Light The Incense - From the Chairman
Construction Equipment Distribution magazine is published by the Associated Equipment Distributors, a nonprofit trade association founded in 1919, whose membership is primarily comprised of the leading equipment dealerships and rental companies in the U.S. and Canada. AED membership also includes equipment manufacturers and industry-service firms. CED magazine has been published continuously since 1920. Associated Equipment Distributors
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SECTION: From the Chairman

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Contact Kim Phelan at (800) 388-0650 ext. 340.

Light The Incense

Written By: Dale Leppo

Article Date: 03-01-2006
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

It's time to develop a strategic plan.

The AED Board of Directors is starting the process of strategic planning for 2007 through 2009.

For some people, strategic planning is about as exciting as having a root canal or kidney stones. They envision a room full of people with mountains of sticky notes singing folk songs around a pile of burning incense while waiting for the facilitator/guru in charge to deliver the group to the promised land of peace and prosperity.

For others (including me) strategic planning is an exciting prospect, except for the part about the folk songs and burning incense. (I can only sing three notes, and the smoke makes me sneeze.)

The reason I get excited about strategic planning at AED is that I learn a lot about what is going on in the world of construction equipment distribution. If the board is going to do a good job of planning for the association, we need to understand not only where we are today, but also what we could look like in the future.

Construction equipment distribution has seen significant changes in the past few years, and those changes require AED to change how we operate. During the consolidation of the late 1990's, AED membership dropped.

The three primary areas of membership - distributors, manufacturers, and companies that provide us important business services - all had what consultants would call "simultaneous negative growth." In most cases, this negative growth didn't significantly reduce the number of people or facilities in our industry, it just reduced the number of parent companies.

AED responded by finding ways to provide services aimed at serving the needs of fewer, but larger and more complex distributors. At this year's Annual Meeting, for example, there were separate educational programs for rental, sales, parts and service professionals, in addition to the traditional executive programs. The objective was to serve the needs of member companies with growing departments and to provide education for the managers of those increasingly complex areas of their companies.

Things changed, and AED changed its approach to meet the changed needs of our industry. Those changes don't just happen. Someone, or group, has to sit down and decide what action to take when faced with change, and frequently (just like in our businesses) those decisions have to be made with imperfect information.

No one was sure how many members would consolidate. If you haven't heard yet, AED's membership grew in 2005, and the attendance at this year's Annual Meeting was the best in five years, but we didn't know that would happen when we had to make plans to expand our educational offerings.

We had to make an educated guess about where the industry was headed and make decisions based on our best guess. Right now I'd say the decision to provide services that go "deeper" into member organizations was a good one.

That's what makes strategic planning fun for me. Just like in our businesses, we get to decide where to take the organization and then watch for the (hopefully, positive) outcome.

The actual process of strategic planning can be time-consuming and frustrating, but if the results are positive the pain is worth enduring.

Now comes the fun part, your opportunity to give some input into the process. One of our key objectives is to get member feedback for the board. By now you've seen several email surveys from AED on the Annual Meeting, Government Affairs, etc. That's one form of feedback. Another form is to ask more open-ended questions like, "What do you see as important trends in our industry that will impact your business?" Or perhaps "What do you see as important issues that AED needs to address in its strategic planning process?"

If you would like to respond to those questions, please email me at and we will make them a part of our information collection process.

Our industry is in a state of constant change and adjusting to that change so AED remains relevant to our members is a task that I am looking forward to. With the help of the Board of Directors (who are all AED members) and with all of the information (including your input) that the AED staff is collecting, I think we will accomplish that goal.

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