IN THIS HIGH-TECH age, software is a necessity for every business, especially one with as many components as event rental. Whether the concern is managing time or inventory — or, most likely, both — these tips from rental software experts will help get the job done.
GET IN THE GAME
Just because a company is a smaller operation is no excuse for skimping on software.
Montreal-based Orion Software recently introduced a smaller version of its third-generation Sirius rental software. Sirius LITE rental management software “can handle all the needs of a start-up operation and is easily upgraded to our full version, all within a standard Windows environment,” explains business development manager Steve Milcik. The product's lower cost, which includes training, makes it accessible to businesses that are just starting out, but the software is flexible enough to grow with a business as it increases in size.
At Glendale, Calif.-based RentMaster Inc., clients also have the option of starting small and building their software capabilities as their company grows. “Based on the number of orders and customer calls per day, [clients] can start from a single-user version of RentMaster software and switch to the multi-user version any time,” explains Garik Mouradian, CEO. The company's latest advancement is the ability to integrate its software with a customizable Web-based reservation system that rental businesses can use in conjunction with their own Web sites, allowing customers and sales staff to make online reservations or regular purchases, and giving companies a chance to conduct business 24 hours a day, Mouradian says.
Indeed, many companies now offer the ability to tie their software to Internet sites and pre-existing programs to increase efficiency.
Gaithersburg, Md.-based Synergy International has expanded the real-time online ordering system built into its Windows-based bSynergy.net Rental software with the introduction of the ASP model at The Special Event trade show last month. “This design offers some wonderful features to the more modest-sized firms [and] dynamically decreases the total cost of ownership in both hardware and software,” explains W. William Marsh III, chief operating officer. The Synergy International team performs all technical services, backups, upgrades and data maintenance, meaning “smaller firms get to use very powerful software with an initial financial outlay of pennies on the dollar,” he notes.
The latest release of Kennebunk, Maine-based Event Rental Systems' Party Track software, which is built on the SQLBase database platform, includes new features such as an interface to Microsoft MapPoint — necessary for locating delivery destinations — and Quickbooks. Users can also connect to their Party Track database through Microsoft Excel, which allows them to analyze data and to perform mail merges using Microsoft Word for marketing purposes, explains president Larry Weeman.
TAKE A TEST DRIVE
The experts recommend that potential clients do their research before committing to a particular rental software, as many of the products available perform similar functions. Almost every software company provides some form of demo — from interactive online demonstrations to on-site trials — which clients can use to try the product before they buy.
“Make sure you understand the capabilities of each system under consideration, particularly in handling the non-standard situations you may encounter,” says Jack Shea, president of Springfield, Mass.-based Solutions by Computer. “Most systems can handle a straightforward transaction, but when breakage occurs, a discount is given, a customer wants to buy some rental inventory, multiple changes are made to reservations, or lost inventory is found, you want to know how completely each system handles the exceptions.” He adds that new capabilities for the company's CounterPro Rental Management System software will be introduced at this month's ARA show, including enhanced document e-mailing, automated delivery mapping and integration with FrontRange Solutions' GoldMine CRM (customer relationship management) software.
Clients should not only look at the software's capabilities, but also the capabilities of the company behind it. “It's important to know that the company will be there in the future,” Weeman notes. “It is a considerable amount of work to put in a new system — it's not something you want to do every few years. Knowing that the company you use has a good history and a good product are indicators that they will stay in business.”
Event Rental Systems, 207/967-4557; Orion Software, 877/755-2012; RentMaster Inc., 800/808-4604; Solutions by Computer, 800/950-2221; Synergy International, 800/522-6210