Innovate or Die

Dec. 1, 2004
We at RER feel the Innovative Product Award, voted on by our readers, is important because we are in an age of innovation. If you look at every science,

We at RER feel the Innovative Product Award, voted on by our readers, is important because we are in an age of innovation. If you look at every science, every discipline, every form of thought, we are in an age of amazing advancements, from computer sciences, to medicine, and yes, to construction equipment. Equipment is continually becoming more user friendly, productive and efficient. We can see innovation in the factory where machines are produced, and in the millions spent on research and development.

That R&D process is an increasingly international effort, involving contributions from all over the globe. And why not? If you want to succeed, you need to make sure the best minds available are contributing and no one country has a patent on creativity and inventiveness. To compete in this increasingly global economy, companies need access to the best technologies and the most innovative minds, no matter where they might come from.

As the rate of change and modernization accelerates at a dizzying pace, and as competition continues to multiply, often hailing from unexpected quarters, thinking ahead is essential. This holds true in manufacturing and in the business environment, be it the marketing of a product or the ability to compete in the rental business. It takes careful asset management as well as willingness to take risks and try different approaches.

We've just completed a pretty strong year in the rental business. Volumes are up, utilization is improving, rental rates are rebounding, customer demand is solid, penetration of rental in North America is at an all-time high. Prospects for a solid economy over the next couple of years appear excellent. Time to kick back, pat ourselves on the back for making it though the recession, and be confident that we can coast along with a strong economy for a while, right?


At the recent Associated Equipment Distributors Executive Forum in Chicago, moderator Michael Marks of the Indian River Consulting Group — a man who always challenges complacency and urges people to think outside the box — said that to survive and prosper in 2005, floating along with the economy just won't get it done. Too much is changing too fast and if you aren't innovating, your competitors probably are looking for ways to do so. Marks suggested that to succeed in 2005 you need to come up with one major risky idea that you put some effort into. Think outside the box and try something different, something innovative and chancy that nobody else has tried.

It has been said that it's easy to make money when times are good; easy to lose it when they aren't. Now is a time of strong customer demand. If your business is doing well, it might be easy to become complacent. Remember how it was two years ago and know that it could be the same way two years from now. That's why it's so important to think ahead to what customers will be wanting down the road.

Customers may not have, up to this point, cared about reserving equipment online for example, and maybe they won't. But what if they do two years from now? Will it make sense to utilize global positioning systems two years from now? If your computer software is operating efficiently now, will it do the job if business increases? Are you keeping your shop organized efficiently? What if your fleet increases in size or you modernize it with new equipment acquisitions? What if your customers seek more service contracts for customer-owned equipment and you decide it would be a profitable idea? What if demand for your homeowner business increases, what if new competition enters your area and is more effective than your company at making deliveries on time? What if new competition comes in and slashes rates and you face a rate challenge once again? What if your competitors stay open longer hours and your customers demand that? What if you have a golden opportunity to acquire a potential branch in another nearby market area? Is there a line of equipment you'd like to try investing in?

Well, there are lots of “what ifs,” lots of possibilities. The key question is whether or not you are prepared, whether you are looking ahead to what the marketplace will demand from you two or three years down the road.

The participants in the Innovative Product Award thought that way. Although not all would put it in these terms, I imagine many knew that they have competitors poised to go after their market share and that it was a question of “innovate or die.” They chose to innovate.

Choose the same.