Aaron Caito, online sales and marketing director for Runyon Equipment Rental in Carmel, IN agrees. “Part of our success comes from staying involved with the customers all the way through a project, helping them avoid common pitfalls.”
Runyon Equipment Rental also has a division, Runyon Surface Prep, which is dedicated to concrete and surface prep supply. “It is a big focus for us,” says Caito, “and we’ve seen a lot of activity. For particularly tough jobs, we will arrive on site to help our clients get the right mix of products.
“I think one challenge for rental stores is being able to carry the range of products needed by contractors. Another is having the knowledge base to successfully sell the product. In our case it helps to have salespeople who have been actively involved in the industry. We also hold workshops for our contractor customers that give them hands-on experience prepping floors, pouring the concrete and polishing it.”
Jeff Barlette, owner of Upstate Increte in Rochester, NY, says small rental houses can get involved in the industry, but it can get expensive for them. Promoted as the one-stop-shop for decorative concrete tools, chemicals and training, the store features a decorative concrete showroom with samples and also offers hands-on workshops.
“The investment needed for equipment and media (e.g., tooling) is fairly substantial in the beginning and for each rental,” Barlette explains. “In addition, because every piece of concrete is different, each piece of tooling must be different. Using the wrong media on concrete can be costly for the rental company. For example, if a rental customer uses the wrong media on hard concrete, the customer could burn up a set of diamond blades that cost hundreds of dollars.
“An inexperienced customer may blame the rental house for supplying the wrong equipment for the job, and this is only one job,” Barlette says. “When a customer wants to remove coatings, paints and so forth, another set of tooling would be needed.”
As Barlette and Caito point out, before renting this type of equipment, a rental house needs to be knowledgeable about the machines and the media.
Start up tips
When the Rental Branch started selling and renting decorative concrete products in 2004, the store retained a former Redi Mix employee who traveled to jobsites with tools and actually rented to contractors he knew. The business evolved from there. Training classes followed as did a complete renovation that resulted in a special showroom.
“I hesitated at first getting into the market because I thought the tools might get beat up or would be returned full of concrete, but it didn’t happen that way,” says Branch. “Release agents are effective at cleaning up tools, and customers know in advance it’s their responsibility to bring them back clean.
“Even though decorative concrete work isn’t rocket science, there’s still a learning curve and providing customer training is important. In fact, training, especially to contractors, remains one of our biggest challenges. They tell us that training either costs too much or the timing isn’t right. In other words, they don’t have time to train in the summer and money is scarce in the winter.”
Branch notes that another challenge is simply dealing with a young industry and the subsequent lack of field experience. “A homeowner came in recently and wanted to rent one stamp. I told him he needed more than one, but he insisted and refused to view a training tape. The next day, he returned the stamp and wanted his money back.”
Keeping up with trends offers another challenge for rental dealers, adds Fouts. “Before you can train customers your counter people have to be knowledgeable, and it seems the industry is changing daily with new products and approaches. Having a good support team from your distributors and manufacturers is also critical for your store’s success and that of your customers. Customer loyalty will be fleeting if your supplier won’t back you up or fails to offer timely answers to customer questions.”