Jennifer Alder has lived by a simple motto: Follow your passion.
“If you want something, go for it. Don’t let somebody tell you no. I don’t like the word no,” says Alder, outside sales representative, Vandalia Rental, Vandalia, Ohio, who was recently honored as a Dynamic Woman in Rental.
That passion for rental began after she landed a job at Bode Finn in Dayton, Ohio. She had never worked in a rental operation before, but she knew she could learn. She quickly discovered how much the equipment side of the business appealed to her. “I liked seeing what all of this equipment could do and how it could help people,” she says.
Alder continued in her position when the company was bought by Nations Rent. She continued to learn more about the equipment and the specs. One day her boss told her “I knew more than what the sales reps do. That was pretty flattering,” she says.
After moving to Miami Industrial Trucks in Dayton, she received an offer she “couldn’t refuse from Hertz Equipment Co. to do inside and then outside sales,” she says.
Eighteen years ago, she took another leap of faith as the first outside salesperson for family-owned Vandalia Rental. “It was scary but exciting at the same time — and kind of awkward. When I first went to the job sites, everyone would stop what they were doing and look at me, like ‘Oh my gosh, it’s a woman.’ They normally didn’t see women at a job site. I said, ‘You see women at home, right? You know what they look like.’ It was funny but also kind of frustrating,” she says.
Alder admits that she felt like a pioneer. She knew that she was plowing new ground — sometimes to a not-so-appreciative audience.
“Some of the things that were said to me were very inappropriate. My boss, Randy Barney, who was the owner of the company and father to current owner Kurt, told me that I didn’t have to put up with that. I said I could deal with it. It took me some time to figure out how to deal with some men who were flat-out sexist. I learned how to say some things back that would make them be quiet and walk away. At that time there weren’t guidelines of what you could or couldn’t say to other people in the field. Construction was known as a man’s field, not a woman’s field,” she says.
That has all changed now. “There are women all over the place out in the field. It’s a great thing — an everyday occurrence. Now at job sites I hear the guys say that they want to work with women because they feel women want to prove themselves and they work harder than the men,” she says.
What has kept Alder in rental are the relationships she has forged with her clients, the freedom to not be tied to a desk and the ability to keep learning and seeing projects from the ground up.
“I think relationships and building that trust with customers is what sales is all about. They [your customers] want to make sure they are getting the best equipment that is going to work for them, that they will be able to utilize that equipment and it is going to work for the job. They know they can trust what I am saying and doing. They have grown to understand that not only am I a woman in the field, but I actually know what I am talking about and know what I am doing when it comes to equipment,” she says.
Not being “stuck behind a desk all day,” is liberating, she says. “It’s just me and my truck going to different job sites. How many people can go to a job site, see how a building is constructed, see all of the behind-the-scenes stuff and meet all of these new people? I get to do that every day.”
Even though Alder is the one at the construction or industrial or government site, she knows she is not alone.
“Working in the field, you aren’t the only person working for these customers. The team at the office has a lot to do with all of this, too. They are our sales team backup system. Even though we have computers and cellphones in our trucks, you have to rely on your team and they have to rely on you that you are doing your job,” she says.
For Alder, rental offers “the excitement of never knowing what tomorrow will bring. It’s the personal relationships I have in the field and in the office. If you are not happy with yourself and your job, you aren’t going to be very good at it,” she says.
Alder is grateful to be at Vandalia Rental. “Our company is a family-owned business. When I came here, I knew that I could come up to my boss any time I wanted to. If I asked my boss for something, he told me that if this is what you feel you need to do and it is fair to our company and your customers, then you should do it. That is huge. At Vandalia Rental, we listen and make it fair to Vandalia Rental and the customer. Vandalia is a great company to work for. It’s been a great experience being in the field and doing what I can to help others,” she says.
Hard work and dedication prompt nomination for Dynamic Woman in Rental honor
When Kurt Barney, president of Vandalia Rental, Vandalia, Ohio, learned that ARA was seeking nominations for Dynamic Women in Rental, he knew he had to submit information about Jennifer Alder, outside sales representative.
In his nomination, Barney outlines how Alder’s hard work and dedication to her customers, teammates and the company have played a key role in Vandalia Rental’s success:
“Jennifer is a 20-year-plus industry veteran who has built a career out of putting her customers' needs ahead of her own. She has overcome the typical industry stereotype(s), gained the respect of those she works with and has helped mentor others to do the same. She was the very first outside sales representative at Vandalia Rental, which now has several. Throughout her tenure, she's seen and accepted changes in the industry, our organization and customers alike. She is a perfect example of ‘women who are helping shape our industry,’” he says.