Ready And Waiting - 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.


Ready And Waiting

Written By: Dale Leppo

Article Date: 09-01-2006
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.


The industry's next generation of leaders is an impressive group.

It‘s been a busy week and a half and a very interesting one. The AED Summer Board Meeting, at which we did a lot of work on AED strategic plans for 2007-2009, was followed immediately by the Future Leaders Conference. Both meetings, I believe, have long-term implications for AED and its members.

The Future Leaders Conference sold out. My first indication of the intense interest level of attendees was when a discussion about Government Affairs the first evening went until 10 p.m. even though many participants were from the East Coast (we were in California) and had been traveling all day.

The next morning, I asked people to sign up for AED Washington Insights if they were not already receiving it and more than half signed up. They wanted to be informed about AED's political activities. I was impressed! I continued to be impressed throughout the conference with how interested, intelligent and dedicated the participants were.

We followed an AED Branch Manager 101 format that included several small group discussions and role-playing exercises. Originally my plan had been to watch what happened and respond to questions. Pretty quickly, I became a part of various small groups, and we all learned from each other.

Several AED Past Presidents (Walter Berry, Earl Harbaugh and Bob McNutt) and several industry veterans (Carla LaRocque and Gregg Burch) were part of the conference, and they reported a similar pattern. It did take long for the groups to assimilate us and turn us into active participants.

We worked on real world examples, such as how to deal with a branch that has significant opportunities and significant weaknesses. We dealt with the nuts and bolts of tackling issues like moving aged inventory, recruiting technicians and reducing turnover. We looked at problems from a cost/benefit perspective and came up with interesting solutions and an example of a step-by-step method for approaching and solving the kinds of management problems we all face on a daily basis. I heard feedback that it was the interaction in the small groups that lead to the greatest opportunities for learning.


On the last morning, we talked about leadership, and how it differs from management. These discussions were a change from where many of us live on a daily basis. The basic message I heard is that management is about numbers, ratios, customers and the basic blocking and tackling of business operations. Leadership is about people, and specifically about the development of people in our organizations. We talked about how difficult and important it is to focus not only on the top performers and the people who need improvement, but also on the people who carry the majority of the load in every businesses - the people who show up every day and do their jobs well.

I enjoyed it and I learned a lot.

The AED Summer Board Meeting is our longest board meeting each year, and the best time for us to tackle an involved topic like strategic planning. When it was all said and done, we identified the following key areas for increased emphasis:

  • Attracting new dealer members. One idea was to focus on "emerging markets" in our industry.
  • Use of and training in technology to increase member participation and member success.
  • Recruitment of manufacturers to support AED and The AED Foundation, and their programs.
  • Continued advocacy of the dealer channel of distribution for construction equipment.
  • Helping dealers plan for and execute succession planning.
  • Leveraging AED's resources (staff, programs, finances) to provide tools that can enhance the success of our member companies.
Public policy advocacy, benchmarking, and networking opportunities remain important core value elements and will continue to be pressed with vigor and resources.

Our "Next Steps" are for the Executive Committee to meet to create clear action items and goals for the AED staff for 2007-2009. As you can see, there are no huge changes to AED's strategy implied in the above list.

This is the fourth iteration of strategic planning I've been involved in at AED. Each time, we've come away convinced that companies that sell, service, provide parts and rent construction equipment in North America are our key membership constituency.

Our members' customers are primarily found in the construction, industrial, mining, road building, forestry, rental yard and power generation industries. Manufacturers of those products and companies that supply services to our industry are also valued members of AED.

As consolidation has changed the landscape of our industry in the last decade, we've looked hard at expanding the definition of AED, and there have been some significant changes. The output of the AED Board indicates to me that the core of who we are will be able to withstand the pressures and adapt to the changes we've seen (and will continue to see) in the equipment distribution universe.

The people I met and interacted with at Future Leaders made me feel the leadership required to navigate that changing universe is ready and waiting to show us what they can do.


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