The State of the Rental Industry - and the importance of Periodic Recalibration

In a fast-moving, quickly-evolving market, reevaluation of the rental industry and your company's business model should happen more than once a year.

Our world and our industry are changing faster than ever. In addition to rapid advancements in technology, our society—and seemingly every part of our lives—are changing at a dizzying pace. For these reasons, I believe it is important for equipment rental companies to take more than just a once-a-year view of the “state of the rental industry” and in particular the “state of their own rental company.” While the annual big picture perspective is important for reshaping the coming year's strategic plan, a more frequent reevaluation is important to recalibrate a company's focus and strategy, and to pay closer attention to changes in their business environment and their customer’s needs in a more volatile market. 

One example of the fast-changing trends in the rental business is the effect of “next generation” customers and their preferences. Technology and social media have had a dramatic effect on how these customers prefer to communicate with rental companies. Certainly, rental companies that have adapted to these preferences and trends quickly are the primary beneficiaries of significantly more business. Being the last to adapt is a sure way to become obsolete. 

Even though things are changing rapidly, it is still very important to have a formal strategic plan with specific steps to take. Too much “winging it” can cause enormous inefficiencies and can make your business only marginally profitable. Certain portions of your plan may need to be modified somewhat in the recalibration process but much or perhaps most of your strategic plan will likely prove to be wise to continue even when there are changes in the business environment. It is so important to remember that in order to achieve the high level of success that you want from your substantial time and financial investments it is necessary to prepare accordingly. It is so wise to become more efficient in all aspects of your rental business.

The fact of the matter is that no one knows when the next serious recession will occur. But, an economic downturn will inevitably return. The uncertainties relating to the late stages of an economic cycle, increasing competition and our political leaders are creating both serious concerns and potentially huge opportunities for equipment rental companies. In my opinion, proper planners will be rewarded handsomely and those who didn’t will likely be punished.

As for the current state of the rental industry, I feel that the equipment rental industry is in excellent shape. The industry continues to show significant strength as the economy has helped propel the need for rental equipment to record-breaking new heights. Rental business owners are continuing to invest in growing their rental businesses.

It appears likely that 2020 will be remembered as a solid growth year for the equipment rental industry. The resiliency of our ten year economic expansion has been nothing short of phenomenal.

I also feel that all of our efforts have “paid off” and have been causing a significant enhancement of the image of the equipment rental industry. This image is of a positive, valued, economical resource for the equipment needed to complete a job. Congratulations to all who have invested in image enhancement.

Remember to transform your rental company into a more efficient, smoother running and more recession resistant rental business through superior planning. It is important to the health, growth and future viability of your business to have a more formal, structured way of operating the business. And, consider a well-thought out recalibration in the months to come as needed to adapt to possible fast-changing conditions.

Dick Detmer is a nationally recognized consultant, lecturer and writer with 40+ years of experience in the equipment rental industry. In 2018, he celebrated the 30th anniversary of his business, Detmer Consulting Inc., and his column in Rental. Dick can be contacted at, (309) 781-3451 or by visiting his website