great exit to Alinda.

TH

Well, the feeling is mutual, and I could not agree more with your use of the word “bittersweet.”

If it’s OK with you, let’s start by going back to the beginning. Can you tell us a little bit about Big Truck Rental’s origin story: how it got started and what fueled its explosive growth for the first 15 years or so?

SD

Happy to! In fact, it’s hard to believe we just celebrated our 20th anniversary on April 1st of this year.

So, before we started Big Truck Rental (“BTR”), there were no companies out there that rented garbage trucks. That made us the first mover in the market. But there was a reason for that: it’s a very capital-intensive business, heavy on debt on the balance sheet, and therefore out of most banks’ comfort zones.

So, it’s been a wild ride. Only a few months after founding BTR, 9/11 happened. A few years after that, the Great Recession, and the collapse of the banking world. Then, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic for the last couple of years.

Incredibly, we weathered all those problems, but one of the constant challenges throughout was getting enough capital to grow the business. That’s where Trivest came in. Their focus on growth coupled with their longstanding banking relationships helped us secure a really big credit facility to turbocharge our growth strategy.

TH

In 2018, Big Truck Rental partnered with TGIF. What was the backdrop at the company at the time? Where was it heading, what was it looking to accomplish, and why did a non-control, growth investment make sense?

SD

Well, we were plugging along the best we could. We’d get capital, grow. Get more capital, grow some more, then go get more capital.

In late 2015, early 2016, we made the conscious decision that this company needed to grow up and get to the next level. So, we hired our first salesperson. That went pretty well for a couple of years but, soon enough, we outstripped our capital again.

That reminds me of one of the “ah ha” moments right after we received the growth investment from Trivest, when Jamie Elias (Partner and Head of TGIF) was in our board meeting and he looked at me and my CFO and said, “now go hire as many salespeople as you want!” There’s some backstory there, but that’s when we knew we were going to knock it out of the park working with Trivest.

TH

There are a LOT of private equity groups out there. By some accounts, over 1,500 funds in North America alone. How did you connect with Trivest and what was it that ultimately led you to partner with us?

SD

It was an interesting path, as we actually ended up working with an independent sponsor called Seneca Partners. That turned out to be a good thing for us because we were new to all of this. We had all these investors and lenders pitching different things and promising all kinds of outcomes. But there were two things that I knew: number one, I knew that I wanted to take some chips off the table and help the company grow. Number two, I knew that I did not want to give up control.

So, when we got connected with Trivest and, specifically, their non-control fund (TGIF), we knew it was just the perfect, perfect fit for us.

They love investing in founder-owned companies. They’re willing to take a back seat to the founder, so they can ride along in the sidecar. It’s just been a great experience.

TH

That’s great to hear. I of course agree that, in an ocean of buyout-focused funds, TGIF’s value proposition is unique and compelling, not to speak of the caliber of the team they’ve assembled. Speaking of which, can you talk about partnering with the TGIF team? What did they assist with and maybe discuss things that worked well, and any that didn’t? Were there any surprises, positive or negative, along the way?

SD

So, we actually started with the end in mind. When I first sat down with Jamie and Amir, the discussion was not, “how much are we worth today?” It was, “how much could we be worth down the road and how do we get to that point?”

Then, with the Path to 3x they laid out in front of us, the whiteboard session we did during onboarding, the additional funding we were able to secure with CIBC, the annual CEO conference where they fly all of the portfolio company CEOs down to Miami to collaborate, everything just sort of fell into place. So, anybody that’s not part of the Path to 3x, needs to get with the program, because it really will triple your business.

By the way, it’s worth pointing out that the working relationship was not overbearing in the least. We, of course, had quarterly board meetings, monthly calls, and the like, but no micromanagement. The spirit of the relationship always was, “Just go do your job, go grow your business, and let us know where we can help.”

TH

Less than four years after our minority investment in Big Truck Rental, it was acquired by Alinda Capital Partners, one of the most prominent infrastructure-focused private equity investors in the world. What was the sale process like and how did Trivest help? Also, what were the reasons you selected Alinda as your next partner?

SD

Well, first off, we really let Trivest manage the sale process. We obviously participated in the management meetings and things like that but, when it came to the actual process itself, Trivest is the expert here. Between platform investments, add-ons, and divestitures, they do over 50 deals per year. For me to step in and pretend like I was an expert at this would have just been completely wrong.

Now, did we have occasional differences of opinion along the way? Sure. But, at the end of the day, we worked through them and got to the finish line with Alinda, who, frankly, are like a larger version of Trivest. The relationship there is fantastic and continuing to grow. We’re excited.

TH

Outstanding. As you look back on your time with Trivest and, in particular, with our TGIF team, what advice might you give other founders who are in similar shoes today as you were back in 2018, trying to weigh a conventional control investment against the minority investment?

SD

First off, I think it’s important that the founder knows what they want to do. I think it’s important that, if they want to continue to operate and control their business, then a non-control investment is a great way to go. If, on the other hand, they’re looking for an exit and taking a lot more chips off the table, then obviously a buyout or a majority recapitalization with a control fund is a better option.

I personally was in a situation where I believed firmly in the growth potential of my company and my ability to drive it to the next level. What I needed was the right partner to help me unlock that growth. I’m proud to say that, less than four years after we partnered with TGIF, we were able to grow by over 4x where we were before.

TH

Scott, that’s wonderful to hear.  So, as we discussed, we always like to end these interviews on a lighter note by asking our guests to recount a humorous or fascinating story from their days as a founder/CEO.

Now, having spent the vast majority of your career in the waste management industry, I can’t imagine you have any of those, do you?

Scott Dols

Not at all, haha!

Here’s one that comes to mind. When I was still fairly new to the waste industry, we had a real character of a customer up in New York — let’s call him “Jimmy” (not his real name) — who wanted to rent a truck from us. We were working it out with him when he suddenly said, “Scott, just come up. I wanna take you to dinner.”

So, we fly up there, Jimmy picks us up and, next thing we know, we wind up at Sparks, which is this old steakhouse that’s supposedly also a well-known mobster hangout. We were a little apprehensive at first but, after a couple of bottles of red wine and a couple of nice, big steaks, we were feeling good.

Just as we’re finishing up, Jimmy says, “Hey, time to go. I want to show you something.” So, we hopped back in his car and end up driving over to a dark street full of warehouses. The car slows to a stop and we’re now at a FedEx depot. Jimmy looks at me and says, “I could really use a hand tonight,” and we proceeded to spend the next 2.5 hours loading recycling paper into trash trucks.

At the time, I was like, “Seriously? This is how we’re going to end the night?” But, in hindsight, it really gave me appreciation for what those guys do every night and every day out on the street, and just how hard they work.

Tony Hill

Ha! I’m not going to lie. For a moment there, it sounded like things could have ended up much worse!

Scott, I know you’re a busy man. Thanks again for doing this interview with us. Also, once again, congratulations on the incredible story arc you led Big Truck Rental through and your new partnership with Alinda. We look forward to watching the next phase of the BTR story unfold and wish you all the best along the way.

“Beyond Control”

Trivest is one of very few middle-market private equity firms with a dedicated non-control fund and a team to source these kinds of opportunities, manage a portfolio, and expedite the aggressive growth of these businesses. In this series, we interview select executives with particular insight on the Trivest Growth Investment Fund (TGIF). To mix things up, at the end of each interview, we ask our guest to recount a particularly memorable (and hopefully humorous) story around building their business. Our goal is to help Founders understand the flexibility and breadth of options available to them with Trivest.
Interested in a growth investment for your company? Start a conversation with us!
EMAIL TONY HILL

About Trivest

Trivest Partners, with offices in Miami, Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Toronto, is a private investment firm that focuses exclusively on the support and growth of founder-led and family-owned businesses in the U.S. and Canada, in both control and non-control transactions. Since its founding in 1981, Trivest has completed more than 400 investments, totaling approximately $7 billion in value. The firm has roughly $4 billion in assets under management, with a growing team of over 60 professionals. Trivest is one of only 15 firms recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the top founder-friendly private equity firms in three consecutive years.

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