APRO associate member Kevin Silvers models his socks of the day at a recent trade show

Kevin Silvers hopes his feet can make you smile. Silvers, an APRO associate member with New Generations Diamonds & Jewelry Company and King of Promotions, is an avid collector of socks, with over 500 pairs to his name. “If only for a few seconds, they make people smile,” Silvers explains, on why he loves the unique and colorful pairs in his sock drawer.

Silvers credits his mother for his hobby. “She gave me the most wonderful pair!” Silvers recalls, “I loved them, so I posted a sock selfie on Facebook.” Since then Silvers has accumulated more than 500 pairs, many of them gifts from people around the RTO industry.

While Silvers may be unique in the size of his collection, he notes many people share his enthusiasm for expressing themselves with unique socks. “Family gatherings, visiting customers, tradeshows – so many people show me their great socks!” Silvers says when running into people who are aware of his collection. “Always with a smile, they want to see what I’m wearing.”

Silvers is an avid collector of socks with over 500 pairs to his name

As for his favorite pair? Silvers says it’s tough to pick a particular favorite, but he’s quite fond of a pair of socks from 2016. The Hillary/Trump socks helped turn a complicated and often divisive issue into a fun conversation piece.

Just 4 Weeks Until the Climb!

APRO’s 2019 Legislative Conference, scheduled for April 9-11 in Washington, D.C., is fast approaching and we need you to be a part of it! APRO invites rental dealers of all sizes to our nation’s capital to tell the rent-to-own story and advocate for issues that are critical to a thriving rent-to-own industry.

If you haven’t registered yet to attend, now is the time.APRO’s host hotel, Hyatt Place, is now full but we can help! Contact APRO to reserve your stay at legcon@rtohq.org or 800/204-2776. So far, APRO’s Legislative Conference attendance represents 12 states and one territory – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Puerto Rico – with Florida currently in the lead.  

Thank you to all of the State Rental Dealer Association Presidents who are leading the way to Washington!

Spread the word! Help educate the 100 new members of Congress and new committee chairs at our nation’s capital. There is strength in numbers if we all work together to put a face on the rent-to-own industry!

Already signed up? Consider bringing a newcomer from your company to continue developing future industry advocates!

2018 APRO scholarship recipient Caleb Mercer

Balancing the competing needs of academics, athletics, and employment, Caleb Mercer’s academic career is a testament to the power of preparation. “I learned how valuable preparation was through my time playing sports in high school,” recalls Mercer, who in high school was both a varsity letter athlete and honors student. He has continued this run of excellence in college, maximizing his limited time by studying in short stretches throughout the day.

Although he balances the demands of being a dean’s list student and a custodian to pay for tuition, Mercer still finds time to give to the local community. Mercer works with local food access drives such as the Springfield Ruritan Food Give-away and Student Council Food Drive. In addition, Mercer utilizes his long career as an athlete to provide Little League coaching to the Springfield Township Baseball Association and helping with other community sports leagues throughout the region.

Mercer’s father, an employee of the RTO-industry, provided ample examples of the importance of engaging with people on a personal level. When working for Eagle Rental Purchase, the elder Mercer encountered Gazmond, an Albanian immigrant who supported a family of ten with his factory employment. After Gazmond was laid off from his manufacturing job, Mercer’s father and Eagle Rental Purchase worked with Gazmond to ensure he kept the appliances that made his family’s life possible. The act of personal engagement eventually had more tangible benefits. “You can tell how much it meant to him at the time based on him coming back to the store, and recommending Eagle Rental Purchase to people,” recalls Mercer.

Mercer is a member of the 2018 cohort receiving funding from the APRO Education Foundation’s Scholarship Fund. He is among a group 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.

TRIB Group President Dan Fisher presents David P. David with this year’s President’s Award.

APRO Hall of Honor member and longest-serving director of the APRO board David P. David was recognized for his significant contributions to the rent-to-own industry last weekend, accepting TRIB Group’s President’s Award. David received the award at the Meeting of the Minds & Expo in Nashville, TN. The four-day event included a general session, educational breakout sessions, an expo featuring 80 RTO vendors, a hot show and an offsite party at the Wildhorse Saloon.

Benefit Marketing Solutions’ CEO Brad Dennison stressed the importance of APRO’s upcoming Legislative Conference, scheduled for April 9-11th in Washington, D.C.

This year’s general session featured vendor presentations from Benefit Marketing Solutions, Capital Concierges, Central File, and PTS Financial. Benefit Marketing Solutions’ CEO Brad Dennison stressed the importance of APRO’s upcoming Legislative Conference, scheduled for April 9-11th in Washington, D.C., and reminded attendees of when the industry was under fire and what was learned in the company’s efforts in offering and defending its Club programs.

APRO’s Executive Director Jill McClure also addressed the group on the importance of rental dealers attending APRO’s Legislative Conference to build relationships with lawmakers, and not allowing critics to define the RTO business. She made a point of identifying and thanking the 10 state presidents currently enrolled to attend: Dennis Adams, IN; Chris Bolin, TN; Chip Guy, OK; Louise Garcia, MD; Jeff Lebakken, WI; Kelly Martin, IL; Jonathan Rose, VI; Mike Tissot; OH; Sharon Tomaszewski, FL; and Terah Vail, AR. McClure later co-presented the Women in RTO breakout session alongside Impact RTO’s Lisa Mitchell. The well-attended and informational session included industry statistics and four actionable items dealers can do now to retain, develop and support women in their companies. To learn more about the session, contact APRO at 800/204-2776 or edu@rtohq.org.

Mark Windsor, Lyn Leach, Todd Homberger, Jill McClure, Chip Guy, and Chris Bolin at the MOTM’s offsite party.

Additional speakers covered a wide range of industry topics such as marketing plans, hiring & training, and new product strategies, featuring  APRO members MAJIK’s Dan Fisher and Mike Simoncini; Ideal Software’s Enos Barger; Rent One’s Trent Agin, Kelly Martin, Mark Williams; High Touch’s Jan Miller; Happy’s Chris Kale, Jr. and Jeff Kale; Impact RTO’s Shirin Kanji and Paul Metivier; Show Place’s Gary Ferriman; Premiere’s Chad Fosdick; Appliance & Furniture RentAll’s Marty Auble; Eagle Rental-Purchase’s Joe Fischer; Preferred Sales and Leasing’s Todd Homberger; Countryside’s Mike Tissot and Jess Mahon; Bolin Rental Purchase’s Chris Bolin; Ace Rent to Own’s Lyn Leach and Frank Rotert; and Full-O-Pep’s Amy Swain.

The hot show hit $7.18 million in sales with Lyn Leach as the auctioneer and included award presentations where David was honored among his esteemed peers: Paula Allison, GE Appliances, Lowry Shrader People’s Choice Award; Sachin Rama, Impact RTO, James B. Baber Vendor’s Choice Award; Ashley Furniture, Top Gun Award; GE Appliances, Soaring Eagle Award; and Lane United, Rising Star Award.

Click here to see more photos of TRIB Group’s 2019 Meeting of the Minds in Nashville, TN.

Gary Romine and his family at the 2019 Legislative Ball

On Wednesday, January 9, 2019, Gary Romine attended his fourth and last legislative ball. Romine, who served as president of APRO in 2002, has represented the 3rd District in the Missouri State Senate since 2012. Romine leaves office an accomplished state legislator, having helped shepherd through two significant pieces of legislation.

Romine recalls that he first aspired to be a legislator in high school, “As a State officer in the High School DECA program, I had an opportunity to meet my State Senator and later the Governor when he signed a bill that affected education. Standing in the Governor’s office inspired me to dream about someday serving as a legislator.” This experience led Romine to actively participate in his local community by serving as an officer for several associations.

Gary Romine at a committee hearing

After starting his own rent-to-own business, Show-Me Rent-to-Own, Romine was actively involved in industry associations. A member of APRO since 1990, Romine has served as President and Public Relationships Chairman. He has also served in various critical roles with the Missouri Rental Dealers Association, the Missouri Bankers Association, and the Mineral Area College Board of Trustees.

So, what’s next for Romine? “I need to focus on the job at hand before I look too far down the road,” he says, intent on finishing out his state legislative career as he started it, committed to getting things done.

2018 APRO scholarship recipient Myaicia Womack

As a teacher in an inner city turnaround school, APRO Education Foundation scholarship recipient Myaicia Womack strives to provide students with a tangible link between academic and real-world success. Womack is currently earning her master’s degree at the University of Tampa and is part of the school’s first group of Turnaround Leadership Program (TLP) students. A passionate believer in the importance of education in combating the vicious cycle of generational poverty, Womack provides leadership both through her classroom instruction and by serving as a link between her school and stakeholders in the local community.

“I have faced many obstacles and hardships on my journey to becoming a teacher and I want my students to look up to me as a model of hope and perseverance,” says Womack. Finding her life purpose in her work at turnaround schools, Womack knows that students in such programs require not just greater involvement and love from their teachers, but also the opportunity to experience things outside of their neighborhoods. As part of this effort Womack plans to use a portion of her APRO scholarship to have her students experience simulated skydiving and the relevance of math and science to that experience at the iFly Museum in Brandon, FL.

Her work with disadvantaged students has given Womack, whose mother works at Buddy’s Rent to Own, an intimate look at the opportunities provided by the RTO industry. Womack has worked extensively with families who would otherwise have no access to basic home furnishings such as beds and tables without the RTO industry. In addition, the RTO industry has made it possible for Womack to provide new opportunities for students at her school. This past year, Womack partnered with a local rent-to-own business to obtain enough desktop computers to create a computer lab at her school and provide a computer for the highest performing student at each grade level.

Womack is a member of the 2018 cohort receiving funding from the APRO Education Foundation’s Scholarship Fund. She is among a selection 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 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.

APRO associate member Benefit Marketing Solutions [BMS] has launched a new digital marketing program to assist their clients in growing their business and customer loyalty. This new service is a feature of BMS’s Club programs and will provide its members with a custom webpage, monthly email blasts and social media posts to assist in marketing themselves and their Club programs by utilizing their existing customer database.

For 30 years, BMS has been dedicated to helping rent-to-own companies grow their businesses with its Club program service and is now excited to implement the tools their clients need to remain on top of the evolving consumer with its digital marketing program.

“Throughout our company’s history, we’ve seen the difference that a Club program can make in an RTO business,” says BMS CEO Brad Denison. “Now, we want to provide effective tools to our clients to better educate their customers, market themselves and promote these valuable programs.”

For more information about Benefit Marketing’s new digital marketing program, contact James MacAlpine at 972/803-800 or james.macalpine@aon.com.

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.