October 2009 - The construction market. Strategic business planning. The importance of relevancy. Federal funding for infrastructure. These are topics of interest to members of Associated Equipment Distributors Inc., Oak Brook, Ill., who sell, service and rent equipment to the construction, mining, agriculture and forestry industries, among others.
Accordingly, these subjects were among those addressed in presentations at this year's AED/Qualcomm Executive Forum, Sept. 9-11 in Rosemont, Ill. The full-day session Sept. 10 opened with a presentation by the forum's moderator, Jeff Lefebvre, Ph.D., founder and president of PriSim Business War Games, Grayslake, Ill.
After that, David Raso, senior managing director of New York-based International Strategy & Investment Group, delivered a construction market report. Raso covered demand drivers, including U.S. banks' willingness to make business loans and the value of total contracts awarded for U.S. transportation construction.
He also addressed construction indicators, such as new home starts, as well as new and existing home sales. Additionally, he looked at numbers related to construction equipment and rental fleet management, among others.
Although the overall picture was less than ideal, Raso said there are preliminary signs of recovery and that "the healing process has at least begun."
The importance of strategy
Dana Telford, a Utah-based business adviser and strategist, stressed the importance of companies knowing what makes them unique and valuable--especially in the current economic situation.
Not only that, he said it's critical to assemble and maintain the right group of employees to determine what sets a company apart from competitors. A company must then communicate the message tactically in both the short and long term.
Donald R. McNeeley, Ph.D., president and COO of Chicago Tube & Iron Corp., Romeoville, Ill., looked both back and ahead during his presentation, "How We Got Here, and What Have We Learned?"
He emphasized relevancy, saying the manufacturing industry remains a critical component of the U.S. economy.
McNeeley also said companies in every sector must differentiate themselves to secure success and that they must not surrender what makes them unique if they want to survive, if not thrive.
Additionally, he said competition is the secret to America's success and that the country should counteract a growing trend of neutralizing competition.
Words from Washington
Later on in the day, several speakers such as Jade West, senior vice president of government relations for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, Washington, D.C., discussed issues related to the federal government. These included infrastructure funding and the construction industry recovery program.
In regard to the latter, Steve Sandherr, CEO of The Associated General Contractors of America, Arlington, Va., said AGC is developing legislative and regulatory proposals designed to spur construction activity.
He also said the overall construction industry is facing significant economic challenges and that even though the federal stimulus program isn't ideal, it has provided some relief.
Strength in numbers
The full-day session wrapped up with two panels, one relating to credit and financing, the other addressing hypothetical situations companies must face in real life--including whether to keep or sell a business.
Another panel took the stage Sept. 11, consisting of fleet management and procurement professionals who discussed contractor pain points. MM