Welcome Bill Veneris to the ARA Hall of Fame
Congratulations to Bill Veneris!
Alert Management Systems was founded in 1976 by visionary entrepreneur Bill Veneris. It is with great pride that Alert announces that Bill was selected by the American Rental Association to be inducted into the ARA Hall of Fame! Please find the entire application essay submitted by Alert to the ARA, touting Bill’s strengths.
Starting in the early 1980's, Bill advocated for 'best practices' in the rental industry, including the use of a rental-specific computer system to correctly calculate rental periods, eliminate lost or incomplete contracts, enforce ID requirements, and more. These concepts are all taken for granted now, but not back then, when most contracts were being calculated by hand and the latest technology was an Address-O-Graph machine. Bill wrote articles, gave speeches, and was a relentless advocate and teacher, often going above and beyond his self-interest as a software vendor.
As rental automation took hold, Bill was the first in the rental software to employ structured customer collaboration techniques as a way to develop new features and eliminate flaws in old ones. The International Alert User's Association ("User Group", or IAUA) was a part of the development process beginning in 1985, starting with as few as 15 customers in a conference room, surrounded by white butcher paper taped to the walls representing 100 or more numbered ideas. A voting and consensus process determined which features were to be developed and implemented. Today, almost 40 years later, over 100 Alert customers collaborate annually in a similar process, only without all the wasted paper, of course! Through the years, Bill encouraged other rental software companies to follow suit. Eventually, the most successful ones implemented their own versions of the User Group concept. Bill's leadership had a positive and lasting impact on the rental software industry and, therefore, the rental industry.
The Alert User Group is believed to be the largest, longest running, most profitable independent user group in the industry – all stemming from Bill’s unique vision of focusing his business’s efforts on his clients’ profitability. Today’s Alert User Group participants can choose from a wide variety of presentations, classes, and roundtables, all geared to increase profitability of the users’ businesses through technology.
As an employer and mentor, Bill motivated his staff to want to provide customers with the best possible products and the best service available. He imbued his company with a culture that every problem was an opportunity to improve with his “That’s great! what an opportunity for us” mentality. If the true measure of leadership is how people conduct themselves when the boss is no longer there, Bill was a giant.
In 1993, the American Rental Association awarded Bill with the ARA Region Seven Person of the Year Award for contribution to the rental industry. Bill was then awarded the American Rental Association’s Special Service Award in 1995. This award “honors suppliers who have made an outstanding contribution to the Association.”
Throughout the years, Bill participated in what is now known as the Exhibitor Advisory Committee of the American Rental Association, and was the Chairperson in 1998. His impact through volunteering for the ARA in various capacities is unparalleled. His influence shaped the way The Rental Show thrives to this day.
Bill was a leader in expanding rental to the hardware industry, through presentations and forming customer relationships with Ace Hardware, Do it Best, and others.
Bill was one of the early leaders in computerizing rental operations. Starting with operational improvements like collecting overtime charges and tracking lost equipment, he continued to push the envelope of what a computer could do to enhance a rental businesses operation. He then wrote and spoke about the changes that needed to be make all across the country.
From the beginning, Bill was focused on increasing his clients’ profitability. To this end he spent considerable time and effort determining the most profitable ways to run equipment rental businesses and how software could help drive increased profitability. Over time he identified scores of ways to increase profitability. Eventually these ideas were incorporated into an annual user group presentation entitled “How to Make a 20% Operating Profit in the Rental Business.” As word got out, this presentation was requested by over two dozen state and local BAG groups, some of whom requested to see it more than once.
As an author, Bill impacted the rental industry by regularly writing and contributing his expertise for various popular industry publications. From articles for Rental Management Magazine, to Rental Equipment Register articles, Bill was often asked to share his hard-won expertise with others in the rental industry.
Speaking from a technology point of view, Alert EasyPro was one of the first, if not the first, Windows products in the rental industry. Alert EasyPro remains the only (same) rental management software ever to run in Windows, Unix, Linux, and Apple.
Bill’s guiding vision enabled Alert to be either the inventor or an early adopter of practically every rental software innovation, from driver’s license scanners, to integrated credit card, to integrations with the first CRM systems. Back in the days when the technology bubble was still new, Bill saw through the flashes in the pan to see what would be of practical use to his clients. Bill’s vision still lives on today, with Alert innovating first web services, and then E-Commerce.
Bill brought many of the concepts of computer analysis to the rental industry. He did detailed analysis of the financial impact of different pricing structures, effects of changes in open/close dates & times, and return on investment strategies and then, rather than sharing them only with his own customers, he shared them with the entire industry.
Running a highly profitable rental business was one of Bill's favorite subjects in his speeches and articles. Bill took a reasoned and analytical approach to topics such as Damage Waiver, Fixed Rates, Flex Rates, Weekend Rates, and more. To prove his logic, he would sometimes direct his staff to write 'Study' programs to aggregate data from cooperating Alert customers and publish the actual results in Rental Management and other publications as a service to the industry. As a 'thought leader' Bill's influence was impressive and practically global. Bill gave in-person speeches on these topics and wrote articles for publications as far away as Australia and New Zealand.
From the start, Alert was a stabilizing force. The original Alert customers were actually a group of unrelated rental operators whose software company had suddenly gone out of business, leaving them in the lurch with a computer system that could not be maintained or salvaged. The 'Alert Partners' as they were called then (circa 1980) later became the User Group. In the mid-1990's, when consolidation and the Y2K bug were a one-two punch to several rental software companies, Bill formed partnerships with two of the largest (OMS and R.E.N.T.S.), took over their companies and adopted support of all their customers. He engineered the orderly conversion to Y2K compliant software in time for them to avoid business interruption or worse.
Bill not only shepherded his own company through rises and falls in the economy, he reached out to his clients, offering them assistance. His advice and business insights were key to the survival of many independent rental operations during economic downturns. In addition, his ability to help customers find their ideal market niche helped support and expand the range of rental offerings around the country.
Bill's impact on the Party Rental Industry is significant. Other rental industry software companies largely ignored the party industry, but Bill made it a focus and Alert became the leader.
Unlike the vast majority of software business owners, when Bill decided to retire in 2006 he resisted the temptation to sell to the highest software conglomerate bidder. Instead he arranged to sell his business to two senior managers: Rob Ross and Tom Ross. Respecting the tradition established by Bill, when Rob and Tom subsequently decided to retire in 2016, they arranged for two other long-term managers, Mary Crosslin and Kara Longmire Lawrence, to purchase the company. Clearly these smooth ownership transitions have provided many stability benefits for employees and clients alike.
Bill is a man of deep commitments, to his family, his church, his employees, his customers, and society as a whole. Bill encouraged his staff to get involved in local charitable groups and political organizations. He lived out that same commitment through involvement in his church, school activities for his kids and even taking time off around election times to participate in ‘get out the vote’ campaigns.
For more information on Alert EasyPro, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.