Themed, “The Leader in YOU,” the American Rental Association’s (ARA) annual Leadership Conference was held at the Hilton Rosemont in Chicago, co-sponsored by ARA Insurance. The mid-October event, for leaders and future leaders of state, local and provincial associations, combines education with inspiration and fun to create an experience that sends participants home with fresh ideas and renewed enthusiasm for their associations and their industry.
“The board of directors hosts this two-day event to talk about the importance of ARA members getting involved in the leadership of the association,” says Christine Wehrman, ARA’s executive vice president and CEO. “Current and future leaders of the association came prepared to engage with one another and learn from each other’s diverse backgrounds and experiences. It was rewarding to see their enthusiasm for strengthening the association and the industry as a whole.”
The group of 98 attendees represented each of the three segments of the equipment rental industry — construction/industrial, general tool, and party/special event — as well as a variety of state, local and provincial associations and leadership positions. The list of participants included 44 first-time attendees as well as 16 members of ARA’s Young Professionals Network.
The weekend started on Friday afternoon with a Canadian Rental Association (CRA) general meeting that was held while participants from the United States learned about ARA’s government affairs program from John McClelland, ARA’s vice president of government affairs, and Alysia Ryan, ARA’s director of state government affairs. These sessions were followed by a welcome reception that included an ice breaker that helped participants start talking and getting to know each other in preparation for Saturday’s sessions.
Saturday morning’s keynote speaker was Scott Greenberg, author, cancer survivor, business owner and founder of the Jump Start Performance Program in Van Nuys, Calif. He talked with attendees about how to create an association or organization of people focused on working as a team with a global perspective on the benefit of the organization and them individually.
“I wanted the attendees to understand how their own thoughts and beliefs impact their performance as leaders,” Greenberg says. “Most people can accomplish considerably more than they think, but they’ve got to get rid of all the mental junk that holds them back.”
Some of that “mental junk” includes listening to what he calls the mental heckler. “That’s my personification of negative self-talk. It’s that voice inside your head that gives you a constant stream of criticism. Too often we listen to this voice and make bad decisions,” he says. Greenberg also will speak during the Wednesday Wake-Up Session at The Rental Show 2014 in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 12.
“A lot of what he said is applicable to my business as well as my association,” says John Bibbo Jr., CERP, president of Event Source in Cleveland. “It’s good to hear these comments as a way to look at things in a different way and reminders of what we’re trying to accomplish. There were several key messages I feel I can take back home and apply in my company right now.”
After lunch, two afternoon sessions were designed to help participants understand the intricacies of state, local and provincial associations. During the sessions, participants were grouped by region and then by association membership size, and the conversations were focused on best practices for everything from tracking membership and running meetings to the services
ARA can provide.
“I appreciated learning about how ARA works from the top down,” says Jennifer Vodrazka, Blakley Equipment in Mount Vernon, N.Y., “I learned a lot from attendees in different states on many levels and I realized how unique each state is. From conference calls and meetings to opportunities for suppliers and customers, I learned way more than I expected during the round-table discussions. The conference handbook provided also offers a wealth of information and answered many questions I had before I could even ask.”
During Saturday’s dinner, ARA also recognized three state associations for special awards.
- The Canadian Rental Association (CRA) Ontario was presented with the Membership Award, recognizing a state or provincial association that has demonstrated exemplary commitment to growth and retention of ARA membership. CRA Ontario developed membership meetings in the fall and spring in various locations around the province, offering a balance between education and social events. They also foster goodwill among members through an annual awards recognition program and by involving industry suppliers in association activities. In addition, the association continues to communicate with members through newsletters and has developed a content-rich website which is regularly updated.
- The ARA of New York 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. In the last year, the ARA of New York has risen to the challenges of geography and member interest. The board has spent a considerable amount of time and effort planning back-to-back events in different parts of the state, offering both social and educational events that were accessible to members across New York.
- The ARA of New Jersey was presented with the Chapter of the Year Award, recognizing a state association that has demonstrated commitment to being the best. The ARA of New Jersey earned this distinction largely due to the cooperative teamwork displayed by its board of directors. In addition to its board of directors, the association has special committees, each tasked with developing a different program to serve members. The value of teamwork and cooperation also is displayed in the extensive communication network available to members primarily through electronic communication. Their newsletter consists of articles contributed by board members, vendor partners and rental store owners. In addition, the ARA of New Jersey has a strong online presence that includes a Facebook page that is an example of an online forum where members can connect, share news about events and industry happenings and showcase themselves in the extensive photo gallery.
After the awards, the entertainment began. Mentalist and psychic entertainer Ross Johnson wowed the crowd by guessing cards drawn from a brand-new deck and objects presented to him while blindfolded, but he really had participants riveted when he started talking about the people in the room. From political thoughts to preferred pastimes and phone numbers of close friends, he called out several attendees and got it right every time.
The Sunday morning session included a discussion of case studies and problem solving for various association situations. After some serious conversations, it was time to lighten the mood with the traditional preview of The Rental Show 2014, including a round of “Jeopardy!” hosted by Mike Savely, ARA’s answer to Alex Trebek.
Contestants Brandon Ahlgren, owner of Elite Events & Rentals in Safety Harbor, Fla.; Trish Southard, vice president of D.J.’s Rentals & Sales in Elk City, Okla.; and Robert Copley, a sales representative with Event Essentials in Madison, Wis., cleared the board with the help of the audience and everyone learned a little something about what they can expect at the show in February. After closing remarks, participants made their way back to their homes and businesses.
“I emailed myself a lot of notes throughout the weekend,” says Derek Johnson, vice president of Grand Rental Station in Greenwood, Ind. “I got some good ideas from the round-table discussions with people in other states who struggle with the same association issues we do. I’m also taking the motivational ideas I got from Scott’s presentation back to use in the store.”