Canadian Rental Association
Editorial – April 2013
In conversation with a high-ranking executive of the Canadian Rental Association recently, I realized something.
By Patrick Flannery
In conversation with a high-ranking executive of the Canadian Rental Association recently, I realized something. This guy has clout. Not clout in the form of direct authority or control over huge amounts of money, but clout in terms of influence. In his role with the association, he speaks to hundreds of rental operators across the country every year. He works closely with the owners of many of the largest and most successful rental businesses in the land. He knows personally almost everyone who is anyone in the business. Any time he wants to, this man can put a message into the industry that will have the full attention of these important people. If he wanted to, he could significantly aid or damage the fortunes of any supplier to the Canadian rental market. Yet he is a small, independent operator with one shop in a tiny town. All this power derives from his years of work in the association.
If you are wondering why I don’t use this person’s name, it is because I could be speaking about most anyone on the national CRA board or the regional boards. That is the point: involvement with the association makes it possible for anyone in the industry to attain this kind of profile and influence. All you have to do is give some (OK, a lot) of your time and energy to helping the CRA with its various worthy causes. Every single board needs more help, more participation and more volunteers. The opportunity to gain prominence in the industry is just sitting out there, waiting for you to take it.
“So what?” you may be saying. You do not seek power and influence. You are not interested in ego trips. You are content to run your business, make a decent profit and enjoy the respect and admiration of your friends and family. Becoming a rental industry big shot does not seem worth the effort to get there.
This is a healthy attitude, to be sure. But there are practical benefits to the notoriety that comes with a high industry profile.
It cannot have escaped your attention that larger organizations with superior buying power can command lower unit prices because the vendor knows he can make up for the shorter margins with higher volumes. You are also probably aware of one or more outlets of these larger organizations in your area, competing for your business. When your competition can buy supplies cheaper than you can, you suffer. But building a larger industry profile is one way out of this dilemma. For one thing, suppliers who know you talk to everyone in the industry are likely to assume you know what they charged others, and be unlikely to try to stick you with a higher price. Even more importantly, suppliers will see someone with the ear of the industry as being someone they need to impress, and to avoid offending, because they know a bad experience with you could poison relations with dozens of other potential customers. It is not quite as good as having the volume buying power of the big chains, but it is a heck of a lot better than being an isolated guy in a little shop whose business the supplier can take or leave.
Gaining profile for yourself through associations is a way to gain the respect of your suppliers and better deals for your business. It is a way to put yourself on a level playing field with the big consolidators that surround you.