The Next Generation - 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

Questions or feedback?
Contact Kim Phelan at (800) 388-0650 ext. 340.

The Next Generation

Written By: Dale Leppo

Article Date: 06-01-2006
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

Taking the first steps.

By now you should have received at least one mailing from AED about the Future Leaders Conference to be held August 8-10.

I mentioned this event in my inaugural address and I've talked about it with several AED members, but I want to bring it up again because I know most of us focus most of our energy on the day-to-day details of running our businesses. That can lead us to do the urgent things at the expense of the important things. I would argue that developing the next generation of leaders for our companies is one of those important (but not urgent) things that get put off until we "have time" to do something about them.

We've all seen people that refused to admit they needed to plan for the day they could no longer run their companies. That lack of planning often leads to forcing someone into making a huge leap in duties and responsibilities that they may or may not be prepared to handle.

I chose the words "prepared to handle" because the person thrown quickly into a leadership role may be perfectly capable of handling increased duties and responsibilities and still fail if they
are not prepared to handle them.

The University of Akron had a family business group for several years. They put on a seminar that had a real impact on how I view business transitions. The presenter talked about the difference between climbing straight up the outside wall of a building and walking up a set of stairs inside the same building. The person who tries to climb the outside of the building may make it to the top, but they might fall and be injured or die in the attempt.

If the objective is to get to the top of the building, a less risky path is for the person to climb the stairs. They might even stop at different floors for a while to catch their breath. By the time the climber gets to the top, they will have seen the whole building from the inside, and be in pretty good shape (we will assume there are a lot of stairs.)

The same process can work for training the people in our businesses that are willing and able to make it to the top. If you give people small steps to climb they can learn at their own pace, stop at important positions in the company, and climb as high as their ability allows. The objective is to prepare your future leaders one step at a time. This can be, and probably should be, a multi-year process if the desire is to make an evolutionary transition in company management.

One step in that training that I think is important is getting to know a broad cross section of people in our industry and using those contacts as a resource and a sounding board. It can be as simple as having a group of peers that can be called on to discuss a problem, or being comfortable enough to ask advice from someone who has "been around the block."

AED's Future Leaders Conference will give participants the opportunity to develop those types of relationships, while at the same time learning from industry experts. There will be training on:

  • Financial management
  • Change management and execution
  • How to achieve organizational goals
  • Lessons in leadership
  • Practical visioning
  • Employee recruitment, development and retention
  • Financing and insurance as a profit center
  • Strategic partnering with customers and suppliers
  • Dynamics of a family business
If that sounds like it might be beneficial for one or more of the future leaders in your company, please send them to
the conference August 8-10. For more information or to register, visit or call AED at 630-574-0650.

Preparing "the next generation" is probably not at the top of your "to do" list, but in my opinion it is one of the most important things you can do in 2006.

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