Canadian Rental Service

INDUSTRY EVENT: Tours boost attendance

By Canadian Rental Service   

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The Canadian Rental Association (CRA) in Ontario has hit on a winning formula to boost attendance at its monthly association meetings.

Dinner tables and a podium in the warehouse at Vulcan Demolition Tools is a typical setup for the dinners that take place at the facilities of suppliers and manufacturers who host the meetings.
A group of rental professionals gather around some machinery on display at Echo Power Equipment Canada in London, Ontario, during a tour of the company’s warehouse.
Rob Langlois, operations manager for Tiffany Party Rentals in Barrie, guides a crowd of CRA members through the company’s facilities.
Andy Houghton, president and general manager for Barrie Rent All, points out some machinery in the company’s shop during a CRA tour in November 2007.
Todd Cressman (left), product manager for Home Hardware Stores Limited, gives CRA members a tour of the company’s main distribution centre in St. Jacobs, Ontario.

Opening doors for rental professionals.

The Canadian Rental Association (CRA) in Ontario has hit on a winning formula to boost attendance at its monthly association meetings.

The association changed the format of its meetings about two years ago, taking it out of hotel facilities in Toronto and into the buildings of rental stores and their suppliers for a guided tour. Attendance at meetings has been
growing ever since, as the novelty of inspecting an other rental company’s operation is too tempting to pass up. Manufacturer and supplier members have also stepped up to offer their
facilities for meetings which have now become extremely popular as rental operators get an inside look at how their suppliers operate.

CRA Ontario vice-president, James Morden says the association directors first tested the waters with its rental tour program, organizing one or two tours in addition to regular meetings. “We
wanted to take the meetings on the
road for members who couldn’t make it out to the central location in Toronto,” says Morden, adding that several companies volunteered their facilities. “This was the first year where all our meetings were hosted by companies who opened their doors to welcome members of the association.”


The tour kicked off in October at Vulcan Demolition Tools in Mississauga, followed by meetings and tours hosted by Barrie Rent All and Tiffany Party Rentals in Barrie in November, Home Hardware Stores Limited in St. Jacobs in January, and concluded in April at Echo Power Equipment Canada in London.

Bob Legault from Vulcan Demolition Tools says there were about 39 people in attendance including six employees when the company hosted a tour in the fall of 2007. “We left everything pretty well as it is all the time. We set up five tables in the warehouse area and set up a buffet and bar near the repair area so that guests were able to see our business as we run it,” he says.

Visitors walked through the 7000 square foot warehouse and office space where they could view the company’s full product lines supplied by The Vulcan Company and Texas Pneumatic in the US which supply the company’s breakers, rivet busters, chipping hammers, rock drills and other air tools. “We also purchase parts and other air tool products from many suppliers as needed. We have a repair area that is used to repair customer tools as well as trade-ins and used tools purchased for resale.”

The CRA board had its meeting in the company’s sales area where Alex Clark, president of The Vulcan Company, gave a short presentation on new products and answered questions. Legault also gave a short presentation on lubricating air tools.

Legault says the company volunteered to hold the event at an earlier CRA meeting hosted by ABCO Equipment Rentals. “As a supplier, we looked at this as an opportunity to give back to the rental houses that support us,” he says, adding that the rental market accounts for about 70 percent of sales.

For the rental operators who attended, it was an opportunity to learn about the company while the CRA benefitted by saving on facility rentals. “We have always tried to team up with our customers and provide them with service and expertise that would otherwise cost them money and time. This meeting allowed us to show the industry how this works for us as we strive to be a supplier of air tools, parts and service,” says Legault. “Rental operators are smart people, they will
get all they can out of their suppliers and team up with a few to make their jobs easier.”

Todd Cressman, product manager for Home Hardware Stores Limited, personally led one of the tour groups when the CRA held a meeting and tour at its distribution centre in St. Jacobs in January. It took about one hour just to walk through the company’s massive 1.5 million square foot warehouse.

The CRA saw a record number of people show up for the meeting and the 68 registrants who took the tour were awestruck by the massive scope of this facility which ships an average of 18,000 orders or two million pounds of product per day. Home Hardware Stores Limited is Canada’s largest independent hardware, lumber and building materials and furniture retailer with more than 1000 stores across Canada, including 62 rental locations, with 22 located in Ontario. “A lot of people don’t know that Home Hardware is in the rental business,” says Cressman. “We have much in common with the independent rental companies because Home Hardware is 100 percent dealer owned.”

The CRA’s meeting schedule concluded at Echo Power Equipment Canada in London where warehouse manager Mike O’Connell took attendees for a guided tour of the company’s 61,000 square foot warehouse. Several of the rental operators recognized the well known products the company offers such as Bearcat, Little Wonder, Classen, BCS and its own Echo branded products, but they also saw products from Pramac, Scag and Oregon Chain that were unknown to them.

Dave Campbell from St. Thomas Rent-All Sales and Service was one of the rental operators who took the tour. He says he spends a majority of his time behind the rental counter at the store and welcomed the opportunity to visit one of his suppliers to get a look behind the scenes. “We just bought a BCS unit from Echo and this gives me a chance to personally see what they have in stock and get different opinions from other rental operators about the machines and how they are using them to make money,” he says. The tour was followed by a hot buffet dinner and a presentation detailing the company’s technological advancements in small engine design.

Company president, Ed Zynomirski says the tour gave the company an opportunity to build brand awareness, but the driving motivation in offering the company’s facilities was to support the association. “It’s important for professionals in the rental industry to have a good understanding of the manufacturers that support the association. Something like this helps build relationships between rental dealers and their suppliers,” he says.

Morden says the key to the success of this format was the mutual benefits shared by rental operators and the manufacturer and supplier members of the association. “I think people who
participated walked away with a better understanding of the companies they visited. I know I have personally picked up a few tips that I have implemented in my own business,” he says. “We will continue this program for next season.”

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