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Keynote Session features Jon Taffer, passing of the gavel and new ARA campaign

By Stephen Elliott

February 20, 2024

Jon TafferThe ARA Show™ 2024’s Keynote Session on Monday, Feb. 19, brought high energy and optimism from not only the award-winning hospitality expert and keynote speaker Jon Taffer, but also from industry leaders expressing new challenges and future goals in the equipment and event rental industry.

The American Rental Association’s (ARA) Born for This campaign premiered prior to the keynote when Tony Conant, ARA CEO, introduced two new videos, one for equipment and one for event, adding that a wristband and pin on each chair at the event signified the beginning of a movement, “to celebrate what we do.

“We need to tell our story and invite anyone who isn’t afraid of work, who can think outside the box, and be gritty and resourceful, to come along with us,” Conant told the audience.

The Born for This campaign features two commercial videos, one for the event segment and one for the equipment segment, that follow two people from childhood hobbies to honing those skills to present day where they work in the industry.

An online media and social media strategy featuring the Born for This commercials will be executed through the rest of 2024 to engage these audiences where they consume their news, information and entertainment.

The audience listened to Taffer’s presentation as he focused on how to be successful, take accountability, and accelerate to make growth and revenues increase.

Taffer is star of the hit TV show “Bar Rescue” and an authority in turning struggling businesses into thriving successes.

“Bar Rescue” spotlights Taffer as he saves failing bars from looming closure. He leverages his four decades of industry experience and trademarked “Reaction Management” strategy to offer advice on everything from menu design to cost management. The show has run more than 250 episodes and generated revenues of more than $1 billion. He discussed some of the lessons he has learned through his interactions with the restaurant businesses and their staff.

He talked about time and how we choose to use it. Using time wisely can lead to other avenues of success, he says.

“We live and die by the revenues that we create,” Taffer says. “We live and die by the connectivity of our businesses to our customers.”

Taffer says accelerating processes can be applied to create better results. Taffer also talked about accountability and making excuses.

“If you can blame someone else for your failure, you have no reason to change,” Taffer says. “That’s when change happens, when we own it. You see, I’ve learned in ‘Bar Rescue,’ if you own failure, you find success. But, if you don’t own failure, you keep failing. That’s the most powerful lesson I’ve learned.”

The common denominator for failure is an excuse, he says.

“Excuses paralyze us,” Taffer says.

He says five types of excuses people use involve fear, knowledge (or lack of), time, circumstances and scarcity.

“There is no place for fear in business,” he says. “Business is not emotional. In business, you assess risk. You assess market potential. You make the decision. Where is the fear?

“We don’t regret what we do later in life. We only regret what we don’t do.”

Taffer says to also take the time to work “on” your business instead of working “in” it.

“That’s when ideas happen,” he says.

Austin Pastore, with Pastore Rental Equipment, Hudson Falls, N.Y., says Taffer’s presentation was informative.

“It was very good,” Pastore says. “I thought that creating a reaction as part of your marketing plan was good advice.”

Sterling Brooks and Cheryl Lehman, with Herriott’s Rents Tents Events, Champaign, Ill., also enjoyed Taffer’s presentation.

“I thought it was informative,” Brooks says. “It gave us a lot of things to discuss with our management team and things we can take some action on.”

Before Taffer’s speech, Steve Mau, Brainerd General Rental, Brainerd, Minn., who becomes ARA chair at the conclusion of the show, reflected on his time as the ARA’s 61st president and the work of volunteers at ARA, its members and staff.

“All of these efforts — made by thousands of people — are helping our industry continue to grow,” Mau said. “Like the equipment you’ll see on the trade show floor this week, we are evolving. Equipment and products are becoming more modern and efficient. And, as an industry, we must continue to share our story and do it in a modern way that reaches more consumers and potential employees.”

The gavel was passed to ARA’s 62nd president, Jeff Crotto, CERP, president, All About Events, Jacksonville, Fla. Crotto said when he first started his rental career 20 years ago, he was new to the industry.

“That may seem daunting, but like many of you, I quickly discovered how unique rental people are,” Crotto says. “I found myself surrounded by those willing to share their experiences. I may not have been born into rental, but working with people is something I was born to do.

“As you all know, this industry is 100 percent about working with people.”

Crotto says the rental industry, like many others, is struggling to find employees, adding, “but the efforts being made by ARA is working to change that. The Born for This campaign and Jobs of Tomorrow video series are a two-pronged approach to raising rental awareness … both the awareness of jobseekers and customers. For me, rental awareness should be something on top of all our minds. The more we share, volunteer and participate in these efforts, the stronger our industry will be.”