Leadership conference 2012: ARA connects volunteers to learn at annual leadership conference

The American Rental Association’s (ARA) annual leadership conference in mid-October at the Hilton Rosemont in Chicago proved to be inspiring and educational, mixed with a bit of fun for the many attendees representing ARA’s state, local and provincial associations.

“The ARA board of directors hosts volunteer leaders from ARA state, local and provincial associations for the two-day leadership conference to talk about the value of members being involved in ARA,” says Christine Wehrman, ARA’s executive vice president and CEO.

“These are the future leaders of the association and the individuals who will continue to make membership in ARA meaningful to their peers. The attendees reflected the great diversity of ARA members and it was refreshing to see the enthusiasm they projected for the future of the association and industry,” Wehrman says.

Overall, the group represented a balanced mix of those from each of three equipment rental segments, including  construction/industrial, general tool/homeowner, and party/special event, and included 43 first-time attendees as well several members of the new ARA Young Professionals Network.

“Not only did I get a lot out of the conference to help the ARA of Alabama become a strong organization, but I also received a lot from it on a personal level,” said Tara Sands, B & G Equipment and Supply, Birmingham, Ala.

While the Canadian Rental Association (CRA) held a general meeting during the afternoon on Friday, Oct. 19, those from the United States learned more about ARA’s government affairs program in the U.S. with presentations by John McClelland, ARA’s vice president for government affairs based in Washington, D.C., and Alysia Ryan, ARA’s director of state government affairs.

The session was followed by a welcome reception and dinner that allowed participants to network and get to know each other to prepare for a full day of sessions on Saturday.

Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman, a former fighter pilot and flight instructor who is scheduled to be the Wednesday morning wake-up session speaker at The Rental Show 2013 in Las Vegas, inspired the crowd by explaining how his personal experiences and lessons learned can be applied to the equipment rental industry.

Waldman, author of the best-seller “Never Fly Solo,” overcame a lifelong battle with claustrophobia and a fear of heights to become a combat-decorated U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and successful entrepreneur.

“No matter what business you are in, he shows you how you can apply principles to each business and it makes you do some self-evaluation, which is what you need to do as an owner and leader,” said Steve Diefenderfer, Tri County Rentals, Laurel, Mont.

The first afternoon session was designed to have those from each of ARA’s 10 regions to sit together, discuss issues and plan for the future while the second session mixed similar size state associations together to talk about how to encourage more involvement at the state, local and provincial level as well as ideas for successful meeting topics.

During the Saturday dinner, ARA also recognized three state associations for special awards.

  • ARA of Pennsylvania was presented with the Membership Award, recognizing a state or provincial association that has demonstrated exemplary commitment to growth and retention of ARA membership. The ARA of Pennsylvania has had double-digit growth in membership numbers over the last year.
  • ARA of Georgia was presented with the Best Member Networking Award, recognizing a state or provincial association that has demonstrated creativity and insight in bringing members together through an educational program or social event that boosts meeting attendance and participation. Beginning with its October 2011 meeting, ARA of Georgia began broadcasting its meetings live online, enabling members to attend in person or “virtually.”
  • ARA of Maryland was presented with the Chapter of the Year Award, recognizing a state association that has demonstrated commitment to being the best. Over the past year, ARA of Maryland launched a member newsletter, developed a Facebook page, held four successful member meetings and contributed to the efforts involved in passing legislation to solve Maryland’s personal property tax issue, which has saved money for ARA members.

The Sunday morning session focused on case studies of state association success stories followed by a preview of The Rental Show 2013 in Las Vegas, including a show-inspired version of “Jeopardy!” hosted by ARA’s Mike Savely that tested show knowledge of the players — Barb Wyatt, Butler Rents, Glendale, Colo.; Megan Ruch, All Purpose Rentals d/b/a The Party Corner, Shrewsbury, N.J.; and Tim Ranson, Finning The Cat Rental Store, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada — and the audience.

“Attendees traveled home with new information and new relationships with their peers, ready to benefit their fellow members through a personal contribution to active associations at the state, local and provincial level. The energy among everyone was contagious and great to see,” says Mike Flesher, ARA president from Taylor Rental Center, Vestal, N.Y.