A Firsthand Look At AED’s Leadership Development Institute

The first session of AED’s Leadership Development Institute (LDI) concluded this past October, and participants and instructors alike reported it to be a rewarding experience. This is the second time AED has offered the yearlong program, which is intended to strengthen the core leadership abilities of high-potential managers who are expected to prepare for broader organizational roles.

LDI is the only industry-specific program that takes participants out of their areas of responsibility in their organizations and encourages them to focus on the business as a whole. The program is comprised of three sessions, which cover content in the operational areas of a dealership as well as personal leadership development.

Each LDI session is facilitated by highly regarded industry experts and executive development professionals, with workshops by successful executives from across the construction equipment industry. Cohort learning experiences are also incorporated into each session and were rated by last year’s attendees as one of the most beneficial aspects of the program. 

At each session, participants engage in professional development workshops, hear from keynote speakers, receive personalized coaching and work on their capstone projects. The capstone project is a key feature of LDI in which participants conduct a review of their respective dealerships and identify areas for improvement. Real-world SWOT analysis and action planning are used to generate measurable ROI business improvements for the participants’ respective companies.

In between sessions, program participants will work on their capstone projects as well as attend monthly webinars. Despite such an ambitious program schedule, the LDI participants were more than happy to discuss their experiences, from the details on the program to how LDI facilitated professional growth.

LDI participant and service manager at Vermeer Northeast, Daniel Murphy, said about the program: “One thing that I like about the program is the enthusiasm for making big ideas feel possible and big goals feel achievable. I liked having my inspiration put into high gear and then taking time to absorb and unload my newly acquired leadership tools. What I walked away with from the first session was a treasure trove of ideas and concepts that I am eager to put into action in my business. Both myself and my boss, Danny Carvalho, are taking advantage of the opportunities that LDI is creating. We have big goals ahead of us and are looking forward to seeing how far we can take them.”
Richard Fawson, general product support manager at Murphy Tractor & Equipment Co., spoke with CED and said: Murphy Tractor & Equipment Co. has been an AED member for a long while, and I learned about the program through their emails and marketing materials. But it was Murphy President Tom Udland who encouraged me to enroll. It is interesting to learn different solutions to the problems my company faces. Overall, it’s just a good environment for an up-and-comer like myself.

LDI Curriculum

Program content is focused on both functional and technical know-how and leadership “soft skills” with industry-relevant case studies, role plays, and application projects. The goal of the curriculum is to create key synergies across sales, service, parts, rental, finance and administration. According to Andrew Schneider, LDI participant and parts manager at Finkbiner Equipment Co., the program is deepening cross-functional knowledge and helping him explore strategic connections across lines of business. Schneider commented to CED, “This program is very helpful for someone like me looking to learn more about the different aspects of our industry. With the wide range of experienced participants in this program, there is a lot of information to absorb from others who have been in this industry much longer than I have.”

Capstone Project

During the first session, participants were able to start their SWOT analysis and begin setting goals for themselves and their companies. Schneider reflected on the experience, stating, “Throughout the session, we were introduced to many new tools to help put our own companies under a microscope and get a better understanding of where we can improve. I believe these tools will be very helpful to bring back to a growing dealership.” The SWOT analysis is part of the participants’ capstone project. They work on their capstone projects throughout the program and present their final project at the last session, showing how they’ve applied their LDI knowledge and capabilities to generate business improvements within their respective dealerships.

Keynote Speakers

Participants took part in a full day workshop with wholesale distribution expert Dirk Beveridge at the first session. Beveridge has worked for over 25 years as a consultant to a wide range of companies to help align, focus and strengthen their sales and leadership strategies. Beveridge told LDI participants that to remain relevant their companies must outperform the market and provide deeper value to customers. Beveridge’s message resonated with LDI participant Richard Fawson, who said, “Right out of the gate, the first session’s keynote speaker, Dirk Beveridge, helped me step away from my business for a brief moment to see how other companies are becoming aligned. I walked away from his talk with a renewed company vision and the ability to share that vision with our employees.”

One-on-One Executive Coaching

Each participant will work with an executive coach throughout the LDI program. Coaches assist participants with drafting an Individual Development Plan (IDP) based on priorities identified in various personal assessments participants complete before starting the LDI program. Coaches troubleshoot issues, hold participants accountable and challenge their personal development as leaders in the equipment distribution industry. Coaches and participants met for the first time in October, and continue to be in regular contact as they work together to maximize this unique professional development opportunity.

The LDI program costs $4,995 for AED members, sans travel expenses. The value of the program far exceeds its buy-in price, and it is AED’s goal that participating dealerships see a 20:1 return on investment. Last year, when the program’s highestperforming participant presented their capstone project to upper management, the company was able to implement over $1.819 million in savings as a result of the their efforts.

Interview With Gibson Machinery’s Chief Financial Officer, Lauren Gibson

How did you hear about the LDI program? What made you decide to participate?

I first learned about the LDI program during its launch last year through AED communications. My friend and colleague Gus Wilson from Heavy Machines attended the inaugural program and said it was a tremendously involved and worthwhile investment, and I jumped on the chance to sign up for round two.

Where do you see your career heading in the next 10 years? How will the program help you achieve this goal?

Gibson Machinery is approaching a transitional period in terms of its day-to-day leadership from the second generation to the third. Coming from several years in the Assurance Services practice at EY, I joined Gibson with very strong financial and accounting analysis tools but lacked specific knowledge around the construction equipment industry. I hope to use the LDI experience to broaden my knowledge of our industry to identify disruptions and find opportunities for innovation to help Gibson Machinery grow into a world-class organization. My current vision of my career path is to help lead Gibson Machinery into its next era of success, and LDI will be integral to helping us remain relevant, sustainable, and profitable now and into the future.

How was your experience at the first session? Who was your executive coach and what was it like collaborating with them?

I’ve attended the Financial/HR Symposium twice, and Summit once, and as usual AED puts together top-notch events. Our speaker, Dirk Beveridge, was one of the most engaging presenters I’ve had the pleasure of listening to, and I’m so grateful for the connections I was able to make with my LDI team and the larger group as well. My coach is Alexis Gladstone, who I initially met at AED’s Women in Construction Equipment Roundtable event earlier this year.  I am confident we will develop a great relationship, and I’m looking forward to her guidance on effective leadership.

What were your biggest takeaways from the first session? What tools did you gain from the session that you will be taking back to Gibson Machinery?

I had no idea so many threats were lurking around the distribution industry! Not to sound alarmist, but man – pretty much everything can go wrong at the drop of a bucket (get it?) and we need to be better prepared. The tools and skills that worked to make Gibson Machinery as successful as it has been in the past are not guaranteed to ensure our success going forward. All participants have been assigned to create a full and formal SWOT analysis of their operations, and I think that’s going to be incredibly helpful to identify not only the threats, but to shine light on our strengths, and how we can leverage those to continue to grow. Often people can get so focused on what external resources we need to bring in to our companies to create sustainable growth that we neglect the resources we already have within our distributorship. I’m eager to identify those bright spots in our organization to contribute to other participants’ knowledge and skills.

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