For the Love of Rental

April 1, 2007
In 2000 our staff, noticing the growth of women in the rental industry, did a cover feature entitled Leading Ladies. At that time, we had two women on

In 2000 our staff, noticing the growth of women in the rental industry, did a cover feature entitled “Leading Ladies.” At that time, we had two women on our editorial staff, Candy Cuenco and Gretchen Gary, and they did a wonderful job interviewing and writing about women who were making their mark in rental.

RER's managing editor Brandey Smith joined our staff in 2001 and began thinking about a follow-up. Last year as we prepared our 2007 editorial calendar, we decided it was time. But one aspect of the story made us hesitate, that being that it was no longer a novelty.

For example, when Jackie Robinson broke the color line in major league baseball in 1947, much of the world was affected by it. Ten years later, undoubtedly some publications noted that that there were many blacks playing major league baseball, that integration was becoming more accepted, that blacks had made valuable contributions to the game. But now in 2007, if a sports magazine considered it noteworthy to mention that there were African-American professional athletes in baseball, basketball and football, readers would think the writer has been asleep for decades (although the lack of African-Americans in management positions is still something sports leagues need to address).

Women and minorities in management, executive and ownership positions are no longer unusual in the rental industry. It is no longer surprising to see women as heads of major corporations or universities. There are plenty of women in government — look no further than the current Speaker of the House and Secretary of State. Several countries, such as Germany and Chile have women as heads of state and countries as diverse as England, India, Israel, Nicaragua and Pakistan have had female heads of state in recent years. Most of the debate I hear over Hilary Rodham Clinton's presidential candidacy has to do with what people think of her personality, policies and politics, rather than the fact that she is a woman, and that's as it should be.

So when it came time to discuss the angle for this month's cover story, Smith felt the fact that there are now a lot of women in important positions in the rental industry is really no longer a big deal. What struck her more was how many of these women loved being in this industry. It used to be if a woman was running a rental company it was because her husband died and she took over the company. That dynamic still exists, but Smith found that for the most part women were choosing this industry because it interested them. They had found their dream job, as opposed to just having fallen into it because of a death, because they were born into the family business, or because nothing more appealing was available.

As United Rentals CEO Wayland Hicks expressed, the rental industry is beginning to look more like the societies we all live in and that can only help make this industry more vital and vibrant and more capable of communicating its values and benefits to our customer base.

From what I've seen over the years, most rental people are coffee lovers, and considering you work hard for long hours, it's not surprising. I'm a huge coffee drinker myself and I appreciate good quality. The long lines at Starbucks at the recent Rental Show in Atlanta were evidence that the brand is popular among rental folks.

In a recent issue of Business Week, a cover line read: “Starbucks Tries to Get the Magic Back.” The way it keeps growing, I wasn't all that sure it had lost its magic, but Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz was concerned that the company's rapid growth was commoditizing the product and losing the magic that lured him to the company — the real love of a good cup of coffee and a comfortable place to drink it in. While the company is making a point to offer new drinks and products, Schultz is also emphasizing that its staff should never lose sight of the basics that made Starbucks the success that it is.

The obvious parallel to rental is simple. Never lose sight of the basics. No matter how busy you get, no matter how big your company gets, no matter how many orders are pouring in, never forget the essence is quick response, on-time delivery and showing customers you really care about taking care of their needs. It sounds simple, like a good cup of coffee, but sometimes in the frenzy of growing a business, it can be forgotten.

Latest from Features

Photo by kzenon_Getty images; Design by Deja Hsu, RER
November 2211 Rer Cvr 1540x800
Photo by Finning Canada
Finning Labour 3
Graphic by Joshua Bourland, rer