Jamie Bennett and Patrick Broadbent are proof that you don’t need a tuxedo to be successful.
They are about as laidback as it gets, but laidback with just the right mix of tenacity and stubbornness- which Jamie says is the reason their business Snap Rentals is going from strength to strength.
The two lad’s friendship blossomed the same way most good friendships do – by finding mutual ground.
This mutual ground was discovered whilst studying at Canterbury University. Jamie created a club dubbed Currysoc – a club for all things curry and beer, which happened to be right up Patrick’s alley, and so the saga began.
More than 10 years down the track they own a thriving rental car company which is about to turn the industry on its head.
If at first you don’t succeed
Before Snap Rentals was even a twinkle in Jamie and Patrick’s eyes, they dabbled with a few other business ventures, they knew early on that working for ‘the man’ wasn’t going to cut it.
After having lost their jobs at a campervan rental start up due to the Global Financial Crisis, Jamie was left working for a mobile coffee van and Patrick at a computer store.
Though no longer working and studying together, their friendship remained strong and their talks of business never died.
Learning the ins and outs of the mobile coffee van, Jamie believed with Patrick’s help they could make a real go of it on their own. Patrick laughed.
Jamie’s negotiation skills eventually got the better of him and they decided to give it a crack.
It was, in their words, “a hard slog” and they still wonder how they managed to stay afloat; each day began with the profits from the last and they were struggling to get ahead – knowing they needed to hatch a new plan, every afternoon was spent (at the pub) brainstorming.
One afternoon the brainstorming paid off.
The idea? Advertising on the lids of your everyday takeaway coffee cups.
Named Adlids, it was all set to go; a brand with a catchy name, a large advertiser lined up and a stream of distribution channels. But Mother Nature didn’t agree. The Christchurch earthquake closed nearly every café in town. It crushed the city and the dream of Adlids along with it.
Fortunately the tenacity, stubbornness and ‘never give up’ attitude that Patrick and Jamie have become synonymous for, meant that failure was not an option and although it was a crushing blow, it just meant a fresh start.
The BNZ Supersize SME experience
Snap Rentals was already one of New Zealand’s fastest growing companies, ranking 11th in the 2016 Deloitte Fast 50, but their growth aspirations exceeded their current knowledge and they wanted advice from someone who had been there and done that.
That’s when BNZ Supersize SME caught their eye.
Seven small to medium enterprises (SME) had the opportunity to pitch their business aspirations to a panel of three experts – Newstalk ZB host and television presenter Mike Hosking, BNZ Partners director Shelley Ruha and The Icehouse CEO, Andrew Hamilton.
Of the seven, only three were chosen and Snap Rentals made the cut.
Jamie says going into the experiment the duo thought it would be a casual affair, an opportunity to sit around a table discussing their business and where they wanted to take it.
They were in for a shock.
“We didn’t realise the scale of it. We knew Mike Hosking was involved but… we didn’t realise the production value behind it.”
Instantly thrown out of their comfort zone, realising what they had got themselves into, they then had to convince the panel that, a) their business had growth potential and, b) they were worth the gamble.
“It was pretty daunting, we were nervous as all hell to begin with,” Jamie says.
Thankfully they managed to find their breath after losing it upon seeing the hair and makeup teams, production crew and cameras floating around. As soon as it got down to business they found composure and their passion became evident. The panel fell for their witty charm.
With huge goals and ambitions to take Snap Rentals to the next level, Patrick and Jamie had a million different ideas running through their mind. It was getting those ideas drafted that, after reflection they realised, was a major contributor in hindering their progress.
They were set up with one of New Zealand’s leading business mentors in Ken Leeming. Admittedly at the very start it crossed their minds that maybe he wasn’t the right fit for their business, as his suit didn’t match their blue t-shirts and jeans, but it didn’t take long for them to let their guards down and trust that he was on their side.
“The amount of doors it has opened for us and the people we have met because of it is pretty priceless, it’s the sort of thing you won’t get if you don’t put yourself out there.”
The process has formalised their once hectic plan. They now have a clear focus that is ambiguous but rational and most importantly- very much achievable.
Onwards and upwards
Jamie and Patrick knew right form the very start (when all they had was a beaten up Nissan Sunny to hire out and an old Toyota Estima ‘pick-up van’ which was used as both their shuttle and office), that when someone wants to hire a rental car – that’s all they want. They don’t want hassle, they want a stress free process and a reliable vehicle with no nasty surprises.
Now nearing a fleet of 500 up-market vehicles they maintain their mantra.
They don’t try to hide behind fancy facades, they are straight-talking Kiwi blokes that know their market and let their products and services speak for themselves. Their persona and style is a true reflection of their business – what you see is what you get.
“It’s all about transparency which the rental car industry is not known for,” Jamie says, and they’ve continued to hold that card close to their chests.
But don’t let their laid-back nature fool you. Patrick and Jamie are business savvy and remain one step ahead of the game.
The electric revolution
The movement of electric vehicles (EVs) has always been on Snap Rentals’ radar, it currently holds two Teslas and a Hyundai Ionic, which are out almost every day on hire.
While internal combustion engines are currently their bread and butter, by next year they aim to have a full EV range, with five new Teslas already on order.
“That will be a huge game changer for us. I think that’s when we can have a full electric category that will be economically viable enough to be a challenger to conventional rental cars.”
And New Zealand’s infrastructure is becoming increasingly equipped to support this movement.
“For your business customer it’s perfect, because if you’re just whipping around Auckland for a day you don’t have to spend a dollar on petrol. As for the tourism industry, when there is charging access everywhere, you can travel New Zealand for a tenth of the cost… it just makes sense.”
As if their service wasn’t seamless enough, Snap Rentals are continuously looking to improve and have a developed an app that, they say, will revolutionise the rental car industry. This one, simple to use app could potentially realise their ultimate business goal and is already being trialed in beta mode.
In the last year this energetic duo have undergone a once in a lifetime BNZ Supersize SME journey, they’ve cracked into the Auckland Airport market and they’ve developed an app that will eliminate all the hassle you associate with car rental.
With their New Zealand goals well and truly underway, they are keeping their eyes peeled for opportunities across the ditch as well as further abroad.
Jamie believes as Kiwi’s we do tourism and customer service really well and the worldcould use an injection of Kiwi vitality – especially in the rental field.
“I genuinely see Snap Rentals becoming a player in the global market. We have plenty of years to give to this thing. At the pace we are expanding it won’t be long before we hit the ceiling in New Zealand.”
Without donning a suit their business expansion continues, their goals are becoming greater and their relationship remains solid after yearsof grit and persistence.
The only way that Snap Rentals could make the rental process any easier would be if the cars were able to drive themselves.
“The technology is already there,” Jamie says.
Already one step ahead of the game – watch this space.
By Lydia Truesdale