Last month's Rental Show, sponsored by the American Rental Association, was a strong show, reflecting once again a revitalized optimistic industry. Almost universally I found rental owners and manufacturing personnel to be extremely bullish about the year ahead and pleased with the past year, and this optimism was reflected in strong buying at the show. It was nice to hear vendors complain that they hardly had time to take lunch during the first two days of the show, and refreshing to see rental owners walking into booths ready to make fast buying decisions.
The presence of attendees on the show floor seemed to run in spurts. Some people complained that nine hours on Wednesday was too long and four hours on Thursday was too short. I'll leave the dialog regarding this to the ARA and the committees that determine show venues and exhibition hours. The important thing is that it was a strong buying show, with solid participation by an upbeat industry, and that 2005 looks even more like the good strong year most industry participants have been anticipating.
The industry is, nonetheless, going through a time of great change, and relationships between rental companies and their customers and the increased understanding of the expectations and needs of those customers is a major part of what we need to be looking at in the months and years ahead. Now more than ever before, rental is being viewed as an attractive alternative by end users, and increasingly, end users are sophisticated in their understanding of how rental companies function. Rental customers demand and expect a very high level of service. You can't get away with minimal service and showing up late anymore when customers say, in essence: “This is my expectation and don't tell me you can't do that because I know you can. Don't tell me you can't swap out this broken-down piece of equipment within two hours because I know how much inventory you have and how many service trucks you have.”
If you can't do something the customer expects, be honest. Don't think you can put something over on them, because they understand your business. In some cases, they understand your business better than you understand theirs, which is not the way it should be. Rental companies need to pay close attention to their customers' needs and concerns, from the standpoint of what kinds of equipment will best suit their job needs, to how the customer can schedule his job and utilize their existing inventory, complemented by your fleet.
From what I've seen and heard, customers often need help managing their own equipment. Help them to put together a job plan where they can effectively utilize a mix of their own machines with units you can provide. Sometimes managing their service and maintenance needs can help make that job flow more harmoniously. That's the kind of on-the-job partnership that can go a long way toward making your rental company a kind of consultant to your customer, making your services all the more indispensable.
If you weren't able to attend the ARA show, or if you did attend but didn't get around to visit as many manufacturers as you wanted, you might find more information about products displayed at the show at RER's e-zine. What's an “e-zine?” It's a kind of electronic magazine, and a number of manufacturers that attended the show have participated with us in bringing you more product information that you might have missed. First check out our show product coverage in this issue and next month's issue of RER, and also log on to www.rermag.com and click on the “e-zine” to see products you might have missed.
I'd also like to call your attention to our UpFront section this month, featuring an interview with Stone Construction Equipment CEO Lynne Woodworth. I met Lynne at the very first rental industry trade show I ever attended back in 1989 and over the years have always found her to be an articulate and interesting industry executive. She's somewhat of a rarity in that she is coming upon a quarter of a century — her entire career in this industry — with the same company. She is one of the smartest CEOs around and I'm sure you'll enjoy her comments.