Editorial: August 2011
Canadian Rental Service turns 35 with this issue, which is only five fewer years than I have been alive.
By Patrick Flannery
Our anniversary issue takes a look back and forward.
Canadian Rental Service turns 35 with this issue, which is only five fewer years than I have been alive. That makes it a little difficult for me to give any credible perspective on what the last 35 years have meant for the industry, so I have left that job to a group of people who were not only there, but also played important roles in shaping the way Canadian rental operators work today. Sometimes they did it with innovations in how they set up and ran their businesses, sometimes it was in their approach to customers and suppliers, and often it was through their work in their local and national (and even international) rental community. Reading the stories of these 10 industry influencers will give you the look back that I cannot provide. As a bonus, I think that, contained within and between the lines of each of these stories, are the secrets to success in the rental business. By paying careful attention to their examples, we can all learn a lot.
Milestones are a time to look ahead to the future, as well, so we can all be thankful we have access to the fertile imagination of George Olah. At my request, he has done his best to predict what might be in store for your companies in the next 35 years. George seemed to feel there was a certain element of risk in this enterprise but, hey, isn’t managing risk what this business is all about?
To George’s erudite prognostications, I’ll add a guess of my own based on my recent experiences promoting the Canadian Rental Mart. Social media are here to stay, and are potentially very powerful tools for anyone wanting to sell anything. All you have to do is get in a room with anyone under 30 to realize that the most important communications for them are not coming from the person in front of them, but from an electronic device via text, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. What these new information platforms are allowing people to do is to set up personalized streams of information that contain only content relevant and interesting to them. E-mail spam is a hated annoyance . . . unless it comes from a source you trust and want information about. Twitter allows you to see snippet headlines from dozens of sources that interest you, then link to more information if you want to. Facebook allows you to share information between a select group of friends. Texting allows you to quickly and conveniently hold interactive conversations with anyone, anywhere, who has your mobile number. People are turning to social media not because of what they include, but because of what they leave out: all the people you do not want to talk to, the information you do not care about and the companies that do not carry what you want to buy. If the web is the whole world, social media communities are the towns and cities inside it, with cultures, identities, preferences and industries unique to them. Rental operators of the future will need to be concerned with finding the communities where their customers live, and making themselves trusted parts of them. Those 20-somethings with their heads down around the dinner table today are the ones who will be renting your inventory tomorrow.
Another special feature in this anniversary issue is Yesterday’s Industry News, where we have republished some notable news items from past decades. This feature really illustrates the important role trade news plays in the life of an industry. It becomes a permanent record of the past, available for all to see and learn from. I had a lot of fun going through those old issues and seeing the clothes, equipment, cars and styles in facial hair from my dimly remembered youth. I hope you do the same.