Canadian Rental Service

Editorial: May 2015

Patrick Flannery   

Features Business Intelligence

Another spring show season has come and gone in the rental industry and there are a few takeaways. The first is an observation of how important just one energetic, committed person can be to a region, an organization and an event. The Canadian rental industry lost two such individuals late last year and early this year in Dale Pardy of Butler Scaffolding Rentals in Halifax and Jim Johnson of Cavalier Industries in Edmonton. Both these men were leaders in the classic sense that they inspired others around them to do more and do better.

In the process, they built up the organizations they touched and created an environment where everyone could find success. Their impact was visible at the shows they supported in the respect and genuine grief their colleagues were expressing over their loss.

When people like Dale and Jim leave us, we feel a profound sense that their contributions cannot be replaced. It’s actually hard to imagine the shows or their companies without them. And there is a risk that the organizations these great influencers touch will never be the same without them. If no new person can step forward to bring energy, commitment and charisma to the leadership role, organizations, companies and events can flounder and stagnate.

But the flip side is that it only takes one person bringing those qualities to turn things around and make things trend in the right direction again. If you are someone who has leadership gifts, be assured that you can have a huge, transformative impact on this industry. All you need to do is get involved. There are no shortages of openings.

Another observation from show season is that the U.S. appears to have well and truly left the dark days of the Great Recession behind it. By all accounts, the American Rental Association’s Rental Show was one of the best in a long time. Many exhibitors told me they did nothing but fill out orders the whole time.


The surging U.S. economy seems to have stimulated a surge in innovation in construction technology, especially lifts and telehandlers. Is there any theoretical limit to how high these boom lifts can get? I asked around with some manufacturers to try to find out why there has been this sudden rush to go as high as possible, and got some interesting answers. Obviously, there has been some good work on the engineering and materials to make it possible to safely lift a man 185 feet off the ground on a ribbon of steel a couple feet across. One comment was that the wind turbine industry has created an unprecedented level of demand for such high platforms.

The Prairie Show organized a tour of some of Saskatoon’s big rental stores in lieu of a sit-down education program, and it was quite successful and possibly more educational than a seminar in some ways. Brian Schaan of Handy Group did a great job of explaining the careful thought that has gone into that massive enterprise’s warehousing and logistics, saying, “Event rentals is really just moving things around.” That had some veteran heads in the audience nodding in agreement. Getting the fleet out and back is where your money will be either made or lost. 

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