Use CERP to demonstrate your company’s commitment to customers and your employees
Certification can help reinforce your commitment to your employees, but it also can help demonstrate your company’s commitment to customers.
At All Occasions Party Rentals, we use the American Rental Association’s (ARA) Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) program to motivate our employees. We have four CERP employees and two more in the program. Any of our employees who ask to participate, we sponsor it fully. The only requirement is we want them working here 90 days prior to beginning their certification. The motivation is they get to go to The Rental Show.
By sponsoring certification, we get positive feedback from our employees. They see it as a commitment from their employer and an investment in their knowledge. We see that they now have buy-in, so the CERP program is an incentive and a reward program for us.
The CERP program includes three main steps. The first involves a self-study from three of the disciplines. Participants must complete the “Foundations of the Party and Event Rental Industry” discipline, plus two disciplines of their choice. A full range of job- and rental-specific training is available including “Driver Delivery Operations,” “Everyday Warewashing,” “Introduction to Sales: From Closing to Upselling,” “Linen Processing Specialist,” “Tabletop Design,” “Tenting” and “Warehouse Management.” Each course takes about 14 to 18 hours to complete, depending on knowledge level, and includes an exam.
CERP candidates also must earn 25 participation points from qualifying activities including ARA and industry leadership, formal education, professional development, professional industry experience, industry and community service, publications and
awards or related activities. For instance, candidates can earn points by leading a regional committee, using products from the ARA Lending Library or getting an article published.
The final requirement is to write a 500- to 700-word essay that answers a question related to the candidate’s role in the party rental industry. Each participant must complete all the requirements in three years to earn their CERP certification. The CERP designation is valid for five years, at which time the person applies for re-certification.
Once employees earn their certification, it becomes a marketing tool for the business and employees. We send press releases to the local media and we add the designation on the person’s business cards and on the website. We promote the fact that we have certified event rental professionals by putting the CERP logo in our signage. We also have it in the window of the store and at the counter.
The logos and marketing gets attention. Customers ask about it. We tell them how we invest in our industry and our employees. Customers really appreciate the fact that the employees have taken the initiative to educate themselves and that we support them.
Devoting the time to the program is the biggest challenge. It’s a commitment. We’ve helped each other and coached each other through it. Most of the information we learn on the job, but the certification is about renewing that knowledge. It’s the best value for what you get, as far as education and recognition. It’s really an incredible value.
You also learn about the best practices of others in the industry as well as the difference in language and terms used depending on where you are from. Whether you are dealing with tents or other equipment, not everyone calls each item the same thing.
The program also is a way of examining how well rounded we are in the event industry. I think if people take the test and don’t do as well as they hoped in a certain program, it can motivate them to go back and learn more about that area.
For those who haven’t been in the industry a long period, the CERP program is a great teaching tool. For those of us who have had a lot of real rental experience, the certification process isn’t necessarily the source of education, but it is a validation of what you’ve learned on the job and it tells customers that we are certified to do what we do.
I think training and certification are a great investment for employee growth. It also can help you promote your business as a professional operation and let your customers know you’re willing to invest in your market.
For more information about the CERP program, visit ARArental.org, log in and click on “Education/Training” and then “Certified Event Rental Professional” or contact Susan Gassen, ARA’s education and training manager, at 800-334-2177, ext. 240, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Terry Turner, CERP, owner, All Occasions Party Rentals, Knoxville, Tenn., can be reached at 865-588-1131 or email@example.com.