Deprez on the ERA
By Murray Pollok23 April 2008
Gererd Deprez talks about ERA’s progress and goals for the future as the organisation prepares for its major convention in Amsterdam in June.
Question: First of all, why is the convention in June so important?
Gerard Deprez: Well, it's a fantastic opportunity for the European ‘rental family' to meet: suppliers, rental competitors, big companies and small. The convention gives us time to talk about rental away from the day to day pressures of running businesses - we can learn from each other, learn what the ERA has been doing, and - importantly - help shape what it will do in the future.
Q. Why should ERA members and non-members attend? How will they benefit?
GD: We are trying to create a specific event for rental that has something for everyone. The new exhibition that is being held alongside the convention will have a great range of equipment and services targeted at rental companies, and the three days of workshops, seminars and presentations will give ERA members and non-members a great chance to learn.
The workshops and seminars cover an enormous range of topics, from the development of small equipment ‘tool hire' in Europe, to theft prevention, transportation issues, finance and more. Any rental company can attend these sessions and contribute, or just listen and get tips from others.
Each of the four ERA committees will also host workshops where members will get updates on what they have been doing and the opportunity to suggest new initiatives. This is important, because we want as many members as possible to contribute, and to feel that their voice is being heard.
We also have the formal proceedings of the association, and that will include some important presentations from knowledgeable people. US rental consultant Dan Kaplan will give the keynote address, looking at the impact that the recent financial turmoil will have on our business, and we will also get an insight into Europe's distribution business from ECED.
Holding it in Amsterdam was also central to our plans. We wanted a host city that was easy to reach and that would add to the flavour of the event: it's a beautiful city, of course, with lots to offer.
Q. As you said, the convention takes place alongside the first International Rental Exhibition (IRE). Do we need another construction equipment exhibition?
GD: The point is it isn't just another construction exhibition. If it was then we wouldn't be supporting it. For the first time, Europe's rental sector will have its own dedicated show where suppliers can show equipment targeted at rental companies, staffed by people who understand the needs of rental companies. As well as that, there will be dozens of other suppliers relevant to rental, such as rental software and IT specialists.
I'm looking forward to see how the suppliers approach the show - I hope they see the scale of the opportunity there for them: a huge number of European rental professionals in one place, including some of Europe's biggest equipment buyers.
Q. ERA is jointly organizing, with IRN, the first European Rental Awards. What do you hope to achieve by holding the awards.
GD: The awards are a new thing for us in Europe, and we hope it will quite simply focus minds on what ‘excellence' means in rental. It gives everybody a chance to see how the best run companies operate in terms of safety, commitment to the environment, promoting rental. The response so far has been fantastic - the deadline for the award entries closed at the end of March and I understand that we have had almost 70 entries, which is way beyond our expectations for this first event.
Q. Are you pleased with ERA's progress in its first two years?
GD: Starting an organisation from scratch is never easy, particularly a pan-European one, but I think we have a lot to be proud of. On a practical level, the organisation is up and running; membership levels are healthy and our secretariat office in Brussels is operating smoothly.
However, it has been the work of the various committees that has given me so much hope for the future: people from all over Europe working together on often complex issues, and making progress, as we shall demonstrate at the convention. That's where you'll find the heart of the association.