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Leadership Conference inspires current and future industry leaders

By Brock Huffstutler

January 1, 2023

ARA Leadership Conference 2022The American Rental Association’s (ARA) Leadership Conference, hosted by the ARA board of directors, took place Nov. 17-19 at the Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel in Rosemont, Ill. The annual invite-only conference delivered educational and networking opportunities tailored to equip attendees as industry leaders.

Nearly 75 attendees representing 38 states and three Canadian provinces traveled to the conference; many currently serve on their ARA state chapter board of directors. Also present were current and incoming members of the ARA board of directors who lent their insights on association leadership.

“The Leadership Conference is my favorite event on the ARA calendar,” said Jeff Crotto, CERP, president, All About Events – Jacksonville, Jacksonville, Fla., who will join the ARA national board of directors in 2023 as ARA president-elect. “This year was particularly cool for me because I am getting ready to take on the role of president-elect. You can’t help but get excited about the future of ARA because you have all of these super engaged people who are so passionate about ARA, the industry as a whole and for their state chapters.”

The event opened on Thursday, Nov. 17, with the welcoming presentation “It’s Hard to Lead the Change if You Look Funny on a Horse!” by Bruce Christopher. Christopher, a licensed psychologist who has spoken on some of the largest stages in the world, kicked the conference off with a message on the art of leadership and how to get on the horse, lead the charge and bring others along with you.

The conference continued Friday with its central theme, “Shift Happens,” a series of sessions presented by guest speaker Lee Ann Piano, a John Maxwell certified speaker, trainer, coach and empowerment expert. Throughout the day, Piano shared insight and guidance that can help conference attendees stay ahead of the curve and become nimble and adaptable leaders in today’s rapidly changing world. Her sessions were split into three distinct segments: “Leadershift,” focusing on adaptability; “The Focus Shift,” focusing on helping others shine; and “The Personal Growth Shift,” centered on becoming growth-oriented.

Left to right: Paula Taylor, A Mane Event Party & Tent Rental (Georgia); Elizabeth Lurvey, Mainely Events (Maine); and Russ Hicks, AAA Party Rental (Maryland).

Left to right: Paula Taylor, A Mane Event Party & Tent Rental (Georgia); Elizabeth Lurvey, Mainely Events (Maine); and Russ Hicks, AAA Party Rental (Maryland).

Updates on the latest ARA programs and initiatives also were provided by ARA staff members on Friday following Piano’s sessions. Friday evening, all were invited to enjoy the comedic talents of performers from Second City, Chicago’s renowned troupe of improv, stand-up and sketch comedians.

The conference concluded Saturday, Nov. 19, with a final leadership session, “The Mind Shift,” from Ashley Cuttino of Ogletree Deakins — the legal firm with a human resources focus that partners with ARA on the association’s HR Assistance Program. Cuttino discussed how internalization of past experiences helps to form one’s opinions, attitudes and assumptions on any given topic. Those opinions impact the decisions people make on a daily basis, both personally and professionally, Cuttino said, adding that a leader who acknowledges and assesses their assumptions is capable of leading their business into new markets.

Attendees who are newer to volunteer leadership within the association like Troy Greenleaf, president, General Rental Center, Old Town, Maine, who joined the ARA of Maine board of directors in 2021, say they are glad they had the opportunity to participate in the Leadership Conference.

“I have never seen an industry organization more invested and involved with its membership, and the overall promotion and improvement of the industry, than the ARA,” Greenleaf says. “The investment and involvement in the association and everyone involved with it continues to impress. Being in only my second year as a board member of our state association, and a rookie with the Leadership Conference, I can’t say enough about the benefits of the ARA and being involved. It is a game changer.”