Beyond a Wildest Dream

Feb. 1, 2003
RER: What are your primary goals as president of ARA? Fouts: My goals are the goals of the members as defined by the long-range plan. The ARA long-range

RER: What are your primary goals as president of ARA?

Fouts: My goals are the goals of the members as defined by the long-range plan. The ARA long-range plan was developed with tremendous input from members through many methods of research. The goals were then established based on the research and were adopted by the ARA board of directors. ARA has been positioning itself to carry out those goals through a lot of change this past year. We now stand ready to really make tremendous strides in achieving those goals this year. The six goals defined by the long-range plan are:

  • Essential to success: Those in the rental industry will view ARA membership as essential to their success.
  • Information source and resource: ARA will be the leading source and resource of the rental industry.
  • Advocate for industry growth and success: ARA will be recognized leader in advocacy on issues of importance to the rental industry.
  • Consumer awareness: Renting will become the preferred choice for consumers as a solution to their tool, equipment, party and events needs.
  • Strategic relationships: ARA members and the rental industry will benefit from strategic relationships between ARA and organizations that share common interests and goals.
  • Positioned to lead and serve: ARA will be financially strong and positioned to effectively lead the rental industry and serve its members.

Of those goals, my primary emphasis this year will be on the membership goal, although I also intend on making substantial progress on the other goals.

How will you achieve these goals?

The long-range plan defines objectives for each of these goals. ARA has streamlined our program development process through development of our strategic plan during this past year. We have not only developed goals, but also defined a program development process involving the board of directors and volunteer committees and task forces that refines the priorities into programs that are measurable to know if we are meeting our objectives.

ARA is attempting to gather information from members on a regular basis and will be encouraging members to participate in this activity. We want to know what is on the minds of our members and what their needs are.

What do you perceive as your biggest challenge as ARA president?

First and foremost is the challenge of communication. I must listen effectively to the memberships' needs and concerns, and to keep them informed and involved on developments within or from ARA. Along with that is the challenge of bringing members into volunteer positions to continually move them forward in taking on additional responsibility and thereby strengthen the local, state and national organization. All of which is consistent with goal No. 1 in having the rental industry view ARA membership as essential to their success.

Is the membership base of ARA where you would like it to be? What will you do to get more members involved in the association at all levels and to foster more volunteerism?

ARA will be working hard to increase membership this year. One large step that was defined as a need by the board of directors last year was the need for a membership director to work on member recruitment and retention.

In an effort to reach out to the membership, the regional directors have been given the responsibility of becoming team leaders or mentors to work with the state and local presidents. They will help them create a structure within their respective organizations that will foster volunteer development through intentional delegation of responsibility. They will define each member's level of involvement and intentionally delegate new responsibilities to them. This will help make the association become part of each member, instead of each member being just part of the association.

One of the biggest mistakes I have seen associations make over the years is to leave their leadership in place too long. By doing so, you not only burn out the individual you keep depending upon, but you separate the leadership from the membership by creating a wall between the general membership and the leadership of the organization. The members feel that the leaders are self-serving and out of touch with their needs.

One of ARA national's biggest strengths is the fact that we turn over a portion of our board and committee members each year. We truly are a member-driven organization, and not just a good old boys club. Strong local and state associations are key to the continued growth and development of the national organization by keeping a continual pool of new volunteers ready to step up to the ever-changing challenges. It is not an easy task and will probably take more than my year as president to be realized, but I am determined to make progress, and the strategic plan will see to it that it succeeds.

Another crucial change that we have made this last year is that when we refer to members, we are referring to both general and associates. We are ever increasing the amount of associate members on our committees, and even added an additional associate member seat to the board of directors. Our associate members are a tremendous resource that has been grossly underutilized over the years. They bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our committees and board. We are truly in business together and should help each other make the rental industry stronger.

How do you plan on reaching out to members this year?

As an association, we are committed to reaching out to the state and locals through reorienting our regional directors to working closely with them. Plus the ARA staff is committed to serve as a resource to both states/locals and individual members. We have examined our structure and are defining more ways to involve more volunteers throughout the organization. We are reaching out to members through surveys, research and many new ways of communication to stay as in touch with their needs and concerns as possible.

What are your plans for continuing education programs for ARA members?

ARA remains strongly committed to the value of education, as witnessed by the new products available in new formats to accommodate both print and electronic delivery methods. Visit the ARA Web site, and you will see countless educational resources available. We have committed one full day to educational seminars at the convention, plus the Construction University, and the Events & Tents programs held prior.

I served on ARA's education committee for five years, three as chairman. I firmly believe in education as key to our members' success, and ARA will include education on every committee agenda. We also have the ARA Foundation committed to education through scholarship programs and the REAP advisors program.

While I am always committed to education, I am even more committed to seeing higher levels of volunteer involvement throughout all levels of our association. Increased pools of volunteers are key to the continued success of this association.

How is ARA's RenTech program developing?

The ARA budget allows assistance for up to three RenTechs this year, two of which are already spoken for. RenTech is a prime example of the partnership between general and associate members, guided by a volunteer committee and assisted by ARA staff to complement the event. I feel it is vital to the services that ARA can provide, and is a way for locals or states to demonstrate value to members. At the recent ARA Leadership Conference, ARA explained the program to the attendees and had great interest in this program, which was developed to assist the states in programming in addition to dealing just with legislative issues.

What are your thoughts on ARA's political involvement in regard to the state of the economy?

To help in the economic and political areas, ARA established a Washington D.C. office, under John McClelland, to continually observe Congress and the Administration. It looks as though both Congress and the White House will be business friendly. ARA will share our comments with Capitol Hill on a regular basis regarding legislation and regulations. We are planning a legislative caucus in April and remain hopeful on the economy.

There is great optimism for the Anaheim convention among both general and associate members. Also, we are seeing a great influx of independents re-entering our industry that had previously sold out during the consolidation era. We are getting more people calling for industry information that are looking at rental as a strong potential industry for them to get into.

ARA and CRA have agreed to work together on a project-by-project basis. How do you expect the relationship to unfold in 2003? What do you envision for the two associations during your term as president?

ARA and CRA have just completed an intense period of time in our discussions these past two years. ARA is excited about the Anaheim convention and hopes that California rental stores take advantage of the event and all that it has to offer. We appreciate CRA sharing the news of Anaheim with their members. It is too early to anticipate what the projects may be that the two organizations would want to work on together, but we want to stay open to the possibilities.

There well may be educational projects in the future where our individual members would jointly benefit from the project. ARA continues to value our members in California and hopes to have more members in the future. California, Nevada and Arizona members are able to bring employees free to the ARA convention for two days with advance registration.

How would you improve ARA's presence internationally? Do you feel that seeking more international membership is necessary? How about involving ARA in international shows and events?

Within our strategic plan ARA sees itself taking a leadership role in facilitating relationships among rental associations throughout the world. This will enhance the presence of ARA internationally and will benefit ARA members. ARA maintains an on-going working relationship with our peer associations worldwide. In fact, Dave Wilcox and Chris Wehrman attended the Rentex Show this past fall, where a forum was held between the rental associations of various countries. ARA will host this international forum in Anaheim. We continue to view the world globally, whether for the rental members or the supplier companies.

What made you want to become president of ARA?

It was 30 years ago this month that I attended my first ARA convention that was held coincidentally in Anaheim. Never having traveled much west of Missouri, I was wide eyed and in awe of California, the convention trade show and especially the opening session. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever be able to be the president of the association addressing the membership. But through that convention experience, I determined that I had a great opportunity to make something of myself in this industry. When I returned to Kansas City, I asked my employer to let me go with him to the local meetings.

About a year later I was asked to help on a committee. A couple of years later I found myself chairing a committee. Not too long after that I was asked to be the secretary, followed by the treasurer's position and then through the ranks of local officer. I really enjoyed my local involvement and never failed to learn something at each and every meeting that helped me be more comfortable in my career. I remember my first trip to Moline headquarters to the local president's leadership conference. At that conference I got to know the current ARA officers and heard their stories of how they had followed a similar path to mine.

Before I knew it I was called to serve on a national committee, and it seems only like yesterday that ARA past president Jay Lageschulte asked me to serve as general tool special interest group chair on the board of directors. Following that position I decided with a lot of encouragement to run for ARA vice president. Throughout all of this I gradually felt my comfort zone growing. Each additional responsibility added made me more comfortable with the next step. I am no different than any other volunteer, except that I have been consistently persistent in my personal growth by gradually taking on more and more responsibility. This association has given me the opportunity to grow and succeed in business. The friendships and the networking opportunities, plus the chance to improve myself as a person, have been tremendous. It is my hope that I can give some of what has been given me back to others, and that I can help to ensure the future of this association for that young person out there that may be going to the ARA convention for the first time this year as I did 30 years ago.