The Ins And Outs Of AED’s 2019 Financial/HR Symposium

The Symposium brings together industry experts in both finance and human resources to provide thoughtful insight into the most pressing topics impacting equipment distributors. Attendees bring back tools and solutions to the issues affecting their dealerships. In addition to hearing new ideas, learning about best practices, and receiving regulatory and legal updates, participants will have several opportunities to brainstorm and network with like-minded professionals. Here is a quick glance at what’s in store for this year’s attendees, from some of the folks that know the symposium best. Accompanying this are some tips and tricks from last year’s attendees on how to get the most out of this event.


This year’s financial sessions will cover the following topics: the expanding role of the modern CFO, an analysis of the AED Cost of Doing Business Report, the 2019 economic outlook, industry consolidation dynamics, HR for the finance professional, and using technoloygy in the finance department to automate processes and leverage the power of data. The full program agenda for the Symposium has yet to be released, but it is sure to be jam-packed with useful information for your dealership as a whole. Here is one attendee’s comment on last year’s agenda: “My two favorite sessions were Critical Skills for Developing Culture, which is such a hot topic right now, especially as we see the generational shift with our employment, and the Roundtable Collaboration, which allowed me to really get to hear what other AED businesses are doing – what best practices are out there, what works, what doesn’t, etc. I got many ideas for recruiting and employee benefit options specific to my industry’s needs.”

Stephanie Farley, director of human resources at Berry Companies Inc., remarked, “As a newer employee of Berry Companies, I have been in my field for many years, but not necessarily in this industry. This was a great way for me to introduce myself to individuals in organizations with the same struggles that we have. Hearing personal experiences and best practices from those that have been in this industry for years is invaluable.”


On the HR side of things, topics being explored at this year’s Symposium will cover coaching skills, common HR issues from a legal perspective, creating a culture that generates high-impact teams, and recruiting and developing women in the dealership.

“I loved the smaller size of the group sessions,” said Farley. “This really allows for greater engagement in topics that truly affect our organizations. It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of conference – it’s specifically planned and organized to create the most effective experience possible. Introduce yourself to everyone and engage in conversation. This is hard for an introvert like myself, but so worth it. I learned so much in such a short amount of time, and gained a number of tools and practical applications that have increased my value as an HR professional.”


HR and financial attendees will have opportunities to mingle and gain a mutual understanding of the issues each group of professionals face. This year’s shared session topics will include talent selection, team building and retention, leadership, and a panel discussing what’s to come in health care.

“In the 20+ years we have been researching what it is that non-accountants don’t get about accounting, our key learning is that accounting is a language, and if you don’t understand the words, the numbers are meaningless anyway,” said Mark Robilliard, cofounder of Color Accounting and CEO Americas. Mark gave a presentation at last year’s Symposium entitled “Six Tips for Communicating with NonFinancial Staff.” Mark’s session demonstrated why employees outside of the finance department are confused by “accountant-speak” and how to better communicate with them to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Jamie Govey, vice president of accounting at Equipment Corporation of America, advised, “If you have two different people in the accounting and HR departments, you should send both people.” Beyond the soft skills and networking opportunities that are a fundamental part of the Symposium, participants can also receive professional credits for attending the event. CPE credits will be available for this conference.

In addition, AED is recognized by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which offers professional development credits (PDCs). Symposium participants can earn PDCs for the SHRM-CPSM or the SHRM-SCPSM. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit

This year’s joint health care session will feature a panel discussion on changes in employer health care options and what dealers can do to drive down costs. If you are curious about health care trends on the horizon for 2019 and want to know which changes are going to affect your bottom line, this is the session for you.


This year’s event will be held at the Intercontinental Chicago Magnificent Mile, at 505 North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, from April 24-26. You can reach the hotel at 312-944-4100. Be sure to mention you are with AED to secure a spot in AED’s exclusive room block.


How long has your company been a attending the Symposium?

To my knowledge, our history of attending AED’s Symposium is in its infancy, but we have quickly grown to love it. Our controller and I attended the 2018 Financial/HR Symposium in April and we both enjoyed the varied topics and we learned quite a bit. The subject matter was relevant; the number of attendees in the seminar was the perfect size for engagement and networking; the schedule and pace were appropriate and manageable. Our COO attended an AED event in 2017 and thought it was an invaluable experience.

What value have past symposiums added to your company’s AED membership? Can you speak of any particular opportunities that arose from attending the Symposium?

Since I had the pleasure of attending an AED sponsored Symposium, I can assure you the presentations are interesting, the presenters are thorough and embraced their role, and I definitely felt my trip was worthwhile. Upon my return to work, I shared many of my experiences with the management team and with co-workers, and it has ultimately made me a more aware and thorough manager. During the Symposium, I listened to the differences in leadership types, how workplace culture affects people and business, the changing talent management trends, wellness – what you should do now and for the long term, cybersecurity do’s and don’ts, etc. Such a diverse and interesting agenda.

Would you recommend the Symposium to other dealers? Why or why not?

Yes, I would recommend other dealers attend the Symposium. The AED staff is approachable and helpful; the presenters are interesting and engaging; and the attendee variety is great for networking, talking to folks with similar needs, and sharing ideas.

Will you be attending the next Symposium? How would you recommend attendees get the most out of it? 

Yes, I plan on attending the next Symposium in April 2019. I would recommend that attendees dress comfortably, and bring an additional sweater if you get chilled during meetings. Also bring a laptop or notebook to take notes during the sessions, bring business cards for distributing and networking, and bring a positive attitude for listening and engagement.

Is there anything you would like to add?

If you are a professional who likes attending seminars or presentations but are a little nervous about speaking in roundtables with a group of peers, or nervous about being at a large conference, this is the Symposium for you. You can engage as much, or as little, as you want, and the size of the Symposium is comfortable and not overwhelming. Also, take advantage of the reception break to mingle and get to know fellow dealers and AED representatives.

I love takeaways too, not like trinkets and souvenirs, but like the presenter’s copy of their presentation or flyers/handouts from their speech, or a spiral notebook or binder for taking notes during the presentations. I have learned to come prepared with a leather portfolio, notepad, pens/pencils, etc.

Related Articles