How Businesses Are Redefining Temporary.
By Jeff Merschman
Is flexibility and adaptability more important to a business’ future than size or even growth?
Can temporary solutions really replace permanent ones?
As we start to slowly emerge from the most recent recession, these are the kinds of questions businesses are starting to ask themselves. And the answers they’re finding are revealing just how much has changed since 2007.
Over the past few years, flexible, temporary business solutions have become regular practice, and appear to be more than just a predictable short-term response to an economic downturn. Just last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were more workers employed as temps than at any time since the start of the 21st Century. Similarly, the equipment business has shifted away from purchasing and towards renting. In 2014, the rental market for commercial equipment is expected to grow 12 percent, generating $36.6 billion total revenues.
Originally this movement towards temporary solutions was simply how business leaders dealt with a slowing economy. Stop-gap measures that enabled them to stay afloat. Or, as Sidney Sexson, senior vice president at Wells Fargo Equipment Finance, put it, it was “the uncertainty created by the economic downturn of the last few years and an unwillingness to commit” that pushed a lot of different industries to pursue solutions that gave them easy outs.
But today it’s different. Temporary solutions no longer reflect apprehension or caution on the part of business and industry. In fact, they now offer some very distinct advantages and capabilities.
The Advantages of Temporary
1. Cost Effective
Renting equipment or building a temporary, mobile structure, or even hiring seasonal employees enables businesses to avoid long-term capital investments. Maintenance is no longer an on-going expense, and as insurance options become available to more and more people, many companies can get out of the health business.
As customer demands and needs change faster and faster, businesses have to respond with equal speed. Purchasing can slow that down. Immediate availability of equipment, structures and people is critical to a businesses’ ability to keep pace with the world.
3. Risk Management
Any restaurant manager will tell you that their ability to get staff off the clock fast is indispensible to their ability to control costs and manage risk. Employing staff during slow non-revenue generating periods can kill a business. The same goes for capital investments in equipment or even mortgages on newly built spaces. Temporary solutions allow a business to eliminate wasted hours and reduce the risk of economic slowdowns.
4. Trial Periods
And when purchasing or owning makes the most sense for a business, temporary solutions give businesses the opportunity to try things on and see if they fit. A temporary structure can act as a trial period or proving ground for investing in a permanent structure. Contracting employees can bridge the gap between interviewing and investing in a new hire. Renting a forklift or another piece of heavy equipment can give a business the opportunity to measure its use against the cost of purchasing.
Ultimately, flexibility and adaptability are becoming the cost of doing business in a constantly changing world. As a result, new business models are emerging.
New Models Meet Demands for Temporary Solutions
There may be no better, or more high profile, example of a new business model designed to meet temporary needs than the budding private jet rental industry. Owning a private jet is expensive. It demands significant initial investments, ongoing maintenance, constant licensing, mandatory inspections and long-term storage. And that’s just the jet itself. Private ownership also requires hiring crew to operate your plane, which leads to salaries, training, medical evaluations and more licensing costs. Oh, and all the while, your jet is depreciating.
It’s no wonder then that a number of different companies have emerged in the past five to ten years to provide access to private jets without the cost and hassle of owning. NetJets, XOJET and BlueStar are just a few of the more established private jet charter companies. But what’s even more interesting is how this “temporary” industry is evolving. Just recently, PrivateFly, an online booking service not unlike Expedia, started giving customers the ability to search for private charter options and compare prices.
Established businesses are starting to question the capital investments required to create permanent brick-and-mortar structures. The time, effort, planning and costs associated with constructing new buildings can prevent a business from remaining flexible and adaptable. This is making temporary structures, not just shared ones, an increasingly attractive option.
A growing number of industries are embracing temporary structures, from marine and construction to mining and schools. And they’re using a variety of temporary structure types.
- Steel Buildings – use steel for the internal support and for exterior cladding.
- Inflatable Shelters – use two layers of membrane connected together, the cavity formed between the layers is pressurized with air, keeping the structure erect.
- Fabric Structures – use a rigid steel or aluminum frame and a sturdy fabric outer membrane. Once the frame is erected in place, the fabric cover is stretched (tensioned) over the frame.
Our research at Big Top shows that Fabric Structures offer a number of benefits above other temporary building types. Fabric Structures offer superior durability and ability to withstand weather conditions; maintain a comfortable, constant internal temperature; and, depending on the fabrics used, allow natural light keeping energy costs down. Fabric Shelters can be moved and can be disassembled and stored for future use.
Fabric Structures are very cost effective, up to 70% less than permanent construction, and significantly less than steel buildings. They can be classified as equipment which avoids property taxes.
Many of these benefits were on display in the 2012 Olympics in London. In planning for the games, London identified new permanent structures that needed to be built, but capped their size to fit actual demand and used temporary structures to expand them for the games. Doing so allowed the city to save money and space, and create infrastructure that would best fit the city, not just the games.
Temporary Solutions Are Shaping Future of Business
Economic woes in the last decade have put a lot of pressure on businesses and individuals. And that pressure forced a lot of businesses to think differently about how, why and where they invest their money. Being flexible and adaptable are the new costs of doing business. Responding to changing consumer needs and doing so in a way that doesn’t overextend businesses is critical to future success.
This has not only made temporary solutions more important, but also improved them. In fact, temporary solutions often have many of the same features and benefits of permanent ones, but without the risk and cost.
The examples in this article represent a new future for business and industry. Imagine the possibilities moving forward.
What industries are ripe for temporary solutions? How can temporary solutions change them? What new markets will be created in order to meet the demands for new temporary solutions?