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They can't wait to go again

By Connie Lannan and Brock Huffstutler

December 12, 2023

Attendees at the Women in Rental Conference took a quick selfie while on the beach. (Photo courtesy of Wendy Ladd)

Attendees at the Women in Rental Conference took a quick selfie while on the beach. (Photo courtesy of Wendy Ladd)

The American Rental Association (ARA) recently held its annual Women in Rental and Young Professional Network (YPN) conferences in Clearwater Beach, Fla. The Women in Rental event took place from Oct. 23-24, and the YPN Conference followed from Oct. 25-26. Both conferences were sold out, and attendees spent two days focused on networking and professional development with their rental peers.

See what some of the attendees who traveled from ARA’s Region Five had to say about the events:

Wendy Ladd, Great Lakes Rental, Toledo, Ohio, took speaker’s advice to heart

Ladd, human resources specialist and benefits coordinator at Great Lakes Rental, missed last year’s Women in Rental Conference because it sold out so quickly. This year she planned ahead and signed up as soon as registration opened.

“I have been doing this for more than 30 years, always in the tool industry. When I started, I was like a unicorn. There weren’t a lot of us women. I worked my way up to where I am now. I am the only female who works at our rental operation. My co-workers and boss are my biggest cheerleaders, but sometimes you need to be with others who are in the same boat. Being able to bounce ideas off each other is such an important thing,” she says.

Attendees of the Women in Rental Conference learned valuable tips from keynote speaker Sara Ross.

Attendees of the Women in Rental Conference learned valuable tips from keynote speaker Sara Ross.

When she arrived, Ladd thought, “I would be the only woman from tool rental there, but I was not. I met a lot of women who work in tool. It was nice to get everyone’s take on working in a male-dominated industry and see how their male colleagues support them,” she says.

In addition to the networking, Ladd “enjoyed every minute” of Sara Ross’s keynote presentation on “Activate Your Aliveness Factor.”

“Sara was hilarious. The big thing I took out of her talk was taking time out for us. I am more motherly, always worrying about everyone else, making sure everyone is taken care of and forgetting about myself, even skipping lunch. Since I have gotten back, I have made sure that I have not missed lunch. I have been taking time for me,” she says.

For Ladd, the conference offered just what she needed. “The knowledge that you get from that experience is phenomenal. I truly walked away with friendships, which is awesome. There wasn’t an awkward moment there. The knowledge you get and the friendships you make there are worth every penny. I had the best time. I’ll be back next year,” she says.

Katie Nichols, JK Rentals, Kewaskum, Wis., liked the ability to connect in a more intimate setting
Networking kicked off right away at the Young Professional Network Conference's Welcome Reception.

Networking kicked off right away at the Young Professional Network Conference’s Welcome Reception.

Nichols, human resources director at JK Rentals, was so glad she had the opportunity to attend the YPN Conference.

“This is my second YPN Conference and second year in the rental business. I come from a construction background. Last year I went to gain resources, meet new people and become familiar with the industry. This year, I loved the speaker and connecting with all the people. I like how this conference is more intimate. You can discuss and connect more, and meet more people from different companies,” she says.

She enjoyed keynote speaker James Taylor’s presentation, “Supercreativity™: Augmenting Human Creativity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence.” She has even started using two of his techniques with her colleagues at the office.

“He taught us about how to use positive, negative and curious questions for brainstorming. I really liked that tool. We always come together, but sometimes people are hesitant to say an idea. If you have an idea, dissect it to see what is negative, positive and curious about it, you might take an idea that you didn’t think would work and spin it to see that it might work. He also talked about creative collaboration — finding someone on your team who challenges you and you can get ideas from. We are implementing both,” she says.

As for the discussion on artificial intelligence, Nichols liked his suggestion “to have a meeting and look at how we can use just a little bit of technology to improve our businesses by 1 percent, such as by using a chat box on our website. I think that is one thing we will be implementing,” she says.

The connections made with other young rental operators were just as valuable, Nichols notes. “It is like we are one big family. I even found someone who we could subrent to. When it is their busy time, it might be our slower time and we can help,” she says.

It’s the combination of the “education and insight you gain from others and the ideas you get” that makes this conference so memorable, Nichols says.

John Reynolds, Channahon General Rental, Channahon, Ill., loved the great networking

Reynolds, manager at Channahon General Rental, who serves on the ARA of Illinois board, has attended six YPN conferences because “it is always such a great networking experience,” he says.

The Welcome Reception at the Young Professional Network Conference helped everyone to get to know one another.

The Welcome Reception at the Young Professional Network Conference helped everyone to get to know one another.

“It is great talking with people from across the country. You are with peers in your general age group facing the same issues you are, and you are receiving different advice and ideas. I have more than a dozen contacts with ‘YPN’ after their names who I have met and contacted throughout the year with different things. I follow up with these folks throughout the year and look forward to meeting them again in New Orleans,” Reynolds adds.

Like Nichols, he gained a lot of insight from Taylor’s educational sessions. “AI is huge. We have not implemented it in our operation yet, but I see the possibilities. I will be looking at ideas and start playing with it. He also talked about using questions to come up with solutions to problems. Doing so offers you a different way to look at things and come up with different solutions,” he says, noting that implementing this technique will be helpful to his operation.

For Reynolds, this conference is always well worth it. “Absolutely, it is worthwhile to go. I am looking forward to the next one,” he says.

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