Embarrassed Not to Have Parts

Embarrassed not to have Parts (ENTH)

Goals and Targets

Clearly these are the parts you are embarrassed not to have when your customer comes calling.  They include: filters, fluids, hardware, o-rings, GET for machines you sold, hoses (a subject of its own), keys, and any part for a machine you sold that your customer can get today at Walmart, NAPA or the local farm store.  If you don’t have a part that he can get TODAY from somebody local, you have probably lost that customer for that part forever.  Think automobile dealers.

Virtually every machine we sell has lots of hydraulics and thus lots of hoses.  You can’t stock all the hoses for a machine.  They age poorly and have very erratic sales.  Most manufacturers make hoses non-returnable.  When a customer blows a hose, it is the kind of repair he can do quickly.  He is not going to wait three days for a hose.  I like hose shops in my branches.  It requires lots of management focus to pull off effectively since you will be competing with people who do this type of thing exclusively.  It is worth it if you can devote the time.  Throw away your turn criteria here for fittings.  Your perceived availability will go way up in the customers’ mind.  This is very hard to pull off without lots of top management focus.

I include new product introduction parts in the ENTH category.  Make sure that your branches, central inventory control and equipment sales are communicating.  You don’t want to have somebody who just purchased a machine from you to come in and you don’t have his GET or filter.

Almost all ENTH parts have very good turns so don’t be afraid to have a little safety stock here.  Run reports on these parts to make sure you are hitting your target.  I think anything less than 99.9% availability is unacceptable here.

Your customer doesn’t really expect you to be stocking an engine or sheet metal and certainly not at the branch level.  He fully expects you to have ENTH parts.  He will be mad and disappointed if you fail in this area.  He won’t forget.  He will tell his friends.  Your Inventory group should spend lots of time getting this right.

For more information on how we can help you excel at Inventory Management, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

The Return on Investment

The Return on Investment

This week brings our fourth blog post from Don Shilling.

Don Shilling

As we continue the discussion on “Growing Your Own” employees probably one of the most asked questions I get is if our company invests in a tuition reimbursement program for a sponsored future employee or in an Apprenticeship or Mentorship Program what is my return on investment (ROI)?

Business logic tells us that there is a defined cost in everything we do and the better we are at recovering those costs the better the chances are we can show a profit in what we do. Everyone’s formula for this calculation might be different so I would like to answer this a little more generically

ROI In this situation is hard to measure because every situation is different. But I usually answer the question with a question. What does turnover cost you? For every position that is measurable. When you lose an experienced employee, the costs associated with that ranges today from 1/2 of that position annual salary or more. Today filling a skilled position can take 3 months or more. Then after recruitment costs, placement fees and On Boarding and Training expense it can really cost you much more than that 1/2 years annual salary projection.

For our companies skilled positions we fill with either an apprenticeship or tuition reimbursed positions we see direct costs of the entry level salary, the cost of the pay back on the tuition reimbursement or the apprenticeship mentoring. These costs are significant there is no doubt, so typically we amortized these costs over a 3 to 5-year period.

Because these positions start as “entry level” we see an initial lower salary cost but it is important to continue wage reviews and increases with these individuals as their skill levels increase. Typically, by the end of the three to five year pay back on the tuition or apprenticeship periods this employee is at a salary level equal to market value for their skill level. This is important, keeping this employee is critical, also showing this employee he has value by doing wage reviews as they progression of their education adds to that since of pride or accomplishment for each individual.

On revenue side we of course cannot charge customers full charge rates on apprentice or school to work employees but we can recover some of their costs. Typically, that is 10 to 20% initially and steadily increasing as the employee’s skill levels increases. If you graph this out the lines between the salary cost and recovery probably intersect about 1.5 to 2.0 years into the process and usually by the third or fourth year the revenue and profit generated by that employee has normalized. That of course is good news.

Better news is the fact you have taken a potential employee and turned them into a skilled employee who has been integrated into your system, bought into your company culture, is a loyal employee, has spent three to five years becoming part of the “family” and understands that he or she has chosen a career that is meaningful and rewarding. Bottom line the turnover we have experienced with these “Grow Your Own” employees has been very low. Thus, we enjoy savings for many years of not have to fill and re-fill those positions. It adds stability to the employee base plus with less turnover being able to grow your business because of this stability is critical and well worth the effort.

Bottom line is the ROI is gradual but worth the time and efforts. Again, sighting our company, where we engage a lot in promoting from within, we really know these individuals we understand their strengths and their loyalty is undiminished. We are engaged in Filling Careers not just Filling Positions.

I grew up in a construction family and worked for my Dad several summers during and after high school. Then while working on my degree at North Dakota State University I was hired by a construction equipment dealership. I started in their service department part time until I finished college. Then full-time service employment for a couple of years then transitioned into sales management. During the recession of the early 1980’s myself and three other managers started General Equipment & Supplies, Inc.

First as Sales Manager and eventually as President we grew our business from one location and 20 employees to 10 locations in four states and two Canadian Provinces and over 250 employees. Along the way we developed relationships with area Technical Colleges and created a College Tuition Reimbursement Program where today we Recruit a handful of new technicians annually into that program. Our company has also developed two Department of Labor Certified Apprenticeship Programs to fill hard to find skilled positions. I am currently semi-retired as Chairman of the Board.

For more information on how we can help with your employee development, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.



Adult Learning & Dealership Development

Adult Learning & Dealership Development

By Floyd Jerkins

With over 35 years in business, Floyd Jerkins is an accomplished senior executive in business development with more than twenty-five years of successful consulting and training experience across various industries. He’s well known for offering specialized services for business development. His is an important voice on the topic of adult learning and dealership development.

Through lifelong learning and having a host of practical experience from a career of developing his own company’s and leading people, his background and passions serve his customers with personalization and excellence. He’s coached and worked intimately with hundreds of business owners and executives to help them achieve more success. Floyd has led large scale project development and execution on an international platform. Today, he’s providing executive coaching services.




Adult Learning & Dealership Development 

I’ve often heard that it’s easier to teach a 5th grader than an adult. I’ve never taught a 5th grader other than my kids, but what I’ve experienced first-hand teaching adults isn’t always the easiest.

As a child, we have this interest in nearly everything and are naturally curious. Then we become teenagers and have all the answers. As adults, there is a point where many stop learning about themselves and the ingredients for creating a prosperous career and lifestyle.

Education Creates Predictability 

I’ve employed a lot of people in my career. Through my consulting practice, we helped hundreds of businesses with various employee development issues. Nearly every business segment requires knowledge-based workers. These skilled men and women have to learn more because the business and customers are evolving. Each week and year, they accumulate this knowledge through experience and education.

An equipment dealership evolution is relatively predictable. Consolidation is well documented that the volume owners are shrinking, and the size of complexes are getting larger. As you move from a two-store to a 20 store complex, specific policies or procedures change with the organization’s size and scope.

The knowledge and skills required to operate the business at a corporate level are different, but still predictable, based on the roles and responsibilities. Location management and key production roles like sales and parts and service management are easily duplicatable. Well, easy is not always the case. If these folks need to learn more, where do you get this knowledge?

Typically, OEM’s offer training on various topics. When the notice comes in, key managers look across the room to see who they will send. A few training companies in the industry offer workshops for a couple of days on selected subjects. None of these offer a holistic curriculum-based education model similar to what you find at a local college or university. Why not?

Developing Talent and Bench Strength With Holistic Curriculum

Teaching adults always requires the teacher to develop methods to undo past learning experiences. Adults have a way to tune out things they think they already know or are uncomfortable to learn. That’s why at a college standardized testing is used to create reliable comparisons across all the test takers.

As the organization grows in size and scope, developing talent and bench strength should become as predictable as knowing when the next sale will happen. Growing this talent requires planned approaches to measuring what they learn by their roles and responsibilities in the organization.

Learning Without Scars has developed a holistic curriculum pathway for dealership personnel that measures learning. I don’t see this type of “behavioral education” anywhere in the industry. Here are just a few thoughts to consider:

  • The curriculum allows a dealership team to be taught the same methodology vs. sending your people to various classes that often require that you undo some of what’s taught to match your dealership.
  • The content contains concepts and applications that are proven; it isn’t guesswork.
  • Students are assessed before attending a class to know they are in the right class and the proper instruction level. Then they are tested after a class, so you know that learning has taken place.
  • Online learning classes that include video instruction is a win-win learning model. Students can access information 24/7 365. Anytime, anywhere so they can learn when they are ready.
  • A manager oversees this personal development and knows the test scores to evaluate performance, so there isn’t any guesswork if the learner has learned something.

Many people today want the magic potion to succeed. You can’t take a class and become effective if the teacher or the class material isn’t relevant. It takes real experience and a proven background of success. Ron Slee and Learning Without Scars has been successfully coaching and developing leaders and businesses for 40 years. That’s the facts, and I approve of this message.





The Woes of Unfocused Training

The Woes of Unfocused Training

This week, we continue with a guest post from Steve Day, in which he discusses with us the woes of unfocused training. Steve received a degree in Electrical Engineering and then served in the US Navy. He started with Komatsu America 1978. For the next twelve years Steve worked through various equipment sales positions before becoming the Vice President of Parts, Vice President of Service. During this period Steve sat on the board of a major distributor in the North east US as well as Hensley Industries. After twenty-five years Steve moved from the OEM side of the business to the Distribution side by joining Tractor and Equipment Company in 2003 as Vice President of Product Support.

Throughout his career Steve has learned the Industry from the ground up. This allowed him to have a very clear view of what was needed to support customers, employees and owners in their pursuit of excellence. Working at high levels in both the Manufacturing and the Distribution side of the business gave Steve some great learning opportunities and chances to develop insights.  Steve retired in January of 2020.  After spending 40 plus years in an industry we are very pleased to be able to share some of Steve’s insights with you and honored to consider Steve a friend.

Unfocused training is a waste of time and a huge waste of money!

This may not be immediately obvious but I believe that a lot of the training we give our people is unfocused.

A manufacturer tells us that they want our people to attend certain classes at the manufacturer training center or they want our trainers to be able to teach the classes.  We then usually use a very scientific method of choosing who should attend.  We call up our branch service managers and ask them who they want to send.

The day that our chosen attendee is to leave, something comes up and the manager sends somebody else.  The thing that usually comes up is that things got busy and the service manager didn’t want to send the original technician because he is too important to the branch.  The person we end up sending doesn’t learn much because they didn’t have the basic knowledge to get the most out of the class.

But, something just “came up.”

We waste money. We damage our reputation with the manufacturer and we don’t do much for the self-esteem of the tech we sent off to fail.  We also disappointed the good tech that we didn’t train. This happens more than you can imagine.

If you want to ruin your day I strongly suggest you do the following:  Go to your Training department or your HR department and ask them to give you the training record of each of your Technicians and any of your Parts people that work with customers or the Service department.

Tell them you would also like to see this year an updated copy of each of those employee’s skills assessment and this year’s training plan for each of those employees.  I only know about five distributors that won’t be disappointed.

I will continue with these reflections next week.

For focused and sound employee development training, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.org

Customizing Your Learning

Customizing Your Learning

For the past three days we have discussed our classes with: What Subject Specific Classes Can Do for You, Building the Foundation, and A Pathway to Learning. In combination, these posts have given you a clear picture of what it is we do with employee development classes and how we do it. There is still a remaining option that we have not discussed: customizing your learning.

But we are not locked in stone and think we have the answer to everyone’s training needs and employee development thoughts and ideas. Because of that we have available under the “Contact” tab on the banner line the ability for our customers to “GET IN TOUCH.” If you ever find a need for a program that you don’t already see on our site, you can get in touch to talk to us about customizing your learning.

You can address us on our Assessments, Classes, Custom Training, Writing or Speaking.

We have already received several requests from dealers wanting additional assessments or more classes. We are already working on specialized assessments, customer service, operations, selling, finance, and leadership. This will also lead to “Learning Paths” for each of these areas within both Parts and Service.

So, we ask simply: what would you like to see from us that we don’t already offer?

Never hesitate to get in touch! 

The time is now.

For more information, please visit our website at learningwithoutscars.org

Millennials and the Work Place

Millennials and the Work Place

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend and colleague about communicating with the audience for our Learning Without Scars business. An associate of ours has stated “Ron, everyone knows you. But they don’t know you.” He wants me to make a series of film clips with short stories about my career. How I started teaching, how I got into this industry, my early involvement with Computers and Dealer Business Systems, etc. That is not normally something that I like to do.

So, I asked my friend if this was something that would be a good idea and his answer surprised me. He said “for people over the age of forty-five probably, but it doesn’t do anything for millennials.”

He told me a story about a millennial that they employed who asked him what his future held. That stopped him cold, as it would most of you. We don’t typically think about or have structured programs for career path. We all kind of just wing it. Millennials are smarter than that and much less patient than my generation was at the same age. I applaud them for that. They want to know if they are going to be given opportunities. A chance to learn and develop. No, I don’t mean the corner office without any skills. That is the exception not the rule.

I wanted to continue with the theme of the past three or four blogs on the changes in learning and the path going forward.

We just put up our Job Function Assessments in Spanish and today the French language will be up as well. That means that we will have thirty-two job function assessments available, excluding the technicians. We also have ninety-four classes. Let’s talk about how we put this together.

Once an assessment has been taken for the employee’s specific job, they get a score. That score will put them into a Skills Category; Basic, Core, Advanced or Expert. In the next phase of our website development, hopefully it will be completed this summer, we will be providing navigation help in the form of short surveys. Most websites I have seen contain a lot of very beneficial and useful information. However, most of us have to find our own way to get to what we are looking for from the site. We want to do it differently.

First, when you arrive on the site there will be a short film clip welcoming you and asking you what it is that you are interested in viewing on this visit.

  • Is it an assessment?
  • Is it a class?
  • Have you already taken an assessment and you want to advance?

Your answer will bring another film clip to further assist you.

Second will be another question. Which department are you interested in seeing?

  • Parts
  • Service
  • Selling and Marketing

With the answer to that question we can take you to the next step.

If you selected an assessment the web site will deliver the assessments available for that department. You pick your job function and you will receive a description of the assessment and given the option of enrolling.

If you selected a class there will be another film clip and we will have another question. What learning category is of interest? Customer Service, Finance, Operations, Selling or Leadership. The website will then deliver the classes for that department for that learning category. Your choice will take you to a description of the class and give you the option of enrolling.

If you have taken an assessment, we already know the department, now we will ask you which job function assessment you took. With your answers we can place you in a skills and knowledge category level for that job function; basic core, advanced or expert. The website will then deliver the classes available for that skill and knowledge category that will allow the employee to improved their skills. They can pick from the classes recommended, get the description and if they so choose, they can enroll.

All enrollments are e-commerce ready and they will have their class or assessment put into a shopping cart. They can either continue shopping or pay by credit card and go forward.

I am explaining all of this because the millennials will be given an “active learning” opportunity.

  • They will know what their particular skills and knowledge level is for their job.
  • They will know what classes they need to take to improve their scores.

In other words, they will be control of their own destiny.

That is what my friend told me that they wanted. I think everyone wants to have some control over their lives and their job opportunities and are rarely given that.

What do you think? Please let me know with a comment. Thanks.

The Time is Now.

The Evolution in Learning which is fast becoming a Revolution

The Evolution in Learning which is fast becoming a Revolution

From my grandmother who taught in a one room schoolhouse, to today we have seen a lot of change in education.

I want to go back a little further than that today. Socrates, our logo, and one of the fathers of teaching, distrusted learning from books. Students reading words would gain only shadows of the original authors’ insight and worse would not understand the difference. Of course, there were not many books back then.

In his book “The End of College, Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere” Kevin Carey puts forward some interesting statistics.

  • Less than 40% of students enrolling for the first time at a four-year college actually graduate in four years. Fewer than 66% within six years.
  • There are almost thirty-three million college dropouts in America over the age of twenty-five. Many with large student loans.
  • Fourteen percent of college graduates scored at the basic level of literacy. That makes them good enough to read grade school books.

Richard Arum in his book “Academically Adrift, Limited Learning on College Campuses” said, “American higher education is characterized by limited to no learning for a large proportion of students.”

The purpose of post high school learning according to educators was practical training, research, and a liberal arts education. In 1869 Harvard University hired thirty-five-year-old Charles William Eliot to lead the school. One of the many things he did was replace the mandatory curriculum with an elective system. This exploded the courses offered, increased the faculty dramatically and caused expansion of facilities to accommodate the increased student body. The rest is history.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, (NCES) part of the Department of Education, there were 4,726 degree-granting institutions at the peak in 2012. That consisted of 3,206 four-year institutions and 1,700 two-year institutions. The enrollment in these institutions peaked at just over 21,500,000 students in 2010.

The final straw was when the Federal Guaranteed Student Loans and tuitions exploded upward. The average debt is estimated to be $37,172 per student in 2016. The total outstanding student loans in the United States reached an all time high of $1.41 trillion in 2019. Amazing isn’t it?

Today as noted in previous blogs surveys indicate that nearly 75% of three hundred professionals prefer internet-based learning instead of classroom learning.

There is one other critical factor to consider. Teaching and Learning has made a radical and very dramatic shift. We have shifted from “passive” learning to “active” learning.

With passive learning the teacher is responsible for improving the skills of the student. With active learning it is the student that has the responsibility for their own learning.

Creative thinking, collaboration and interpersonal skills show great improvement with active learning methodologies. Businesses need to pay attention. One of the main challenges in the coming decades is going to be in the area of personnel. Attracting, Recruiting, Hiring, Developing, Appraising, and Retaining talent will be a huge challenge. I believe to the core of my being that with the right people in your business you will prevail in whatever it is that you want to do. Without them you will fail.

Companies must set up a proactive learning environment to motivate their workforce.

At Learning Without Scars, we start with JOB FUNCTION SKILLS ASSESSMENTS to determine the knowledge and skill categories of individuals. From the skill category of an individual we can customize their learning experience. We can direct them to the applicable subject specific classes available for their personal progression through the skill categories; Basic, Core, Advanced and Expert.

If individuals want to take a subject specific class(es) we can tailor that as well that into five specific areas; Customer Service, Selling, Operations, Finance and Leadership. The individual can select from an array of classes choices in each of those disciplines.

This is all aimed at allowing the individual employee to design their own learning path with JOB FUNCTION SKILL ASSESSMENTS in place to monitor their progress. This is our contribution to “active” learning where the individual employee takes control of their own destiny at work. They can grow their skills and in so doing increase the likelihood of earning more money and taking on more challenging and rewarding work assignments.

As R.C. Sproul, the founder of Ligonier Ministries, said “Our problem as people is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.” And if we want to go further with him, he says “If you’re not accountable in your life that means ultimately that your life doesn’t much count.”

You have a choice to make. To be on a path of constant exploration and learning or to do nothing. The choice is YOURS to make.

The Time is Now.

Who Is Your Customer?

In Business – Why are you here?


I had an interesting conversation with Caroline, my daughter, yesterday. Caroline is a teacher, and a very good one. Of course, I am going to say that but it is very true. She teaches in an extremely underprivileged community where a very large percentage of the student body who are English Learners. Further, as with the majority of the students in our region, they rely heavily on the food programs available through schools to be able to have a meal each day. With many agricultural jobs, we see very hard-working families who still need the extra resources. A difficult situation to say the least.

We were talking about education and how this current situation, with the country closed down, is going to affect the future of education. My granddaughter goes to University, it is closed and her classes are all being conducted virtually: even the labs, as she is in the sciences. My grandson is in High School and all his classes are done virtually. My daughter teaches High School and she teaches all day, every day, virtually. Imagine that, would you? They are all in school and no one leaves home.

This is what I have been talking about since the early 2000’s. From the Khan Academy, to every major University, to IT training, most everything that anyone wants to learn is available on line. AND for the most part it is free. At Learning Without Scars we have provided a learning platform for individuals who want to improve their skills and knowledge. Unfortunately, that is not everyone. Being optimistic I believe that more people, particularly the younger generations will change that and that they will constantly be striving to make themselves better. Of course, the world has to catch up. In order for online education to succeed, our students need to have access to a decent connection to the online world. That is still not true in many parts of our country today.

Which brings me to the customer and my conversation with Caroline. The end customer of education is society. School is the vehicle which every community uses to develop the people that will create the social and economic activity that will better society. BUT, the primary customer of the school systems, of education, is the student and their family. Too often that fact gets lost in the bureaucracies of the education community: the Federal Government, which does not have a role in education enumerated in the Constitution; the State Governments, who have primary responsibility, the School Boards with elected Administrators, many of whom have never taught in a classroom in their lives, municipal governments, who receive the taxes to pay for schools and on and on. Who is thinking about the customer here? Of course, it is the teacher. But who supports that teacher?

Now look at your business. WHO is YOUR customer? That should be a very easy question to answer. I would like you to think about that for when we come out of this economic shutdown. WHO is YOUR customer? Is it the person coming in to order parts? Is it the person who calls to schedule maintenance or a repair on a machine? WHO is it? In many of these cases it is an employee of a business who uses equipment. But one more time please – WHO is the CUSTOMER?

I am hopeful that every distributor and dealer will come to a different conclusion than what has been true the past three to four decades. I am hopeful that they will begin to operate in a radically different manner than they have recently. I am hopeful that the employees will be given more and better tools to serve the machine owners. But then again, I am an optimistic person.

Things won’t be any different coming out of this economic shutdown unless we make them different. And that means some serious thinking about WHO that CUSTOMER really is that you are serving.

The Time is Now.

Business Models

Business Models

Since 1980 when Ronald Reagan and Paul Volcker fixed the high levels of inflation with a drastic increase in interest rates we have been operating on a “cost control driven” business model.

This model now needs to have a dramatic review and update.

  • I don’t believe anyone can make money by reducing costs alone.
  • We are driven by sales per employee metrics to the point of obsession.
  • We have beat up supply chains to extract costs.
  • Just in time inventories supply chains are the norm.
  • We have “computerized” business processes, moving a paper form to an input screen. We have not improved them.
  • We have concluded that market coverage is too expensive and seen precipitous reductions in market share as competitors have taken our customers by simply calling on them.
  • We have taken on incredible levels of risk thinking low interest rates are with us forever.
  • Rental inventories have grown and money has been made without the offset to risk abatement.
  • With market changes the escape valve for too much inventory is nowhere in sight.

Now is not the time to have the technocrats and managers, alone, determine what needs to be done to improve business. Now is the time to include and involve every single employee in this effort. Never forget that the employee doing the job should be the one that knows that job better than anyone else and to ignore them is not only wrong but truly a shame.

The Time is Now.

Competence and Recognition

Competence and Recognition

With so many learning opportunities available over the internet and very few of these classes earning University or Colleges credits directly many institutions have devised a method to recognize individual student competencies.

They are using badges.

While with our accreditation by IACET we will be able to offer Continuous Education Units, which lead to college and technical school credits, we fell it is necessary and important to recognize specific skills within our learning programs.

We have identified five skill sets that need further recognition. They are Sales, Finance, Operations, Leadership and Customer Service. We are using the same approach as was used to develop our Skills Assessments. We are selecting 60 questions from the 2,400 questions used in our Skills Assessments and selecting them according to their relevance to the skill sets listed above. We will offer Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze Skill Set Badges.

Each learner then will be able to follow classes related to their job function, perform a skills assessment related to that same job as well as be able to be recognized as to their individual level of competence on specific skills sets.

This will be a first in our Industry. We are proud of this accomplishment and hat it will mean to our hardworking heroes in the parts, service and product support sales world.

The Time is Now.