Associated Equipment Distributors hosted its 2018 Small Dealer Conference in New Orleans in early November. Dozens of heavy equipment dealers from throughout the United States and Canada attended the event, which boasted networking opportunities, inspirational speakers, educational sessions and more.
In addition to addressing standard industry topics such as best practices, tax reform and ways to combat the ongoing technician shortage, the conference’s programming included lectures on Dr. Seuss-inspired leadership strategies and how to develop “scrappy” marketing plans even without a marketing budget.
AED’s reputation, as well as a chance to visit New Orleans and compare strategies with other dealers, is what drew Jamie Armstrong – vice president of Ontario-based Amaco Equipment Inc. – to attend the Small Dealer Conference for the first time.
“AED is, in my opinion, probably one of the best industry resources for dealers in existence,” he said. “It’s an organization with fantastic people that offer a valuable platform to dealers to gain industry awareness, manufacturer distribution availability, colleague awareness, overall good partnerships and internal education tools to include accreditation toward positions within the dealership. To be honest, attending the conference was a needed break from the office and an opportunity to see how other small dealers are managing their challenges. Also, never having been to New Orleans didn’t hurt – it seemed like a win-win to me.”
For Armstrong, two key takeaways stood out: the importance of a targeted rental fleet in a small dealership and the availability of technician recruiting programs. On both subjects, Armstrong saw the need for improvement back home in Ontario.
“Successful small dealerships are relying on rentals – and process and utilization are key,” he said. “I feel this will be a struggle in Ontario, Canada, where we have a shortened construction season and a market that’s unwilling to accept a higher rental rate to account for it. As far as technician recruitment programs go, they’re more readily available in the United States, where some businesses are even starting recruitment efforts at the high school level and then assisting with college tuition. Ontario needs to do a better job in this area.”
Having learned a lot at the 2018 Small Dealer Conference, Armstrong plans to attend again next year and offered this advice for other small dealers trying to decide whether to make time to go: “Don’t miss it. It’s important to realize you aren’t alone in your challenges. This conference is perfect for helping dealers understand that, as well as find out what others have done to overcome their struggles. Learning from others can save you valuable time and money.”
This was the second Small Dealer Conference for Luby Equipment Services Vice President of Sales and Marketing David Kedney, who attended the inaugural conference in Nashville in 2017. Kedney also serves on the Small Dealer Committee.
“I had an excellent experience last year and found the conference has a nice balance between education sessions and networking events,” he said. “Also, as a member of the Small Dealer Committee, I wanted to see how the event went, along with gathering feedback from attendees.”
For Kedney, key conference takeaways included suggestions for ways to work around the technician shortage, information about the new tax laws and ideas for developing marketing content.
“I gathered some great ideas to expand our marketing efforts at my dealership, specifically focusing on creating quality content for our customers,” he said. “I learned about creating blogs on our website, as well as developing a podcast that will be important as we expand our customer reach and content marketing strategy.”
According to Kedney, AED members should watch for big changes coming to next year’s Small Dealer Conference event.
“We are looking to expand the conference to two locations in 2019 to gain further member engagement,” he said. “We are hopeful that there will be interest from members on each coast. Anybody that has a passion for the business should go and be ready to learn and network with industry experts and other dealers.”
For information on upcoming AED events, visit www.aednet.org. AED is also on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.