RTO World 2018 officially kicked off early Tuesday, August 21, as attendees made their way to the America’s Center Convention Complex in St. Louis, Missouri. More than 700 attendees and exhibitors shuffled in to pick up their badges, swag bags and plan their schedule for the next few days. Tuesday’s events began with a breakfast meeting for the Arkansas Rental Dealers Association and the TRIB Group member meeting followed by peer group meetups. Professional development and education are important aspects of RTO World with the peer groups offering networking in a relaxed, yet facilitated setting. Well-received by attendees, the meetings were designed to build community and give attendees a chance to exchange ideas, dissect problems and discuss relevant role specific topics and issues with their peers. The five meetups offered were for owners and dealers, marketing professionals, store managers, I.T. professionals and district managers. The 2018 APRO Awards luncheon and business meeting, sponsored by LG, honored some of the rent-to-own industry’s finest contributors. This year’s award winners Terah Vail, Newcomer of the Year; Mark Connelly, President’s Award of Excellence; Brad Denison, Norm Smith Vendor of the Year; Jeff Lebakken, Rental Dealer of the Year; and Jim Brown, Ernie Talley Lifetime Achievement. State associations were also honored during the luncheon. Florida, Indiana, Iowa-Nebraska, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, New York, Tennessee and Wisconsin all won State Association Continued Excellence Awards; Arkansas took home State Association Emerging Excellence; Illinois won Association Legislative Achievement; and suitably, Missouri was awarded State Association of the Year. APRO Board of Directors were elected at this year’s luncheon. Congratulations to new board members Joe Gazzo, Bi-Rite; Shirin Kanji, Impact RTO; Adam Sutton, RNR Tire Express; and Terah Vail, FAN Leasing. Re-elected for another term were board members Chris Kale, Sr., Rent King; David P. David, Full-O-Pep Appliances; Trent Agin, Rent One; Jonathan Rose, RNR Tire Express; and Jamie Slatton, Buddy’s Home Furnishings. Following the awards luncheon, seven educational breakout sessions offered valuable insights from some of the brightest minds in the industry throughout the remainder of the afternoon. This year’s event featured unparalleled educational sessions that set RTO World apart from any other trade shows and conventions. Chris Kale Jr. of Happy’s Home Centers and new APRO board member Terah Vail hosted an educational session on engaging with the millennial generation who are quickly becoming the largest home buying generation in America, and the bulk of the workforce. Jack Monson and Mike McDowell of Social Joey hosted and educational session to help owners navigate the constantly changing world of social media—everything from big picture ideas about driving traffic to best practices and important things to avoid. Shirin Kanji of Impact RTO and Chris Kale Sr. of Rent King gave an overview of the current state of the capital markets for rent-to-own dealers. The two rental dealers covered how to access traditional bank financing, private equity, and high net worth investors. Rent-2-Own’s Jessica Mahon presented on the Facebook algorithm, the importance of customer engagement, targeting audiences and how to appear in customer’s newsfeeds. The session also discussed tools, tips and the hottest trends to be successful in creating sales opportunities using social media. Rent One President Trent Agin discussed insights on the importance of proximity to customers in the RTO business and strategies in which brick and mortar RTO dealers can remain competitive in a competitive marketplace. APRO General Counsel Ed Winn III advised industry attendees on various legal issues in the RTO industry, including statutes, RTO in the UK, RTO kiosks, RTO e-commerce, and RTO products. Jim Corter of Corter Consulting went over three effective patterns for a successful culture that drives high performance in his Giving Employees Purpose, Engagement and Significance session. Mike Helton, CPA at Rivero, Gordimer & Company P.A. discussed strategies business owners can take to assist in minimizing their annual tax bill. He reviewed old and new tax planning considerations that could be applied in either large or small businesses. SKC Enterprises Human Resources Director Keith Carrico held a session on leadership. The session helped uncover preferences and how they affect communication while also identifying natural leadership skills. Randy Lewis of Jaguar Holdings went over store management principles for team improvement. He used the leadership principles of John Maxwell to help attendees discover their leadership level and how to grow it and ultimately grow their teams. The first day of RTO World concluded with a Hot Show and reception where rent-to-own exhibitors and attendees reconnected with old friends and made new ones at RTO World 2018’s Hot Show, sponsored by Whirlpool. After the show, industry newcomers and young professionals were invited to get together and network at the Young Professionals Networking Social. The event, sponsored by Nationwide RentDirect, provided a great opportunity for industry associates to strengthen relationships, learn from one another and collaborate on the direction of the industry. RentDirect President Bruce Manning introduced himself to the group and commended the young professionals’ enthusiasm and leadership in paving the way for the future of the industry. The second day of RTO World 2018 kicked off with a continental breakfast and RTO general education session open to all convention attendees. Countryside Rental Owner Mike Tissot presented his vision for adapting to a changing business environment by improving and reinventing the way we manage people, products and processes in RTO. Also at the general session, APRO scholarship recipient Javontay Moss shared how APRO has helped pave the way for his educational, personal and professional development and gave a special thank you to Rent One’s Larry Carrico, Trent Agin, and David Keen for having a positive impact in his life as mentors. A ribbon cutting ceremony immediately followed general session opening the event’s trade show to attendees. The RTO World Trade Show is the industry’s premier marketplace of products, services and technologies specifically targeted to rent-to-own dealers. More than 65,000 square feet of exhibits highlighted more than 100 exhibitors of the hottest and newest technologies and products. Continuing the industry-focused education sessions at RTO World 2018 were two more breakouts focused on store management. Matthew Warren, the Director of Corporate Development at RNR Tire Express, identified 20 keys to mastering time and how to use them effectively to convention attendees. Warren’s presentation focused on utilizing priority and time management by better understanding time, processes and project management. APRO board member Jamie Slatton closed this year’s education sessions sharing his sales secrets with store managers, discussing how they can reach their sales potential and take their stores to the top. The second day of RTO World concluded with a St. Louis Experience Party at Fox Sports Midwest Live! Attendees enjoyed food, drinks, dancing, a tour of the Cardinals museum and a Fish Eye Fun photo booth. It was a memorable evening where tenured and new rent-to-own professionals came together to celebrate a great week of learning, networking, and buying. The last day of convention opened with breakfast in the exhibit hall at the RTO World trade show. Attendees were given a final opportunity to take advantage of exclusive RTO World deals. “The successful pairing of APRO and TRIB for the summer convention proved to be an ideal and valuable collaboration for the industry. We’re grateful to the sponsors and exhibitors who helped us make this event possible,” said APRO Executive Director Jill McClure, CAE. “Excitement is already building for RTO World 2019 in Louisville.” Mark your calendars for August 6 – 8, 2019! Click here to view more photos of RTO World 2018. Click here to view Fish Eye Fun photos taken at the St. Louis Experience Party.