Article reprinted from the American Rental Association
After 36 years of serving the event rental industry, Bick Jones, whose latest adventure in the event rental arena was serving as general manager of CommuniLux in Dallas, a subsidiary of InProduction, Chicago, decided to retire May 6, 2022.
“I have tried to retire three times, but none of them lasted. I love the industry too much and someone always asked if I could help somewhere. I felt like had more to give, but I am going to celebrate a decade birthday in a month and a half. I figured now was the time to finally retire,” he says.
Jones entered the event rental industry in 1986 after building a successful career in banking. “I was serving as assistant vice president of corporate lending at what was then Chase Manhattan Bank, now known as JP Morgan Chase. My partner, Emily Maduro, and I wanted to find a small business to purchase. The broker showed us a party rental business. We didn’t even know what a party rental business was. We went to the library because there was no online research in those days. I found information on the American Rental Association (ARA) and the early beginnings of party rental. We talked about it and felt this was a business we could get our arms around and understand. That is how we purchased Cannonball Party Rental in Dallas in February of that year,” he says.
While they had excellent financial acumen and understood growth strategies, they knew nothing about running an event rental operation. “When we bought the business, there were 18 employees. They made me realize how important having good people around you and working with good people are. Those employees taught me the business,” he says.
That experience made a deep impression on Jones and solidified the “servant leadership” style of managing he is reverently known for by those who have worked with and for him throughout the years, first at Cannonball Party Rental, then at Ducky-Bob’s Party and Tent Rental in Carrollton, Texas, at California-based Classic Party Rentals, at Classic Tents in Torrance, Calif., at PEAK Event Services in Woburn, Mass., at Marquee Events in Dallas and finally at CommuniLux in Dallas.
He has served in almost every management role at the various companies for which he worked, from general manager to chief operating office and CEO. His vast industry experience and innovative ideas also made him a highly sought-after expert in the field, serving on numerous ARA committees, task forces and panels.
For instance, he was a member of the ARA Investment Committee in 2003, a member of the ARA Information Committee in 2006 and served on The Rental Show Task Force in 2008. He received the ARA Rental E-Web Award for party in 2004. He also has been a speaker and a panelist at The ARA Show™ numerous times, including at the 2021 show in Las Vegas.
But his lasting legacy is the impact he has had on those who have served with him.
Shannon Heller, inventory manager, Arena Americas, Oak Creek, Wis., knows that so well.
“I started working for Bick in 2000 at Ducky-Bob’s. I was the inventory manager. Bick is the kindest person I have ever worked for — kind, compassionate and thoughtful. He taught me everything I know about the event rental industry by example. That is a testament to him being a good leader,” she says.
Jennifer Gullins, president/CEO, PEAK Event Services, Woburn, Mass., echoes that sentiment. She met Jones in 2016 when he helped with the Peterson Party Center’s acquisition of Rentals Unlimited, a merger that created PEAK.
“He is extremely thoughtful and not a man who rushes to a decision or position. He likes to absorb the information, think about the impact on the business, the people and the customers, and work through different strategies or challenges. I appreciated that about him and like that in a CEO. Now that I am a CEO, I frequently find myself thinking about situations that Bick and I had talked about. I will go digging through my files and come up with a SOP [standard operating procedure] that Bick had in place when he was here and send this out to people saying, ‘Let’s revisit this SOP,’” she says.
Patrick Wendelberger, vice president of operations, PRO EM National Event Services, Phoenix, has known Jones for at least 25 years and values him as a friend and mentor.
“Bick knows everybody in this industry. Before there was social media, he was already networked in. He is a connector and is always there to listen and give advice. I don’t think I am unique. I think he was a good sounding board to so many in the industry,” he says.
John Campanelli, the former leader of Classic Party Rentals, who retired this past January as the CEO of InProduction in Chicago, has worked with Jones on and off for the last 15 years.
“Bick was running Ducky-Bob’s when we acquired it in 2005. Then he started working for me at Classic. Over the years, we have worked together directly or indirectly with Marquee Events and PEAK as I was on the board for both of those companies. In 2019, I asked him to work for me at InProduction. He was running CommuniLux, our subsidiary in Dallas,” Campanelli says, adding that “If it wasn’t for me, he would have retired a couple of years before. I got a few more years out of him so I could retire,” he says with a laugh.
Campanelli kept seeking out Jones because, “first of all, he is extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of the rental business, whether that be tents, structures or under-the-tent things. From a leadership perspective, he is an empathetic leader. He is high IQ and EQ, which you don’t get a lot. Bick always has been about growth, but he has been through all these difficult times and knows how to adapt and change. He knows the actions to take. He is not afraid to do them. He is a seasoned, adult leader, which is so nice,” he says.
Now that Jones is officially retired, what does he plan to do? “My son and I bought a tenting business in Houston. He has been running it since March of 2020. He wanted me to help out on a part-time basis. I thought it was time to take whatever I learned over the years and help my son out a little bit — do something as a family business,” he says, adding that this time he will keep it on a part-time basis.