Speak Up – They're All Listening - Editor's Note
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: Editor's Note

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Contact Kim Phelan at (800) 388-0650 ext. 340.

Speak Up – They're All Listening

By Kim Phelan

Article Date: 12-01-2010
Copyright(C) 2010 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

Strong and silent don't really go together anymore – real strength is in saying what needs to be said, and preventing problems rather than mending them.

I heard about a most unfortunate ordeal at a dealership recently. It happened like this:

This dealer has been suffering on the equipment sales side of the business like every other dealer in North America and particularly in the U.S. However, the dealer has been wise enough to diversify heavily into a related industry product which serves both construction and ag end-users – this side of the dealer's business has been booming. But while raking in the revenue from a deluge of customer enthusiasm for this other product, the dealership failed to modify its company- wide hiring freeze. And guess what: The dealer's star employee (with all the customer contacts and great product knowledge) got burned out. He had waved the warning flag, cried for help while going under, and in the end, had no alternative but to resign.

Resign? In a job market like this? Nah – that wouldn't happen. Ah ha, but it did – and that very week the same dealer was hit with another very valuable and very unhappy employee who was teetering on the edge of quitting, too.

You see, dealers, like most businesses today, have boiled down their payroll (aka human assets) to rock bottom, and those who survived the cuts are the cream of the crop, right? You kept them on because they're the smartest, most hard working, most valuable people, which means these folks are not so expendable. You may think that if they leave there's a long line behind them of people who want their job – and that may be true; but how many in that line are really as qualified and capable of doing that job as well as the veterans who know your dealership's culture, customers, markets and products?

What I'm getting at is not just simply about tuning in to the inner workings of the business to ensure that people and processes are happily in sync. The message today has really to do more with clear communication at many levels of your work and world environments.

Talk to Your People
I've witnessed various management styles over the course of my career: There are the strong silent types, and there are those who talk much and say very little. But the best scenario is when clear direction and open communication is modeled from the top and moves unobstructed throughout the organization. Don't assume folks know what's going on or always know the right thing to do. Tell them – and hold the communication bar high for the management team to do the same.

More than ever, people are longing for information and feedback, and the opportunity to provide their own input and feel that they are being heard. It's the simplest way to improve morale and customer care.

Talk To and With Your Customers
In this issue, we explore where dealers are in terms of their Web marketing, and they've come a long way. This concludes a three-part series this fall addressing dealer marketing, and if there's an underlying lesson, it would be: Remain vigilant in your marketing endeavors. Today, effective marketing is more than you pushing your product. It's got to involve something of greater worth to the end-user, tips and insights they can use right now. Don't just talk at them – talk with them, even on your website.

Talk to Your Industry
You can't have escaped our messages about the AED 2011 Summit in Orlando, Jan. 26-28. We have a powerful program designed to inform you and ignite your business for the coming year. But the real firepower at this event is you – you talking to the men and women of this industry, and gleaning best practices and business solutions that you will not get anywhere else, even at ConExpo. Have you registered yet for Summit?

Talk to Your Legislators
With your personal involvement and our relentless lobbying, AED saw 87 percent of its supported candidates elected to the House and Senate. But now is not the time to rest. Leaving these new arrivals to their own devices would be paramount to hiring a new ace employee and then turning him loose without any training or orientation. Soon you'll be hearing details about AED's Fly-In taking place next spring. Please consider becoming part of this two-day blitz on Capitol Hill as dealers interface directly with their representatives and senators. I assure you that if they don't hear from you, other groups will speak in your stead.

Thanks for reading.

Kim Phelan (kphelan@aednet.org) is the executive editor of Construction Equipment Distribution and director of programs for AED.
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