Association of Progressive Rental Organizations | America’s Champion for Rent-to-Own

RTO World 2023: ¡Una Buena Fiesta!

Charles Smitherman welcomes RTO World 2023 attendees for the first time as APRO CEO.

The sixth annual RTO World National Convention & Tradeshow was held August 22-24 in San Antonio, Texas – and from the temperature to the sales, it was hot, hot, hot!

Once again cohosted by APRO and TRIB Group, RTO World 2023 hosted about 700 rental dealers, managers, and vendors from across America in spectacular – and slightly sticky – summertime San Antone to connect, honor, learn, collaborate, negotiate, share, and laugh together with their rent-to-own colleagues.

Early-bird attendees played for birdies Sunday afternoon, August 20th, at a Golf Outing sponsored by Benefit Marketing Solutions and held at Olmos Basin Golf Course, the Alamo City Golf Trail’s most popular course.

The next day, as exhibitors began to move in and set up on the tradeshow floor, the TRIB Board of Directors convened. The convention officially launched Tuesday morning, with a TRIB Group membership meeting followed by eight Peer Group Meetups – four store-count groups for Owners and HQ Staff, as well as for Store Managers and Staff.

Everyone came together midday at the APRO Awards Luncheon and Business Meeting, sponsored by Paydit, Inc. The following individuals were honored for their dedication to and achievement in the rent-to-own industry.

2023 Hall of Honor Inductees
APRO Ernie Talley Lifetime Achievement Award
                    Robert Briley, Briley Investments, Inc. dba Aaron’s Sales & Lease Ownership
                    Lyn Leach, Ace Furniture & TV Inc. dba Ace Rent-To-Own
                    Susan Matthews, Benefit Marketing Solutions
RTO Tiger AwardLarry Carrico, SKC Enterprises, Inc. dba Rent One
APRO Emerging LeaderJoshua Ciesicki, Great Rooms Central, LLC
APRO President’s Award of Excellence
                    Christine Hesse, Progressive Holdings, Inc.
                    Bryan Pechersky, Upbound Group
APRO Heritage AwardSpencer Smith, Smith Group dba Aaron’s Sales & Lease Ownership
APRO Steve Kruse AwardTeresa Hill, Buddy’s Newco, LLC, dba Buddy’s Home Furnishings
APRO Norm Smith Vendor of the YearDavid Goldman, VersiRent/Ideal Software Systems, Inc.
APRO Chuck Sims Rental Dealer of the YearTrooper Earle, The Premier Companies

APRO President Michael Bennett (L) and APRO CEO Charles Smitherman (R) congratulate APRO Rental Dealer of the Year Trooper Earle (C) of The Premier Companies.

Additionally, two new awards were presented this year. The first, the RTO Pioneer Award, was presented to Jim Brown, Owner of ABC Discount Superstore-Lease Purchase and Sales. Brown is the last in the rent-to-own industry of the 40 original rental dealers who created APRO in 1980; APRO’s longest-serving founding member is finally retiring following a 58-year career.

The second, the APRO Legacy Award, was presented to APRO General Counsel Ed Winn III. While Winn eschewed the honor, his abiding dedication to the success, advancement, and continuous improvement of APRO and the industry overall has been incomparable and invaluable.

Joseph Kopser, President of Grayline Group, gave the event’s first keynote address, part one of a two-part series all about how to build brand, team, and organizational culture.

Lyn Leach, CEO of Ace Furniture & TV Inc. dba Ace Rent-To-Own, once again rocks as the RTO World Hot Show auctioneer.

Following the luncheon, participants chose from a selection of educational sessions to attend. From Recruiting and Retention for Your Business to Merchandising Tips, Tricks, and Strategies, from Online Sales: Bridge the Sales Gap to What to Know about VRTO!, RTO professionals received information, inspiration, and insights all afternoon. Day One wrapped up with a Welcome Reception and Hot Show – sponsored by Benefit Marketing Solutions – with awesome auctioneer Lyn Leach at the mic once again.

Wednesday morning brought early meetings for several state associations, followed by the RTO General Education Session sponsored by Ashley Furniture Industries. During the session, the following state associations were honored for high performance and outstanding leadership, community involvement, and legislative advocacy.

State Association of the YearOhio

Continued Excellence Awards
Northeast (CT, MA, RI)

President’s Circle Award

A new state association award was also introduced this year: the Ed Winn Legislative Advocacy Award, which Winn himself presented to the Kentucky Rental Dealers Association. The session concluded with the event’s part-two keynote address, offered by brand-culture expert Pam Nemec.

Following the education session, APRO President Michael Bennett of Buddy’s Newco LLC, dba Buddy’s Home Furnishings, TRIB Group President Mike Tissot of Countryside Rentals Inc. dba Rent-2-Own, APRO’s new Chief Executive Officer Charles Smitherman, and TRIB Group Executive Director Dennis Shields performed the traditional ribbon-cutting to open the Tradeshow for business and set the RTO World exhibit hall to humming for the rest of the day and well into Thursday.

RTO World participants brave the evening heat to kick up their heels and learn some genuine Texas line-dancing.

The APRO Board of Directors met Wednesday afternoon, electing its new Executive Committee: President Michael Bennett; 1st Vice President Dan Fisher of Majik Enterprises International Inc. dba Majik Rent-To-Own; 2nd Vice President Chad Fosdick of CR Fosdick Ent. Inc. dba Premier Rental-Purchase; Treasurer Trent Agin of SKC Enterprises Inc. dba Rent One; and Secretary Rachel George of Aaron’s, LLC.

Wednesday evening’s San Antonio Experience Party – co-sponsored by Ashley Furniture Industries and Paydit, Inc. – happened at the Briscoe Western Art Museum’s Jack Guenther Pavilion and McNutt Sculpture Garden. Participants enjoyed Tex-Mex cuisine, an open bar, art of the American West, and genuine country-western line-dancing.

APRO CEO Charles Smitherman (L) and TRIB Group Executive Director Dennis Shields (R) wrap up the ambitious but amiable first-ever Executive Challenge with some hot-sauce shots.

The final morning of RTO World 2023 began with an early meeting of the APRO Vendor Advisory Committee, followed by some concluding connection and final procurement as the Tradeshow wound down. Finishing off the event was an RTO World logo-sock giveaway (some pairs with cash bonuses!), and the first-ever Executive Challenge – a five-station relay between APRO CEO Charles Smitherman and TRIB Group Executive Director Dennis Shields. With Dan Fisher acting as referee and Mike Tissot running commentary, the event was a thrillingly silly gauntlet around the exhibit hall that somehow ended up in a tie!

That rematch is one more great reason to save the date now for RTO World 2024 – August 6-8 in Orlando, Florida!

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