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[Source: INEDA, 03.2016 | Keywords: Business Operations, 20 Groups, Dealerships]

Equipment dealers can make connections with other dealers through a variety of avenues. From manufacturer meetings and Iowa-Nebraska Equipment Dealer Association (I-NEDA) events, to training seminars and management groups, dealers are discovering the importance of networking with other dealers, regardless of the size, location or brand.

Several INEDA members have found networking with other dealers in Spader Business Management 20 Groups to be extremely beneficial. These groups give members the opportunity to connect with other comparable dealers and go back to the dealership armed with tactics, information and trends to impact their bottom line. The opportunity to connect, compare and learn with peers is the hallmark of Spader 20 Groups.

“Spader 20 Groups bring the dealer connection to a whole other level,” said John Spader, president. “These are other people like you who recognize if you are doing things that can be improved and know what it takes to make it happen. Group members not only get to know you more, but see your financials and tour your business as well.”

“It is important for us to see how our dealership is doing compared to comparable dealerships instead of relying on a gut feeling or a financial statement,” said Todd Davidson, who has been participating nearly 11 years in Spader 20 Groups. “It is imperative that we gauge ourselves off other successful dealerships.”

20 Groups hold members accountable. “A good 20 Group becomes like a board of directors,” said Spader. “We have several 20 Group members who say they wouldn’t be near as successful if it weren’t for these groups.”

“The sharing of information in these groups is invaluable. There is a real sense of holding one another accountable,” said Tony Marlow, who has participated in 20 Groups for several years. “You hear what other dealers have done when they faced certain situations. We share ideas to spare others from going through the same learning curve as we did.”

According to Spader, 20 Groups often give dealers confidence and peace of mind. “When you get 15 of your peers to look at your dealership and say you are doing the best you can or give you suggestions on things you can do to improve, it makes you realize that you aren’t alone,” said Spader. “These dealer connections help to provide perspective, accountability, support and confidence.”

He added, “Here is your chance to meet with a bunch of other people experiencing the same things as you. This is one place where people really get it and can lend their support. You can let your hair down and tell them what you are going through because they are here to help.”

“Initially, I resisted joining the 20 Group when they put this AGCO group together because I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the investment,” said Steve Manzer, who joined the group in February 2015. “However, I have found that the discussions and sharing of ideas among dealers has been extremely beneficial. I see that other dealers are facing same issues and have learned from things that they are doing well. This is really worth my time and investment.”

“The knowledge you gain from sharing with other dealers going through the exact same struggles as you is tremendous,” stressed Marlow. “It’s hard to put a value on sharing best practices.”

“When you go to a manufacturer meeting everything is focused on manufacturer information. Spader meetings cover broader topics,” explained Davidson. “Plus, the confidential setting and mutual respect we have for the other participants makes it easy to talk openly within the group.”

A Spader representative facilitates the meetings. In addition, 20 Groups have online portals where dealers can participate in discussion threads between meetings. “The facilitator plays a key part of the equation with these groups,” said Marlow.

“They are an independent set of eyes that look at things from a different perspective. They are a vital part in making the group function.” – Tony Marlow

20 Group members often email and talk with each other between meetings. “Some friendships definitely develop and continue outside the group,” said Marlow. “There’s a comfort level with calling up a member and asking questions specific to what I’m experiencing. The close relationships I’ve formed in 20 Groups are priceless.”

Davidson has also formed several friendships with fellow 20 Group members. “These are people I can rely on when I need advice or need to bounce an idea by someone,” he said. “They can relate to what I’m dealing with and understand my concerns. Often, they have been in a similar situation and can tell me what did and did not work.”

Spader sends participants monthly consolidated financial reports showing peer-to-peer comparisons. “Spader does a phenomenal job collecting data and putting it out to participants so you can compare your own performance against your peers,” said Marlow.

“20 Groups help me with benchmarking and understanding industry trends,” added Eric Nordschow, who has participated in 20 Groups for 18 years. “As an ag business, I cannot afford to do things wrong.”

He added, “I find that visiting other dealerships, doing analytics and asking questions is very helpful to my business. It gives me the value of understanding the business better, regardless of the brand.”

“Down times are powerful times,” concluded Spader. “In 20 Groups you have the support of others to help and when you face tough times or big challenges, they get it. In today’s environment with everything changing so fast you can choose to stay in a bubble in your own dealership, but it will be hard for you to keep up. Having someone going through the same things as you and there to lend support can make things much easier.”