If I Still Owned My Rental Business……

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Many of you know that I owned a rental business for 12-years and sold it in December of 2018 to a private equity group who are doing great things with it.  I love the rental business and more importantly the people who make it up and I am empathetic to everyone affected by the current issues brought upon us by this terrible pandemic.  I am a member of a lot of Facebook groups (you should be if you are not) and have had a lot of time on my hands just to think…..(sometimes this is dangerous for me!).  I wanted to write a blog on what I would be doing right now if I still owned my rental business.  I hope it helps you.

In my opinion (and you know what they say about opinions), it is highly unlikely that any events or festivals where large gatherings of people congregate in small areas will happen anytime soon.  If you are counting on the “postponement” of events from last spring that were “rescheduled” to the fall you should certainly not do so.  Many rental companies provide equipment and tenting in support of fall sporting events – can you imagine 100,000 people piling into a stadium and sitting butt-cheek-to-butt-cheek in three short months?   Bottom line is that any large gathering of people that your company would provide rentals for in the fall and that are currently on your “books” for the fall are in great jeopardy of being cancelled and you should budget as if they will not happen.  While I hope I am wrong I would recommend that you prepare as if I am right.  In keeping with the theme of my title of this blog “If I Still Owned My Rental Business…….” I would:

  1.  Call every professional office building, restaurant, school, etc. and rent them 10×20 “wellness entrance tents” to put in front of each door.  I would make a package with the tent, mesh sidewalls (important as to allow the free flow of air while allowing natural light – Rental InnovationZ has them in stock and sells them at excellent pricing with free shipping – (830) 358-7400), pole mounted fans, hand sanitizing machines, lighting, one 8’-table and two chairs on a monthly rate.  The tent would be manned by one of their people (or you may offer your manpower to take the temperatures and monitor hand sanitizing) who would take people’s temperatures and ensure they use hand sanitizer prior to their entry into the building.  Remember, the idea is to keep sick people out of the building and not expose the interior of the premises to disease which will result in costly disinfecting.  For higher occupancy buildings you may want to go longer (for queueing in shade) and a little wider (to allow two lanes).  Before you call anyone have a CAD (or two) made up with your proposal(s) and your logo/contact information so you can email them immediately after your conversation.
  1.  Call every factory, warehouse, big-box store (Sam’s Club, Costco, Best Buy, grocery stores), oil field or any business where a lot of employees work on the same shift.  Offer them lunch/break tents.  These tents would consist of whatever size is appropriate to allow for the number of employees to break while maintaining social distancing.  I would recommend frame or structure tents (pole could be used but should be a wind-rated), mesh sidewalls, lighting if required, porta-coolers (preferable) or fans, 48-round tables with 4 chairs per table (this will allow 4-people to sit at the table while keeping some distance between them) spaced at 6-feet apart.  Once you determine their needs based on the number of employees create a CAD so they can present it to the decision makers.  
  1. Texas is beginning opening this Friday (5/1).  Restaurants will be allowed to open at 25% capacity for the first 2-weeks and then 50% capacity.  There is nothing a restaurant can do about expanding the capacity of its hard wall real estate, but it can use every bit of outdoor space available to tent to expand capacity.  You should call every sit-down restaurant in your area and get them ready for when your state does open.  Most certainly it will open similar to Texas where only a percent of capacity will be allowed – help them come up with a plan now so they are ready!  I would design it much like the lunch/break tents aforementioned, but you can certainly “spruce it up” as much as their budget will allow!  Remember, using solid sidewalls in the summer means they will need HVAC which will cost a lot of money so push for mesh walls.  
  1. People are starved for togetherness and I believe that this is a piece of business that will thrive over the next few months.  Offer backyard packages with 20×20 tents, tables, chairs, choice of 1, 2 or 3 of the following:  bounce house, sno cone machine, margarita machine, etc. at a discounted price.  People miss sports and I do believe sports will return soon, but not with spectators so watching at home will need to be elevated by get-togethers with family and friends. Upselling large TVs under the tent or even projectors to watch the event on a big screen is an excellent way to increase your revenues while elevating the customer experience.  Use your imagination but come up with creative packages and most importantly share on industry Facebook pages so others can benefit!
  1. I really hate the term “think outside the box”, but if there was ever a time to do so now is it.  I recently saw on a Facebook bounce house group where an operator offered free bags of crawfish for each inflatable you ordered!  Who thinks of this????? But it’s brilliant and shows a lot of creativity!  What could you do that is similar?   
  1. On another Facebook page one operator posted “40 units (bounce houses) out this week – no one works harder than us!”.  He has expanded his area of concentration to several hundred miles and made routes to be more efficient on his installs.  Bottom line is that this is anything but “business as usual” – you need to market and take work that you normally would not do – even if it means leaner profits.
  1. Since I don’t have a rental business and my sidewall and tent bag business is dependent on the rental industry I have used my time a little differently.  I have been engaging in Facebook groups, working on my website, putting together an email marketing list, etc.  My goal is that WHEN (and there will be a when) we do get busy I am ready.  How many times have we all said “when it slows down I will _____________” – well it has slowed down so fill in the blank!  One final note on this: NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO STOP MARKETING!  Whatever marketing you have done in the past (that has worked) you need to keep doing.  If you do pay per click marketing you may want to expand your reach area and maybe your keywords (certainly COVID, Coronavirus, etc. should all be included in your keywords).  

In closing, we all are facing challenging times – so as depressed as you may be, remember we are all going thru the same thing and you are not alone.  While I do not recommend starting price wars or undercutting I would remind you of an old saying that says “Pigs get fed – hogs get slaughtered”.  Give a good (for both parties) monthly rate on your packages (especially restaurants) as their margins are tight and they need to be able to make a reasonable profit after paying for your tent.    Long-term installs are great as the labor is expended on the set up and other than maybe sending a guy to check on everything once a week you shouldn’t have to expend any additional labor until the strike.  I would much rather that equipment sit on a site making me a little money than on my shelves in my warehouse making me sick…..

Finally, let me conclude with a quote by Winston Churchill which is so appropriate for the times that we are in.  “Every day you may make progress.  Every step may be fruitful.  Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path.  You know you will never get to the end of the journey.  But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” -Winston Churchill

Embrace the climb – we all will summit together.

I welcome emails, texts and phone calls 7-days a week to discuss anything about our current situation or future issues.  

Brian Jenkins
Managing Director
Rental InnovationZ
(817) 793-5838