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Explosion of events greeted Region Five members in April

By Connie Lannan

May 15, 2023

The American Rental Association (ARA) state chapters in Region Five offered a whole host of events for members in April. Here’s a quick rundown of what rental operators in the region were offered last month.

ARA of Wisconsin’s tenting seminar, April 6

Participants learned tent setup best practices at the ARA of Wisconsin's free “Take Your Tenting Skills to New Heights” training April 6 at Event Essentials, Windsor, Wis.

Participants learned tent setup best practices at the ARA of Wisconsin’s free “Take Your Tenting Skills to New Heights” training April 6 at Event Essentials, Windsor, Wis.

Travis Leighton, project manager, JK Rentals, Kewaskum, Wis., has been in the event rental industry for more than 15 years, the last four dealing primarily with structures and tents. Even with that experience, he wanted to take part in the ARA of Wisconsin’s free “Take Your Tenting Skills to New Heights” training April 6 at Event Essentials, Windsor, Wis.

“It is always good to sharpen your skills,” he says. “Even if you have been doing something for 20-plus years, you can always learn new things and gain a different perspective that comes with tenting and the event world. One person might have a certain way to do something that you have never thought about doing that could make your life that much easier.”

Kory Matsen, crew leader, Event Essentials, agrees. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to gain more knowledge on how to install different tents and see whether there was anything we could improve upon,” he says.

Neither Leighton nor Matsen was disappointed with the interactive training that attracted close to 70 participants and covered the installation of frame tents, pole tents and small structures as well as provided a stake safety demonstration.

The stake safety demonstration “was pretty cool to see how much power it actually takes to pull one of our stakes out of the ground,” Leighton says. “That was very informative, including the emphasis that we have to use the proper registration stakes with the proper pulling power.”

For Leighton, “it is the little steps of setting everything up — how to properly lay out the tents to not waste anyone’s time and taking the correct steps with it all,” he says.

Those steps also mean keeping an eye on the weather. “For a weather demonstration, they said to drive down the road at 15 mph, then drive at 30 mph with your hand out and tell me how it feels and how confident you will feel in setting up a tent in that type of weather,” he says, adding that this was a good reminder.

For Matsen, the entire event “was 100 percent valuable,” he says. “It was nice hearing other people’s perspectives and what they think is best for installing tents. I picked up quite a few tips.”

Leighton agrees. “It doesn’t matter how long you have been in the industry — whether for a day or for years — it is always valuable to learn or be reminded of what you have learned. It was very informative and worth it,” he says.

ARA of Michigan Basic Small Engine Maintenance training, April 7

The instructor shared key strategies to those attending the ARA of Michigan's Basic Small Engine Maintenance training.

The instructor shared key strategies to those attending the ARA of Michigan’s Basic Small Engine Maintenance training on April 7.

About 15 attended this Basic Small Engine Maintenance training course offered at no charge April 7 by the ARA of Michigan at Weber MT North American Headquarters in Grand Rapids.

Gary Booms, president, Booms Rent-All in Bad Axe, who was recently elected ARA of Michigan president, went with one of his service technicians.

“We are always looking for educational opportunities for our employees. This was sponsored by the ARA of Michigan and priced right — free. That included the training, doughnuts and coffee in the morning and a catered lunch. I have a young service technician here and I wanted to give him the opportunity to gain additional education,” he says.

He is so glad he and his service technician attended. “It was really good,” Booms says. “Weber MT and PACE, the Honda engine dealer in Michigan, both brought their main service technicians who talked about the specifics on the engine, what can cause certain issues and the importance of engine maintenance, the importance of RPMs on an engine and not having the engine over rev. They also highlighted the importance of clean air filters. If you don’t have that clean air filter, your engine life goes down drastically. They did a Q&A as they went along. At each step the service techs would explain what they were doing and invite people to come and see inside the engine. I definitely picked up some pointers,” he says.

Scott Nicklas, sales/marketing manager, Xtreme MFG/Snorkel, Baraga, Mich., who serves as ARA of Michigan associate member director, was the point person for this event. He agreed that it was important and glad it was so well-received by those who attended.

“So many of our general tool and construction equipment rental operators have equipment that is powered by small engines, whether it is gas or diesel. Todd DeWindt from Weber graciously offered to host the training. He brought his service manager from Quebec to lead the training, which was really nice. He also had techs come in from his Honda distributor. Those I spoke with at the end thought it was good training and provided important knowledge,” he says.

The event attracted a good mix of rental operators, Boom notes. “We had those who had little to no small engine experience as well as those who had a lot of experience,” he says.

After the training, Weber MT, which manufactures sand compacting equipment, offered a tour of its warehouse and assembly plant, which Booms says he thoroughly enjoyed.

With the positive feedback from those who attended, Booms and Nicklas say the ARA of Michigan will offer this type of training again in the future.

ARA of Michigan Red Wings game event, April 8

ARA Region Five Director Robert Copley, CERP, joined a few ARA of Michigan board members for a photo at the game.

ARA Region Five Director Robert Copley, CERP, far left, joined a few ARA of Michigan board members for a photo at the game.

Gerhardt “Gary” and Mary Helfmann, co-owners of A-1 Lansing Rent-All, Lansing, Mich., haven’t had a chance to attend many ARA of Michigan events since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit. So, they and their two store managers were excited to be able to participate in the state chapter’s April 8 hockey game event between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Little Caeser’s Arena in Detroit.

“We are so glad that we went. We had a great time,” Gary says.

“Networking has always been a major part of ARA for us,” Mary adds. “Being able to connect with people who understand and are in the trenches like us was like having family there. It was so comforting. I like hockey, but just to be with the people felt wonderful. It was like a big hug.”

The Helfmanns have found that since the pandemic, running a rental business has become so different.

“As a company, we are doing fine, but rental doesn’t seem to be following any historical patterns. Trying to forecast, sell and plan is becoming more of a challenge. It isn’t following any of the rules of business that we had in the past. I am glad that everyone we spoke with was doing well, but they are dealing with the same issues we are. The big topic was trying to find labor,” Gary says.

Neither Gary nor Mary had been to the arena for a hockey game or had been in one of the suites before this event. “The suite was so nice and so comfortable. I felt like queen for the day,” Mary says.

Even though the outcome of the game was disappointing, with the Red Wings losing to the Penguins 5-0, that didn’t dampen their spirits.

“The whole event was incredible,” Mary says. “You can tell you are having a good time when at the end of the event it felt like just five minutes had passed by. That is what it seemed like to me. Gary and I would like to thank the ARA of Michigan for putting this on.”

ARA of Indiana’s leadership development training, April 19

ARA members in Indiana gained valuable tips during the state chapter's “Leading the Future: How to Engage & Inspire Today’s Workforce” event on April 19.

ARA members in Indiana gained valuable tips during the state chapter’s “Leading the Future: How to Engage & Inspire Today’s Workforce” event on April 19.

Valuable education, lunch and a store tour were on tap for the more than 20 ARA members from Indiana who attended the state chapter’s “Leading the Future: How to Engage & Inspire Today’s Workforce” event April 19 at Mutton Party and Tent Rental in Fort Wayne, Ind.

The featured speaker was William Gulley, executive director of Butler University – Executive Education, certified executive coach and international speaker. He helped the group identify real-world strategies to optimize their business’s performance and enhance their employee engagement.

“It was a great meeting — the first in a while that has been outside the Indianapolis market at Mutton Party and Tent Rental, which was a great space. We had a good attendance and saw a lot of new faces, too,” says Brian Flinn, district operations manager of greater Indianapolis, MacAllister Rentals, Indianapolis, who serves as ARA of Indiana president.

Flinn gained a lot from the presentation. “He [Gulley] was a well-rounded speaker. He talked about the prosperity and scarcity mindsets and the value of how your mindset should be on your product line, that it is not a commodity. He talked about believing in your focus, finding your niche and not being afraid to think outside the box and be a disrupter sometimes. I thought it was a great message to not forget who you are and where you came from but also think about who you can be and what the effects are to your business,” he says.

The speaker also highlighted “planning vs. strategy and what are the differences,” Flinn says. “For instance, you can plan for a 20 percent growth, but if you don’t have a strategy to focus around how to achieve 20 percent growth, you aren’t putting the right steps in place to be successful. With planning and strategy, you become the driver of that cart. You are not just letting the business get you there.”

Meeting host Matt Mutton, president, Mutton Party and Tent Rental, who serves as ARA of Indiana vice president, received some good reminders from the presentation.

“The education component was good. The speaker talked about the importance of making sure you are evolving as a company and not being stagnant. Just because you have always done it that way, it doesn’t mean that is how you should continue to do something. That was a good reminder that you need to continue to think critically and think of new ideas,” he says.

Mutton also valued the reminder “to be confident in your product, reputation and brand when considering discounting a job. The scarcity mindset is that you are afraid you won’t have work, so you start giving things away at a discounted rate. That can be problematic for many reasons,” he says.

Both Mutton and Flinn admit that the scarcity mindset can hit when winter sets in. “I think all of us, being highly seasonal, struggle to transfer from winter when you want anything you can get. Then the light switch flips on and we are extremely busy in the summer. You need to remember that when you are bidding on jobs in the winter for summer, you need to make sure you will be hitting the margins. You will need to have to justify the overtime, etc.,” Mutton says.

After the presentation, Mutton offered a tour of his operation and talked about his processes. Those in the group who cater to the tool market received a bonus tour when employees of ARA of Indiana associate member Premier Attachments, who were participating in the event, offered a tour of their manufacturing facility, which is across the street from Mutton’s operation.

“We ended up receiving two great tours,” Flinn says.

Flinn was pleased with how the event went. “I had a lot of people who came up to me and said it had been a while since they attended a meeting and this was well worth it. That was the ultimate compliment,” he says.

ARA of Kentucky’s Day at the Races social, April 23

ARA members in Kentucky had a relaxing and fun day at the ARA of Kentucky's Day at the Races event on April 23.

ARA members in Kentucky had a relaxing and fun day at the ARA of Kentucky’s Day at the Races event on April 23.

Thoroughbred horse racing is part of the fabric of Kentucky. The ARA of Kentucky has made it a tradition to celebrate that through its Day at the Races at Keeneland racetrack, where rental operators from around the state gather, enjoy a delicious meal, watch a slate of races and just enjoy each other’s company. This year’s event, held Sunday, April 23, was no exception.

“It was so fun,” says Katlyn Goff, CERP, manager, Purdon Rentals, Lexington, Ky., who serves as secretary and treasurer on the ARA of Kentucky board. “The races are something that everyone looks forward to every year. Keeneland has a meeting room where we can sit down with everyone, get together, relax, eat food that is always exceptional and bet on the ponies.”

Goff wasn’t alone in her appreciation of the event. “We had 55 people attend our event in April,” says Kirk Edwards, owner, Kit-Mo Rental & Supply Co., Paducah, Ky., who serves as ARA of Kentucky president.

For Edwards, the event offers an opportunity to socialize and network with other rental operators. “Anytime you can get together with other ARA members and find out what other people are doing and how they are doing allows you to keep a good pulse on how the industry is doing as a whole. For instance, if your March wasn’t as good as you expected it to be, you can sit in your store and wonder why your margins aren’t that good. When you go to someone else from a different part of the state and they are saying the same thing, you understand that it is more economic. That helps in your planning and peace of mind. The reverse of that is true, too,” he says.

Edwards started the racing event tradition during his first round as the state chapter’s president in 2011. “We were looking for something in which we could get everyone together for a nice social event. Being in Kentucky, a lot of us are horse people and we like to see the thoroughbreds run,” he says. And so the event was established and has been a mainstay for the state chapter ever since.

“This is my fourth year attending,” Goff says. “It is an amazing treat for everyone to be able to get together and network right before the start of busy season. We can all reconnect, have dinner and relax a little bit before we all get moving.”

Of course the event wouldn’t be complete without some fun wagering on the horses. “I did not win any money, but I didn’t lose any either,” Goff says with a sigh of relief.

Edwards had an even better day. “I came back a little ahead of what I bet, not as much as I would like, but it was better than coming back with less money than what I started with,” he says with a laugh.

For all involved, the Day at the Races has become a must-attend ARA of Kentucky favorite event. “I love it. It is one thing I look forward to every year. Everyone already has it on their calendar for next year,” Goff says.