Flex Rental Solutions is a Gold Sponsor for AV Matters newsletter and website. Recently Tom Stimson, President of Stimson Group and Chris Stein, Owner of Flex Rental Solutions had a few minutes to talk about Flex’s success.
Tom Stimson: I was looking at the blog on your website and seeing all the pictures of you visiting clients around the world. Did you ever expect market penetration like this?
Chris Stein: Yes, and No. I didn’t see the particulars, but when we put together the subscription software business plan, I knew we were in the right place at the right time and had a great shot of being a leader in the rental management software marketplace if we executed well. I don’t think we have reached our potential yet. We have some amazing opportunities ahead and hope to capitalize on our current success and expand even wider. I also have to say I got the best advice from a certain “Tom Stimson” that has made all the difference in the world.
Tom: Why do your customers choose Flex? It has to be difficult to sort through all the product options out there.
Chris: Many Flex customers struggled with the warehouse functionality with their previous software. They want to know where their gear is at any moment regardless of transfers, last-minute adds, or late deliveries. Our customers have scanned over 23 million items in the last year alone. They comment that they finally have a software that they rely upon to track their inventory in the complex AV industry.
That’s what the frontline employees say. I think we are chosen as much for our platform as our functionality. Before Flex existed, rental management software was based around self-hosted, internally accessed software. We harnessed the potential of the internet and new capabilities that it offered to solve the problems of the AV industry. But just having software available through the web doesn’t make it good software. We took our years of using other products and focused on the customer’s’ needs to make an elegant interface that allowed customers to solve complex logistical problems efficiently.
Tom: What does an ideal customer look like? What does it take to make the most of a rental management system?
Chris: Companies that reap a lot of benefit from their software systems usually invest time and training to improve their understanding and the capabilities of the product. It really doesn’t matter if a company has two or two hundred employees. As companies grow, they need a collaborative platform in order to plan complex events instead of working in isolation. Flex in particular allows employees to be more proactive and solve problems earlier in the process rather than be reactive to last minute problems.
Successful implementations are usually driven by one or more people in the company that “own” Flex or different aspects of Flex. They usually will work to get the system in place and implement it better and better every month and every year. If there is not some form of ownership or someone to drive the project, usually there is a much slower implementation.
Tom: Why do some companies take years to get a new software working?
Chris: We recommend that companies simplify the transition process. Don’t try to solve every problem all at once. If you don’t scan now, don’t start off scanning on day one in Flex. Get the inventory in, setup packages and suggestions to get the system efficient. Train account managers and start quoting in Flex. Once you have good habits there add training for the warehouse and then transition to scanning. Don’t overload on the ramp up process.
Tom: Is there a philosophy or mindset that keeps the Flex team focused?
Chris: We have one goal: solve our customer’s problems. That is one of the reasons why you see us visiting our customers so often. We visit both our happy customers and those that are struggling with us or our product. We don’t shy away from hard problems and continue to improve. We try to instill that mentality into every employee at Flex. We are there to solve their problems. If we don’t we will be a blip in history.
Tom: You have an Engineering Blog on the flexrentalsolutions.com website. I have never seen so much geekiness just out in front like that. Is that level of transparency helpful when most of us have no idea what you are talking about?
Chris: You would be surprised at the level of geekiness that exists in certain employees in every company. To all business owners out there, my advice is to find and harness them. They will make your life easier and your company better. That said, that particular blog probably isn’t there for the business owner, but it does inspire a level of good will in many people that we discuss what problems we are working on.
We want that level of transparency in every aspect of our company, not just technology. If you talk to me and ask me about our product, I will tell you what we do well, what we struggle with, and where we want to improve. We want to be a partner with our customers and hopefully our transparency gives them a level of comfort, allowing them to know who we are to our core.
Tom: Look in your crystal ball. In ten or fifteen years, what will your products look like? When will equipment scan itself and proposals extract accurate information from salespeople’s brains?
Chris: I don’t think software should ever do all your work for you, it is a tool. Just like live events, the technology to execute them gets better every year, however, the gear never operates itself. As an example in rental management software, I have never been a fan of “first come first serve” availability functionality. That removes responsibility and accountability towards the company’s bottom line and makes people lazy. Excellent companies use human intelligence to allocate and prioritizing gear and focus on profitability and efficiencies, instead of worrying who hit the confirm button first.
Tom: I’m on board with that…
Chris: That being said, we are working on Flex5, a new HTML5 platform rewrite that will be more mobile capable. We are also working on more Dashboard functionality in the new user interface. Flex has tons of power user functionality. I feel Flex does not do a great job of parsing high level data and making it actionable. That is a high priority in our new version.
We also see integration with other software as a major focus in Flex5. There are some amazing software offerings out there in accounting, CRM, crew scheduling, and other areas, and we want to integrate with them, not compete with them. Our new API will also allow customers to write their own software to access their data if they choose. I can see in the future, other companies writing code to add functionality using our platform. Does someone want to write a web based service to create a sub-rental marketplace for Flex users? Any takers? That’s our vision: an open partnership.
Tom: Last question. What’s the best way for our readers to learn more about your product?
Chris: If a picture is worth a 1000 words than a video is worth a 1000 pages of user manuals. To get a feel for who we are and how it works go to https://www.youtube.com/user/flexrental. To see if Flex can add value for your company sign up for a 60 day free trial here.