Strategic Moves Key to SmartSource Success for Over 30 Years

December 28, 2016

It’s not often that a business idea is sparked by a trip to the dentist, but that’s what happened to Julian Sandler. The dentist asked if he knew of anyplace where he could rent a computer.

Sandler, a nuclear physicist turned serial entrepreneur, thought there had to be other businesses and organizations needing short-term computer rentals, which led him to found Rent-a-PC in 1984 with two employees. The company was based (and still is) in Hauppauge, New York, so early clients were primarily corporate accounts on the East Coast, renting brand-name PCs and peripherals.

From the late 1980s through 2013, the company would embark on a series of strategic acquisitions to expand its national footprint to 21 major markets in the U.S.

In 2001, they acquired Keystone Computer Rentals, gaining a greater share of the association and trade show industry. AllService Computers was acquired in 2003, with a specialization in the legal industry, followed by Bit-by-Bit Computer Rentals in 2005 for more focus in the legal and staffing industry. The name also changed from Rent-a-PC to SmartSource Computer & Audio Visual Rentals, to reflect the broader company mission.

“All of these acquisitions happened with one end game in mind,” said Stephen Rupolo, Vice President of Product Strategy. “We wanted to become not just a vendor pushing short-term solutions, but a true technology consultant, partner, and integrator closing the loop between application and results-oriented outcomes.”

It wasn’t long before SmartSource was gaining ‘exclusive technology provider’ status for leading trade shows and convention centers around the country, in part due to their large national footprint.

Acquisitions continued in 2006 and 2008 with ACE Rentals & Staging and AD Handy Company, giving broader audio-visual and presentation software capabilities. When Rentsys Technology was acquired in 2009, the company expanded capabilities for events in the software user conference industry.

But that year also brought a major turning point at SmartSource. Julian Sandler lost his life suddenly to a fast-moving disease, leaving the company without its founder and charismatic leader. The sudden loss of
this industry innovator required fast thinking on the part of the company.

Mike McClernon was named as Sandler’s successor, and served until Peter Handal was named as President and CEO earlier this year. Handal was formerly Chairman & CEO of Dale Carnegie Training and a member of the SmartSource Board of Directors.

SmartSource now offers technology for a diverse range of trade shows across the country, providing event technology solutions from 21 full-service locations. Solutions range from registration software, lead retrieval software, and beacon technology to digital document libraries, kiosks and charging stations, video walls, enterprise WiFi and more.

The latest acquisition of CRE Computer & Audiovisual Solutions in 2013 has enabled the company to gain a foothold in the entertainment industry. Today’s clients span three separate channels: Event & Conference Solutions (corporate, academic, and user conferences), Trade Show Solutions, and
Business Solutions (general technology rentals for legal firms, film and production companies, IT staffing companies, and government/emergency response).

The company is looking ahead to 2017 and has already announced the new SwiftColor SCC-4000D Oversized Credential Printer, which will keep attendee registration and traffic flowing more smoothly at shows. There are also plans for another solution which will merge the best of smartphone platforms with large touchscreen impact, according to Lauri Christiansen, Director of Marketing.

While the company has grown from a staff of two to more than 300, a large percentage of employees have been with SmartSource for 20-25 years or more. One has even been there since the beginning: Bob Forster, Director of Asset Management.

Christiansen attributes much of the company’s success to the fact that “the company culture is very much centered on exceeding customer expectations; a goal achieved through strong teamwork, collaboration, creative 'out-of-the-box' problem-solving, and a 'don't quit until the client's total satisfaction is achieved’ mentality.”

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