International rental business leadership program matches Canada with Australia
Excited and nervous, Angie Venekamp, manager of Rental Network in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada, left home April 19, bound for Australia. For the next five weeks, she worked with Mark Scarce in his Camden Hire operations in Narellan and Casula, and ended up having what she describes as the rental experience of a lifetime — all thanks to being the 2012 participant in the international rental business leadership program offered by the Global Rental Alliance and administered by the ARA Foundation.
Venekamp admits that initially she was a little nervous. “Before I left home and even the first day after I arrived in Sydney, I felt really nervous to be in another country, staying with a family that I did not know other than what I learned about them on Facebook and with a few emails back and forth. However, Mark and his wife, Christine, went out of their way to make me feel comfortable with the change and my nervousness disappeared. Before I knew it, I was working at the store and absorbing as much as I could from all the staff at Camden Hire,” she says.
Scarce, who also played host in 2010 to Brittany Haas, CERP, manager at Crown Rental Co. in Rosemount and Burnsville, Minn., was eager to make sure Venekamp enjoyed a valuable rental experience. “I wanted to provide a pleasant and educational experience for Angie and learn about her product lines, store logistics and design, and anything different she does in the day-to-day running of her business. The goal was for her to get a good overview of how we run our business, learn about different products and the Australian culture,” he says.
Shortly after her arrival, Venekamp began helping out at Scarce’s party and equipment stores, learning the computer system and answering phones. The biggest initial challenge was “understanding the accents when talking with people on the phone,” she says. “It is not so difficult when I am talking face-to-face with people as I can get a lot out of the body language. Plus, it takes a little time to get the industry-specific slang down. Many of the names of the equipment in Australia are different than the same item back home.”
After about a week of acclimation, Venekamp and Scarce headed to the Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre in Broadbeach, Queensland, Australia, for the Hire & Rental Industry Association’s (HRIA) convention. The convention was one of the many highlights she experienced while in Australia.
“I really enjoyed the conference. I helped get the registration set up and then assisted at the registration booth. I took in the opening session with the keynote speakers, walked the trade show floor and attended the gala dinner,” Venekamp says.
“It was great to meet new people and discover that we have
mutual acquaintances back home.”
Between working in Camden Hire’s three locations, attending the convention and visiting other rental
operations, both Scarce and Venekamp had time to
compare notes about their respective operations.
“Mark has a very organized operation,” Venekamp says. “Camden Hire has a much larger operation than I do. A great deal of logistical coordination happens to keep the operation running so smoothly. He’s developed some high-efficiency procedures that I hope to implement.”
Scarce says, “By and large, we are very similar. We are not as affected by the seasons anywhere near as much as Angie is. I have learned about some really interesting products that Angie carries and I am going to implement how Angie charges transport in our party hire division,” he says.
A side benefit to the experience was that Venekamp and Scarce and his family had the opportunity to get to know each other and develop a strong friendship.
“The time that I spent with the Scarce family was the most fun,” Venekamp says. “They welcomed me into their home and family with open arms, making me feel as though I was part of their family. That certainly helped me adjust to being away from my family.”
“First, I learned that Angie is a lovely young lady,” Scarce adds. “Second, she is very organized and passionate about hire. The exchange has been a huge success and I think we all learned a lot from each other. The timing was good also in that Angie was able to attend our convention and meet many other members, help the HRIA staff and see a showcase of equipment and seminars,” he says.
Both say the international rental business leadership program offered them an experience that was educational, rewarding and a lot of fun — one they will never forget.
“I would recommend this program to anyone who is passionate about rental,” Venekamp says. “I appreciate the immersion into the Australian rental world. Although rental is similar around the world, there are some great things to take home and the friendliness of everyone involved was refreshing. I made some friends for life.”
Venekamp’s blog about her trip also is available on the Global Rental Alliance’s website, globalrentalalliance.com, by clicking on “International Rental Business Leadership Program” at the top of the page.