Rental operators listen to Andrea Butcher at the ARA of Indiana’s “Managing the Moment” seminar.
Leaning into challenges in order to grow and learn from them was a prime focus of the ARA of Indiana’s “Managing the Moment” seminar on Jan. 18 that featured Andrea Butcher, CEO of HRD Leadership and author of “Power of the Pivot.”
“This was our first event for 2023,” says Brian Flinn, rental operations branch manager, MacAllister Rentals, Indianapolis, who serves as ARA of Indiana president. “This educational and networking event focused on managing through all the unknown moments that employees face during the workday, including working through tough decisions and sometimes uncomfortable conversations. Andrea offered ideas and mindsets to help everyone in the crowd, from the young rental professionals to the more veteran rental operators who manage multigenerational teams and want to maximize their effectiveness to achieve results by seeking to identify employee strengths or tailor their management to different learning styles.”
Butcher’s ideas really resonated with Tiffany Frazier, operations manager, MichaelAngelos Events, South Bend, Ind.
“What I loved most was the relatability with everyone and learning certain skills to bring to our team,” she says. “To do that we have to learn how to be a better player. That means being a better listener and communicator,” Frazier says. “In this business it is all about communication, but learning to listen to our players verbally and nonverbally is a major thing I took away from the session. There is so much hustle and bustle and we are so caught up in the day-to-day that we don’t have a chance to take a beat and evaluate where we are for each other and for the client,” she says.
Dustin Caudill, delivery coordinator, Midwest Rentals, Lafayette, Ind., couldn’t agree more. “My wife, Amber, and I have read this book, which is all about how to be a better person. We are big fans of what the author proposes. We thought this seminar was very valuable, showing us how to have that active communication with our team and our customers,” he says.
Both Frazier and Caudill were impressed with the group activities that examined both the verbal and nonverbal aspects of communication and how that can impact the overall culture and outcome of a situation.
“I loved the nonverbal group exercise with the tower. What I enjoyed most was the problem-solving — how you had to learn to work with people you barely knew to achieve a common goal even if you couldn’t talk with one another. It was about learning that to achieve a goal you have to be on the same page. We saw what happens if you are not on the same page,” Frazier says.
“What resonated with me with that exercise was that it was like when a customer comes in and we don’t know that customer’s needs. We need to just step back and allow our customers to speak their minds and not jump in right away with what we have to say,” Caudill says.
Another group activity was forming a circle and asking people to step in and out of it, depending on whether the question asked pertained to them. “You really got to know the people you surround yourself with even though you weren’t speaking to each other. I found that was valuable,” Frazier says.
“The whole session highlighted the importance of listening to your customer and team,” Caudill says. It helped me better understand the communication piece. A good communicator is the best listener. You can’t communicate well if you are finishing other people’s sentences. It makes them feel like they are not included. You have to sit there, listen and not interject right away. These exercises helped us better understand the communication piece.”
Good communication is integral to all aspects of a rental operation, especially in listening to and responding to what the team needs to succeed, Caudill adds. “We have worked hard to provide a work-life balance for our team, but that becomes more difficult to do during our busy wedding and corporate event season. We are a family business, established by my wife’s grandfather, who was a founding father of the American Rental Association (ARA). We are about to celebrate our 70th anniversary. So much has changed over the years, and it has been tough since COVID with finding good help. We want to enhance our environment and that work-life balance so people want to continue to come to work here,” he says.
All three left with valuable strategies for communicating with their team and customers, even during difficult times, to make the rental experience the best it can be for all involved. They also gained valuable networking opportunities with other rental operators.
For instance, Caudill struck up a conversation with another rental operator about Chiavari chairs. “I had made a suggestion about building something for their chairs. I had some other things I wanted to share after the seminar, so I went to that operation the next day. When I got there I saw they had already taken my suggestion and built this for their chairs. They also shared information with me. We both shared some things that we may have struggled with without each other’s help. That open and honest networking was so valuable,” he says.
Flinn says, “All the feedback from the more than 25 seminar attendees was positive. It really brought a positive momentum to what the board is trying to accomplish — providing more opportunities for member engagement and providing solid educational value for businesses to continue sending their staff to these events.”