Olivier Colleau, CEO of French equipment rental company Kiloutou, is responsible for pushing his company from a French market leader to an international powerhouse.
His rise to the coveted position began when he joined the company as Head of Strategy Development and Mergers & Acquisitions in 2009. It was a role that was new to the company, which until then had been growing organically. As a result, Kiloutou was ready to begin acquiring new competencies.
"I did this in my previous life," Colleau says with a smile. "This is why I joined Kiloutou."
The main asset that we have is a non-material asset – our people.
Kiloutou’s first two acquisitions were handled by Colleau before he was promoted to Director, then shortly after, COO. After four years handling operations, he was promoted to Managing Director, then to CEO two years later.
At the time of his appointment to CEO, Kiloutou was at a crucial point in its growth. The industry was seeing an increase in the penetration rate of the rental market as customers made the shift toward the economy of use rather than that of ownership.
Colleau, seeing the trend for the opportunity it was, saw the potential to expand Kiloutou’s presence beyond France’s borders.
"When I took over, France accounted for 90 percent of the business," Colleau says. "Now, five years later, non-French operations account for 36 percent of the business."
"What makes Kiloutou different in our space is our culture and the way we behave," Colleau explains.
He believes in a direct and trusting management approach and values delegation to his team.
"I don’t have the skills to know everything, and I don’t have the time to do everything," he admits, highlighting the importance of trusting his managers and empowering them to take ownership.
This culture of trust and empowerment has created a family-like atmosphere within the company.
"The main asset that we have is a non-material asset – our people," Colleau says.
This strong organizational culture has played a crucial role in driving Kiloutou’s growth and fostering long-term partnerships with suppliers and customers alike.
Striving for sustainability
While Colleau is committed to maintaining this growth, he is mindful of the environmental impact of the company. To combat this, Kiloutou launched an initiative three years ago to reduce its carbon footprint.
Nearly 92 percent of the company’s CO2 emissions are indirect, stemming from the use of equipment by its customers. To address this, Colleau initiated a unique collaboration with manufacturers, suppliers, construction companies and rental companies, creating a community of sustainable fleet players.
At the beginning, the meeting was small, but today it gathers teams from more than 80 companies – including Kiloutou’s competitors.
What makes Kiloutou different in our space is our culture and the way we behave.
"It allows everyone to be on the same page in terms of knowledge regarding technology, regarding regulation, and we take actions to improve," Colleau explains.
This community shares knowledge, discusses technological advancements and collectively addresses the impact of climate change on the construction industry – one closely linked to Kiloutou.
The spirit of collaboration transcends competition as all stakeholders unite toward a common goal: fighting climate change.
"When we are fighting against the impact of climate change, there is no competition anymore," Colleau says
Navigating the road ahead
Looking forward, Colleau envisions doubling Kiloutou’s size over the next five years, driven by both organic growth and strategic acquisitions. In addition, he aims to internationalize further, with the goal to build non-French business up to more than 50 percent in the near future.
"We are in a business where there are some issues with inflation, issues with financing, issues with geopolitics in the world," Colleau says.
When we are fighting against the impact of climate change, there is no competition anymore.
But despite these potential challenges, his confidence in Kiloutou’s ability to adapt and overcome is unwavering, thanks to strong partnerships with critical suppliers and a people-centric approach to management.
Since assuming the role of CEO at Kiloutou, his unwavering commitment to growth and sustainability has propelled the company to new heights. As the journey continues, one thing remains certain – the legacy of Colleau and his impact on Kiloutou will continue to inspire.