Andy Wright column: lessons from a career in rental

26 October 2023

IRN columnist Andy Wright, CEO of Sunbelt Rentals UK, continues his ‘lessons learned’ theme by discussing how to create a winning team and ‘system of play’.

Andy Wright Chief Executive Officer Andy Wright, CEO of Sunbelt Rentals UK

In my last article, I focused on some of the important lessons that I have learnt from a lifetime career in rental.

The key messages were that a) you get the people and teams that you, as a leader, deserve and b) the consistency of words and actions is critical in building trust between employees and leadership.

In this second article on lessons learnt, I’d like to continue with the people related theme and look at some key learnings around how to build a winning rental team.

Best players on pitch

One of the most important things I have learnt over the years has been that in general, winning teams have the best players playing for them.

Now this may seem obvious to many but this concept of getting the best players on the pitch doesn’t always seem to be evident in many businesses that I encounter.

This is particularly relevant now, whilst we are in this war for talent, and our ability to attract great people to the team is hampered by our ability to be seen as an interesting industry to work within or one that has exciting roles to be able to offer to people, roles that engage and align to their core values and aspirations.

Too often I see people filling roles with people that aren’t suitable just because of the difficulties in finding the right talent in a sensible timeframe.

Having a ‘body’ in situ for the sake of it is not acceptable nor will it contribute to building a winning team in the rental industry.

The implications of having the wrong person fulfilling a critical role, such as Hire Controller, Driver or Mobile Engineer, are enormous: however you cut it, it’s our people that make the difference in the end and settling for anything but employing the best is a sure-fire way to deliver sub-standard service and ultimately to lose customers.

Employ captains

In addition to hiring the best players possible, I’ve learnt that employing for attitude is a better barometer of likely success than focusing just on the number of years that a person may have in our industry (we often call this experience).

Attitude always wins for me and I’m constantly looking for people that are obvious winners with a winning mentality, people that demonstrate the ability to be captains within the team, even if they aren’t necessarily in a supervisory position currently.

Natural leaders will always get a place on my team but only if they can also demonstrate a team ethos as well. Players who think only about their personal position and what’s in it for them, won’t make my team, irrespective how good their own ability might be.

We operate in a team-based environment and it’s the collective strength of the team that will differentiate us from our competition.

Any weak links or people that are in the wrong role will ensure that we will be found out by customers and our competition, so we need to focus on getting the best players in their respective positions on the pitch and that each and every one of our employees are leaders in their own right.

Only then do we have a chance of being successful and building a winning team.

A world class system

Having great players, with great attitudes is clearly helpful when trying to build a successful business, but it’s not enough on its own. The team needs to know what is expected of it and each player needs to know what standard they need to play to, and this is what I would call having a world class system of play.

This is a highly critical piece of the jigsaw because it underpins the natural talent that exists within each individual and it pulls it all together into a joined-up approach to doing the work that needs to get done. We shouldn’t underestimate how important this is towards achieving the end result.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that a world class system of play can compensate for the lack of quality in some positions within the team, if it has to.

At Sunbelt Rentals we have OpX, which is our own operational excellence programme that every one of our businesses has to implement in order to attain a world class set of operational processes.

That means we run the business consistently well from every location, and our customers receive a consistently high quality of service.

We have been engaged in implementing this for the last three years and we can see the significant improvements in our customer satisfaction levels on the back of this, as well as the operational benefits that this system of play brings to each and every one of our businesses.

It’s not easy building a winning rental business, but over the years I have learnt that by focusing on these three areas and being uncompromising about delivering on each of them, we have a much better chance of success.

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Ollie Hodges Publisher Tel: +44 (0)1892 786253 E-mail: ollie.hodges@khl.com
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