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AED’s Leadership Development Institute 
Earns an A+ from Inaugural Cohort

More than 20 participants recently completed the Associated Equipment Distributors’ inaugural Leadership Development Institute (LDI) and now are putting their newfound knowledge to work in the real world. 

With the goal of helping up-and-coming leaders improve their core abilities and cross-functional knowledge, the institute consisted of in-person learning sessions in Chicago, plus executive coaching, online learning opportunities and a final capstone project.

“There were definitely points when we were in the meetings and learning things when it was overwhelming, because it was a lot of information, and I wanted to take it all and run with it at my company,” said Thor Hess, executive vice president of Southeastern Equipment Company in Cambridge, Ohio
Hess, who already has a law degree and will one day take over his family’s company from his grandfather, saw the program as a chance to immerse himself in all that he doesn’t know about the industry. 

“The thing I’m trying to absorb the most is knowledge of this industry and the business, and how to make things work and what best practices are,” he explained. “So I’m already shopping for that information, if you will, and working on it. And I’m leading a lot of projects, like our sales force implementations and process development, and restructuring a lot of things. With all that, I’m looking for things like LDI that would help further that.”
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The other 22 inaugural institutegraduates had their own reasons for participating in the yearlong program.

Stephanie Sczpanski, general manager of Leppo Rents/Bobcat in Akron, Ohio, saw the institute as a chance to further her goal of developing as a leader for her company. 

“I’ve been looking for education within the company, so this was a standout opportunity,” she said. “It was looked at similar to an MBA, so there was a lot of attraction to that from an overall business aspect for leadership and management.”

The only participant from outside the U.S., Adrian Berger, parts and logistics manager at Liebherr–Canada, ventured south for himself as well as for his company. 

“Liebherr–Canada is an extension of a factory,” he explained. “We’re not a dealer but we wanted to see what the dealers are doing, where they are, because in some ways we operate in the same manner and the same fashion. We’re very similar to a dealer network in some ways. What I wanted to get out of it were some personal goals, and we just wanted to get a broad knowledge of North American dealers to see if the issues we’re having are the same problems everyone else is having.”

With three in-person learning sessions spread over the year, various online webinars, plus a steady flow of homework, all of the participants agreed there was much to be gained from LDI. 

“It was rewarding,” said Sczpanski, one of two women who completed the program. “We covered so many different subjects in the sessions. I will say when I received my plaque it felt very well deserved.
“There was a lot of support from team members.”

Among those team members were the executive coaches who met with the participants in person, and then offered additional support online and over the phone. 

“The coaching was invaluable to me – to have someone to bounce ideas off of and then to hold us accountable, to check on us and make sure we were doing what we were supposed to do, and make sure we were doing our individual development plan,” Sczpanski said.

The individual development plans were accompanied by a 360 review.

“The individual development plan was good, and it was great to get the 360 review, and all of those personality analytics,” Hess explained. “Those were really eye-opening; I hadn’t seen those before.”
For participants who had already experienced working with an executive coach and all that comes with them, the nearly $5,000 price tag for the leadership program was a steal.

 “I’ve done coaching very similar to this and the cost itself was very similar to the cost of this entire course, and you’re getting the coach for that long,” Hess said. “It was very helpful with a lot of insight behind it, with lots of experience and knowledge.”

Participants also appreciated the end results of the final capstone projects. 
The projects required each participant to uncover potential opportunities for improvement within their own companies by completing a SWOT analysis across all divisions. They presented their findings to their classmates during their second in-person meeting in Chicago before developing an actual money-saving plan to implement in their organizations with the goal of a 20:1 ROI. 

“You get to walk away with a project that brings real value,” Sczpanski said. “With the capstone, you get real ROI. That to me is one of the most valuable pieces of it.”

The chance to network and learn from their peers was also highly valued.

“I think the really cool thing was, not only were the instructors really good, but the way the class worked – and I hope it will work this way for every class – the group of us said, ‘yeah, we do it this way,’ or ‘we do it that way,’” said Hess. “There was a lot of input and it added a lot of credibility. That room kind of represented different walks of life from all over. 
“I think it was really beneficial.”
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