Selling the Concept of Preparation

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Well, hurricane season so far has not been too spectacular but that could always change. The possibility of disasters is always out there. People in the rental business know this all too well. And as we saw with Hurricane Sandy (officially called Superstorm Sandy), which caused $65 billion in damages in 2012 in the United States alone, they don’t only occur in the Southeast, as the brunt of Sandy was felt in New Jersey and New York and places like Michigan and Wisconsin. 

In the drought-stricken West, we are hearing all kinds of predictions of a massive El Niño current causing a wet winter. The water is desperately needed, but it undoubtedly will lead to floods and mudslides. We’re already seeing a serious fire season in the West and this trend usually extends into the fall. 

While nobody wants to see tragedy strike, the reality is that natural disasters and electricity outages result in opportunities for the rental business. Though there are unscrupulous profiteers out there who inflate prices and take advantage of the misfortunes of others – and I know that very few readers of RER fall into that category of business – the reality is power outages can be good for the rental business.

For those of you in the power generation rental business, obviously people come looking for power when electricity goes out. But for those rental businesses that are serious about providing rental power and offering good service, I highly recommend taking a more long-term strategic view. It is directly after power loss events, not during, that the best opportunities arise to sell the concept of rental power.

Imagine it’s an ordinary late September day, anywhere. The sun is shining, maybe the beginning of fall crispness is in the air depending on where you are. Your power rental sales people walk into a business and try to sell the concept of preparedness for a possible power outage. In a way it’s like trying to sell life insurance to a 25-year-old man. The last thing in the world he’s thinking about is the possibility of dying someday. Even if he already has children, he thinks he’s going to live forever or at least for a very long time, even though, as with anybody else, accidents do happen.

But switch the scene to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy or even worse, Hurricane Katrina. I’m sure the providers of rental power might have done very well in the wake of such a storm by going to companies that suffered serious power outages, or could have, and suggesting to them that they have a back-up power plan in place with a local rental provider.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with those companies owning a generator and keeping it onsite. Many of you sell generators and that’s fine. But most of you are in the rental business and therefore what you probably prefer is to rent the power. So power rental specialists rent generators. But the kind of preparation I’m suggesting runs far deeper than that, because what so often happens in the middle of a power outage is that businesses will call a rental center and say, “Help, I need power, I need a generator!”

Sure, no problem. But it’s 3 a.m. and nobody at that business knows what its power load is or where the power boxes are or any of the other critical information required to turn the lights back on. And they’ve probably never thought about what needs to be powered or what is absolutely critical for their business to run. What kind of generator do they need? How will it be hooked up? What ancillary products do they need along with it? Are they just going to scream “Help!!!” in the middle of the night, or are they going to have an account with a rental company that has already worked out all the details in advance?

So on this lovely September day under a cloudless sky neither your customers nor you are thinking about the possibility of a power outage. They may not know it, but what they really need is for you to walk into their business with a checklist, prepared to do a site survey and figure out exactly what they would need to do in case of a power outage.

But make sure you can keep whatever promises and commitments you make because if you leave them hanging during an unexpected outage when they are counting on you, you’ll be doing your company more harm than good. 

I invite you to read our cover story this month and think more seriously about providing well-thought-out power generation rental plans for your customers.

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Michael Roth

Michael Roth has covered the equipment rental industry full time for RER since 1989 and has served as the magazine’s editor in chief since 1994. He has nearly 30 years experience as a...

Gary Stansberry

Gary Stansberry is president of The Stansberry Firm LLC and specializes in business sales, fair market business valuations, operational consulting and positioning businesses to increase their value.
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