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Leadership Conference inspires current and future industry leaders

by Brock Huffstutler

ARA Leadership Conference 2022 - Region Six attendees

ARA Leadership Conference 2022 – Region Six 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 ARA Leadership Conference was a well-orchestrated event that brought together like-minded individuals to exchange ideas and experiences. It was an opportunity to make peer connections and build long-lasting relationships,” says Ryan Kucera, vice president, Rental City, Omaha, Neb., and ARA of Nebraska president.

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. Steve Houser of U.S. Rents It, Jefferson City, Mo., immediate past president of the ARA of Missouri, received the award for his service in ARA Region Six.

Steve Houser, right, receives the 2021 ARA Leadership Impact Award

Steve Houser, right, receives the 2021 ARA Leadership Impact Award

“I humbly received the 2021 ARA Leadership Impact Award for Region Six knowing that without an active board, I would not be successful. I truly appreciate ARA taking the time to award individuals for their work in this capacity since it’s all volunteer. Our ARA regional directors and program managers put a lot of time behind the scenes to make it all possible,” Houser 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,” oriented.

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 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.

As engaging as the conference content was, attendees are in agreement that perhaps the biggest takeaway was the opportunity to bounce ideas and experiences off other volunteer leaders within the rental community.

“Seeing like-minded people at this conference has been awesome,” says Darrick Farr, general manager, A-1 Party & Event Rental, Columbia, Mo., who joined the ARA of Missouri board of directors in 2021. “I’m learning from people who do it better than we do and being able to pick people’s brains is helpful. I’ve been in rental for 10 years and there are people here who have been doing it for 40.”