Canadian Rental Service

Editorial: All hail the benefactors

Patrick Flannery   

Features Business Intelligence

There’s a certain special perspective some people have.


My daughter interviewed me for a school psychology assignment the other day. She had to pose thorny moral problems and collect my answers to questions about them. Then she had to evaluate the answers to identify where I fell on some measure of “maturity.” I hope I did OK. If not, it’s a bit late in life to improve.

Apparently one of the maturity criteria is whether you focus your answers on what is good for others and the community rather than just on what is good for individuals or yourself. That got me thinking…

I’ve observed in my time that there is a special kind of person in just about every industry I’ve worked in. You know who they are. They are the ones who are at every association meeting with their hands up for committees and board seats. They are the ones organizing golf tournaments and social nights. They are the ones sending letters to regulators and legislators urging certain policies. They are the ones repeating terms as presidents and chairs of organizations because no one else wants the work. They also tend to be the ones who know everyone in the industry and, after decades of this behaviour, they end up in places like the ARA’s Hall of Fame. Let’s call them “benefactors.”

Some cynics might view benefactors as seeking recognition and self-promotion. When I think of the tangible rewards they receive (a handsome plaque for their office wall) compared to the time and effort they invest, I have a hard time agreeing. No, there are just some people who have the maturity of perspective to be concerned about and interested in the wellbeing of their community and industry in addition to their own.

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Benefactors do get some intangible rewards. I’ve seen some suffer from frustration and bitterness when their efforts meet apathy and ingratitude among those they are attempting to help. But, over time, their efforts are generally recognized and a slow swell of respect follows them. It creates a deep well of trust that can’t be gained any other way and has to help in all business relationships.

The principle carries over into company corporate cultures, too. One thing this industry is great at is getting involved in our communities. Yes, the visibility and goodwill are helpful when homeowners who don’t regularly use rental stores scan down the list of options in a Google search. But I sense that a lot of us would still try to help even if it didn’t raise a cent of new business. We have the maturity to understand that when our communities do well, we do well, and healthy charities, sports teams and community activities are part of that. That’s why so many of you have a regular spot on the boards at the local hockey rink and are out wielding a spatula at the community barbeque. It’s why Warner Rentals donated enough to have a whole wing of a hospital named after them. My challenge in this industry is to mention as many benefactors as possible without being unfair to all those doing great things without looking for anyrecognition. It’s a long list.

As it happens, we’ve got a perfect example of a rental industry benefactor appearing on page 9 of this issue. Jeff Campbell has finally made good on his threats to retire, announcing he’ll hand over the reins of St. Thomas Rent-All to Basil Payne in July. Campbell has spent his entire 47-year career going to association meetings and putting his hand up for whatever they needed. He went through all the chairs in Ontario and ended up president of national CRA. In his spare time, he fixes up old cars (really old…like, 100 years old) and takes them on drives to fundraise for cancer.

This is probably a good place to mention the ARA’s Community Impact program that donates funds to worthy community causes in partnership with local rental stores. The program has done things like renovate parks and build hiking trails with local rental stores providing equipment. I happen to know the program is very keen to find some opportunities for this kind of philanthropy in Canada. If you have any ideas, please drop me a line.   


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