Not many heads of rental companies start their day by driving across town to a movie studio. But then again, not many rental companies are like 24/7 Studio Equipment.
What jobs are coming to town? This is the question people in the rental business are always asking. Outside sales reps live and breathe Dodge Reports and any other information that can give them a clue about new construction jobs. But Lance Sorenson, president of 24/7, is too busy meeting with production staffs of motion picture and television studios to worry about housing starts. More important to him is what movies are about to be shot and what TV shows require on their sets.
Most of us like watching movies and have our favorite TV shows. But when Sorenson watches, it's not just entertainment. Sorenson is paying attention to camera angles and, on occasion, he'll spot a forklift in the background, and chances are pretty good it's one of his.
But whether a company is renting to construction sites, industrial facilities or film production companies, the basic principles remain the same and these are what Sorenson embodies wholeheartedly.
No. 1 is start early. Sorenson is up before 5 a.m., on the road by 6 and has the daily goal of being in front of a customer by 7. It doesn't matter if you're talking construction needs, industrial plant turnarounds or, in Sorenson's case, the next film shoot. What are the customers' needs, how can the rental company help? What equipment do you need, when do you need it, and what does the job require?
Principle No. 2 is communication. This is not a new concept, but every contractor I've ever interviewed has repeated it. â€śIf you're going to be late on a delivery, don't wait until you're already late to tell me. Tell me in advance so I can be prepared.â€ť The worst is when equipment is scheduled for delivery, or a technician for repair and they don't even show up or give the customer an explanation. If I was that customer, I'd say don't even bother to call me again.
I've ridden around Los Angeles with Lance more than once and I've seen it for myself: his phone never stops ringing. If I'm trying to interview him, he can barely get through an answer without his phone going off. And if a caller misses him, he calls back fast. We live in the age of cell phones and PDAs, yet some people still don't call customers back right away. Sorenson honed the quick callback technique 20 years ago, before cell phones, when all there were were pagers and Lance had to get off the freeway and find the nearest pay phone. I'll bet he had every pay phone in the city staked out.
Ask Sorenson â€śwhy?â€ť and the answer is simple. â€śIf they aren't calling me, they're going to call somebody else.â€ť
Principle No. 3 is to care about other people and their problems. In some ways, this is a human characteristic that is hard to teach. Empathy is a special quality on a personal level â€” it's key for anybody operating in sales. Sorenson seems to come by it naturally.
Principle No. 4: Take responsibility when things go wrong and defer credit when things go right. It's not always easy, egotistic as we humans are, but if something goes wrong on a rental, be the first to say, â€śI'm responsible, what can I do to make it up to you?â€ť And if a customer lets you know your company performed well, tell them what a hard-working group of people you have and let your staff know the customer cared enough to pass along a compliment.
Principle No. 5: Make sure you ask the right questions. If a person says they need a 20-foot scissorlift, you need to find out if the person needs to reach 20 feet or stand at 20 feet above ground. Do they need electric, do they need dual fuel, is the unit for indoor or outdoor use? Bringing the wrong equipment inconveniences the customer and adds unnecessary costs to your rental operation.
These are principles for any rental business, not just studio rentals. Every day is show time. Perform or they'll surf to another channel.
You may have noticed a logo on RER's cover commemorating 50 years of RER. In later issues, we will reflect back on RER's history and, more importantly, the 50 years the magazine has covered the rental industry. Keep reading while we try to make our 50th year the best yet.