The future looks bright for the rental car industry.
According to a recent report in Fact.MR, the rental car market is poised to grow to $200 billion by the end of 2033. That’s a 9.6% increase in demand over the next decade. In order to take advantage of the opportunity ahead, now is the time to begin growing your automotive business. Securing funding is, of course, the first step. But as you grow, you’ll also need to pay attention to your fundamental business strategies to make sure you stay ahead of the pack.
As a founding partner at NuVinAir, a cleaning technology company that caters to rental car companies, I know how hard it is to stay true to your core goals as you grow your business. Here are six lessons I’ve learned about how to scale up your automotive business while keeping your fundamental strengths at the forefront.
1. Commit to your brand. You may not be a globally renowned rental car company, but you can stand out from the crowd with an honest and distinct brand.
- Keep it real. People respond to people, and there’s just no substitute for in-person interaction. When you take the time to meet people face-to-face and build genuine relationships, it’s easier to make headway as you grow.
- Know where you came from (and where you’re going). When considering growth, check in with your core mission and beliefs. Does the new direction line up? Make sure you’re staying true to the company’s original goals, and avoid jumping onto the latest fad just because you see a potential new revenue stream.
2. Embrace innovation. You may have started with a great product that disrupts the market, but if you’re not continuously evolving, you’ll fall behind fast. Build innovation into your culture, from the top down. At NuVinAir, we set aside time for “no agenda” meetings, and we have a company-wide book group. Everyone, across the business, is reading the same book together, which allows us to communicate cross-functionally about a common topic. These types of open discussions lead to better communication, more efficiency, and ultimately, more creative solutions to foster growth.
3. Find a mentor. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of relying on mentors for several business ventures, and I am grateful to them. Mentors can deliver hard messages, open your eyes to your blind spots, set realistic goals, and help you make difficult business decisions.
At NuVinAir, my mentor convinced me and my team to convert from a distributorship model to a franchise model, and it was the best long-term decision we could have made. The process took longer than expected, and it was painful, but ultimately, we realized it was the right decision because it allowed us to scale much more broadly. The move helped us expand our vision. Today, franchisees are pushing us further than we ever dreamed possible and making major contributions to the long-term growth of NuVinAir.
4. Protect your IP. It seems fundamental, but companies often forget pieces of the intellectual property (IP) puzzle. Be sure to patent or trademark everything, including your tech innovation, your brand, your website URL, and your processes. And even if you’re not ready to do business in another country, consider filing patents for future potential. Filing for patent protection is a notoriously long process, and you’ll find new threats after each innovation, so be sure to plan for growth.
5. Network, network, network. Attend trade shows like The International Car Rental Show and the National Automobile Dealers Association Show. Join affiliate organizations, like the American Car Rental Association, and others. Ask questions to understand the evolving market – and while you’re networking, get to know your competitors. You never know when a competitor might become a great partner down the line.
6. Collaborate with your clients. Your current clients may be the best source for innovation and growth. At NuVinAir, we have partnered with some of the largest rental companies, and in our discovery phase, we did a lot of assessments for them. We analyzed where there was potential waste, how decisions got made, and what products were being used at different locations. We learned that each location was making its own decisions about cleaning products, causing a lot of waste across the company and impacting the customer experience.
To improve their customer-experience metrics, we partnered with our clients to help them standardize the customer experience by offering a single suite of products across all locations. Then, we conducted quarterly performance reviews and solicited ongoing feedback from the client, which led us to develop even better, and safer, products. These improved products were a triple-win: they helped the client improve and standardize the customer experience, saved the client time in the field, and allowed us to remove plastic waste from the production cycle. All of this innovation and growth stemmed from having a partnership mentality, rather than a sales mindset. And we continue to identify and respond to their unique needs.
The automotive industry is constantly evolving, and as demand for rentals increases over the next decade, disruptors have the opportunity to make real headway. As you begin to scale up your automotive business, remember to stay true to your core mission, engage with your community, and protect your innovation, every step of the way.
Kyle Bailey is CEO of NuVinAir, a franchise-supported company that utilizes patented technology to create healthy vehicle interiors.