RTO World 2021 – hosted late last month by APRO and TRIB Group – was everything the rent-to-own industry has been waiting for over the past two years through the pandemic: a reconnection of rental dealers, managers, and exhibitors from around the country, face-to-face and sharing information, ideas, inspiration, deals, and laughs – together, again, in Tampa, Florida.
The fourth annual National Convention & Tradeshow, which was held virtually last year as the first surge of COVID-19 swept across the nation, was in full Floridian swing even before its official kickoff on Monday, August 23. As the APRO and TRIB staffs worked furiously all day Sunday to perfect every detail of the event, several groups held their own pre-game get-togethers: both Premier Rental-Purchase and RNR Tire Express hosted day-long franchise meetings; TRIB’s board of directors held a meeting; and the Georgia Rental Dealers Association met. Sunday evening, the Florida Rental Dealers Association hosted a welcoming RTO World Pre-Party — sponsored by TRIB — at the American Social Bar & Kitchen, while RNR Tire Express threw its own Networking Event and After-Party, complete with a live band, live gator, and a pirate’s proposal (if you know, you know).
The official convention launched bright and early Monday morning, with the State Association Presidents Meetup, a TRIB Group membership meeting, and four Peer Group Meetups — Buyers, Owners/Dealers, Regional/District Managers, and Store Managers. Everyone came together at the APRO Awards Luncheon and Business Meeting, sponsored by LG Electronics Corp., USA. The following individuals were celebrated for their recognition and achievement within the industry:
2021 Hall of Honor Inductees
RTO Tiger Award: Paul Davis, Nations Rent-To-Own Sales & Leasing
APRO Emerging Leader: Allison Manley, Showplace Inc.
APRO President’s Award: Robbie Kamerschen, Greenberg Traurig LLP
APRO Heritage Award: Bill Howard, RNR Kentucky LLC, dba RNR Tire Express
APRO Steve Kruse Award: Frank Rotert, Ace Furniture & TV Inc., dba Ace Rent-To-Own
APRO Vendor of the Year: Michael Helton, Rivero, Gordimer & Company P.A.
APRO Rental Dealer of the Year: Chad Fosdick, CR Fosdick Ent. Inc., dba Premier Rental-Purchase
The first individual award of the event, the RTO Tiger Award, was specially introduced by John Cleek Jr. of Cleek’s Home Furnishings/Rentals & Sales. Cleek Jr. provided his peers with a health update on his father, Tiger John Cleek, who is a former APRO President, an RTO icon, and the award’s namesake. Tiger revealed earlier this summer that he is living with ALS, a degenerative, incurable, and lethal neuromuscular disease.
Though Tiger wasn’t able to travel to RTO World in-person, he spoke to his rent-to-own colleagues via video, thanking them for their work for the industry, their friendship over the years, and their generous contributions to the recent Columbia, Missouri, Walk to Defeat ALS; “Team Tiger” has raised almost $66,000 toward ALS research — much of it from RTO professionals. Tiger’s brief but emotional video prompted a long, loud standing ovation from the RTO World crowd in appreciation for a true rent-to-own legend.
Following the luncheon, participants selected from among a dozen educational sessions to attend. From APRO General Counsel Ed Winn III’s ever-popular Legal & Legislative Update to People Before Profits: Creating a Culture for Growth, from Social Media Fundamentals: How to Grow Your Business to Exit Strategies for RTO, rent-to-own professionals soaked up information, inspiration, and invaluable insights all afternoon.
Day One finished strong with a Welcome Reception and Hot Show sponsored by Whirlpool Corp., which spurred more than $12 million in sales. Later in the evening, rent-to-own up-and-comers rubbed elbows and bumped fists at the Emerging Professionals Networking Social, sponsored by Nationwide RentDirect.
Tuesday morning brought early meetings of both the Arkansas and Kentucky Rental Dealers Associations, even before the RTO Education General Session — with Continental Breakfast sponsored by GE Appliances, a Haier Company – began. The keynote speaker, former NFL linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pro Football Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, spoke to the RTO audience about TEAMwork, and exactly how “Together, Everyone Achieves More.”
Mike Tissot of Countryside Rentals Inc., dba Rent-2-Own followed up with a presentation specifically aimed at regional and store managers, while APRO President Chris Kale Sr., TRIB Group President Chris Kale Jr., APRO Executive Director Jill McClure, and TRIB Group Executive Director Dennis Shields officially opened up the Tradeshow with a ribbon-cutting. With more than 400 rental dealers and almost 260 vendors in attendance, the RTO World exhibit hall was abuzz with activity the rest of the day and well into Wednesday, with initial show purchase numbers totaling over $28 million.
The APRO Board of Directors also met Tuesday afternoon, electing its new Executive Committee: President David David of Full-O-Pep Appliances Inc., dba American Rental; 1st Vice President Michael Bennett of Buddy’ Home Furnishings; 2nd Vice President Shirin Kanji of Impact RTO Holdings, dba Rent-A-Center; Treasurer Terah Vail Munstermann of Best Tire Concepts LLC, dba RNR Tire Express; and Secretary Trent Agin of SKC Enterprises Inc., dba Rent One.
Tuesday evening’s Tampa Experience Party – sponsored by Ashley Furniture Industries at Splitsville Southern & Social – had fun and games to spare as competitive RTO-ers enjoyed the venue’s 10-pin bowling, billiards, darts, shuffleboard, ping-pong, and foosball, along with some good grub and libations.
The final morning of RTO World 2021 began with an early meeting of the APRO Vendor Advisory Committee, followed by a little last networking at the Continental Breakfasts and some concluding procurement as the Tradeshow wrapped up.
“This year’s RTO World was a special one,” said McClure. “Seeing the industry members come together again following such a challenging time was wonderful. Pulling off a safe, in-person convention during the pandemic had its challenges. Overall, we were happy with the results, and everyone seemed delighted to be there. And we’re already looking forward to RTO World 2022 in the marvelous Midwest – August 10-12 in Indianapolis, Indiana!”
Peruse the RTO World 2021 photo album – you might just peek a picture of yourself!