Canadian Rental Service

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At Your Service: A time for leadership


May 13, 2020
By Russ Dantu

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It’s times like these that we are all being put to the test. It’s times like these that we are being bombarded with questions about what is going to happen in our workplaces. It’s time like these where we need to show our true leadership.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am very scared about what is happening in the world. Being the owner of two businesses should mean that I have all my bases covered if something goes wrong with one of them, right? Well, in the professional speaking world, everything has come to a grinding halt. I was off to a strong start to the year but already have three cancellations that were for events that were supposed to happen in the next month…and I’m sure the next two or three months after that will be the same. I’m hopeful it won’t but am being realistic with what is forecasted right now.

My other business is selling branded promotional products and corporate apparel. It falls into the “discretionary spending” part of a business and when people have to look at places to cut, this is the first type of spending that stops.

Being in the rental industry, you likely are facing very similar circumstances. Your livelihood depends on people renting equipment from you. With events and projects being cancelled or postponed, the outlook looks bleak.

As a leader, this is a time where those who follow you need you to help them get through this. It’s also a time where you may have to make tough decisions to lay off staff. Everyone is hoping the precautions taken by the government will lower the impact and hopefully make this a shorter term pandemic than what is happening in other parts of the world.

Here’s a few thoughts on what you can do.

Be truthful with your employees. Keep them in the loop as to what is happening in your specific business and industry. Hold regular weekly meetings to keep them updated. Clear, honest communication is key.

Remain positive and calm. This can be difficult. I remember when I was a part of a merger 15 years ago. I was a branch manager and we had been bought out by a larger entity…one that I had previously worked for. I didn’t like what they stood for or how they treated their employees or customers and that was the reason I left. But I had to remain positive in front of my employees and assure them that this was a good thing for us all. With the coronavirus, it isn’t a good thing, but staying positive and not panicking in front of our employees helps keep the atmosphere and culture a little more positive. If we start preaching doom and gloom right away, then everyone panics.

Don’t make rash decisions. If you have to cut hours, then do so, but there is always lots to do in any business when times are slow. Look at this as an opportunity to fix equipment, thoroughly clean your shops and offices, clear out unused items, repaint while it is quiet, and work on new avenues of business you can go after once this all clears up. I know this type of work doesn’t create revenue but we often put aside many tasks that should be looked after and never do because we are so busy.

Keep your team employed as long as you can. They’ve been good to you for a year, five years, 10 years, or more. They deserve a certain amount of respect for the time they have spent with you helping you make money and build your business. Many of these employees may even be like family so treat them like family. If you have to lay them off, do it in a compassionate way. Help them fill out the necessary paperwork as quickly as possible so they do get some funds coming in from the government. Assure them that you will hire them back as soon as you are able. Give them a call every few weeks to see how they are doing.

It’s hard to be positive with what is happening in our world right now but please look at this as an opportunity to show your true leadership!


Russ Dantu is a 30-year veteran of the rental industry and has been delivering workshops, seminars and keynotes on customer servicce for over 15 years. For more information, visit russdantu.com or email russ@russdantu.com