Forward ThinkersBy Joanne Costin
Article Date: 02-01-2010
Copyright(C) 2010 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
An eye toward the long term keeps dealers invested in The AED Foundation.
When you are in the heat of competition against the dealer down the road,you might forget that we are all in this together. But we are. There’s a reason why you joined AED, and it’s the same reason why you join any organization; because as a group, you can accomplish much more than you can with your own business.
Professional education and workforce development are two things that make sense for AED to provide its members, for now and for the long run. Can any one dealer afford to set up accredited technical colleges around the country to train technicians and introduce them to the industry? Probably not. Can any one dealer devote hundreds of thousands of dollars on industry-specific training education for your key managers? Probably not.
The AED Foundation was born because industry leaders saw the need for a strong resource in workforce development and industry-specific education.
“Those involved in the industry in the past invested their time, talents and funds so we could prosper,” said Mike Thuringer, president of Bierschbach Equipment & Supply, “now it’s our turn to pay it going forward.”
“We are grateful to all our members for their contributions over the years,” said Carol Schrader, director of the AED Foundation, “especially those who had the foresight to start the Foundation, the knowledge to improve it, and the patience to help it grow into a tremendous resource.”
Foundation Supporters Are in It for the Long Run
Thinking about the future is a common thread among AED Foundation supporters. “We are all in this for the long run, and this is a way to communicate to our employees a long range view,” said David Scott, president of Intermountain Bobcat.
These supporters of the Foundation are far from immune to the recession, but they have chosen not to let the economy be an excuse for not preparing for the future.
“Our company, like many in the industry, is analyzing every cost that we can get our hands on, challenging costs and processes and rethinking things,” said Jamie Cowin, president of Cowin Equipment. “But supporting AED and the AED Foundation shouldn’t be subject to the whim of the ups and downs of the cyclical economy.”
Cowin believes the employees he has sent through AED professional training have benefited. “I know we ought to be sending even more through it,” he said, adding that his company will try to send more in 2010.
“These are the times that you depend on the industry most,” said Matt Di Iorio, general manager of Ditch Witch of Ohio, Pennsylvania. and Western N.Y. AED is the only industry-specific education that we have.” Di Iorio recently had one of his managers complete the operations management education online and is excited about the improvements he has seen in communication, leadership, operations and business acumen. “I have seen a profound impact on his performance,” added Di Iorio.
“The need for well educated employees is greater in tough times,” explained Thuringer.
With staffs stretched thin, employees are being asked to do more than ever before. “You need your employees to be ever more committed and qualified,” said Di Iorio. “You are filling a lot of gaps.”
Scott also believes that investing in education is especially important now, because of the message it sends to employees. “As managers we’ve got to be positive,” said Scott. “By investing in our people and investing in training, we are saying that there is a future and we’re going to stick it out.”
The correlation between education and customer service provides yet another reason to invest in employee training. “A well educated staff provides superior customer service,” said Thuringer, “and that is the only thing that differentiates a distributor today.”
In an effort to hold the line on dealer expenses, The AED Foundation has made a concerted effort to develop more courses that involve self-study online. Dealers are starting to realize that these programs work. “They [the employees] have to be committed to improving themselves,” said Di Iorio. “Completing it tells you a lot about the character of the individual and their future contribution to the company.”
Everyone Benefits from AED’s Workforce Development Program
Scott admits that it is tough to think about workforce development when you are laying technicians off, but he remains focused on the future. “There’s going to be a time when we are going to be out there hiring technicians again, and if we haven’t invested in them, and we have laid off old ones, there aren’t going to be any around,” said Scott.
As a former AED executive vice president and executive director of the Foundation, Di Iorio had the opportunity to see firsthand how the workforce program energizes students toward an industry of which they had no previous knowledge.
“I went to those schools, I watched kids get involved and become engaged in the industry,” explained Di Iorio. “It doesn’t just happen. Somebody has to drive that, and that somebody is The AED Foundation.”
“Everyone in the industry benefits from the Foundation’s workforce development efforts,” added Di Iorio. There are now 23 AED Accredited and AED Recognized Alliance technical colleges turning out more than 500 qualified technicians annually for the industry. Contributions help ensure that technicians will be there when members need them.
Supporters of the Foundation caution of the negative effect that turning on and off investments in the Foundation could cause. “Future success relies on a steady stream of donations from year to year,” said Schrader.
“At the end of the day, a few thousand of dollars isn’t going to make a difference to most AED companies’ results,” said Cowin.
However, your donation to the 2010 Annual Fund Campaign, in whatever amount you can manage, will make a difference to the construction equipment distribution industry. We’re in this together.
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