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Rental Essentials: Software Update

It's one thing for a party rental operation to be busy. It's another thing to be busy making money.

As it can for almost any business, the right software program can save hours of time for party rental operators by streamlining accounting, human resources and other functions. But software programs geared specifically to party rental have helped operators track not only what's where when, but also what's worth adding to inventory.

Here, we speak with three party rental pros to learn what software they use and what new features the software developers are promising soon.

THE PRO: Robert Sivek, chief financial officer, The Meetinghouse Companies, Elmhurst, Ill.

For the last eight years, The Meetinghouse Companies has been using a software package from Solutions by Computer.

“It does everything from analyze overtime patterns to helping us decide if we need another type of prop,” Sivek says. “It handles payroll, payables, receivables, ROI and unit utilization. Before, if we weren't sure when something was coming back, we didn't know if we had 50 or 60 of an item, so we would err on the cautious side. Now I know exactly where everything is and when it's coming back, so I can maximize unit utilization.”

THE PROGRAM: Solutions by Computer, Springfield, Mass.

The strength of the software, according to company president Jack Shea, is its ability to measure critical utilization, recording how often inventory failed to have sufficient available stock of item X to satisfy one more customer. “Items can have a high return on investment but a low critical utilization,” he says, “indicating that adding another unit to your inventory would not produce additional revenue.”

A new feature is eProNet, which enables party rental operators to create a Web site with e-commerce capabilities that are integrated with the software and database, Shea says.

THE PRO: Peter Grazzini, managing member, Perfect Settings, Washington, D.C.

Since founding his firm three years ago, Grazzini has used a software package from Synergy International.

“It enables me to put a party into the system once, then print every piece of paper for it, including the invoice,” he says. “I deal with probably ten to 20 changes a day for the next day. I can run a report that will give me the changes; it keeps me very up to date. I also track revenues by client, so I know in 10 seconds what each client means to me.”

THE PROGRAM: Synergy International, Gaithersburg, Md.

According to Synergy president Chris Marsh, the strength of the program is that it is Windows based, and even works with the new Windows XP operating system. “Our customers can virtually eliminate double-bookings and have real-time subrental, purchasing and usage information,” Marsh says. “Once the order detail has been entered, warehouse packing lists, delivery scheduling, master schedules, contracts, invoices and inventory reports will be able to be produced without any further manipulation of data.” Recent upgrades in the program include a broadcast e-mail marketing tool and an online credit card purchasing system.

THE PRO: Kim Hamilton, sales and systems administrator, Peterson Party Center, Winchester, Mass.

Back in 1995, Peterson was the first customer for Party Track software, according to Hamilton. “The program is very powerful,” she says. “We have 13 users working all day doing all types of processes with no interruption. The biggest contribution this product has made is inventory allocation and quick order entry processing to better serve the customer's needs.”

THE PROGRAM: Party Track from Event Rental Systems, Kennebunk, Maine

Another Windows-based program, Party Track allows users to manage inventory, create missing equipment invoices, and calculate sales and referral commissions, according to company president Larry Weeman. “Our integrated receivables allows deposits to be taken on orders and automatically applied as payments once the event occurs.”

Event Rental Systems is in the midst of completing the release of software that includes support for party rental firms based in Canada and other countries. “These feature include formatting changes to addresses, date fields and new tax calculation routines,” Weeman says.

RESOURCES: Event Rental Systems/Party Track, 207/967-4557; Perfect Settings, 202/722-2900; Peterson Party Center, 781/789-4000; Solutions by Computer, 413/737-0499; Synergy International, 301/840-6500; The Meetinghouse Companies, 630/941-0600

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