The rental industry is nothing if not known for working under pressure. Deadlines for last-minute events and off-hour repairs are well known to rental professionals, so it’s no wonder that Jonathan Kiser got his start in rental by putting the pressure on himself.
He had been an event planner under the Group Dynamics name for five years in Charleston, S.C., and had been slowly brewing the idea of adding equipment rental to his business. However, it was at a wedding planner luncheon in September 2007 that the idea turned to reality. During the comment portion of the meeting, on a whim, he asked the room full of event planners whether they would be willing to rent equipment from him. After a resounding affirmation, one planner piped up, “When do you plan to open?” Kiser thought a minute, and replied, “Spring 2008.”
“Then I came back and told the staff what I had done,” he says. At the time, he had no funding, no equipment and no business plan. Within six months, he put together a plan with an accountant, received a loan from the bank and attended The Rental Show 2008 in Las Vegas to stock up on inventory, receiving advice from rental pros along the way. On March 29, 2008, Group Dynamics provided rentals for its first event.
Today, even as Kiser tells the story, he looks as though it’s all a little unbelievable or maybe the bewilderment comes from how the equipment rental idea turned out. Group Dynamics is now a thriving rental store in the Charleston area, and business is growing.
Kiser initially began in the event business as an event manager at Charleston Place Hotel. In 2003, he launched Group Dynamics as an event planning service. “By the time I started the rental business, I had been on the customer side of rentals for a good long time. I understand the challenges the caterers, event planners and even the hotels have with rentals. Then I leveraged the sales we had as an event company with the bank for the rental business. That’s how we got in the game,” he says.
Housed in a 17,000-sq.-ft. portion of an industrial building, with a 1,500-sq.-ft. office and showroom, the business makes use of its event planning background and relationships with local event planners and caterers to provide equipment for several events each weekend.
The business leases two trucks and has 12 employees. Among its inventory — which includes china, glassware, flatware, serving pieces, linens, tables, flooring, catering equipment and climate control equipment — Group Dynamics carries 11 types of chairs and has an in-house laundry for linens. The company also subrents tents.
Kiser works with nearby Snyder Event Rental, who he speaks with daily. He also credits Snyder Event Rental with introducing him to the American Rental Association. He then learned about The Rental Show in time to attend the 2008 show in Las Vegas, signed up with ARA Insurance Services and purchased the Cost of Doing Business Report. “We took the report to the bank and it was a big part of what turned them around. It was the single most important thing that helped with the bank,” he says.
In addition to the CODB, which helped back up numbers in Kiser’s business plan, Kiser also took with him letters of commitment from various area caterers and event planners, who pledged to do business with Group Dynamics.
After meeting with the bank, Kiser found a warehouse in December 2007. When in Las Vegas in February 2008, he received a call that his business loan was approved. “I got home and signed the lease,” he says.
The business’ first event was a large tented wedding at a plantation. “We handled all the catering, rentals and the tent. We used a brand new black-and-white dance floor from SICO® America right out of the box. The event was great in that it touched on every part of our inventory,” he says.
The wedding also was 45 minutes away from their warehouse. “We learned that weekend about lists and double-checking. If you’re 45 minutes away from the warehouse, you don’t go back,” he says.
The company does most of its business through word-of-mouth referrals, but also is available almost anytime. Phone calls are forwarded to cell phones after hours, so customers get a live person 24 hours a day. Staff members are equipped with laptops to work off-site and the company’s Web site, www.groupdynamics.biz, offers an online catalog as well as a host of other available services Group Dynamics will plan for customers, such as activities and tours in the area.
“The thing I love most about rentals is that it’s a tangible product with inherent value. You’re building longevity, momentum and relationships. I love that we have a fundamental value,” he says.
Kiser says his rental business has been successful because it filled a niche. “You’ve got to fill a void. It can’t be just a good idea. People have to want it. I think I didn’t realize that until the economy turned. There was just a need for more rental,” he says.