Attendees, exhibitors rave about The Rental Show 2013
Anticipation ran high as the industry prepared to descend upon Las Vegas last month for The Rental Show 2013 and, by nearly all accounts, the show more than exceeded expectations in optimism by all in attendance.
An extremely active show floor, sold-out seminars and more reflected an equipment rental industry continuing on an upward trend, outpacing the growth of the general economy.
“The industry is moving forward with optimism following The Rental Show in Las Vegas. The show was vibrant in all ways — from the sales volume on the show floor to capacity-filled educational seminars, a sold out Events & Tents program and the valuable networking that took place throughout the show. The industry is positioned to continue the growth of the secular shift to rental,” says Christine Wehrman, executive vice president and CEO for the American Rental Association (ARA), organizer of The Rental Show.
“Overall, the show was quite a remarkable impression of where this industry is headed. Everyone anticipated a great show because of the attitude, tone and urgency we’ve seen from attendees on buying equipment. Everything about the show has been very positive this year. Our sessions honoring our volunteer leaders were highly regarded and enjoyed by everyone. ARA thanks everyone who attended and exhibited. We look forward to seeing them in Orlando in February 2014,” she says.
The noticeable “roar” when entering the exhibit hall this year punctuated the feeling of excitement that left many weary, but satisfied at the end of each day of the trade show and looking forward to the future.
“It’s as good as any show we’ve had. I’ve been to seminars, the show floor, the keynote session and more, and all the comments I’ve heard from everybody have been positive. The vendors are very happy. They were doing well right out of the gate and expected this to be their best show in many years. Everybody raves about the seminars and Events & Tents. It’s been great all around,” says Mike Flesher, Taylor Rental Center, Vestal and Ithaca, N.Y., who is now ARA’s chairman of the board.
“The show has been great. We’ve written a lot of quotes. We’re excited,” says Jason Zylstra, marketing manager, Vermeer, Pella, Iowa.
When the trade show floor opened at 10 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 11, traffic quickly crowded the aisles and business began right off the bat. Many vendors said they immediately sensed the positive energy.
“We’ve had a good show with good traffic and people seem very upbeat,” says Lennie Stulc, president of Towmaster, Litchfield, Minn.
Drew Delametter, Samsonite, Murfreesboro, Tenn., agrees. “There’s an uptick in optimism from the rental dealers,” he says.
“It’s been really busy with good foot traffic,” says Dave Smith, president, Snorkel, Elwood, Kan. “The first day usually is about tire kicking, but the general feeling has been, ‘I haven’t bought in a few years and I need to buy.’ All in all, this has been a very good show and I think we’ll sell just about everything we have here.”
“Day two was even better than the start of Monday,” says Clay Eubanks, president, Takeuchi Manufacturing (U.S.) Pendergrass, Ga. “People came in looking for quotes immediately and buying. We had more sales on day one than the last few years and we have had more orders than all of last year. The buzz, the excitement and the enthusiasm are here this year.”
“I think it’s one of the best shows we’ve seen in many years,” said Diana Hodson-Wlodarczyk, Full Circle Finance, Wenatchee, Wash. “I think the layout of the floor is great and more conducive to the flow of people.”
“It was unbelievable,” says Alan Berg, vice president of sales, Jay Import Co., New York. “We’ve had a great show.”
Many attendees were ready to upgrade to equipment compliant with Tier 4, expand inventory or add new categories of equipment while others were buying needed replacement items this year.
“I’m more excited this year than I have been in a long time,” says Brett Richter, Double R Rental & Sales, Langley, Wash. “We’ve made decisions to move on and quit waiting. We‘re ready to buy this year and we plan to buy different stuff.”
“We were ready,” says Doug Haas, Crown Rental, Burnsville and Rosemount, Minn. “I had a couple of pages of stuff listed that were ‘must have’ and about a half page of things to look at to expand into. This year we were looking at more variety with equipment as well as party expansion.”
Many vendors commented on the attitude of clients, saying people were ready to get down to business and stock up on inventory.
“It’s a really good show,” says Mike Pote, Chillin’ Products, Rockdale, Ill. “It’s up from last year for sure. It’s been very busy and we’re pleased.”
Many used the time to talk to suppliers face to face. “I do most of my buying at the show. I have some great vendors,” says Craig Faldet, Decorah Rental, Decorah, Iowa.
Carol Vowk, general manager, All Choice Rentals, Drayton Valley, Alberta, Canada, says she came to the show for information about ARA and to talk to vendors. “The show is excellent. I’m in construction, so I was looking for lifts and telehandlers. I did find some interesting things.”
Prior to the trade show, many attendees took advantage of several educational opportunities offered, including the Events & Tents program for those in the party and special events segment of the business on Saturday, Feb. 9 (see coverage starting on page 66).
ARA’s seminar day on Sunday, Feb. 10, included a variety of sessions, many of which were sold out with attendance at the room’s capacity. In between seminars, Lunch With ARA on Sunday also recognized ARA volunteers as well as Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) graduates.
On Monday, the keynote session officially opened The Rental Show 2013. Capt. Mark Kelly, commander of the space shuttle Endeavour’s final mission, and husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, shared his experiences in the keynote address, including the importance of leadership, teamwork and courage under pressure.
He talked about his mother training to become a cop by climbing a practice wall his father built for her. Every night for months, she would climb the wall after dinner. Later, she passed the wall test in 4.5 seconds, 2.5 seconds faster than the required time.
“This was the first time I saw the power of having a goal, having a plan and working really, really hard,” Kelly said. That translated in his own goals of going to space and also seeing that quality in his wife, he said.
He also talked about the power of decision-making and of working hard, especially after the January 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., which severely injured Giffords. “She reminds me each and every day to deny the acceptance of failure.”
Giffords wasn’t able to attend the show, but Kelly had a message from her. “As a former small business owner, she wanted to be here today. She wrote this down for you. She says, ‘Be passionate, be courageous, be strong and be your best,’” he said.
Also during the keynote, two long-time rental industry leaders were inducted into the Rental Hall of Fame: Robert Elmen, owner of Elmen Enterprises, Sioux Falls, S.D., and Paul Coogan, past president and CEO of Aggregate Equipment and Supply, Peoria, Ill.
After growing up working in his father’s rental store, Elmen joined the Navy. He served as a gunnery assistant and then, for part of the year, he was assigned to work on a base in California. Equipment used for repair on base continued to go missing and was costing money. Then, the Navy instituted a sign-out system for tools. “The first year, we lost zero tools,” he said. “So, I had the experience in the Navy of organization.”
His impact on the rental industry can be seen through 40-plus years of managing rental stores, where he and his family grew the firm to become the largest privately owned general rental company in the U.S. He helped build the original United Rent-All franchise as well as the Nationwide trailer system. In addition, his impact was felt with the designing and building of a rental computer software system for his stores, which he then shared with the industry.
Coogan started in the rental business in 1958 after serving in the Army. “It was all uncharted waters,” he says. “Being young and naive, I did not know what I didn’t know.” After finding a bank to take a leap of faith and lend him money, he opened his first store.
He was the past president and CEO of Aggregate Equipment and Supply in Peoria, Ill., from 1958 to 1989, and is currently retired. Coogan started his rental company from scratch and grew it into a multi-state, multi-million-dollar company with more than 12 branches in just a few short years. He innovated the one-stop shop concept and helped many colleagues go into business, providing advice and training along the way.
While he says the best decision he ever made was to marry his wife, Joan, the second-best decision was getting into the rental business. “The potential is only as great as your vision,” Coogan told the audience. “Your business is a mirror, so be the best you can be.”
ARA created the Rental Hall of Fame in 2000 and each year, nominations are accepted to recognize individuals who have made a substantial impact on the industry at the national or international level.
In addition, Mike Blaisdell, now ARA president, and Mike Flesher, now ARA’s chairman of the board, along with ARA’s Wehrman and Ted Cook, ARA’s outgoing chairman of the board and president of Ventura Rental in Ventura, Calif., presented the association’s outlook for the industry this year.
Passing of the gavel sets stage for incoming ARA board members
During the keynote session at The Rental Show 2013 in Las Vegas, American Rental Association (ARA) President Mike Flesher completed the ceremonial “passing of the gavel” to Mike Blaisdell, ARA president-elect, who has now become ARA president. Flesher is now ARA chairman of the board and Paul Phelon of Timp Rental Center, Orem, Utah, is now ARA president-elect, completing the association’s officer team for 2013-14.
Also joining the ARA board of directors at the conclusion of the show were Jeff Johnstone, CERP, Party Perfect, Richmond, Va., Region Two director; Tony Long, Mint Hill Tool Rental Charlotte, N.C., Region Three director; Robert Pedersen, A Tool Shed, Santa Cruz, Calif., Region Nine director; and Scott Smith, The Charles Machine Works (CMW®)/Ditch Witch, Perry, Okla., Associate Member director.
Mark Gilbertson, Fargo Rentall, Fargo, N.D., has joined the ARA board as General Tool and Equipment Shared Interest Group (SIG) chairman. Jimmy Pate, Pate’s Rental, Comanche, Texas, Region Four director; and Terry Turner, CERP, All Occasions Party Rentals, Knoxville, Tenn., chairman of the Party and Event Services SIG, have been appointed to serve on ARA’s Executive Committee for 2013-14.
The following officers and directors have now completed their terms on the ARA board: Ted Cook, Ventura Rentals, Ventura, Calif., chairman of the board; Pierre Pereira, Billy Goat Industries, Lee’s Summit, Mo., Associate Member director; Alan Wismer, George’s Tool Rental, Hatfield, Pa., Region Two director; Ben Cooke, Cooke Rentals, Mt. Airy, N.C., Region Three director; and Sherri Creighton, Pleasanton Rentals, Pleasanton, Calif., Region Nine director.
Sold-out seminars offer inspiration and education
The schedule for Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, included a full day of packed seminars during The Rental Show in Las Vegas, covering everything from internet marketing to valuing a business. Many of the sessions drew sell-out crowds, filling meeting rooms at The Sands Expo and Convention Center.
Seminars filled up quickly and those attending said the information was useful for their businesses.
“Having all the classes and seminars is fantastic,” said Irene Arnolis, OPS Event Rentals, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. “It’s a nice way to see what’s going on in the industry and educate yourself.”
Don Hutson of U.S. Learning, Memphis, Tenn., talked about the importance of building customer relationships in his seminar, “Keeping Customers Happy for Life.”
“How do we move our customers up the loyalty ladder? Great service, staying in touch with them and performing the periodic customer service miracle,” he said. “Have a wonderful spirit of service. Smile. Show people a positive and can do attitude.”
Steve Abercrombie and Barbara Nuss, CPA, of Profit Soup, Tukwila, Wash., talked about how to plan for retirement or selling the business in their seminar, “Building Business Value: Starting with the End in Mind.”
“The best part was hearing the consensus for starting planning now,” said Burke Denny, Panhandle Rental Co., Panama City, Fla. “I’m two weeks in and I’m already thinking about the end goal.”
Robert Stevenson, Seeking Excellence, Clearwater, Fla., inspired the audience with his morning session, “The Leadership Formula:
It’s a Process, Not an Event,” telling the crowd that promoting good habits among employees can help ensure success. He also suggested that companies need to write down the habits to be successful for your organization so that employees and managers are “on the same page.”
The “Healthcare 101 For Your Rental Business: What You Need to Know to Implement the Law of the Land” sparked several questions from the audience, some of which can’t be answered yet, because some of the issues will vary state by state.
John McClelland, vice president for government affairs, American Rental Association (ARA), suggested that rental store owners and managers start planning now, talk to their respective health insurance agents, be familiar with their state insurance commissioner’s website, talk to peers and read updates as they become available from ARA, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the National Retail Federation.
The seminars on Tuesday, Feb. 12, including Rental Town Hall meetings focused on construction and general tool or party and special event, were nearly sold out with attendees asking many questions of their peers sitting on the panels.
The Wednesday “Wake Up” session with Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman also was sold out as he inspired the crowd with his stories that related what he learned as a fighter pilot and flight instructor to running a rental store.