Change is Nothing New to Dealers By Bennett Closner
Article Date: 02-01-2009
Copyright(C) 2009 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
AED members have weathered plenty of 'eras,' using our association for communication and direction.
Change – it’s the buzz word for 2009. We heard the phrase daily during the ’07 and ’08 political campaigns, and it is the platform on which the new Administration was elected.
Change is certainly not new to our industry. Dealers, manufacturers and industry providers have always looked for ways to adapt to outside forces. Our association, for 90 years, has existed because of change. In the 26 years I have been involved with AED, I have seen an assortment of issues confront the industry. Here’s a small sampling:
The environment in which our members operate is rarely static, and the same can be said of AED. As an association, we must focus on the areas of the greatest relevance to our members and provide value, in real time. The value provided to our members must also be greater than the price of membership.
- The Asian equipment era – when Japanese and Korean manufacturers began to enter the U.S. market. Driven by a dollar versus yen disparity, previously unknown brands became available to dealers. AED members, Asian manufacturers and customers shared their experiences in AED forums. It was a bumpy road for a while, but the marriage was ultimately successful and profitable for many dealers.
- The bank rollup era – when bank failures caused great harm to our membership as loans were called after federal intervention into the banking industry. AED members publicly shared their own painful experiences for the benefit of all.
- The grey iron era – when world currency and differentiated world pricing resulted in massive importation of European and Asian machines. The engines and machine components were uncommon in the U.S., and AED enlightened buyers of the risk associated with decreased product support and high-engine emissions.
- The business succession era – when succession planning and implementation was a key focus. In this era, dealership founders were reaching retirement in great numbers, and the second generation was suddenly up to bat, some ready and some not. AED helped founders and “those in waiting” to understand the best process for a successful transition.
- The rent-to-rent rollup era – when the mom and pop rental houses consolidated into a few national giants. During this period driven by easy money on Wall Street it appeared to some that the traditional AED dealer would become a footnote in history. AED helped members understand the rollup phenomenon, the financing mechanisms, how rental houses structured their books, etc. AED catered to the full spectrum of interests. Some members shared ways on how they were successfully competing while others told how to profitably sell out.
- The Internet era – when it appeared again that the traditional dealer would become no more than a service center. The industry anticipated that customers would buy all their machines and parts directly over the Internet, and, in fact, that the world was going to buy everything direct: computers, cars, books, even groceries. AED members shared how they embraced the Internet as a tool to increase their volume, productivity, response time and profitability.
- The Chinese era – opening soon in a venue near you. This is the one we’re in at present. The Chinese are here to learn about U.S. distribution and our capabilities. We, on the other hand, are trying to decide if they are ready for prime time. AED is again playing a role, providing forums and sharing information.
All of us at AED – the staff, the elected leadership team, members of standing committees and special task forces – are active in the change process. We spend a lot of time thinking about what services to provide to members and how best to deliver them. Change, and the willingness to embrace it, surely seems to accelerate in difficult times.
I invite you to be part of the “change process” as we strive to deliver services that are relevant to our members, in real time and on budget. Please help us create and implement the right programs for the benefit of all our members. You can do this through your active participation and financial support of AED.
Toby Mack and I welcome your comments and input. Write to us both at: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
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