The Fix

How This App Is Making a Permanent Change in the Rental Industry

How This App Is Making a Permanent Change in the Rental Industry
Image credit: Marc Royce
Damage control: Mikel Elliott of Quixote Studios in Hollywood.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the October 2015 Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In 1995, Mikel Elliott, the son of a movie grip, purchased a motor home, fitted it with tables and makeup mirrors and started renting it out to photographers. That business became Hollywood’s Quixote Studios, which now owns a dozen soundstages and rents out more than 600 production vehicles, plus a full array of film and TV equipment, to productions around the U.S. But success came to Elliott at a steep cost—in the form of damaged gear. Taillights were shattered. Leather was stained. Tables were crushed. And it was a never-ending hassle to get clients to pay for what they trashed. 

“[Renting] trucks and trailers is not a sexy business,” Elliott says. “You can provide the best service, but if you screw up the invoice and how you handle any damages with a client, forget about it—they won’t come back.”

THE FIX

Nessa Moran, Quixote’s director of truck rentals, turned to Record360, an inventory-tracking app for Android and iOS developed by two rental-industry veterans. Just before a vehicle is checked out, a Quixote team member uses the app to scan the vehicle’s identification code, then takes time- and location-stamped video or photos and notes any prior damage with swipes and finger-drawn marks on a smartphone screen. When the vehicle is returned, the process is repeated; any new damage or change in status is logged, and the appropriate parties are notified.

THE RESULTS

Today every Quixote vehicle’s history is archived on Record360’s cloud-based servers. The app streamlined the company’s vehicle-management process,
and Elliott now plans on using it for Quixote’s other production equipment, such as lighting and soundstage gear. According to Moran, Quixote pays a few hundred dollars per month for the app (it’s free for individuals) but is saving roughly $15,000 per year in maintenance and repair costs. 

More important, however, is the fact that the app produces enough documentation to mitigate arguments with clients over damage. “It changes us from being the bad guy accusing a client of something to being the bearer of bad news,” Moran says. “The app is like an insurance policy for our relationships.” 

A SECOND OPINION

Derek Dodge, vice president of product for Snappii, a Rochester, N.H.-based app developer specializing in B2B mobile tools, believes inventory-damage trackers are worth a look for any business. But is there a perfect one for your needs, such as Quixote found with Record360? 

“You won’t know until you use it,” Dodge says. “All these apps look great on paper, but keep in mind that no matter what app you choose, you’re still playing a part in the app’s software development. That’s because no app is ever done getting fixed, updated or ‘upgraded,’ and a feature you may need and love today could disappear tomorrow.”

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