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The rental and staging community has long needed hard data specifically about our industry. As outgoing chair of the rental and staging council of the International Communications Industries Association (ICIA), and general manager of HB Group, I'm pleased to report that the association has taken a first step in obtaining ongoing, meaningful data that we can all use to grow our businesses.

ICIA recently conducted a survey of rental and staging companies in North America. This was the first ICIA survey targeting only the rental and staging market. The respondents are distributed over North America, with heavy representation in the states of California, Florida, and Texas. Most of their business (about two-thirds) is being conducted close to (less than 100 miles) their offices.

Survey Results

To give you a glimpse of some of the results, the survey report shows that on average North American companies involved in the rental and staging market get 66 percent of their revenue from rental and staging services. The average revenue increase in 2003 to 2004 was 6 percent, with a third of the companies reporting revenue increases of 15 percent or more. The largest increase was seen in the corporate market. Audio and projection are the two product categories in which most respondents report an increase in revenue.

According to the survey, the average gross revenue per employee varies greatly, between $20,000 and $325,000, with an average of $104,000.

Also interesting to note is that less than half (43 percent) of respondents have contracts — exclusive or non-exclusive — with hotels and convention centers. The hotel exclusivity issue has started to be closely examined through the ICIA Rental & Staging Council over the past year or so. The issue continues to pop up, and I was pleased that our attention to it was able to generate many articles on the subject, both for and against. By bringing the issue out into the open, we helped to educate and inform both our constituency and the customers on the pros and cons, so they could make better decisions. At the end of the day, it's up to industry professionals to decide if exclusivity helps or hinders your particular business model.

Since the first survey was successful, ICIA will continue querying rental and staging companies on a quarterly basis. Over the next year, in fact, ICIA plans to trend rental specific data that is not interpolated from other related industries.

The results of the survey are among the many benefits that ICIA members get from their membership. All participants get a complete report of the survey results. If you are interested in participating in the next quarterly ICIA rental and staging survey and didn't receive an invitation for the first survey, please email to be added to the distribution list. Rest assured your answers will remain completely confidential and anonymous if you choose to participate in the survey.

Accomplishments and Offerings

Other than that, as I prepare to step down from the rewarding position of chair of the council, I can look back proudly on the terrific initiatives that the council has worked on and continues to work on.

We have created tools for business, including a boilerplate rental contract available to ICIA members that can be used to update your current contract or just to help you make sure you have all bases covered. We also have a free, cross-rental database for members — they can post their inventory online for other members to find and cross-rent. Our industry is small, and it's good to know that we can go to other parts of the country and be helped by what might otherwise be called competition.

With our help, ICIA also has developed a Rental Solutions and a Staging Solutions online search capability, powered by InfoComm iQ Web marketing tools. As potential customers search for solutions through online search engines, they are very likely to end up using this tool to find providers in their region. I urge anyone who has not signed up to e-mail for a demo of this marketing tool.

The council is also working with ICIA's AVolution Industry Awareness Campaign and other ICIA member councils to create informational documents that we can deliver to our clients. These documents might include how-to tips on planning events or meetings, understanding technology, or AV considerations.

We are working more closely with product manufacturers to develop a channel of communication. This includes an AV rental design consideration that manufacturers can refer to when developing new products that might be targeted to the rental industry. Members will also have opportunities to beta test products for select manufacturers in the near future. Beta testers will be selected by the manufacturers; not the council.

Education of our members is also very important. Up to a few years ago, AV was something that was grown into, rather than formally studied. How many of us are part of this industry because of a detour on a different career path? There are now college degrees available in AV technology. While few of us take the time to attend these courses, it offers great potential for the future.

Meanwhile, there are needs for ongoing education in rental and staging. Together with the ICIA Professional Education Training Committee (PETC), we hope to establish more rental-based education offered at the upcoming InfoComm (slated for June 4 to 10, 2005, in Las Vegas). For instance, we want to update the specialized CTS-Rental certification to give members an upward path as they mature in the industry. Business and management, lighting, rigging, and streaming technologies are all tracks we are looking to promote based around the rental industry. We have also joined the great people at ESTA, who are working on certification programs that are perfect for our industry.

If you are part of an AV rental or staging company, ICIA is one of the only places that your voice can be heard on these and other issues. There is much work that needs to be done. If you are not actively involved, this is the time to jump on the train — you are more than welcome.

Don Guzauckas Jr., CTS, general manager for the HB Group in North Haven, Conn., is outgoing chairman of the ICIA's Rental & Staging Council. For information on membership in ICIA or its Rental & Staging Council, contact