Toughest Choices Affect Your People - 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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Toughest Choices Affect Your People

By Bennett Closner

Article Date: 04-01-2009
Copyright(C) 2009 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.


Experts recommend key traits of employees you'll want to keep on your payroll.

It began slowly. Dealers heard talk of an economic slowdown in other parts of the U.S., but perhaps your own dealership was not affected. Then it started to hit closer to home. Some market segments began slowing, but others remained strong. Over time, the slowdown broadened, revenues dropped and inventories grew.

AED owners are an optimistic group by nature. After the economy faltered last fall, we looked for the year-end surge due to bonus depreciation; then our focus turned to the new administration, then the stimulus bill, then the new federal budget, our state budget, and so on.

The reality of the monthly income statements was stark. As the revenues slid but G&A costs remained stable, net income dropped for most dealers. In some cases, the ink turned red.

We dealers have invested a lot of time and money in growing our employees. It has been mutually beneficial for both parties. Dealers (and our manufacturers) have turned to an assortment of methods to avoid layoffs: Mandatory unpaid time off, the elimination of bonuses, elimination of 401(k) programs, shortened work hours, early retirement incentives, pay cuts, and so on. These have all helped, but ultimately the layoffs may happen.

When layoffs occur, those employees who remain will encounter their own challenges. They will have to take up the slack, often without added compensation. They will have to learn new tasks, gain new skills, and interact with different customers, vendors and team members.

The economy will surely recover; however, the rehiring process will likely be postponed as owners wait to see if it is sustainable. During this period, the pressure on organizations and employees will mount further as the work volume grows, but staffing remains lean.

Lots of tough choices await us. The good news is that AED and its partners can help.

Identifying and Keeping the Talent
A number of personnel firms are active in AED. One example is Bill Sitter of Jordan-Sitter Associates, who has written for this magazine for two decades (one of his columns is in this edition). They and others can help you think through the process and make the best choices. These firms can help you identify the future leaders as well as the personality traits that contribute to the success of those who excel in this environment.


An AED speaker once said there are only three kinds of employees: Those who will resist change, those who recognize change and will try to adapt over time, and those who welcome change and have been waiting for it.

Some employees will even shine in this era. According to Management Recruiters Inc., some valuable employee traits to watch for now are:

  • Integrity and Authenticity – Employees will act with honesty, transparency and ethics, even when the urge to cut corners is strong.
  • Team Player – It is a stressful time for a new team. We want employees who are humble. There is no “I” in the word “team.”
  • Results Oriented – The numbers count and employees must honestly commit to meeting the goals (sales, cost reductions, deadlines, past due reductions, inventory turnover, etc.). Superstars use numbers and not words to prove their worth.
  • Knowledgeable – The employees who remain must “know their stuff” and how their own area connects to the organization as a whole. 
  • Upbeat Attitude – They truly believe in the goals and their ability to meet them. They know things will get better and work can still be fun.
Owners Also Under Scrutiny
According to Sitter, a good employee (i.e. a future leader) could jump ship if he loses confidence in your dealership’s plan for recovery. Now is the time to share your strategic vision. Get your talented employees involved in the process – go offsite and brainstorm; crunch some numbers; play some “what if” scenarios; change the organization chart; look at strategic openings for a new product line or territory; provide new services; add more customer value; reprioritize your product lines; even consider a merger or acquisition.


Now is the time to strengthen your organization. Be on the lookout for talented people who have been displaced.

In closing, AED and The AED Foundation have an array of services to assist you now. We can also put you in touch with industry experts. And don’t forget another great source of advice: Your fellow dealers who belong to the “AED network.”

Toby Mack and I welcome your comments and input. Write to us both at: jtm@aednet.org and bennett@closner.com.


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