Imagine you own and operate a growing event rental business. Since the first day you have handled sales and customer service, loaded the trucks, driven the equipment to every delivery, set up the equipment on site, picked up the equipment after the event, cleaned the equipment so it is ready for the next rental and managed the warehouse. Up to now this schedule has been the norm as you literally work in every department to keep the business moving forward.
But now your growth has outgrown you. While this is incredibly positive, you have big concerns.
- You need to hire additional staff members so you can increase the number of rental orders you can handle but have no experience with human resources rules and regulations.
- It is time to start looking at adding additional trucks, but you don’t know what sizes to consider or why.
- You are out of space in your existing warehouse and need to move to a larger facility but have never moved a business before.
- You need to upgrade your accounting and rental software as soon as possible to handle the increase in order volume and revenue.
There is so much to do, and you don’t know where to start, but also don’t want to slow down the growth of your business. It can be overwhelming when you don’t know where to turn for business advice or assistance.
This is when it is time to consider joining a Peer Advisory Group through the American Rental Association (ARA).
“Joining a peer group was one of the best decisions that I have ever made in regard to my business. The networking, knowledge and friendships gained from companies all over the country is invaluable. Members of your group are some of the only people who know what we go through to run our unique businesses,” says Mike Holland, CERP, president, Chattanooga Tent and Event Solutions, Chattanooga, Tenn.
ARA’s Peer Advisory Groups are made up of eight to 12 members, primarily owners, of noncompeting rental stores of similar size, volume and inventory mix. These moderated groups meet throughout the year — virtually and in person — and have proven to be an essential ingredient to the overall success and growth of participating members.
Dan Crowley, who manages Peer Executive Groups, Coopersburg, Pa., handles several peer groups for ARA members.
“It’s more than great advice. You will get support and peer-driven accountability for you to achieve your goals,” Crowley says.
“You enter into a group where at least some of the room has ‘been there, done that.’ There are no shortcuts to success, but we like to say, ‘shared experience brings individual success.’ An owner can feel ‘pulled at’ or ‘picked on’ at times by employees, vendors and customers. When peer groups gather, they have the chance to set all that aside and be focused on themselves, and their businesses, unlike their day-to-day work life,” Crowley says.
Business owners regularly hear the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” The open communication in peer groups often alerts members to issues well before they face them, as someone else in the group has experienced similar scenarios in their business. This ongoing support leads to quicker and proactive response times addressing real world business situations for the operator.
Trevor Troutman, owner, Let’s Party Rental, Normal, Ill., could not agree more. “The knowledge and experience of small and mid-size business owners really helps to identify and resolve core issues. What I take most is the motivation to succeed from every member of the group,” Troutman says.
Peer group members work through common challenges and provide valuable business advice while reviewing key performance indicators, financial results, trends, marketing strategies and much more. Understanding the challenges of managing a busy and growing operation, they provide direct and honest feedback to group members. This allows them to celebrate wins together and collaborate to overcome the occasional bump in the road. In many cases this ongoing interaction leads to lifelong friendships.
“Over the last 22 years, I have had the honor of being part of my peer group of business owners and operators and learning from each member. I will forever be grateful for the enthusiasm, encouragement and guidance each member provided for me and my family over the years. We’ve shared so many life stories along the way. The camaraderie is by far the most profound aspect of my rental career,” says John Bibbo, CERP, president, Event Source and Panache Events, Cleveland.
“Being part of my peer group was, and still is, the most impactful thing I could have been a part of for my business and me personally,” Bibbo says.
Formal in-person peer group meetings take place twice annually. Additional virtual meetings are scheduled monthly by the group. Professional facilitators are brought in to assure each group gets the most out of the time spent together. The ongoing communication between meetings keeps the focus on important business issues and topics for each member.
Jeff Crotto, CERP, president, All About Events – Jacksonville, Jacksonville, Fla., agrees. “I have often said the two things that have contributed most to the growth of my company are my involvement in the ARA and joining a strong peer group. A peer group gives you a sounding board of like-minded professionals from similar businesses where you can share ideas and discuss problems,” Crotto says.
“It has been invaluable for me. These are a group of individuals who own a business similar in size and composition to mine, so undoubtedly, they are facing similar issues. Some in our group are better operators, while others may be better at building a positive culture in their company. No matter what the issue, someone in the group has encountered it before or has a good idea how to approach the issue,” Crotto says.
The event rental industry always has been filled with entrepreneurs who have grown their businesses by taking risks and determining what their markets needed for successful events. A peer group allows a business owner to discuss topics that affect daily business with other owners who are experiencing the same things.
“Being involved in a peer group has been invaluable to me and our company. Comparing notes, strategies, policies and business practices with other business owners is paramount to not only our success, but the success of the industry. Comparing and analyzing your businesses with one another helps you see where you need to focus more of your time in order to be successful. You learn from other owners who have faced situations along the way to help you deal with them when they come up,” says Dan Hooks, CERP, president, Party Reflections, Charlotte, N.C., and ARA board chair.
“My favorite part is the camaraderie that forms in the group as you hold each other accountable to work on the items discussed in your meetings. The friendships and relationships formed from involvement in a group are impossible to quantify, but I believe they are the difference between surviving in this business and thriving in it,” Hooks says.
To learn more about joining a Peer Advisory Group, ARA members can visit ARArental.org/peer-advisory-groups and complete the online submission form. Once completed, the Peer Advisory Group team will reach out to you to learn more about your business and start the process of matching you with other operators of similar size and experience. The goal is to align business owners with like-minded peers who are striving towards similar strategic business goals.