RentDirect Director Bruce Manning

RentDirect Nationwide held its bi-annual 2019 Meeting and Hot Show Auction February 10-13 at The Venetian/Palazzo and Sands Expo in Las Vegas, NV. The event, part of Nationwide Marketing Group’s “Thrive” Primetime show, saw a 50 percent increase in attendance over last August’s event with more than double the sales at its Hot Show Auction. APRO’s Executive Director Jill McClure and General Counsel Ed Winn were also in attendance, alongside RentDirect Director Bruce Manning, providing rent-to-own industry updates and legal advice at the events trade show.

Before the Hot Show and Auction got started, Manning presented the services and education exclusively available to RentDirect members. Attendees were educated on the company’s Exchange program that features a convenient way to order smaller quantities of TV sets or consumer electronics directly from their distributing partners. Manning also talked about the health and workers comp insurance offered by their partnership with CoAdvantage. McClure informed attendees about APRO’s members-only benefits including wage-and-hour consultations, insurance services, and last but not least, legal advice from General Counsel Ed Winn.

RentDirect’s Hot Show Auction was up more than 50 percent in sales over last August’s event.

At the event, Manning distributed an industry-specific survey to attendees to collect real-time data. The questionnaire supplied statics on RTO information including past due accounts, website traffic, the percentage of product type rented and preferred promotional platforms to name a few. He also emphasized RentDirect’s digital marketing services and gave everyone in attendance a free website design with the ability to feature unlimited products and e-commerce capabilities.

“This year our focus is to showcase our marketing services,” says Manning. “Attendees really enjoyed the educational experience and took full advantage of learning more about all that we offer.”

To learn more about RentDirect Nationwide’s products and services, contact Bruce Manning at 919/522-2355, bruce.manning@nationwidegroup.org.

R2O Zanesville, OH, 2019 Store of the Year

Countryside Rentals, dba Rent-2-Own [R2O], held its annual meeting last week in Wilmington, OH. This year’s “Game On” meeting celebrated the transformation the company embarked on after its “Reinvent R20” annual meeting last year that paved the way to a new way of doing business and the success that followed. The event included company-wide games, prizes, an awards presentation, a Jeep Cherokee giveaway, and special guest speaker Giovani Bernard, running back for the Cincinnati Bengals.

“We were able to streamline our business process and focus more on the products that customers wanted in 2018,” shares R2O Communications Manager Jessica Mahon. “We saw many people grow and get promoted last year. Now we’re set up and ready for a great 2019 after having the best January we’ve had in several years!”

2019 R2O Rookie of the Year Skye Lovejoy

R2O pulled out all the stops incorporating the “Game On” theme from video and boardgame decor to attendee costumes. Each store chose a game to represent and took turns explaining how their game themed costume connected to business and rent-to-own. Various prizes were awarded at random throughout the day, including a car that was awarded to the very lucky Megan Saunders of R2O in Bainbridge, OH.

Cincinnati Bengals’ Bernard spoke to the company about the importance of being prepared and how to get back in the game even when you’re down. He motivated the group by discussing goal setting, emphasized that sharing knowledge enhances the odds of winning and identifyed what is needed to compete against a competitor successfully. After his presentation, Bernard took photographs and autographed gear for employees and even stuck around to join the fun.

R2O CEO and President Mike Tissot with parents Darrell and Jane Tissot

During the awards ceremony, vendors were recognized and received “Valued Vendor” plaques on stage before moving onto the 2018 R2O employee awards: Regional Manager Donna Treboni, Employee of the Year; Warehouse Delivery Specialist Larry Throckmorton, Home Office Employee of the Year; Todd David and Amy Troxel, Diane Smalley Lifetime Achievement; Zanesville, OH, Store of the Year; Chrissy Davidson, Manager of the Year; Rene Johnson, Assistant/Sales/Collections Manager of the Year; Rachel Patterson, Account Manager of the Year; Skye Lovejoy, Rookie of the Year; Ellie Russell, Customer Sales Representative of the Year; James Giles and James McComic, Delivery Specialist of the Year. Congratulations to all of R2O’s top performers!

“Rent-2-Own is planning for continued success in 2019. We will continue to reflect and transform the business in our attempts to smash records,” says Mahon. “Game on!”

Click here to view more photos of the 2019 Rent-2-Own Annual Meeting.

U.S. Representative Walter B. Jones, a staunch supporter of the rent-to-own industry for over a decade in Washington D.C., died on February 10, 2019, at the age of 76.

United States Representative Walter B. Jones (R–North Carolina, District 3), a staunch supporter of the rent-to-own industry for over a decade in Washington D.C., died peacefully at his home surrounded by family on February 10, 2019, at the age of 76. The RTO industry never had a better friend and supporter than Jones in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

Representative Jones was the lead sponsor on RTO bills that the industry supported in the U.S. House five different times. In 1997, he sponsored the first RTO bill in the 105th Congress, H.R. 2019 – Consumer Disclosure and Rental Purchase Agreement Act. The bill failed to gain traction, so he then introduced H.R. 1634 in the following 106th Congress. H.R. 1634 garnered 51 co-sponsors, more than the previous bill, but still did not make it out of committee before Congress adjourned. Together, Jones and the RTO industry came closest to seeing an RTO law enacted at the federal level in the 107th Congress in 2001 when he introduced H.R. 1701 and shepherded that bill through various committees and finally saw it narrowly passed out of the full House in 2001. Unfortunately, H.R. 1701 was sent to the Senate late in the legislative session, and Congress adjourned before that body could give its full attention to the House’s RTO bill. 

In 2003, Jones remained vigilant and loyal to the industry and introduced H.R. 996 in the next Congress. That bill died in committee as the makeup of the Congress was shifting and the Bush administration was coming under increasing criticism over the war efforts. Undaunted, Jones introduced a fifth RTO bill, H.R. 1651, a couple of years later in the 109th Congress in 2005. H.R. 1651, like its predecessors, was fully supported by the industry, but also like its predecessors, failed to make it into law.  Once the Obama administration came into power, Jones and the industry both recognized that further legislative efforts for a stand-alone RTO bill would not likely be successful during that administration. 

Jones had followed his father’s footsteps into politics early on. His father, Walter B. Jones Sr., was an American Democratic politician from the state of North Carolina who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1966 until his death from natural causes in 1992. Jones Jr. was first elected to the North Carolina statehouse in 1982 and served five terms in Raleigh, representing Pitt County. In 1991, when his father retired, he ran for this father’s seat in the U.S. House and lost. In 1994 he switched parties, ran as a Republican, and won. His district included the Camp Lejeune Marine base, and Jones was always a vocal supporter of the U.S. military. 

After 9/11 in 2001, he came out strong with support for the Iraq invasion and came up with the effort to rebrand “French fries” as “freedom fries” because of that country’s refusal to support the U.S. military efforts. However, soon after the invasion, Jones concluded that the Bush administration had been less than candid with him and with the American public about the reasons for the attack. He then turned against the effort and became one of the Congress’ most vocal critics on the Right. Over the next several years, he wrote personal notes to some 12,500 service members and their families who had taken part in the conflict. 

Jones was always a man of conscience both in his personal and his political life. He converted from Southern Baptist to Catholicism in mid-life, and his religious convictions were always an essential part of who he was.  His unwavering support for the military and the RTO industry as well came from his deep personal convictions about those issues. 

The rent-to-own industry owes Jones a great debt for his support in D.C. over the years. Rental dealers can only hope that in time they will be able to find another champion worthy of filling Jones’ very big shoes. Today those shoes are, sadly, empty. 

2018 APRO scholarship recipient William Padua

Poverty might have ended William Padua’s academic dreams before they began. “We had countless nights where we had no food to eat,” Padua recalls of his childhood. As the child of a Puerto Rican mother who moved to the mainland with her three children, Padua’s childhood included stays at shelters and lack of sufficient food. Despite this adversity as a child, Padua is the first person in his family to attend college. He is currently attending Florida International University where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in biology.

A member of the National Honor Society, Padua’s achievements in high school go beyond his GPA. In addition to his long list of academic accolades, Padua was also a dedicated athlete, volunteer, and mentor. He was captain of his school’s baseball team. Padua volunteered for the Ending Community Homeless Coalition (E.C.H.O.) providing groceries for families in need. As a mentor, Padua helped young children at Frost Elementary School. Padua speaks of his community engagement, “[Community involvement] helped me give back to those in need…I was in the same position as an adolescent.”

“Rent-to-Own has laid the stepping stones for my family’s success,” Padua says, citing his mother’s rise from a floor salesperson at Rent King to a manager at Happy’s Home Center. Padua’s father also has a career with the RTO-industry, starting as a delivery driver making minimum wage and living paycheck to paycheck to his current position as a co-owner and district manager for Great Rooms. Padua is straight forward about the importance of the RTO-industry to his life, “To this very day the rent-to-own industry still has tremendous impact on my family’s stability and financial well being.”

Padua is a member of the 2018 cohort receiving funding from the APRO Education Foundation’s Scholarship Fund. He is among a cohort of 47 students given over $110,000 worth from APRO and state rental dealer associations in Florida, Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee. The APRO Education Foundation Scholarship Fund’s mission of helping futures leaders take ownership of their dreams is only possible thanks to the generosity of our donors. Thank you for your continued support, and we hope you will take a moment to support the next group of emerging leaders from our RTO-family by donating today.

Dan and Tricia Fisher recently bought Avenue Guesthouse and Gallery in Lititz, PA. They used this opportunity to create a local art gallery and charity space in memory of their daugher Maria.

Tucked in a stone building built nearly 300 years ago, the Avenue Guesthouse and Gallery is a living tribute to Maria Fisher. The Avenue, which combines a bed & breakfast inn, an art gallery, and charity venue, is a fusion of two generations of Fisher family dreams. Longtime APRO members Dan and Tricia Fisher bought the building to fulfill their dream of owning a bed & breakfast and used the opportunity to create a local art gallery and charity space in memory of their daughter Maria.

Maria Fisher, who died in a tragic traffic accident last October, had always dreamed of creating a space to share her passion for art and music with others. The Fishers hope to make The Avenue into a space that carries on their daughter’s dream. The building, originally built in 1738, will welcome its first guests during the Lititz Fire & Ice Festival, a celebration of local history and culture. With plans for rotating the art gallery for local artists and charity events raising money for the Maria Fisher Scholarship Fund, The Avenue promises to enrich the Lititz cultural scene for years to come.

The building, originally built in 1738, will welcome its first guests during the Lititz Fire & Ice Festival, a celebration of local history and culture.

Maria was passionate about writing and performing music, playing soccer, as well as creative writing. She had written many short stories and poems, as well as a near-complete novel. Soon, in the form of The Avenue, Maria’s dream will bring light to the local arts scene. Maria’s absence is keenly felt by her family and friends, but her dream of creating a space for art and music lives on.

Click here to learn more about The Avenue Guesthouse and Gallery or visit their Facebook page online.

Images provided by Laura Knowles/Lititz Record Express.

More than 4,500 people attended Primetime 2018

RentDirect Nationwide will hold its bi-annual 2019 Meeting and Hot Show Auction February 10-13 at The Venetian/Palazzo and Sands Expo in Las Vegas, NV. The event, part of Nationwide Marketing Group’s “Thrive” Primetime show, will include an expo displaying products and services to keep members current on the latest trends and newest technologies, vendor product-training workshops and a Learning Academy offering more than 100 educational sessions presented by industry experts from Google, Nationwide Marketing Group, Site on Time, Wells Fargo and more.

RentDirect PrimeTime Expo August 2018 in Las Vegas

Also on the agenda is the RentDirect annual business meeting followed by its Hot Show & Reception that promises unrivaled deals and Cash Back Now savings. APRO Executive Director Jill McClure and General Counsel Ed Winn will join RentDirect Director Bruce Manningin the RentDirect booth today and tomorrow. Stop by to ask questions about getting into rent-to-own, APRO membership programs and services that can help your business including legal advice, or to say ‘Hello’!

RentDirect members interested in the event may register online by clicking here. Registration is free and offers a discounted, all-inclusive hotel rate of $303.86 a night. Reservations for hotel accommodations will be based on availability.

For more information about the 2019 RentDirect Nationwide Meeting and Hot Show, visit http://www.nationwideprimetime.com/ or contact Bruce Manning at 919/522-2355, bruce.manning@nationwidegroup.org.

2018 APRO scholarship recipient
Elyse Serrano

The admissions office, campus dormitories, local Lakeland churches, or Kenya, wherever the setting, APRO Education Foundation scholarship student Elyse Serrano understands the value of engaging with members of the community. The fourth-year student pursuing degrees in Accounting and Finance at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, learned the value of engaging through personal relationships from her father Anthony Serrano, an RTO industry veteran of more than 20 years. In her final year at Southeastern University, Serrano is approaching the first major milestone on her path toward a Masters degree, a CPA certification, and ultimately lifting people out of the cycle of poverty.

Serrano credits her father’s work with Aaron’s with teaching her the importance of human relationships and community engagement. “I personally have heard stories of people who have been costumers of my dad’s for years and often follow him when he moves store to store,” Serrano says of her father’s ties to the community. Describing the central tenet of her father’s business, Serrano notes, “Customers are viewed as family instead of dollar signs.” As a front row witness to how the RTO industry’s focus on building up rapport with their customers, Serrano understands the importance of ongoing engagement. 

This insight has fueled Serrano’s remarkable academic career, where she has combined her work ethic with enthusiastic participation in community efforts. Serrano is a vital member of the Southeastern University community, hosting campus tours for prospective students as part of the Admissions Office, in addition to serving as a mentor and confidante for other students through her role as a Resident Assistant.

Outside of the university, Serrano has assisted the Lakeland community’s churches in recovery efforts after Hurricane Irma, as well as working for the 410 Bridge organization in Kenya. Serrano will be taking an internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP over the coming summer as she studies toward acquiring her CPA certification.

Serrano is a member of the 2018 cohort receiving funding from the APRO Education Foundation’s Scholarship Fund. She is among a cohort of 47 students given more than $110,000 worth from APRO and state rental dealer associations in Florida, Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee. The APRO Education Foundation Scholarship Fund’s mission of helping future leaders take ownership of their dreams is only possible thanks to the generosity of our donors. Thank you for your continued support, and we hope you will take a moment to support the next group of emerging leaders from our RTO-family by donating today.

Rivero, Gordimer & Company’s tax and audit departments go to head-to-head at the firm’s annual kickball game

For the past five years, associates at Rivero, Gordimer & Company [RG&Co] have held the tradition of kicking off the next tax season the second week of January with a fun game of kickball. Members from the firm’s tax and audit departments recently went head-to-head on the field for some friendly competition and the chance to claim the winner’s trophy for the year.

“Several years ago, our firm formed the Staff Recruitment and Retention Committee that includes firm partners, managers, and staff. The annual kickball game is one of the many ways the committee has enhanced employee morale and discovered ways for our team to enjoy their chosen career path together,” shares Mike Helton, CPA and Tax Shareholder at RG & Co.

The annual kickball game also serves as a firmwide event to welcome new associates and interns hired at the start of the year. After the game, everyone continued the comradery during the meet-and-greet happy hour enjoying their last night out together before the start of the forthcoming tax season.

“One of our firm values, People Matter Here, is not taken lightly. While our firm expects hard work and commitment from our staff, they also have a right to expect the same from owners and management,” notes Helton. “and besides, having a little fun never hurt anyone.”

For the first time in 4 years, RG & Co’s tax team took the trophy back to their side of the office with a final score of 6-3. Congratulations, tax team and best wishes to everyone at RG & Co during this year’s tax season!

APRO President Louis Garcia inks 41-unit Rent-A-Center franchise deal.

APRO President Louis Garcia recently signed a franchise deal to acquire 41 Rent-A-Center [RAC] stores across Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia and West Virginia. The agreement is the latest in a string of deals from those investing, or re-investing, in the brand as part of its re-franchising initiative to partner operators with franchise investors.

Garcia shares that it was his experience in rent-to-own that influenced his decision to acquire more. “My interactions with dealers and franchisees over the years were highly influential in my decision,” says Garcia. “Independent dealers and franchisees operate differently than a large corporation—there is more focus on a store level and even more than that, on a community level. There is a lot of buzz out there about online rent to own that might affect brick and mortar but in my opinion, the reality is brick and mortar is stronger than ever especially when you view it as a community. When you run a store at a community level, you can be wildly successful, and that’s what we do.”

He considers the multi-unit deal an opportunity to harness his rent-to-own expertise and apply what made his existing stores successful on a broader scale, a task he said he’s excited to take on. “Over the last 14 years, we have built a culture with a sense of community with people first and have seen it be wildly successful. I see that opportunity in this market,” says Garcia. “A unique thing about this acquisition is that I already have stores in these markets that are executing at a high level. They have successful processes and procedure models you can see in action which is really powerful when you’re converting stores and working to pull them into your own culture.”

“Louis is a seasoned rent-to-own operator and a longtime leader in our industry, and this boom in his business is exciting news,” notes APRO Executive Director Jill McClure. “Louis’ success at the store level is definitely deserving of expansion – congratulations to him and to the 41 storefronts newly under his leadership.”

Garcia is currently focused on his latest acquisition but might still have an itch for more, “You never know, we are open to new possibilities,” he concludes. “Right now the plan is to get everyone on the same page and trained on all of the processes and procedures we have developed over the years.”

Click here for more information about Rent-A-Center Franchising.

2018 APRO scholarship recipient Jarred Ford

Meet first-time APRO Education Foundation scholarship recipient, Jarred Ford, grandson of MAJIK Rent To Own Operations Trainer Carol Ann Buckett. He currently attends Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in biology with the aspiration to work in occupational therapy. Ford received his first APRO Education Foundation’s Scholarship last summer which he used toward his 2018 fall tuition.

Not a stranger to RTO, Ford mentioned that his Grandmother had been in the retail business for as long as he can remember, first in the retail industry and then rent-to-own. “I learned about new merchandise vs pre-rented product, refurbishing, trade-in credits, collections, commitments, Steri-Fab and the dreaded word, bed bugs!” shares Ford. “With no credit checks to process, customers with no credit, or even damaged credit, can enjoy new products that fit their budget. The best part, they’re under no obligation to keep the product, it’s like test driving a new car. If it’s not quite right, you don’t make the long-term investment.”

Ford graduated high school with a 4.5 grade point average and participated in many extracurricular activities such as band, track and field, National Honor Society, Key Club, and the Yearbook Committee. Ford also held the title of Link Crew Leader for incoming freshman his junior and senior years.

In addition to his school-related activities, Ford was active in his community in Marietta, PA, where he played the drums in the local church youth band and volunteered to feed the homeless at the local food pantry. Through his church, Ford also completed the World Vision 30 Hour Famine project—fasting for a day-and-a-half to raise funds for the hungry.

In 2018, APRO and state rental dealer associations in Florida, Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee awarded 47 students more than $110,000 in college scholarships as part of the APRO Education Foundation’s Scholarship Fund. Our scholarship program would not be possible without the generous support of donors throughout the year. Thank you for supporting our future leaders in pursuing their dreams through furthering their education. Please continue to help students connected to our RTO-family by supporting the pursuit of their college degree by donating now.