Food for ForumBy Kim Phelan
Article Date: 07-01-2010
Copyright(C) 2010 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
Before we begin seeking the speakers who present and answer your questions in September, we listen closely to distributors who feel your pain.
On a Wednesday morning in April, I had occasion to sit around a breakfast table and visit with some of my favorite kinds of people: AED member distributors. In my line of work, I do chat with distributor executives on the telephone rather frequently, but having a face-to-face conversation is always something I relish most.
This particular group of dealer execs had assembled at my request, and while their purpose for being together that week in Washington, D.C., was to both learn about and influence federal public policy on key business issues (during AED’s Government Affairs fly-in), that early-morning gathering at the Army Navy Club was organized for the express purpose of giving me some solid cues about the challenges they’re facing right now in their various geographic markets.
I depend on this direct, unfiltered insight like a feeding tube to meet one of the most taxing (and rewarding) responsibilities I do for AED, which is to plan content for the owners and management teams of successful dealerships like theirs – and yours – at our annual Executive Forum conference.
If it weren’t so serious, that could almost be the punch line of a joke – I do not (nor do I recollect having done in the past) own and operate an actual construction equipment dealership, and I have personally visited maybe a dozen or so in my lifetime. My gig is words, you see. Printed words, information, facts and pictures – but one more thing: Digging. I crave answers, I want solutions, and I enjoy the dogged pursuit of people who have both. It’s a foxhunt for experts, and then a process of applying their knowledge to issues that readers (and listeners) care deeply about, hopefully like a cool drink to the thirsty.
But those traits alone do not a Forum make. What this editor-turned-program-director needs, above all, is subject matter that counts, issues and practical applications that dealers in this brutally afflicted industry can utilize toward some productive end.
Hence the need for that invaluable ad hoc steering committee I mentioned – a hand-picked group whose distributorships are a mix of product and size types, as well as geographic location. They don’t ordinarily receive any recognition for their input, and, truth be told, this committee is not really an official AED committee at all – it’s more like a Phelan Focus Group, but their open, frank dialogue really does help steer the programming that shows up on the AED/Lawson Executive Forum stage in September.
This year’s group was comprised of Paula Benard from C.N. Wood, Rick Dahl from Metroquip, Chris Gaylor from Power Equipment Co., and Mike Quirk from Wagner Equipment Co. I also received valuable thoughts from Gary Grady at West Virginia Tractor, who was not able to attend our meeting. My sincere thanks to these AED members who have shared their struggles and identified some issues that they believed would be valuable to address for dealers of all types and sizes.
I have to add here that something Rick said during our conversation has stuck with me more than two months later. Rick’s is not the typical AED dealer company, which is why I invited him to participate on the steering committee. He owns a smart little aerial-lift rental operation serving the Chicagoland market, and it looks to me like he does quite alright for himself. Like any good businessman, he knows what he is, and he knows what he’s not, and he is not a great big, major-line earthmoving dealer – which may possibly be the stereotype of Forum attendees. But what Rick said was, and I paraphrase just slightly: “My company may be small but I like listening to programs that are designed for big companies. I just take it all in, and then scale that data and knowledge to my business.”
Executive Forum, ladies and gentlemen of this association, is once again going to be loaded with data and intelligence, perspectives and application for the success of dealerships large and small, all under one roof for a day and a half beginning Sept. 16. What you do with this knowledge is, of course, up to you – but I do humbly encourage you not to miss it. (See our ad on page 28, and please visit www.aednet.org/execforum for details and registration.)
Meanwhile, have a great July, and thanks for reading.
[ TOP ]