I Was Twitterpated - From the Chairman
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SECTION: From the Chairman

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I Was Twitterpated

Written By: Dale Leppo

Article Date: 10-02-2006
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

From time to time, it's important to challenge our assumptions.

At the end of the 2006 AED/QUALCOMM Executive Forum: Lean Distribution, I told our moderator, Mike Marks, I was "vibrating." He gave me a look that made it clear he needed an explanation. I explained that when I get too much information at one time, I "vibrate." That's what I call my reaction to trying to absorb a huge number of ideas in a short period of time. I know someone who says she gets "twitterpated" under the same circumstances.

For me, vibrating happens when my view of the world is challenged or when I'm presented with a large puzzle that has pieces missing. This year's Forum did both, and we've already starting to look at how some of those ideas apply to our 2007 business plans.

Here's what stuck with me:

  • Eli Lustgarten, Senior VP at Longbow Research, told us this industry is in "mid-cycle" with some fairly predictable characteristics. Among those are potential inventory corrections (although he indicated inventories were not a serious issue today), slower growth (but still some growth), and lots of variability (uncertainty) in our markets. His message? Prepare to deal with those factors in 2007.
  • Jeffrey Liker, author of "The Toyota Way" and a Professor at the University of Michigan talked about the philosophical basis for Toyota's success. He said many people focus on the tools and methods Toyota uses to improve processes and products, and that that's not the place to start.
    The key to improving processes is to focus on your customers and your people. My favorite quotes were attributed to Toyota's Vice Chairman Fujio Cho: "The key to the Toyota Way is not any individual elements...what is important is having all the elements together as a system" and "We place the highest value on actual implementation and taking action."
  • Sharon Garavel, Senior VP of Global Operations at GE Capitol Solutions had one of my two favorite observations of the entire Forum. She said "Lean" should be used to drive improvements in your top-line revenues. She gave an example in which GE improved response time to potential customers' loan requests.
    GE benefited by getting more of that business. They probably also took some cost out of the process by reducing the number of steps from application to approval, but that was not why they made the changes. Their goal was to improve service to their potential customers so they could capture a greater share of that business. "Make your customers want to do business with you!" said Garavel.
  • Todd Youngblood of the YPS Group has a goal: "To increase your effective sales capacity using lean principles." He told us his surveys indicated that 83 percent of sales executives rated their sales staffs as "above average."
    "Unless you're covering Lake Wobegone (where all of the children are above average), it is statistically impossible for 83 percent of the sales force to be above average," he said.
    His point is that many of us don't have the data to evaluate sales performance. He told us about Tiger Woods, who lists 50 metrics measuring his golf game on his website. Woods (at the time) was listed as #1 in the world in scoring average and also had the #1 world ranking, but he was #188 in driving accuracy. The point? Even Tiger Woods has room for improvement. If you're not measuring what you're doing, it's impossible to know where your potential for improvement is greatest.
  • John McGinty of Credit Suisse First Boston gave his farewell address (as an analyst, anyway) to AED. He told us his personal forecast for many of the major players in our industry, and was, as always, candid in his remarks.
  • Stan Slap talked about building a high performance team. He agreed with Toyota's Vice-Chairman that good implementation is a whole lot more important than having a great plan. He said the people responsible for taking care of your customers on a daily basis have to believe in the plan. If they don't believe in a plan, it won't work. It has to become part of your company culture.
From time to time, it's important to challenge our assumptions that determine how we run our businesses. This years' Forum did just that for me, but it also gave me some ideas about ways to adjust and adapt. The speakers did not always make me feel warm and fuzzy, but they made me think.

It was time well spent, and I hope everyone who attended agrees.

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