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This October marks my second anniversary as AED’s regional manager for the Northeast. During that time, I’ve made over 150 visits to construction equipment dealerships to meet with AED’s distributor members and learn about their businesses. I’ve met with every type of equipment dealership you can think of – huge single-line dealers, small multiline dealers, independent dealers, rental houses of all sizes, dealers that rent to sell, or do not rent at all, AG and CE focused – I have seen them all. Of course, every dealership is unique and faces its own individual set of challenges and opportunities. Still, they all share a common problem: experienced and qualified employees are hard to find.

This workforce shortage is industrywide. The most significant pain point must be the lack of qualified service technicians, but CED Magazine has covered this issue and the solutions The AED Foundation is working on. Thus, I would like to focus on the second most common workforce pain point I saw out in the field – finding qualified departmental managers.

Almost every dealer I meet with is having difficulty hiring quality mid-level (service, parts, rental, sales and branch) managers. Most candidates are not qualified and lack the experience necessary for the job. The candidates that are qualified are already working for another dealer, and the compensation required to lure them away from their current employer can be cost-prohibitive. So what is a dealer to do? The solution with the best long-term results is to develop your bench of management talent and promote from within.

Promoting from within has clear advantages:

- The employee is a blank slate (no bad habits to unlearn).
- You can select an employee that has the right attitude and work ethic to fit your company culture.
- Employee loyalty/retention increases when employees see a clearly defined career path and feel that their employer cares about and is investing in their future.
- Promoting from within tends to produce a younger average age and a lower average compensation level in your management team.

The disadvantages of promoting from within are straightforward:

- It’s a long-term solution to an immediate problem. It takes time and resources to train a current employee to be ready to step into a leadership role. If you find a qualified manager looking for work, hire them, but the problem is that there are just not enough of them. There is nothing you can do to turn back the clock, but don’t make the same mistake going forward. Invest in your management bench before you have a specific need.

- How do you train your employees to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills required by a management position? The solution lies in some underutilized AED member benefits.

The AED Foundation has two products available to AED members that are specifically designed to maximize the ROI a dealer gets from an investment in the professional development and education of their departmental managers. These two products are the Certified Manager Programs (CMPs) and the live management seminars. I have spoken to dealers that use these products, and the feedback is reliable and very positive. Unfortunately, many dealers are unaware that they even exist. Let’s take a brief look at these two resources.

The AED Foundation’s Certified Manager Programs offer a blended curriculum of leadership and operational coursework to give managers the tools they need to succeed. There is a CMP for each major department (sales, service, parts, rental and branch). Each program offers certification candidates the opportunity to complete learning requirements via web-based self-study courses that they can complete on their own time and at their own pace. Each CMP takes roughly nine months to complete and offers a holistic education (finance, people management, sales and customer service, as well as department-specific education classes). CMPs are the perfect tool to turn that young go-getter behind the parts counter into a professional, industry-certified parts manager. (CMPs cost $2,250 per program. A bulk purchase discount is available. Contact your regional manager for more details.)

The AED Foundation’s management seminars provide your department managers with the knowledge they need to become subject matter experts in their respective areas and allows them to develop the critical skill sets required for their leadership roles. These seminars, are held over a day and a half, are in-person classes (of roughly 20 students) taught by an experienced industry expert. The goal is for the attendees to return to their dealerships with some concrete action items they can implement right away to improve efficiency and boost their department’s bottom-line performance. The AED Foundation offers seminars for rental, parts, service, sales and branch managers. 

These seminars are for both new and experienced managers. The basic seminars are for managers with less than three years of experience managing their department, and the advanced seminars are for managers with more than three years of experience. Each seminar is held once per year (basic seminars in the spring and advanced in the fall), and their cost is $895 per registrant. For larger companies interested in providing training to a group of employees, AED now offers on-site training, where a dealer can host an AED seminar exclusively for their employees at a location of their choosing. (Contact your regional manager for more details.) 

Don’t let these opportunities to invest in your management staff go to waste. Identify those individuals in your dealership who would benefit from these opportunities and invest in their professional growth. It’s a win-win for them and the dealership!

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