Nothing Small about AED's Inaugural Small Dealer Conference

More than 50 association members  converged in Music City in early November for the Associated Equipment Distributors’ (AED) inaugural Small Dealer Conference.

Topics at the two days of meetings held at the Hilton Nashville Downtown covered everything from growth strategies and maximizing departmental performance to best management practices and making the most of an AED membership.

“I think AED did an excellent job bringing smaller dealers together for this educational event,” said attendee Jeff Brown. “The hospitality was very good. I was able to network with fellow AED members who I have never met before. They were all very friendly, and very willing to help out and communicate with our dealership on different topics.”

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For Brown, the president of Global Machinery in Denver, there was a lot of value in having a conference dedicated specifically to small dealers like himself.

Speaker Bill Mayes, who delivered presentations titled “Your Surplus Industry Is On Fire” and “Learning to Love Your Rental Department,” explained that smaller dealers have some needs that set them apart from heavy dealerships.

“The challenge is they may not have the resources that the larger dealers have and they may not have specialists, so very often small dealers are challenged with wearing one, two, three…10 hats during the day,” said Mayes, who is the president of Mayes & Calero and a member of the Machinery Advisors Consortium.

“They have to do the strategy in the morning and implement that strategy later in the day. Consequently, I think the challenge is you have an idea of what the big picture is, but you get so caught up in running the business that it’s a challenge to step back and, as Stephen Covey says, ‘sharpen the saw.’”

Knowing how busy the audience is, Mayes, along with some of the other presenters, wanted to get “more into the nuts and bolts, and some of the day-to-day problems that arise.”

“I wanted to give participants something very specific that they could take action on without having to do a lot more analysis, because one of the problems I’ve seen with any seminar that people go to is they get loaded up with information and ideas,” he said. “Then when they go back, they put this book on the shelf, never to open it again. After a week or two weeks, the motivation dies and they get back into business as usual. What I want is to give them something that they can take action on immediately.”

Despite their hectic schedules, attendees particularly appreciated the opportunity to network with other small dealers.

“Working with other dealers, that’s an outstanding benefit of going to one of these,” said Bruce Harvey, president of H&V Equipment Services in Corpus Christi, Texas. “By networking, you gain more information and knowledge on how you can come back and tweak your system.”

For Molly Swanston, who returned to work for Swanston Equipment in Fargo, North Dakota, about a year and half ago, the networking aspect of the Small Dealership Conference was particularly important as she immerses herself in learning all there is to know about her family’s business.

“I’ve just found it incredibly helpful to network with people in the industry,” she explained. “Being as I’m so new, I like surrounding myself with people who are executing and making things happen. Ideas start bouncing almost immediately when you get all these people into the same room. That’s the biggest benefit for me is learning from the experts in the industry, and everyone is more than willing to help. They see a young person getting involved and people just start talking about their early days and what they wished they would have done, and it’s just a great help.”


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