Coming Out of the Comfort Zone - Foundations
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: Foundations

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Coming Out of the Comfort Zone

Written By: Matt Di Iorio

Article Date: 10-01-2007
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

Executive Forum challenges complacency, aims at dealer pain points.

The 9th Annual Executive Forum will be history by the time you read this column. Although the event has not taken place as of this writing, more than 300 industry executives, suppliers and members of the press have already registered. I have been asked why so many people attend Executive Forum each year. I might ask, why so few?

Going to AED's Annual Meeting is a no-brainer. We are factory-authorized dealers and Annual Meeting provides a focused setting to meet with suppliers. We also attend sessions to get new ideas and seek out old friends. Touching base with other dealers gives us the comfortable feeling that we're not alone.

Executive Forum, on the other hand, is not about feeling comfortable at all. The purpose of the event is quite the opposite. The world is changing around us, and the rate is accelerating. Occasionally we get satisfied by having a few "good" years back to back. How is a "good" year defined in your organization? Do your stakeholders generally agree? It can be difficult to raise the bar when everybody is busy - and happy with the status quo.

Who has time to think about the economy, federal highway funding, or why private equity now owns all but one of the national rental companies? Who cares about disruptive technologies, lean management principles or organizational alignment when the cash register is still ringing? Hundreds of senior industry executives care enough to take a day and a half out of their busy schedules each year. They find out how other distributors and other industry stakeholders view - and intend to prepare for - industry threats and opportunities.

Colin Powell once said that the phrase, " ‘If it ain't broke, don't fix it' " is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. It's an excuse for inaction, a call to non-arms." Executive Forum is the construction equipment distributor's annual call to arms. It is an opportunity to seek out change, challenge the status quo, and continuously improve both personally and professionally.

As I look back at various themes addressed through Executive Forum, I am reminded that change is in the eye of the beholder. In 1999 a formidable rental consolidator predicted the demise of the factory authorized dealer. Some dealers predicted the demise of the rental consolidators. Neither has proved to be right, or wrong. However, the customer continues to call the shots - and they have more opportunities to rent equipment (from dealers or rental companies) than ever.

A year later we talked about how the Internet could increase pricing transparency, online transactions and direct marketing. End-user preferences, profitability issues, emerging (service) competitors and the unbundled supply chain were discussed at length. Global trends, channel relationships and practical application of business management theory were also hot topics.

Year after year the messages are meant to sting a little now so dealers can prevent real pain later:

  • Rental & Distribution (1999)
  • E-Business (2000)
  • Planning for Profits (2001)
  • The Future of Independent Distribution (2002)
  • The Dealer's Dilemma (2003)
  • World-Class Distribution (2004)
  • The Redistribution of Power (2005)
  • Lean Distribution (2006)
  • Dealer Scorecard (2007)
Planning for Executive Forum 2008 has already begun. Mark your calendars for Sept. 11 and 12 at the O'Hare Westin. The ideas for the conference emerge from AED Round Tables and conversations with you, the AED member. If there is anything about your future that makes you feel really uncomfortable, let your AED Board representative or a staff member know. It may be a worthwhile topic for the next Executive Forum.

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