Where to Start If You Don’t Have a Rental Inventory List 

I often talk with event rental business owners who realize they need a rental management system for their items and orders but don’t know where to start. Maybe they are just starting out and have a garage full of treasures they’ve collected. Other times they have been running their rental business for a while keeping track of items in their head and using something clunky like spreadsheets for their rental orders.

Photo of Paisley & Jade. Used with permission by Alex Tenser Photography.

Wherever they are when they realize they’re ready for a system to keep track of it all, one hurdle can be just putting together a list of all of their items. 

Especially for creatives (aka almost all people who start event rental businesses), implementing systems doesn’t always come naturally. And it can be pretty overwhelming, right? So let’s start with the basics. 

Getting a comprehensive list of Items from your warehouse to a piece of paper (or virtual paper) is the best place to start. My friend Morgan Montgomery says “If they can’t see it, they can’t rent it.” I wholeheartedly agree but I also add “if you don’t even remember you have it, it will never make you any money.” 

The key to getting your rental inventory list done is starting. Just start. No matter if you have a blank sheet of paper or a partial list, start wherever you are. 

If you’re waiting until you aren’t so busy or for a better time in your event rental business, don’t. You will never have more time than you do right now if you don’t rescue that time back from your business in the form of systems. 

Walking around your warehouse with a clipboard accounting for every chair you own may seem daunting or boring. If you’re struggling to start, use these tips to get you going:

  • Schedule 2 days* in your warehouse with the sole purpose of writing down every single item you own. 
  • Don’t do it alone. Ask a detail-oriented friend to help. Creative brains aren’t always built for tedious or repetitive tasks. Make sure you’ve got someone along to help who enjoys this kind of work. They’ll keep you motivated and on track when you get distracted or want to give up. 
  • Hire extra hands from a gig economy site like Instawork, Task Rabbit, or even a local staffing agency. Paying for the job to get done now will pay dividends in the future. Remember, if you don’t even remember you have it, it will never make you any money.
  • We recommend using our Inventory Input Cards when you’re starting an Item list from scratch or adding to an existing or partial list. Decide from the start which fields you’ll collect for every single piece and which you will universally skip. Note that Name, Category, Acquisition Date, and Quantity are all required to enter an Item into RW Elephant. Everything else is optional.
  • Go at your own pace but keep track of where you are. You don’t have to start with a blank piece of paper one day and get everything into RW Elephant by the end of the same night. You can always break the project down into stages (tag everything one day, fill in cards over a week, take pics the next week, enter Items in RW the week after that).  But be sure you have a system for noting where you leave off (for example, put all items that have been counted on one side of the warehouse (even divide sections with blue tape to keep it crystal clear), keep the Inventory Input Cards on all furniture until it has had its picture taken, or always finish a row or section so you don’t have to go back and recount or wonder where you left off. However you decide to mark your stopping and starting points, be sure you write it all down so you’ll have clarity when you come back (sometimes we don’t get back to things quite as quickly as we anticipate). 
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. We highly recommend that in your inventory session you account for EVERY SINGLE PIECE in your collection, and the more info you collect now, the better off you’ll be later. But if the task is overwhelming start with just naming every piece and getting a quantity. That alone will give you a leg up from where you are now. 
  • Celebrate along the way. Have a dance party when you get to 20 items. Reward yourself with some M&Ms once you have 100 items on your list. Set incremental goals with fun treats along the way so you can stay motivated. 

We’ve worked with countless event rental businesses who are in the same boat as you. They know they need a system but getting from nothing to “all done” is intimidating. We think starting with some small steps will make a big difference for you down the road. 

If you need help getting started, a little encouragement along the way, or just a pep talk at any point, please reach out to us at help@rwelephant.com. Walking with friends like you on your rental adventures is why we do this job.

We’re eager to hear from you. 

xoxo,
Allison

*If your collection is over 350 unique pieces, you may need more time. We estimate that you can complete all of the info you need for about 20 items per hour. Obviously if you include fewer details, have more people involved, or work faster than our averages, you’ll have different estimates. 

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