Focusing on the future at The ARA Show 2023
By Connie Lannan and Brock Huffstutler
The long, 16-month wait came to an end Feb. 11 when The ARA Show™ 2023 kicked off in Orlando.
The last time the equipment and event rental community gathered face-to-face at the American Rental Association’s (ARA) premier event was in October 2021 at Las Vegas. With the opening of the show in Orlando, it was time to get back on track with its normal operating schedule. For those in attendance, there was no better place to be to reconnect and focus on the future.
“It was just wonderful to be back,” says Nathan Chapman, owner, A & S Party Rental, Franklin, Ohio. “My wife and I went along with nine of our employees. We normally take employees, but this is the largest group we have taken.”
Gina Glas, CERP, managing partner, A Classic Party Rental, Indianapolis, who also serves as treasurer on the ARA of Indiana board, had the same sentiment about the atmosphere of the show.
“There seemed to be more vendors and more people. Everyone seemed to be engaged. It felt like we were back to normal this year. The booths were crowded and people were buying,” she says.
“We always take our whole team and their spouses to the show, which is cool,” adds Alex Bauman, manager, In-A-Pinch? Rent It!, Martinsville, Ind. “This year we had 10 of us. We feel it is important because everyone gets to see the latest and greatest of equipment, attend the classes and the events. It lets them feel engaged so they know exactly what we are doing. We try to make everything a team atmosphere so everyone feels they have an important part and not left out.”
The 66th edition of the world’s largest equipment and event rental industry-specific convention and trade show offered attendees plenty of opportunities to network and learn from peers, industry experts and vendors.
Saturday, Feb. 11, featured two brand-new education sessions that brought unique insights: Future of Equipment Rental, for those on the equipment side of the industry, and EventsU (formerly Events & Tents), designed exclusively for those in event rental.
Bauman and his team attended the Future of Equipment Rental sessions. “It was really nice and super-positive. We thought it was a great advantage to have this special training for equipment rental operators. We felt it gave us an extra leg up,” he says.
The education continued Sunday with presentations delivered by engaging expert speakers and rental industry panel discussions covering tracks grouped into four themes: “Learn and Lead,” “Connect and Collaborate,” “Empower and Engage” and “Plan and Strategize.” Then, following Monday’s Keynote Session presented by Daymond John, attendees focused on the trade show that featured more than 700 exhibitors.
The education and the keynote are top reasons why Chapman took all his management team to the show.
“Because we have diverse management staff with different areas of responsibility, people tended to go to different classes — what is more relevant to that person. We hit almost every class. Each employee then listed at least three things that they took out of the day and wanted to implement at our operation when we got back. At the end of Sunday, we had 30 things for improving our company and our processes. We are now going over those to see what we should implement,” Chapman says.
Tyce Holst, owner, Holst Enterprises d/b/a Taylor True Value Rental, Holland, Mich., found the two most valuable educational sessions were “Assuring the Successful Continuation of Your Business” with Leon and Terrance Resnick and “What You Need to Learn from Chick-fil-A’s Remarkable Leadership Tactics” with Arthur Greeno.
“It was kind of funny. When I started going to the shows about 40 years ago, I sat in on the young professional education. Now I am looking at the sessions on retirement,” Holst says with a laugh. “This session put on by the Resnicks was very good. All the planning that I need to do to make sure the second and third generation can take over the business is daunting. When I walked out, I was kind of overwhelmed, but I know I have to get the process started as I have four sons who work for me.”
Holst really liked how Greeno “talked about the work culture and trying to make everyone feel like family. I think that is something we have done well at our operation. Hearing some of his ideas was awesome, especially the one about having new hires fill out a simple questionnaire with their birthday, favorite snack and such. He talked about how at their hire anniversary dates he gives employees a Chick-fil-A backpack with their favorite snacks. I thought that was great. I also really liked how he said it is really easy to quit a job but really hard to quit a family,” he says.
This session also resonated with Bauman. “His talk was all about the customer. That is how we feel here. We want to offer the best equipment and service to our customers. Everyone who works for us — even those who aren’t related but have worked for us for many years — are all family. When I first went to the session, I didn’t think we could relate to Chick-Fil-A in such a profound way, but we did.”
All of Chapman’s team were impressed with the keynote. “Daymond John was absolutely fabulous. Some thought he was the best they have ever heard — a very energetic and entertaining speaker. His whole story was very inspirational and reminded us why we do what we do. That really resonated with everyone. He said it is not about the money. It is for all the other things that you are doing it for. That really hit home,” Chapman says.
Holst couldn’t agree more. “The educational sessions were great, and the keynote was awesome. I was very impressed with Daymond John and how he got his start when he was young and starting FUBU. I didn’t know that history. His persistence of getting a photo of LL Cool J in a FUBU outfit paid off. After that he went from zero to 60,” he says.
Bauman also was inspired by the keynote session. “It was cool to hear his story — how he came from nothing and built this empire. Even with his success, he felt like a down-to-earth guy like one of us,” he says.
Show favorites like the Welcome Reception, Young Professional Network (YPN) Reception, Women in Rental Breakfast and the ARAPAC Reception benefiting ARA’s political action committee also returned.
Bauman went to the Welcome Reception and the YPN Reception. “Both were really good events with lots of networking. At the YPN Reception, it was good to watch the Super Bowl. The food was excellent and the place was really nice,” he says, adding that all the women in his group went to the Women in Rental Breakfast. “They all loved going to that.”
Glas, who attended the Women in Rental Conference this past November in Arizona, made sure she was at the Women in Rental Breakfast. “I absolutely loved it because of the speaker. Connie Podesta is both a therapist and a speaker. You don’t see that combination very frequently. She was funny, entertaining and shared a great message that we could easily take back to our rental team,” she says.
Glas liked how Podesta had everyone take a personality test. “She talked about how you are one of four shapes — a circle, a triangle, a squiggle or a square. A square personality type might not like a lot of small talk, where a circle personality type might like to talk and share stories. If you are a circle and trying to sell something to someone who is a square, you probably won’t sell anything to the person with the square personality if all you do is share stories. Her message was that everyone wants to be treated how they want to be treated instead of how you want to be treated. As soon I got back to the office, I shared that with my team. They loved it. It really resonated with everyone,” she says.
It was also a buying show for those who attended.
“We bought some big things like a 6-in. Bandit wood chipper, a new mini skid track machine from Vermeer, a new Kubota tractor and a John Deere track machine. We also bought smaller items. In addition, each year I try to buy something that is not in my current inventory. This year I bought something that is called a mud mixer that allows people to do small backyard personal concrete jobs,” Holst says.
“We purchased a bunch of tents from Fred’s Tents and Canopies. We also bought tables, chairs and another dance floor. My wife also purchased some dinner settings and flatware from a new company,” Chapman says. “There wasn’t anything I wanted that I could not purchase. The service was great from all the vendors. There might be slight delays in some of the deliveries, but if it will be here in a month or six weeks, that is fine. That was good news to hear. This was a good show for me buying-wise.”
In addition to purchasing some items, Glas was grateful that she was introduced to a new vendor by another rental operator. “I probably would have passed by this vendor if I had not been introduced to this person by someone from a veteran rental company. Now I have created a relationship with that vendor. That was a huge win for me,” she says.
All appreciated seeing the exhibitors in person. “That was really nice. For instance, Twister Display has been doing our dunk tanks for years. It was just nice to see him in person, shake his hand, say hello and order another tank,” Holst says.
“And they seemed to be very happy to see us as well,” Chapman adds.
Just before the wrap-up of the show, many attendees kicked back at the sold-out Tuesday Night Event at Universal Studios Orlando. It was one of the biggest parties ARA has ever thrown because the association reserved special areas of Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park just for show attendees.
“The Tuesday night event was awesome,” Holst says. “My son’s adrenaline was way high. He loves roller coasters. The nice thing about it is it is closed to the public so you can run around and hop on these rides and go. He loved that. I went on them all too. I was terrified,” he says.
Bauman agrees. “It was super over the top. We got the chance to ride the two newest rides. I am still getting my equilibrium back, but I pushed through. And there was plenty of food and drinks. The nonalcoholic Butter Beer has become my favorite drink,” he says.
All interviewed gave the show a big thumbs up. “ARA does such a wonderful job. The show is so well-organized and it’s great to see your peers. It just shows how great it is to be part of this industry,” Bauman says.
The whole show was a win-win for me,” Glas says. “I saw new products, developed new relationships and saw new speakers. I was very happy with how the show went.”
ARA CEO Tony Conant summed up the experience this way: “The ARA Show proved again that it is the best place in the world to see rental equipment and products, get rental-specific professional development and network with the best group of people around!”