Friday, July 14, 2006

Industry News

There have been quite a few things happening in the last week in the event rental space this week.

First off, Auburn Hills based George P. Johnson Co has formed a joint venture with Encore Productions out of Las Vegas.

The new venture will be called Event Management Team and it is designed to enable consistent and streamlined event delivery to clients across all event formats. You can read all about it in the press release. has expanded their offerings to include equipment rental services for audio, visual, lighting, computers, monitors, and plasma displays for tradeshows, conventions, training sessions, meetings, special events nationwide. In particular they are featuring the Panasonic 42" HD Plasma display which features HDMI and SDI connectors. You can read all about it at NewsWire Today

Finally, there is a newcomer to the event technology rental scene. is your partner for Audio, Visual, Lighting and Computers. AV Event Solutions partners with meeting planners and event planning services to create memorable events and presentations with impact. They provide audiovisual, sound, lights, video, computer equipment and technical coordination services for conventions, corporate events and trainings throughout the United States.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What Am I Missing?

What a lovely vacation! I feel so refreshed. It's amazing what a little break from managing a busy IT Department can do to improve your perspective.

For example, I am responsible for renting all kinds of technology for my company. I rent computers, laptops, projectors, printers, kiosks and even audiovisual equipment for our trade show exhibits. Usually I call a sales rep and place an order. I give them the specs and the dates and they hook me up with a great MacBook rental or a HP Tower. They all know me and give me preferential treatment because they know I'm a regular and reliable customer.

But planning for my vacation was a little different. Everything was automated. I didn't talk to a single person when I made my air, hotel or car reservations. I actually didn't see a person until I arrived. When I got there I was just another Joebody.

It really made me think about quality service and the role that a trained sales rep plays for a company. Sure a mid-size computer rental company can't compete with an airline in volume or revenues, but the airline can't compete with a great provider like CRE in Los Angeles or for service.

I have come to expect nothing for my money from the airlines other than a seat on a flying bus. But my computer rental company provides delivery, support, replacement equipment and more. When was the last time an Airline bent over backward to get you to your destination on time? Did they go beyond the call of duty trying to retrieve your lost bag? Of course not.

I recently watched a piece on CNN where they covered the annual 'lost luggage auction' conducted by a certain airline. Yep, the bags that the airline lost and can't manage to return to the rightful owner are sold to the highest bidder. Is it just me or is there something wrong with that picture?

Just like I was saying, a little break away from the status quo can give you a fresh perspective.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


I was browsing the Huntington, WV Herald-Dispatch Police Blotter when I came across this little tidbit...
BURGLARY: A Huntington man reported a burglary Tuesday on the 200 block of 6th Avenue, where the man said more than $3,000 in items were stolen. The items included a computer monitor and a remote gas car, among other items. The victim stated the computer is a rental from Rent-A-Center.

Apparently this guy didn't realize the Rent-A-Center was already a big rip-off.

You, my faithful readers, know that I love to rent technology. I get to play with the latest and the greatest for pennies on the dollar. But places like RAC provide the crappiest for dollars on top of dollars. These companies are bad for the industry. They reinforce the stereotype that rental companies are like pawn shops. They take advantage of the poor and desperate. Usury at it's worst.

Finally someone is beginning to crack down on companies like RAC. The Albany, NY based Buffalo News did a scathing expose on the industry titled Rent-To-Own Buys Misery For The Poor.

Yes, a good rental company will make several times the retail value of a particular item. Why else would they be in business? However, a good rental company also provides service, long term discounts and a much lower barrier to entry. They don't rob the customer with extraordinary margins.

It's easy to forget that the rental company purchased the equipment on the speculation of a rental. Before you even think of renting the company had to spend hard cash to get the product on it's shelves. The company not only has to get reimbursed for the equipment but they have to then cover overhead and make a profit. If the product doesn't rent the company is stuck with the product.

There are lots of costs that a rental company has that a traditional retailer doesn't. Most major retailers have arrangements for manufacturers to buyback unsold merchandise. If that can of soup doesn't sell Kroger's doesn't get stuck with the loss. They force Campbell's to buy it back. Further, storage and refurbishment make up for a tremendous amount of the overhead. Kroger's charges Campbell's for shelf space. It's a dirty secret but premium shelf space in your grocery store is some of the most expensive real estate in the country. So Kroger's makes money for having the product in stock. Rental companies get no such respect. Then there is advertising, employees, accounting etc. It's a very tough industry.

Further, a rental company is effectively a lender for small business. By capitalizing the equipment on behalf of it's customers the company is extending a credit line. When you look at it in those terms it is much harder villify the industry.

I personally believe that many industries could benefit from rental. I have often wondered why a restaurant will spend $200,000 - $300,000 on capitalization of equipment and then run the risk of going out of business in 24 months. Wouldn't they be better off paying much less on equipment and more on marketing?

Lots to think about. Just like that poor guy in West Virginia who now has to figure out how he is going to pay Rent-A-Center for that stolen computer.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Big News!

Apparently one of my favorite Computer Rental companies is making lots of money on Apple Computer Rentals.

I think that the rental computer industry is fascinating.  It's all about squeezing ROI from a piece of gear.  Most of us normally just buy some computer and then run it until we buy something faster.  A rental house will keep that equipment in inventory until it falls apart, literally.  When the latest greatest isn't anymore a rental company will just lower the monthly nut and rent it to some cheapskate, er, price conscious customer.

In any case, congrats guys, you earned it!

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Leads Are For Closers!

The Sales team put together an RFP (request for proposal for you non-corporate folks) on Projector Rentals. They are looking for national delivery on 24 hour notice. Oh boy, have I got my work cut out for me.

Projectors are a little different than computer or laptop rentals. It's all about Lumens, Zoom, Keystones and Resolution. There are inputs, passthroughs and remotes.  Composite, Component, VGA, SVGA, XGA and a whole bunch of other letter jumbles that equate to some arcane resolution.  The parameters are different but the details are just as important.

The Sales team has to be able to perform. They are all alone during their presentations. They can't let something like a projector screw up the pitch. Literally, millions of dollars are at stake.

Each projector has to be fully functional, delivered on time and just as easily returned. There are a few companies that are focused solely on presentation rentals, Meeting Tomorrow, Cheap Projector Rental and I understand from my sales rep that is starting a express projector rental program.

After all is said and done the sales team will be happy with the vendor I select for them.  Now I have to figure out how to rent portable screens.

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