ARA Women in Rental and Young Professional Network conferences hit all the right notes
by Connie Lannan
The American Rental Association (ARA) Women in Rental and Young Professional Network (YPN) conferences, held concurrently at The Scott Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Ariz., Nov. 29-30, offered just what attendees were looking for — valuable networking, inspiration and insight into how to bring their best selves to both their personal and professional lives.
The two conferences offered combined receptions, meals and optional social activities, including hiking up McDowell Mountain, taking a pedal bike tour of historic Scottsdale, having a yoga experience, shopping or taking part in a “giving back” project. Women in Rental Conference attendees were able to help a local women’s domestic abuse shelter and YPN Conference attendees assisted active military abroad.
The joint activities were a hit with attendees.
Women in Rental Conference attendee Susan Irwin, vice president, Delux Rental, Ypsilanti, Mich., who serves as ARA of Michigan president, says the giving back project for the women’s shelter was a must for her. “This cause is near and dear to my heart as I used to work at a domestic abuse safehouse and I know what these women go though, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to participate in this project. Giving back is a humanity thing, not just a rental thing. We believe in treating people the way you want to be treated and we have the ability to help, so we do,” she says.
Fellow Women in Rental Conference attendee Katherine Habel, training specialist, RentalMax, Carol Stream, Ill., took part in the same event. “It was the most heartwarming activity I have ever done — to know that you are giving back to someone. That was the best thing. I really enjoyed it,” she says.
While first-time Young Professional Conference attendee Matt Mutton, president, Mutton Rental Center d/b/a Mutton Party and Tent Rental, Fort Wayne, Ind., who serves as ARA of Indiana vice president, took advantage of the pedal bikes, first-time Women in Rental Conference attendee Gina Glas, CERP, managing partner, A Classic Party Rental, Indianapolis, who serves as ARA of Indiana treasurer, went on the hike. “I was very excited to take advantage of that as I liked the opportunity to get outdoors and learn about the desert. It also was another good opportunity to be with a smaller group of people and chat about business and our state chapters,” Glas says.
Dynamic speakers also led interactive sessions that offered thought-provoking perspectives and problem-solving skills:
- At the Women in Rental Conference, Sara Frasca presented “The 3 Core Mindsets of Innovation.” Her workshop armed attendees with new, practical tools and fresh ideas for tackling problems and seizing opportunities.
- At the YPN Conference, Galen Emanuele presented “Transforming Impact: Next Level Leadership, Culture & Feedback.” His workshop showed attendees how to be effective leaders and impact others.
“Sara gave us step one, two and three on how to overcome a problem and how to think about that problem differently,” Glas says. “I also liked how she emphasized to not become paralyzed by imaginary boundaries. I think that was the whole point of her presentation. Don’t think so small. You need to think big and use outside examples to solve problems. I look forward to presenting this to our team to overcome challenges we are facing.”
Michele Saxman, owner, Rapid Rentals and Sales, Brookfield, Ill., who serves as ARA of Illinois secretary, had similar sentiments after hearing Frasca speak. “She talked about thinking outside the box. It made me think about what I have done during my years in the business — some things were off the wall. People said I couldn’t do it, but I did. Her talk validated what I have done and reminded me that you can’t go forward if you always do things the same way,” she says.
Mutton also gained a lot of insight from Emanuele’s presentation. “His topic was about building a culture that is more receptive to all. To do that you need to be a better listener as a leader and give people the opportunity to say what they need to say before you overpower them with what you think. He closed out the last portion about having clear cultural expectations for your team. We get the culture question a lot when we bring people in for interviews. He presented his culture statements that he has for his organization and suggested we have the ones for our company bullet-pointed and available to our employees and job candidates. He suggested that it can be a way to differentiate our business and be more attractive to job candidates,” he says.
Since returning from the conference, Mutton has put the suggestions into practice, using the phrase “Tell Me More” when talking with his employees about an issue. He also plans to have a culture conversation with his team when they revisit the business’s corporate value statements.
David Hawk, owner, AAA Rents, Moline, Ill., also resonated with Emanuele’s presentation. “I really liked what Galen taught us about feedback and how to open the doors of communication, which will be really helpful as we usher in the younger generation of rental. What he’s teaching us has been invaluable,” he says.
Attendees at both conferences left with new ideas, connections, resources and valuable tools.
“It’s all about the feeling of empowerment,” Habel says. “It is about being with women in your same industry who understand your highs and lows, what you are going through and offer the ability to bounce ideas off of, whatever your position is. That is a key factor for me. I have leaned on the ladies I met at last year’s conference. We have a group text and talk about situations that come up. We utilize each other for support all the time. At this year’s conference I met two young ladies who I look forward to keeping in touch with.”
Saxman agrees. “I enjoyed the mix of older and younger rental professionals — and all their enthusiasm. I met a lot of people in the industry and shared war stories. Other women rental operators and young professionals asked me a lot of questions and really listened to what I had to say. I did the same with them. It was great way to keep the industry moving and grooving,” she says with a laugh.
It’s all about “networking, networking, networking,” Mutton adds. “One of the biggest things I enjoyed from the Young Professionals Conference was the opportunity to network with other rental operators. After I returned, someone posted a message on Facebook. I saw that they were inquiring about some inventory which I had. I remember talking with that person at the conference. Since I had met him, it was easier to reach out to him and follow up. It is amazing how some of those connections come back to benefit all parties,” he says.
Hawk agrees. “Networking is always huge for all of us. We love to be together and have fun. If you don’t come to these conferences and get the education, you’re really missing out. It’s a big commitment, but it’s invaluable and will pay back tenfold — it’s one of the best things you can do.”
ARA’s Women in Rental Conference inspires offshoot at the store level
Katherine Habel, training specialist, RentalMax, Carol Stream, Ill., thinks the benefits of the Women in Rental Conferences are so great that she started a version of it at her rental operation.
Habel attended her first Women in Rental Conference last year in San Antonio. “ARA’s conference definitely inspired me to start something similar here at RentalMax,” she says.
The group had its first meeting this past November. “It was a chance for the ladies from RentalMax to get together and meet each other. Some ladies who had never met in person had the chance to meet each other face-to-face for the first time, which was a win-win for me,” Habel says.
After introductions and sharing what each person did in their company, they talked about things that create a positive impact in their store locations and also what they would like to work on. “It was a great validation of them being heard on issues or concerns. They could vocalize them here. I think being in a group of women and having a support system are key to feeling better about everything we do and the work we provide,” she says.
At the end of the meeting, Habel asked if the group would like to meet again. “I was very excited. They all said yes, sharing that they would like to meet a couple of times a year. We will meet again in March and then again next November. Those times worked best with our rental seasons,” she says.