The local market leader in portable air compressors and generator rental, Rand-Air, was established 45 years ago – long before the concept of so-called ‘positive disruption’ became a trendy topic of wider business discussion in MBA classes around the country and internationally.
However, in many aspects, Rand-Air has in fact been a quietly efficient and self-styled ‘positive disruptor’ in the equipment rental business for over four decades.
"In the past, we actually built up a reputation for being something of an innovator, in that we have always sought to exceed our customers’ expectations – no matter how tough the requirement, or the innovative solutions we had to come up with – in order to provide unmatched service excellence," says Rand-Air General Manager Louwrens Erasmus.
The company has been striving for continuous improvement, in line with its ethos, more recently too - particularly in the face of the avalanche of information and resulting change driven by today's social media and general digital interconnectedness.
"When it comes to customer service, we realised the people who hire our equipment have instantaneous access to information about competitors too; and are therefore able to make comparisons very quickly and easily. We protect our reputation as a leader in our field very assiduously; and offer customer service which stands up to, and exceeds, any comparisons," he continues.
For this reason, the company ethos of 'exceeding customer expectations' is not merely a smooth slogan, but is translated into action every single day, by staff throughout the company.
The management echelon of Rand-Air has for some time intentionally driven an ethos and practice of ‘internal’ improvement within the company. "We are grounded and given direction by the intention of what we are doing, and gain much inspiration from the energy and momentum this provides within the context of our daily responsibilities and our longer-term goals," adds Rand-Air Sales Manager Kim Coetzee.
At the same time, there has been a concerted effort by the company to ensure that this ethos is embraced at all levels of the organisation, and not just by its management; as globally, this is not a new idea, and it has been found many times over that companies with a more innovative, free-thinking and motivated culture – and which are also more open to the introduction of (positively) disruptive changes - tend to thrive.
"However on a day-to-day, practical level, it does mean disrupting conventional ‘9-to-5’ attitudes; for example, delivering service excellence to our customers often means working unconventional hours and going to exceptional lengths," Coetzee continues, adding that by the same token – and sometimes even in quite small ways - if one is not an agent of change, there is a real risk of very quickly falling behind and becoming stagnant and outdated.
Furthermore, to make any level or degree of advancement work within a company requires highly functional communication between all levels of staff: everyone must be aligned and support new initiatives, even though these may, in the short-term, mean taking the more difficult route ‘less travelled’.
Coetzee explains that the first step is the determination to make hard changes in the company environment. "Development does not mean discarding everything that has gone before; but it does mean looking critically at all areas of the business. There are some areas that will be doing extremely well and others that may be lagging. It is in these latter areas where positive disruption is likely to be highly beneficial," she adds.
Furthermore, in a move contrary to the severe cost-cutting of recent years in the corporate world – which has often seen people development suffering as a result - Rand-Air invests substantially and consistently in superior staff training. By doing this, the people working for the company remain fully motivated and engaged – which is ultimately not only to their benefit, but that of the business.
Erasmus emphasises that international companies such as Uber and Airbnb are certainly the classic industry disruptors, which brought about completely new approaches and sweeping change to their industries.
However, he adds that the cumulative effect of small enhancements effected continuously over time, have contributed substantially to the company’s overall success.
"We have seen that many consistent, small changes or refinements really add up - to something maybe not as dramatic - but equally profound," he adds.
"In addition, in Rand-Air, what we have encouraged is a culture where employees are able to question the status quo without the fear of negative repercussions. Within this environment, innovation, creativity and individual thinking is highly respected and valued; although any proposed changes must be based on a sound business case,” he emphasises.
In the past, in general, rental equipment had a second-rate reputation. Rand-Air realised many years ago that it also had to adjust this pattern and negative stereotypical perception. Today, if one hires a compressor or generator from the Jet Park-based company, the equipment features both the appearance and performance of being newly-purchased.
By very effectively changing or disrupting traditionally negative perceptions, the distinctive ‘Rand-Air experience’ presents customers with a positive route to conserving capital and limiting the number of depreciating assets on their books.
"We conduct our rental business with a level of excellence that allows our customers the absolute peace of mind to concentrate solely on their core businesses," asserts Coetzee.
"At Rand-Air, in 45 years of operation, we have always realised the importance of continuous improvement, as it has invariably allowed us to serve our customers more effectively. When they compare us to others in our field, we want to be known as the leading provider of mobile air and power, in which our customers can place their absolute trust," asserts Erasmus.
"It is from this well-spring of trust that our service excellence, customer relationships - and the innovation and courage to make positively disruptive changes when required - have flowed – all of which have sustained our company," he concludes.