Tips for building a successful rental business

Every rental store owner’s goal is to build a business that will grow and expand over time. Genie offers some tips on doing it.

By Bob Bradshaw

It is important to establish a solid foundation of business principles and best practices that will help you and your staff be successful.

Some will call it your mission statement, others will call it your business plan – whatever you chose to call it, it is the standard in which you are building your business on and which others (your customers and your competition) will judge you on.

To be successful in the rental industry, consider using these tips as guidelines for developing your business:

It’s all about the people
Your biggest asset in the rental industry is not your equipment fleet, it’s your team members. Hire people willing to work with you, and for you, to build the business. Then, train them well and give them opportunities to grow and expand in their roles and within the company.

Invest in a strong sales force
Your sales team is the face of your rental company – both to your customers and to your competition. It is important to employ a sales staff that is willing to show up, follow up and follow through with what your business says it will do. It is human nature for people to do business with people they know and trust, and your sales team is both your offense and defense – forging new relationships, as well as nurturing existing ones.

A sales team is also your eyes and ears in the community. Invest in a staff that will keep you up-to-date on what’s going on locally. It’s not just about being an expert on your customers and their projects, but you should also expect your sales team to be knowledgeable about who is doing what and where in their sales territory.

You should also give your sales team opportunity to network and connect with other businesses, organizations and associations, as well as with industry leaders. Sales is a relationship business so the more relationships your sales team has, the more they can find out what you need to know and how you can be a part of what is going on.

It’s not about price
Because there will always be another rental store that offers your customers cheaper rental rates, it’s important for you to compete on the merits of your business – not on price alone. “Sell” your customers on how your rental business is different from the competition. Rental store shopping is never an apples to apples comparison, and it’s your job to prove that to your customers. This includes talking about the equipment in your fleet (the brands you carry, the fleets’ age, etc.), your relationship with the equipment manufacturers, service and support before/during/after the rental, financing and payment options, jobsite equipment delivery, equipment maintenance and replacement programs and so much more.

Know your customers
The best way to gain a customer’s loyalty is to get to know them, to care about them and to champion for them. This includes learning your customer’s business: What they do, how they do it, their values and principles, how they got started, how they have grown, what other businesses do they work with, do they rent from other rental stores and why, and how they plan to grow in the next 5, 10 and 20 years.

Once you have these insights, you can partner with them to increase their opportunities – give them ideas of what upcoming projects to bid on, invest in equipment that will help them do their jobs better and introduce them to others in your network that might be able to help them, such as accountants, marketing support or insurance agents.

Relationships are a two-way street, and your relationship with your customers should be built on you knowing them.

Safety first
Make a commitment to safety in your rental business. Safety should be your number one priority for your staff and your customers. Train everyone on safe handling and operating of your tools and equipment, as well as establish emergency shutdown procedures in case of an incident. Communicate your safety plan to each and every person who comes in contact with your business and expect them to follow your guidelines. Take every opportunity to reinforce this # 1 priority as the leader of your business.

Make training a priority
You can never over-train your staff. Invest the time and money into making sure all of your team members understand their jobs and know how to perform those jobs safely and correctly.

Communication is key
To earn your employees’ loyalty and trust, keep them up-to-date on what’s going on with your rental business. Have regular communications about what’s going on, what’s new and what’s changing. Listen to them: Asking them for feedback and giving them plenty of opportunities to share information with you. Everyone wants to be part of the process, and the more they are part of it, the more successful they (and you) will be.

Keep them involved, and you will understand how important they are to the success of your business.

BOB BRADSHAW, GENIE REGIONAL VICE PRESIDENTBob Bradshaw is Genie regional vice president.