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 October 2021 in 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.
“I would say people were upbeat and positive at the show. Everybody was talking about new categories they were going to be introducing and new items they were purchasing for their fleets,” says Chris Dahmer, ECP-SM, general manager, Arvada Rent-Alls, Arvada, Colo., who serves on the ARA of Colorado board.
Paul Phelon, president, Timp Rental Center, Saratoga Springs, American Fork and Orem, Utah, agrees. “I thought it was a great show. I think the members were very excited to get back to a show without COVID-19 being in the forefront. We took 17 from our business to the show. The networking with friends was great as was the education. Everything ran smoothly and the food was excellent at all the events I went to,” he says.
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: the 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.
“The speakers were great,” says Dahmer, who attended Future of Equipment Rental with two others from Arvada Rent-Alls. “I enjoyed all the talking points and I took a lot of notes. It was very valuable.”
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.
Both Dahmer and Phelon enjoyed the “What You Need to Learn from Chick-fil-A’s Remarkable Leadership Tactics” seminar with Arthur Greeno.
“That was fantastic,” Dahmer says. “I think the biggest takeaway was how much they invest in their people and make their employees feel extremely special, cared for and part of the Chick-fil-A family. The one thing was they talked about an app that they use to remember specific dates for their employees — birthdays and anniversaries — and then send employees messages on those days to make them feel special.”
Phelon agrees. “I liked how he talked about the training he does, the team atmosphere he instills and how the owners go above and beyond to make it a positive experience for their team members. I also like how he asks questions in the interview process about what candidates like to do in their spare time. From the answers he receives he can tell whether that candidate is motivated, involved and can set goals,” he says.
The importance of working as a team also was emphasized in Ed Rush’s “TOPGUN Success and Fighter Pilot Precision for Leaders” presentation, Phelon notes. “He talked a lot about being on a team, working together and striving to be the best at what you do. He also talked about the need to rely on your training so even when emergencies happen you can act from your training. He was a good motivational speaker and got you pumped up for the coming year,” he says.
Dahmer also got a lot out of the “How to Recruit and Retain Gen Z and Millennials” with Phil Gwoke. “It was very eye-opening. He talked about how those in these groups communicate and absorb their information differently. We are looking at hiring from the younger millennials and Generation Z age groups. I took away some good tips and awareness of communication styles — and how that might impact our training methods,” he says.
Both were impressed with the keynote speaker. “I thought he was excellent and his message was very relatable. It was an amazing story and how he overcame challenges and was relentless in his pursuit of his dreams. I am big fan of his television show, ‘Shark Tank.’ His presentation made me a bigger fan of his. I left inspired,” Dahmer says.
Phelon agrees. “There were so many people who said he couldn’t do what he wanted to do, but he continued to prove them wrong. Daymond had a dream, he wasn’t going to give up and he made it successful,” Phelon says.
Both Dahmer and Phelon also spent plenty of time on the show floor. For Phelon, it was a time to reconnect with valuable manufacturer representatives. “I talk a lot to my representatives on the phone, but it is always nice to see the face behind the phone. I had the chance to network with them, see what the industry is doing on their side. Information is power and the more information we have the better,” he says.
The same was true for Dahmer and his team. “It was exciting to see everyone in person. I always enjoy reconnecting with them and catching up. We also looked into some new categories for our fleet. For instance, we have not gotten into large heaters in the past. We looked at those and are strongly considering taking the leap,” he says.
Show favorites like the Young Professional Network (YPN) Reception, Women in Rental Breakfast and the ARAPAC Reception benefiting ARA’s political action committee also returned.
Dahmer attended the auction, the ARAPAC Reception and the YPN Reception. “We really enjoyed them all. At the YPN Reception, it was great to sit back, talk with other YPN members and watch the Super Bowl. The ARAPAC Reception at Topgolf also was a lot of fun as was the ARA Foundation auction,” he says.
Phelon and several members of his group attended the Women in Rental Breakfast. “The speaker talked about how different people might see the world differently than you and how you have to be able to adjust so you can interact with them how they would like to be treated. She made it very interactive. It was a lot of fun,” he says.
Just before the show’s wrap-up, 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.
“I took my family to the Tuesday Night Event. We enjoyed riding on all the rides, walking around and enjoying the park,” Dahmer says.
“It was awesome. We had a great time,” Phelon says. “We went on the rides first — went on one roller coaster twice because it was so fun. When you don’t have to wait in line for an hour to get on those rides, you have to take advantage of those things.”
For both, the show provided so much value on so many levels. “I think that ARA does a great job of bringing people together in the industry to help us network, talk with each other about different items that are going on in our businesses and relate to each other, which helps all of us. Also, the educational seminars were great. You can never have enough training. I always look forward to them and all the motivation you receive from the speakers that gets you ready for the year,” Phelon says.
Dahmer concurs. “The show offers you so much and so much to absorb,” he says.
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!”