With the new year just around the corner, it’s time for heavy equipment dealers to mark their calendars and save the date for the annual AED Summit. The 2019 Summit will be held Feb. 4–7 in Orlando, Florida and, as in years past, will feature a robust education program designed to impart information and skills that attendees can use to improve various aspects of their dealerships. The program features more than 35 sessions, divided between six different educational tracks: leadership, management, rentals, product support, sales and technology.
“The dealer education that we have at Summit isn’t available anywhere else,” said Liz McCabe, AED’s senior director of education and programming.
“Our educational programming is dealer-focused and each session, regardless of the track they’re in, gives dealers the opportunity to improve or maximize a part of their dealership. Everything is centered around the idea of improvement: improving the dealership financially, improving efficiency, improving hiring practices, improving retention – we want our educational programming to be able to help dealers improve the different aspects of their businesses.”
If feedback from previous attendees is any indication, AED’s Summit educational programming is achieving that goal. Jay Williford, president of Atlantic Coast Toyotalift/ACT Construction Equipment, has attended three past Summits and is looking forward to taking advantage of as many education sessions as possible at the upcoming AED Summit in Orlando.
“The education sessions helped us benchmark what we should expect with certain topics and gave us resources to use to close the gap,” Williford said. “I took home some creative customer financing ideas, sales management strategies and some e-marketing directions. We also had some mid-level managers attend (the 2018 AED Summit) and it helped them see what the potential for their areas could be, and what the future may look like.”
Although Summit educational programming is developed with dealers in mind, the sessions offer plenty of takeaways for manufacturing-level attendees as well, according to Ditch Witch Dealer Development Manager Brent Bolay, who has attended six previous Summits and will be at the next Summit in February. His introduction to Summit came when Ditch Witch sponsored a leadership class for dealer personnel that included attendance at the event. Bolay had a great experience and, after that, he was hooked.
“Our company sponsored a leadership class for dealer personnel, and part of that program was to attend the AED Summit,” he said. “In the past, others had attended from our company and I had heard good comments about the Summit. When I was able to attend, I was impressed that the educational sessions were so worthwhile. I am at a manufacturer level, but most of the discussion at the educational sessions are topics that affect both the dealer and the manufacturer. Many times there is benchmark information that is shared that can drive decisions from a ‘what’s going on in the industry’ standpoint.”
In development since earlier this year, the educational programming for the 2019 AED Summit features a roster of engaging speakers.
“Each year, when we start planning, we send out a call for speakers and try to tap into some of our service providers that might want to present to our members,” said McCabe. “We make sure our speakers are a good mix of AED members, professional trainers and speakers.”
AED develops its educational programming in response to member feedback, current business climate and industry trends to ensure that the provided sessions are as relevant and applicable as possible. According to Bolay, that’s one of the things he likes best about attending education sessions at Summit.
“Both the topics and speakers have been so in tune with current topics,” he said. “They are very fresh and typically something the industry is struggling with. Also, the overall quality of the speakers – both for the educational sessions and the general session agenda – are excellent”
Williford agrees. In fact, the relevancy of the topics covered at Summit is what keeps him coming back again and again.
“I attended Summit the second and third times because some of the education topics seemed so applicable to our current business environment,” he said.
The leadership education track at the upcoming Summit will include sessions on construction equipment industry trends, economic outlook, the profitability of hiring diversity and more. The management education track – which focuses more on the operational aspects of business, as opposed to the leadership track which is more focused on business strategy – will feature sessions covering topics such as giving critical feedback, employee engagement or disengagement, successful hiring and retention practices, building a strong team, and creating a high-impact, high-performing business culture. The rental, product support and sales tracks feature department-specific sessions geared toward improving profitability.
The technology track, which was a new addition to the Summit education lineup in 2018, provides sessions that focus on technology trends and new technology solutions that attendees might benefit from implementing in their own businesses. The technology sessions were well received; in fact, Bolay mentions learning about a new software focused on the service side of the business as one of his key takeaways from the event.
Each of the Summit educational sessions can benefit dealers and their dealerships, but with more than 35 different sessions available, there’s obviously no way for a single person to participate in them all. That’s why McCabe encourages attendees to employ a “divide and conquer” strategy to make the most of their Summit experience.
“On average, dealers send three people to Summit,” she said. “When dealerships send multiple people, not only do they save on the per-person registration fee, but they’re able to divide and conquer the education program. Dealers can bring their subject matter experts and send them to the sessions that are most applicable to get the most ‘bang for their buck.’ One of the best ways to make sure attendees are getting the most out of Summit is to make sure their department managers and senior staff are in attendance.”
According to McCabe, divide and conquer isn’t just a good strategy for completing education sessions – it’s also a great way to tackle the CONDEX trade show that goes along with the AED Summit.
“For example, dealers can send the person who manages their rental department to sales track education sessions and supplier meetings – and even have them meet with multiple suppliers.”
Williford offers this suggestion for dealers who can’t send their entire team: “Pick a couple education sessions that have the most relevance to attend, and engage the presenters afterwards to develop a base for future communication if questions arise.”
Registration for the 2019 AED Summit is currently open. To those who may be considering attending, Bolay has this advice: “Go with an open attitude and engage – at sessions, lunches and extra activities – and you will be amazed at what you can learn.”
For more information on the upcoming AED Summit in Orlando, Florida – or to register for the event –