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WPI Staff Completes Weeklong AED Foundation Management Certification Program

The AED Foundation offers department-specific management certifications to help heavy equipment industry managers learn, hone and prove the skills they need to help their dealerships become more successful. In October, the Houston-headquartered construction equipment dealership Waukesha-Pearce Industries took advantage of the opportunity to put more than 20 members of its management staff through an intensive, weeklong management certification training.

The family-owned independent dealership has been in business since 1924 and boasts 12 branches in Texas and an additional 10 locations throughout the United States and Canada.
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“The complexities of running a profitable dealership have increased exponentially in the past 10 years,” said WPI Vice President of Operations Bruce Truesdale. “I was familiar with AED programs and training and felt that it was important for all of us to get together, interact and increase our acumen.”

AED Foundation certification is available in heavy equipment branch operations management, service management, rentals management and parts management – and the industry-specific focus was what let Truesdale know this training with right for his company and team. 

“One of the main reasons why I really wanted to put this group through this certification training is that AED is specific to our industry,” he said. “The materials and instructors are actually able to relate to our needs and understand what we want to accomplish, whereas a lot of times, management classes are too generic to be worthwhile.”

Jackie Haney, WPI’s director of operations and technical support, concurred: 

“The key benefit of the AED certification training is that the materials are tailored to our industry, what we work with every day,” she said. “This is not general theory on business, it is customized for the equipment industry. The original AED Foundation certification training was self-paced learning with a final test. The classroom setting brought forward the depth we were looking for.”

The training helped WPI managers identify room for improvement in their various departments, and covered important topics like key performance indicators (KPIs), detailed industry metrics, personal time management, evaluating a team and its efficiency, yard and equipment flow, and hiring and retention practices. 

“I now have a clearer understanding of industry benchmarks so we can revise our future business initiatives,” Haney said. “When considering growing or adding a new division, for example, we have a jumpstart in understanding floor plan, needs of process/work flow and doing better research on industry demographics to validate our initiative. I found it valuable to understand what others in the same industry have achieved, to learn from failure and attempt to replicate successes.”

Jeremiah Sporn, WPI’s product support manager, said the management certification training helped him better understand the challenges that other departments in the dealership face, as well as how the actions of individuals can impact a department’s success.

“We went through this training to get a better understanding of what we all do so we can blend our talents together and streamline the processes for each department,” he said. “It’s cross-training and knowing more in depth what another department’s challenges are, how you impact those challenges or successes, and how you can better serve each other throughout all departments inside the company. I would highly recommend The AED Foundation’s management certification training. It not only brings the high-level managers together to see how things work differently in their departments, but it highlights a team environment that we sometimes forget about. I really enjoyed it and actually wished we had a longer time to dive deeper into each topic. Now I’m looking forward to applying the things we discussed in the training.”

“Ultimately, the certification will allow each of the department managers at WPI to benchmark industry standards against internal KPIs,” said Chad Ticknor, WPI’s district service manager for the Houston area.

In addition to valuable financial and business fundamentals and best practices, the training also included presentations on personalities and human behavior, designed to help improve communications between employees and departments at the dealership.

“Beyond the financial and business fundamentals, the biggest takeaway was the human behavior understanding,” Haney said. “I have taken personality profiles before, but to have our entire group understand and take it together, then follow up with group activities to drive home our similarities and differences, is key to helping me understand how to better communicate internally. For example, there are certain people who respond better to numbers and analytics, others to a softer approach based on vague ideas. Now that I understand who in our management fits into which category, I can customize my communication to get better results. It seems a simple lesson, but often slow or poor decisions come down to confusion in communication. Understanding the internal team, and what motivates and causes the best responses, brings a new dimension of efficiency that could only be learned in a face-to-face setting.”

Learning new and better ways to communicate with others in the company was especially valuable for WPI, considering that its management staff members are spread between more than 20 branch locations in the United States and Canada.

“Being together for a week learning the certification materials and understanding how they apply to WPI was key,” said Haney. “We had great conversations that helped to bring an enhanced understanding of our internal business. We also came to understand each other’s personalities and working styles, which will greatly enhance our communication and decision-making among all of us going forward.”

Some of the curriculum on communication and human behavior focused on teaching participants how to communicate with the different generations working at the dealership.

“We’re now hiring younger men and women, and the way we communicate with them is different than how we communicate with people who are older, people who are baby boomers,” Truesdale said. “We have all different generations working at the dealership now: baby boomers, generation X, millennials. Understanding how to communicate with each generation, knowing who we’re talking to and how we should phrase our communication is extremely important.”
Learning the best communication style for each generation was also a key takeaway for Sporn. “One of the things that sticks out the most in my mind about the training was the personality difference between the generations and how millennials are viewed as one thing, versus generation X and baby boomers,” he said. “How you manage a shop full of people that span all those generations without having chaos every day – that definitely made my head spin.”

The AED Foundation’s management certification training not only helped WPI management staff identify areas of improvement, it also helped them realize how many things they were doing right.

“One of the key takeaways for me is that, at WPI, we are actually doing all of the best practices laid out during the certification – and that was confirmation that we’re headed down the right path,” Truesdale said. “We’re always trying to improve, and this training will help us tweak and change some of the things we were doing.”

Haney agreed: “The training really reinforced to me that WPI is on the right path, and we need to continue to stay the course and be open to continual change,” she said. “We need to continue to communicate not only within our management, but make sure that everyone throughout the organization understands the mission. We want to make sure they understand how they fit into the grand plan and how their contribution matters.”

According to Haney, the management certification training is an excellent alternative to traditional and generic team-building activities, and also offers a safe environment for participants to learn and ask questions.

“I believe The AED Foundation management certification training program is an excellent way to boost the cohesiveness of your management team,” she said. “You are investing in growing your personnel’s business acumen and are taking an interest in growing them to become the best future managers they can be. It is an alternative to a generic team-building activity that incorporates growth through new learning and understanding the people whom you spend a good deal of your waking hours with. This setting allows a safe environment for people to ask questions they may otherwise feel uncomfortable asking about our business. All of our attendees departed with a sense of camaraderie and renewed focus in their daily activities. We reinforced the WPI mission with everyone understanding the importance of their contribution.”

Ticknor was particularly impressed with the training’s presentations and presenters, as well as AED’s in-depth knowledge of the industry. He was quick to recommend the training to both heavy equipment dealerships and department managers.

“The instructors and experience that AED brings in for the training are extremely informative and truly know the business,” Ticknor said. “The presentations and presenters are spot on – AED knows the business and presents it very well. Don’t wait to take this opportunity to directly affect your bottom line in the dealership. This course allows all management to begin to pull in the same direction and helps remove those ‘silos’ that are typically in place between departments. Ready to become better at what you do? Take this time for self-improvement and affect your dealership’s overall performance.” 

WPI’s executive management, directors, branch managers and other general department managers learned so much during the weeklong session that the company plans to put its parts and service managers through the training later this month.

“The AED Foundation materials and the three instructors we had were top notch,” Haney said. “There is no other way to get this type of industry professional’s experience shared in a closed environment. We were so impressed, we will repeat the same process with all of our service and parts managers in December. The October session was executive management, directors, branch managers, and other general department managers. We feel it imperative to impart the knowledge learned and bring about a cohesive working environment within the levels of our organization.” 

For more information on The AED Foundation’s Management Certification Programs, call Liz McCabe, AED’s senior director of education and programming, at 630-468-5132, email lmccabe@aednet.org or visit aedfoundation.org/management-certifications.

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