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Leadership Conference inspires current and future industry leaders

By Brock Huffstutler

January 10, 2023

ARA Leadership Conference 2022 Region Two attendees

ARA Leadership Conference 2022 – Region Two 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 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. Danny Showalter of CVR Rentals, Waynesboro, Va., who serves as ARA of Virginia treasurer and is a past president of the state chapter, received the award for his service in ARA Region Two.

Danny Showalter, left, receives the 2021 ARA Leadership Impact Award for Region Two

Danny Showalter, left, receives the 2021 ARA Leadership Impact Award for Region Two

“The reward was unexpected as the real leadership and guidance comes from Alex [Dirck, ARA program manager, chapter leadership relations] who is assigned to Region Two as well as other regions. She does a fantastic job keeping us on track and sharing what other regions are doing that may be beneficial to our region. ARA of Virginia has an awesome board of directors who all participate in our monthly meetings, always bringing valuable input to our group. It was a privilege serving as president of ARA of Virginia with such a great group of individuals,” Showalter 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.

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.

John D. Makrias, manager, A&R Rental Center, York, Pa., and ARA of Pennsylvania president, says he enjoyed Christopher’s opening presentation and Piano’s sessions because they engaged everyone at his table in conversation throughout the conference.

“Bruce Christopher’s session was referenced by those at my table throughout the event, and Lee Ann Piano had some great ideas and thoughts. Her presentation was interactive; my table got to know each other better because of it,” Makrias 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. Makrias spoke for many by saying that “Second City did a great job with the improv entertainment; it could have continued on for longer.”

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.

Left to right: Brian Richardson (ARA Region Two director); Matt Mutton (ARA of Indiana); Larry Ott (incoming ARA associate member director); and Kristen Redmond (ARA of New Jersey)

Left to right: Brian Richardson (ARA Region Two director); Matt Mutton (ARA of Indiana); Larry Ott (incoming ARA associate member director); and Kristen Redmond (ARA of New Jersey)

“ARA always puts together nice events, and this was no exception,” Showalter says in summation of the conference. “The layout, speakers and content presented was very nice. I have been through several Leadership Conferences and there are always takeaways one can use in their everyday business and life in general.”

Region Two-based Larry Ott, northeast sales representative for the Commercial Tent Division of Rainier Industries, Tukwila, Wash., says the event was helpful in prepping him to step up to the ARA national board of directors when he becomes an ARA associate member director in 2023.

“I met a lot of new people at Leadership Conference. Everyone was friendly and working toward a common goal, which is great. I automatically started thinking that after I’m done with this term [as ARA associate member director] what can I do next, trying to find out where else I can help. Coming to the conference made me really excited for the first two years of my term and focused on how I can help,” Ott says.