The State of the Rental Industry January 2007

Great news — the equipment rental business is still the resilient growth business it has been for the past five years. The rental industry is still growing in size and customer awareness, and it still has a long way to go. My congratulations to all of you who are making this growth happen.

I still see the enthusiasm and the eagerness to learn. People outside our industry have no idea how hard all of you work and the number of hours of each day that you devote to the business. So, simply, the state of the equipment rental industry is solid.

If you read or watch the news, you might really wonder how the predicted spending slowdown in the national economy will affect the rental industry in the months to come. Almost every economist is predicting slower economic activity, although the national economic forecasts seem to fluctuate wildly from day to day.

The logical conservative move by some of your customers to restrict some of their capital spending will actually benefit equipment rental companies. These traditional customers will likely rent more to conserve capital. The big question is will they rent from you or a competitor?

There are so many ways to grow your business and no shortage of ideas and good intentions on the part of rental business operators and their employees to capture additional business. But, what are the most pressing needs? What should you and your staff be focusing your energies on? It doesn't make sense to do a little patch work on key foundations of your business (like personnel structure or your inventory) without analyzing what is really needed and what are the priorities. Like repairing one of your rental items — don't just patch it. Do an analysis to determine what is needed for a quality repair.

Before various new strategies are planned and implemented, it would be wise to do an analysis of your company to determine the real needs and priorities. The key word is "analysis." In fact, I proclaim this "The Year of Analysis." (This may have an unintended meaning to some of you who are overly stressed out from last year's "The Year of Employee Challenges").

One example of a relatively untapped opportunity in our industry is to analyze one's inventory. Take an in-depth fresh look at your inventory reports to study your monetary return and to help identify your immediate and longer term inventory needs. It's amazing what your computer reports can tell you about your business's needs that you wouldn't have guessed through daily observation. Ask yourself, are you changing as quickly as the economy, your customers and your competitors? Analysis will help to catch some of the trends.

A note to manufacturers: the more progressive, aggressive manufacturers and suppliers will benefit from continued strong sales to rental businesses. Even as the economy slows, some capital spending will likely be strong.

So, even though no one can be certain concerning the upcoming strength of the overall economy, we can improve our odds of achieving solid growth through a greater emphasis on business analysis. This is an excellent time of the year to start.

Here's to another great year to all of you!

Dick Detmer is a nationally recognized consultant, lecturer and writer and has 35 years of experience in the equipment rental industry. He is the author of "The Guide to Great Customer Service" as well as "A Practical Guide to Working in an Equipment Rental Business." For consulting, on-site employee training or to order books, visit www.detmerconsulting.com. Dick can be contacted at dick@detmerconsulting.com or (309) 781-3451.

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