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Leadership Conference inspires current and future industry leaders

By Brock Huffstutler

January 10, 2023

ARA Leadership Conference 2022 - Region Ten attendees

ARA Leadership Conference 2022 – Region Ten attendees

The 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 conference is a great opportunity to get charged up with ideas; we are afforded the opportunity to connect with peers in the industry to discuss common challenges and gain valuable ideas to better ourselves and our businesses,” says Angie Venekamp, general manager, Rental Network, Squamish, British Columbia, Canada, and ARA Region Ten director.

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 off the conference with a message on the art of leadership and how to get on the horse, lead the charge and bring others along with you.

Thursday evening also included recognition of the 2021 ARA Leadership Impact Award recipients. Jill Holtsman of Hub City Display, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, received the award for her service in ARA Region Ten.

“Receiving this award was very heartfelt as I am truly grateful that the ARA has included Canada on its board of directors and is continuing to provide resources to help members in Canada to help grow their rental operations,” Holtsman says.

The Leadership 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.

Jill Holtsman, right, receives the 2021 ARA Leadership Impact Award

Jill Holtsman, right, receives the 2021 ARA Leadership Impact Award

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.

“Lee Ann was great and really got us thinking about collaborating with our staff and bringing them into the conversations,” Venekamp says.

Updates on the latest ARA programs and initiatives also were provided by ARA staff members on Friday following Piano’s sessions.

on 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 our 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. A leader who acknowledges and assesses their assumptions is capable of leading their business into new markets.

“I really appreciated being invited; it was a great event,” says Mike Carleton, president, Happenings Party Rentals, Collingwood, Ontario, Canada. “Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, which was awesome. I learned a lot about the association, all the hard work the employees of the ARA put into the association and all the members that volunteer their time to the association and industry. Everything was well-orchestrated and relevant to what the industry is facing, such as hiring and retaining employees to training new hires and trying to sell new people on this exciting industry, whether it be construction or event rental.”

“It was my honour to be invited to the ARA Leadership Conference,” Holtsman says. “This year the conference was jam-packed with ideas for personal growth and I was able to take home many ideas for my personal life, business and volunteer work for the association.”