The place of women in the rental business

“Focus intensely on understanding your capabilities, knowing your strengths helps you face challenges with confidence”.

Martina Tomasi is General Manager Operations at Federservizi, a major player in the equipment rental industry in South Tyrol, situated in northern Italy. Founded by her father, the company has also grown closely alongside Haulotte for almost two decades. After spending the first four years of her career in banking, Martina transitioned to become more actively involved in the family business, progressing from managing rental operations on the ground to strategic development within a year. In this interview, she shares with us the story of Federservizi.

Federservizi in a few words? What are you specialized in? When was the company founded?

Federservizi was established in 2001 in Bolzano, South Tyrol by Lino Tomasi and Franca Giaier. Initially, we specialized in earthmoving, managing a fleet of three mini-excavators. In 2006, the company significantly expanded by integrating aerial platforms into our fleet.

Over the years, we’ve continued to grow, and today, Federservizi boasts over 250 machines equipped with the latest technologies, environmentally friendly, and capable of delivering the highest level of performance. Our aerial platform rentals cater to various clients, including construction (green maintenance), industrial sectors, and artisanal needs, with a strong presence in the Trentino-South Tyrol region.

Can you tell us a little more about yourself and your current position at Federservizi?

I joined the family business in 2011 right after I finished high school. I worked here for two years before pursuing a degree in economics and graduating after five years. From there, I moved to Switzerland, where I worked for a Swiss bank for three years before returning to Italy in 2021. I was called by my father who needed someone to help him manage the company, so I decided to return to the family business. At first, I took on a front-office role in which I was directly managing our rental operations by handling calls, managing rentals, making quotes, and focusing on customer service. After 9-12 months, I began to work more on developing our operational strategies.


I understood it is a family business, how does that apply to your company’s vision?

Being a family business has its pros and cons. First, it allows us to be more adaptable and have quicker decision-making. The added value that a family-managed company can provide is flexibility, I often tell our clients they can benefit from our ability to bypass certain steps and processes.  We are also able to quickly provide answers to questions about the market or even the business itself. The downside is the challenge of separating family from work, especially as we discuss succession planning. My father is still active in the business but passing the baton is not that simple.

How would you describe Federservizi’s relationship with Haulotte?

Federservizi’s expansion was actually partly thanks to Haulotte’s trust and support. Over the years, Haulotte has expanded its fleet, and they now offer more modern, cutting-edge machines than ever. We greatly value the dedicated support for Haulotte equipment, which enhances our service and enables our growth alongside them.

Is it a preconceived idea that women are better business managers than men? Do you have to work harder to prove your leadership skills?

While there are still too few women in management positions, those who reach the top often demonstrate exceptional abilities.

 This doesn’t mean women are better than men, but a balance between men and women can lead to advantageous collaboration. In terms of career growth, it remains that women need to build a more assertive character to reach the same management level.

On a daily basis, what do you find most difficult to manage and most rewarding?

Managing internal collaborators is challenging, and it is not true that having fewer employees makes the process easier. Federservizi has 10 employees, and with a small team where individual needs are more pronounced, the company is often compelled to consider every individual request, both professionally and personally. Therefore, the preconception that fewer workers are easier to manage is unfounded. Given that it’s a family business, I also face the additional challenge of distinguishing between family relations and work. However, being able to establish processes and strategies that yield short to medium-term results is very rewarding for me.

Would you say “preconceived notions” if I told you that it is difficult to balance work and personal life?

Considering that I work in the family business, we need to broaden the discussion of personal life beyond my family of origin and through the perspective of an individual who can start their own family. Even though I don’t have a family, I still struggle balancing work and personal life. This doesn’t mean that I will never have a family, but I dedicated these past years to my career because I believed they were crucial for personal and professional development. Currently, I can manage my commitments, including sports activities, but it would become much more challenging if I were to have a family. I would have to be really organized, almost like a robot.

How would you describe the characteristics of the Italian market?

Each region in Italy is unique. In South Tyrol, where I can speak from experience, there is a strong desire to preserve our economic fabric, which refers not only to the unique set of businesses and industries within the region but also the imprint of German culture that is intertwined with the local economy. Situated on the border between Italy and Austria, this area has a history marked by various transformations, therefore there is this desire from its people, regardless of language (Italian or German), to preserve their territory. While other parts of Italy might prioritize standardized services, here in South Tyrol, the emphasis is on personal relationships and human contact. While it might be possible to standardize and automate certain processes, the human element is indispensable in this region.


How do you think the rental and elevation market will evolve?

Going electric is the main trend for aerial platforms. While not all vehicles are fully electric yet, we’re moving in that direction with an environmentally conscious, bi-energy fleet.


According to you, which ratio of your fleet will be occupied by environmentally friendly machines in the near future?

Since 2016, 80-85% of our fleet, which mostly consists of self-propelled platforms or truck-mounted platforms, has been environmentally friendly. We also provide compatible generators for certain models to work electrically where full electrification isn’t possible yet. We are undoubtedly heading towards greater integration of electric machines but reaching 100% in the short term would be very challenging.

How do you see the future of Federservizi?

2023 marked a new beginning for Federservizi. For example, we decided to embark on a completely new chapter focusing on telehandlers. While we’ve thrived as a family business, the market demands increased competitiveness and efficiency, and so we are currently reorganizing our processes to enhance our efficiency. Moving forward, our strategy is to continually assess investments and potentially revise our fleet composition to align with changing demands and emerging trends.

Any advice for young women who want to start a business? And a mantra?

Focus intensely on understanding your capabilities, knowing your strengths helps you face challenges with confidence. This is especially crucial for women entering a male-dominated world. Questioning yourself and your approaches is also part of growth, irrespective of gender or age. In particularly demanding industries, it is essential to adapt your character to accommodate both your professional and personal life.

With an already staggeringly low proportion of diesel aerial platforms, Federservizi continues to advance toward an ever-more sustainable fleet. Preparing to succeed her father in the family business, Martina focuses on continually refining Federservizi’s processes and offerings to ensure the company’s competitiveness into the future.

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