By F. Andrew Taylor
The 2018 International Technology Rental Association Annual Conference, held at Bally’s Las Vegas in mid-February, was deemed a resounding success. Now, some people think it’s possible to be too successful but the folks who formed and operate ITRA say they consider it a challenge.
For example, if an ITRA member has a client who needs 300 iPads for a presentation, but only has 200 available, there’s a good chance a fellow ITRA member has what they need, in this case another 100 iPads, and can get it to the event in time to save the day. “ITRA is a networking organization,” says current ITRA president Dennis Pugh (pictured right), a senior account manager at MCR Rental Solutions. “The idea is that we get to sell other regions for our clients but have the confidence that the people that we deal with will do the task that we ask competently. We all speak the same language: technology.”
The concept was conceived and implementation began in 1997 by Rick Shapiro and 15 companies nationwide. It was officially formed as an association in 2002 as the National Computer Rental Association. The name was changed in 2005 to reflect the organizations growing international membership. The membership is made up of more than 100 companies worldwide that rent, install, and support IT products such as PCs, laptops, iPads, copiers, printers and kiosks, companies that rent AV equipment including projectors, sound systems, displays and lighting, and vendors that manufacture products used by their IT and AV rental/production member companies. The companies involved range from small regional rental houses, to multinational firms with thousands of employees.
One of those companies is Flex Rental Solutions, which provides web-based, customizable rental and live event management software. “Our latest version is Flex 5,” says Lisa Fossler (pictured left), who handles sales for the Orem, Utah-based company. “We’re getting off of Flash and we’ve now developed HTML5 version of Flex 5, which is being released this quarter.” The change will allow users to scan equipment in and out from a smartphone or other mobile device. Companies can easily keep track of inventory going to and from multiple locations. ”The gear has barcodes that you can scan with your phone,” says Fossler. “You just activate your camera to scan them. If an item doesn’t come back it goes right to a missing and damaged list that goes right to the client so they can look for it and know exactly what is missing so they can return it before fees incur. You can account for every piece by the end of the day. That can be very important at a trade show with a lot of moving parts.”
Fossler recently joined the ITRA board and says Flex Rental Solutions has been a part of ITRA for eight years. She and Flex Rental Solutions CEO Chris Stein attend virtually every ITRA event. “I very much enjoy every member of ITRA,” she says. “I love learning who they are and what their company does, My expertise is making connections between people. When I learn that was a new company joining ITRA I talk to them and find out what their needs are and let them know what other ITRA members can fulfill those needs.”
Dan Kallen (pictured right), vice president of sales for Hartford Technology Rental, is ITRA’s chairman of the board. His company has offices in Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, where he lives. If a client comes to him looking to get equipment for an event in a town far from any of those cities, for example, Seattle, that might not be economically feasible for them to provide a solution. With ITRA, chances are he knows someone there and has met them face to face and considers them a friend.
“My company rents laptops, desktops, scanners, iPads, iPhones and we’re also really big in virtual reality and augmented reality,” Kallen says. “But if somebody says ‘I need a 16 panel video wall,’ that something that’s way out of my wheelhouse. With the ITRA, I can pick up a phone and talk to an expert on video walls, and not only is the guy an expert, but we’re meeting in his backyard.”
The organization allows all of its members to function as larger entities and handle bigger and more profitable projects. “It allows me to never say ‘no’ to a customer, and saying ‘no’ is one of the biggest ways we lose customers,” Kallen explains. “The ITRA allows us to offer a lot more solutions and have a deeper, technical presence. I’ve got access to tech guys across the country who are reliable. It’s not a matter of finding someone on the internet and crossing my fingers.”
Pugh believes when it comes down to it, ITRA is a group of people who trust and respect each other and know they can count on one another. “It’s the old adage, people do business with people they know,” Pugh says. “When you’re entrusting your company and your reputation to somebody else to perform a task, it’s good to know the character of the individual and you’ve looked each other square in the eye and you know exactly who they are and they know who you are and there’s a bond.”
Begun in 1997 and renamed to the International Technology Rental Association in 2005, this networking organization is dedicated to the specific needs of technology rental companies and currently has more than 100 member companies worldwide, ranging from small regional rental houses to multinational firms. Member companies may rent, install, and support IT products or rent audio visual equipment or be the vendors that manufacture products used by the IT and AV rental/production member companies. Membership benefits include expanding each company’s geographic reach, inventory, product knowledge and product offerings for their clients. For more info, visit www.it-ra.org.