It's abundantly clear the recession is going to be here for a while. Obviously rental companies have to adjust to changing conditions and challenges. Being realistic and being optimistic are not contradictory, and we can't just ignore business conditions and wait for them to get better.
During a recent RER series of interviews with rental companies and how they are adjusting to current times, I was encouraged by the number of companies who were being proactive in the sense that not only were they not cutting sales efforts – although some are – but, in many cases, they are increasing them by adding to their sales staff. (The results of many of those interviews can be read in our article “Warning Signs: 25 Tips to Survive a Recession”, posted online at: http://rermag.com/business_technology/business_info_analysis/recession_survival_tips_010109/)
In some cases, owners or top executives were getting out into the streets along with their rental sales staff. One such executive is Jim Dietz, vice president and general manager of National Lift Truck in the Chicago area, who I visited last week. Jim, as he put it, had “sat in the tower for too long” and he wanted to get out onto the jobsites and hear for himself what NLT's customers are going through.
Dietz found several immediate positive effects. First, he sensed that customers really appreciated a visit from somebody from the executive level. It's a way of communicating to a customer that their business is special. When somebody from the top level visits and asks what more his company can do to serve the customer's needs, there's a sense of authority behind the promises. This is not to belittle the efforts of regular sales people, but there is a certain level of commitment sensed by the customer when the top guy gives his word.
Also, Dietz had the opportunity to meet other vice presidents and general managers or owners. There is a certain owner-to-owner or executive-to-executive understanding that can develop from such contacts. It deepens the connection; it strengthens the bond.
One rental company owner who recently did something similar expressed that he got a much deeper understanding of the current issues and concerns his customers are facing, and got some great ideas about how to improve his company's services. He quickly saw what his company wasn't doing well enough and got an intuitive feel for how the company could improve its service.
Each rental company needs to find its own solution to the current economic challenges and there is no clear blueprint. But you won't find the answers without proactively looking. Getting out of the office and getting your shoes dirty on the jobsite might not be the right thing for everybody, but it might be worth a try. Of course, if you've got a better idea, do it. But like everything else, if you're not going forward, you might be running backwards. And right now that's a dangerous direction to be going in.