Women in Rental Summit offered the right ingredients
By Connie Lannan

Women in Rental Summit offered the right ingredients

Enthusiasm was so high for the first-ever in-person Women in Rental Summit, Jan. 25-27 in San Antonio, that it sold out quickly. That sentiment remained throughout the entire two days as the event provided exactly what attendees wanted — an opportunity to gain education, connection and support.

Attendees taking part in the welcome reception

The event kicked off with a welcome reception, including a Texas Margarita Challenge, on Tuesday, Jan. 25.

The next morning, attendees had the option of taking part in sunrise yoga before breakfast and diving into a full day of education.

Kicking off the education portion was Barbara Khozam, former professional beach volleyball player, speaker and author of “How Organizations Deliver BAD Customer Service (and Strategies that Turn it Around).” In her presentation, “Elevate your performance — Distinguishing yourself from the competition with finesse and ease,” Khozam addressed how to deliver an extraordinary service experience, how to manage emotions and thrive under pressure, and how to communicate with all types of personalities during challenging times.

Then, Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president, Texas A&M University, San Antonio, and at-large member of the Girl Scouts of the USA National Board of Directors, talked about how the Girl Scouts are helping young women gain the skills needed to thrive and succeed in life. Dr. Teniente-Matson is not only a Girl Scouts alum and lifetime member, but she, along with the university, also has sponsored a Patriotism Patch with the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, which has fueled girls’ leadership on the local level.

Attendees who had been Girl Scouts 

After lunch, Renee Peterson, CFO, the Toro Co., talked about executive leadership, relaying her unique road to success and the life lessons she has learned, including turning what others might consider obstacles into opportunities.

After her presentation, attendees had the opportunity for valuable networking time, either attending a wine tasting or touring the Alamo.

The evening concluded with a closing reception at the Howl at the Moon piano bar.

The next morning, an optional volunteer opportunity was offered with the ARA Foundation/Toro Company Foundation Community Impact Program. Many attendees helped refurbish Winston Elementary School.

For Laura Albert, director of business development, Interstate Rental Service, Boston, who serves as ARA of Massachusetts vice president, the conference hit all the right notes.

“I wanted to attend to meet other business owners and rental professionals from across the country who were dealing with the same challenges and triumphs as I have been in Boston. I wanted to go to become more energized about leadership and the direction we are taking the business as well as see how other women have balanced their personal and professional lives,” she says.

Albert wasn’t disappointed. “I got a lot out of it. I got ideas for how I can improve our business both in terms of our operations and also how we service clients. I met some awesome, engaging, smart women who have overcome amazing challenges to get to where they are. That was really inspiring to me. The speakers were great. I received tangible action items I can use to improve my business. After Barbara’s presentation, I really understood the steps that need to be taken in order to handle difficult situations without letting emotions override rational thinking. It also was helpful to hear how other rental professionals are cultivating their client relationships to retain customers. I came back reinvigorated and reinspired to take my business to the next level. It’s nice to know I have a community of women across North America who are dealing with the same opportunities and lifting me up,” she says.

Networking between speakers

Michele Saxman, owner Rapid Rentals & Sales, Brookfield, Ill., and ARA of Illinois board member, had a similar experience. “It was interesting to hear how familiar the same problems are. Whether you are renting tents or a bulldozer, you have the same issues in the company. There was discussion of how to maneuver through them. Barbara gave us some homework and had us discuss areas with those at our table. It was interesting how everyone handled those things. I saw quite a few similarities,” she says.

For Saxman the summit was a “very nice, laid-back, get-to-know-you, you-are-not-alone-in-this type of gathering. It allowed people to take a breath from work and meet others. I met people from Montana and New York City. There were attendees from all over the place. Since I do work nationwide, it was interesting to meet all these people from around the U.S. who are doing similar things as I do. It made me realize how much I really want to be in the ARA. It is an awesome place to be. I have met so many people. I have been helped so much,” she says.

Barbara Bown Wyatt, managing partner, Butler Rents, Glendale, Colo., enjoyed all aspects of the conference and found Peterson’s presentation very relatable. “We were together at the wine tasting. I went up to her and said I really appreciated her speech — how she moved her family and turned what others could have seen as obstacles as open doors and how she rolled all of that into her new position. I really related to that. My father was working at Ohio Medical. They wanted to put him on the road as a salesperson. That would have meant he would have been gone a lot with three children at home. My uncle said there was a rental store available. He bought it and thrived. He turned it around — just like how she moved her family and created doors that could be seen as obstacles. The whole conference was great, and I am looking forward to the next one,” she says.

For Beth Hoff Blackmer, president, Aspen Rent-All, Basalt, Colo., who serves as chair of the Women in Rental Committee, those comments are music to her ears. She has been a primary force in spearheading this effort.

Wine tasting

“I think the event was fantastic. It was so wonderful to have a full day with this group of women. Everyone was so excited to be together. There was such a great energy and lots of good interaction among the group. I think everyone felt it was a great event and very nice to be together and not on a Zoom call. I just wish it could have been longer,” she says.

There are “more than 1,000 women engaged with Women in Rental right now between the Facebook and LinkedIn pages and others who are finding out about us,” Hoff Blackmer says. “That is exciting. One of the proudest moments is how we are being lifted up and honored by the men in the industry for doing this. We are receiving great support. I am excited to see where else this group can take this initiative between the mentorship, the education, the networking events, etc. It has been such an honor to be so involved these past three years as an ARA officer and chair of this committee. I will continue to be involved and can’t wait for the next conference,” she says.

Connie Lannan

Connie LannanConnie Lannan

Connie Lannan is special projects editor for Rental Management. She helps plan, coordinate, write and edit ARA’s quarterly regional newsletters, In Your Region. She also researches, writes and edits news and feature articles for Rental Management, Rental Pulse, supplements, special reports and other special projects. Outside of work, she loves to bake for others, go for walks with her husband and volunteer for her church and causes she believes in.

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