Thirty-five years ago, Sandra Williams Bate could be found cruising around the country in a recreational vehicle with her then husband, John. But when life’s responsibilities dictated that the RV spend more time in the yard than on the road, Bate turned her frustration into an income stream; then into a thriving business. “When we traveled, people always commented on how beautiful the RV was and how they’d love to rent it,” she recalls. Her business fulfills those wishes.
As the owner of one of the nation’s first RV rental companies, Las Vegas-based Bates International Motor Home Rental Systems Inc. (www.batesintl.com), Bate had no companies to look to for guidance. She enjoyed the benefits of being the first to market her service, but she also endured the difficulties. Here’s how to circumvent some of them:
Like minds think alike. While there were no RV rental companies for Bate to learn from, she saw some similarities in the car rental industry and patterned some of her rental agreements after car rental contracts. Her advice: Take in what’s applicable from other businesses and discard the rest.
Capitalize on knowledge. When Bate saw others trying to duplicate her success, she knew her business would make a good franchise. She developed a system in which budding entrepreneurs would have to pay to emulate her. She knew she had a good idea, and she shrewdly put a price tag on sharing it. “I started thinking,” recalls Bate about when she realized her company’s next-level potential. “‘Maybe this is something that could be lucrative.’”
Factor in failure. Whenever you try something new, expect to make mistakes. Bate admits that when she sold her first franchises, she used the wrong criteria. “I thought if you picked people who had money and computer experience, then that would work,” she says. “But I found out that sometimes people who don’t have as much money but have an entrepreneurial spirit can generate a lot of money.” Bate closed those franchise locations that didn’t work out, but she says that recognizing the right buyer is a skill she’s yet to master completely: “It’s a constant challenge to determine who will work well-not only in the franchise system but also within my organization.”