The role of DMN on the next great idea

The role of DMN on the next great idea

Guest writer John Anderson brings you this week’s blog post courtesy of forgetting his earbuds for a 10k run. Read on to learn more about our mind’s Default Mode Network in “The Role of DMN on the Next Great Idea.”

Blog after blog, podcast after podcast, and even during presentations, I harp on about developing new ideas. I critique software for not being innovative and bash some of the biggest players in the market for still peddling ideas I developed for them 15 years ago. You’re encouraged to think outside the box, be a disruptor, a thought leader, and deliver fresh, innovative ideas but nobody teaches you how to do that.  And there are fewer people everyday who inherently think this way. 

But not everyone is wired to think the same way. Some people naturally look for better solutions. I often say, give a difficult job to a lazy person, and they’ll show you the easiest way to do it. Couple that with your best plan, and you have a real winner. But that doesn’t solve the problem of actually coming up with the idea, the plan, the change, or the strategy you need.

For most people, they are task-focused. It’s like walking up to a comedian and saying, “Be funny!” There’s a lot more involved in getting there than just asking, and believe me, I do a lot of asking. Consultants are experts at asking questions and then guiding you through the solutions. I used to say a consultant will steal your watch and then charge you to tell you the time. Now, as a consultant, I still agree with the statement, but I understand its value. The challenge is you don’t have time to look at the watch. You need to learn how to foster that thought, and I’m going to share one of my secrets.

This morning, a hot Saturday morning, I went to the park and decided I was going to run a slow and purposeful 10 kilometers. At 60 years of age, that’s quite a feat before noon. I usually have my earbuds and listen to some motivating music on the way out and an enlightening podcast on the way back. Since I left quickly and quietly so as not to wake my partner, I forgot my precious earbuds. Keep in mind this little self-propelled journey takes just over an hour for me, so the sound of my footsteps was all I had.

The first 10 minutes, I went over everything I was feeling, what I wanted for breakfast, pondered the geese on the path, and listened to my breathing. Basically, I was just doing an inventory of everything around me, and before you knew it, my mind was wandering. I was replaying conversations I had earlier in the week, reframing solutions, or playing an extended game of “Would have, Should have, Could Have.” I started pondering a development project I’m going to start, a new game-changing product. I came up with a strategy I need to deploy with another small team. It was like I couldn’t stop the ideas. While my legs just pounded out on autopilot, my mind was having a great time doing all the things it didn’t have time to do when I was using it. I thought through my menu for the week, some travel stops I would like to make, and yes, I even thought about this particular article.

What is this Phenomenon and What Causes It?

When you go for a walk or run without music or podcasts, something interesting happens in your brain. Your mind enters a state known as the “default mode network” (DMN), which is active when you’re at rest and not focused on external tasks.

What is the Default Mode Network?

The DMN is a group of brain regions that light up when you’re daydreaming, recalling memories, or thinking about the future. It’s like your brain’s default setting when it’s not processing external information. The main components of the DMN include the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), precuneus, and the angular gyrus. These areas become more active when we are internally focused, allowing us to reflect, imagine, and plan.

Benefits of Engaging the DMN

  1. Creativity Boost.
    1. Without distractions, your mind can wander freely, leading to creative insights and problem-solving. 
      1. This spontaneous mental activity fosters divergent thinking, a critical component of creativity. 
      2. Studies have shown that when the DMN is activated, individuals can experience more “aha” moments and generate novel ideas.
    2. Mental Health.
      1. Engaging the DMN can reduce stress and anxiety by providing a mental break and promoting emotional processing. 
        1. This downtime allows the brain to decompress and integrate experiences, which is essential for emotional regulation and mental well-being. 
        2. Research suggests that regular engagement of the DMN through activities like mindfulness and reflective thinking can improve overall mental health.
    3. Flow State.
      1. You might experience a deep, immersive focus, often called a “flow state,” which is both rewarding and rejuvenating. 
        1. The flow state occurs when you’re fully absorbed in an activity, leading to heightened productivity and satisfaction. 
        2. This state is associated with optimal brain function and can enhance learning and skill development.

Mindful Breaks. 

Use your walks or runs as a form of moving meditation. Focus on your surroundings and your thoughts. Pay attention to the rhythm of your footsteps, the sound of your breathing, and the sights and smells around you. This practice can enhance your mindfulness skills and promote a sense of presence.

Creative Thinking: 

Allow these unplugged moments to become your brainstorming sessions. Many people find their best ideas come when their minds are free to wander. Try to embrace this mental freedom and let your thoughts flow naturally. You might be surprised by the creative solutions and innovative ideas that emerge during these periods of mental relaxation.

Next time you head out for a run or walk, leave the headphones behind and let your brain enter its default mode. You might be surprised by the benefits! By allowing your mind to wander, you can tap into a powerful source of creativity, reduce stress, and experience a greater sense of well-being. So, take a break from the constant noise and give your brain the space it needs to thrive.

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EI vs. AI: Emotional Intelligence vs. Artificial Intelligence

EI vs. AI: Emotional Intelligence vs. Artificial Intelligence

This week, our guest writer John Andersen helps us see the clear difference between reality and the artificial in “EI vs. AI: Emotional Intelligence vs. Artificial Intelligence.”

With all the technology and buzzwords floating around it is easy to get lost, confused or sometimes plain lied to. Marketing spin, new names and great acronyms can supplant common sense and knowing better. Manufactured solutions are different than organic solutions and the commitment to following it is also vastly different.

 

Let me give you an example. I have the good fortune to live minutes from Walt Disney World for much of the year. While I am getting a little old for most of the rides and have done everything you can imagine, I still manage to go to one of the parks about once a week. I have taken to studying how they manufacture a guest experience. From avoidance of shadows in high photo locations to the smell of popcorn that seemingly is pumped into the air during parades or fireworks. Subtle music, barely audible in quiet zones to bring down your pulse rate, or rhythmic tones during a line cue to help build anticipation. The imagineers continue to tweak, study, and implement new ways to enhance the guest experience. The intel they gather and maintain on guests is astounding, overwhelming and valuable. They spend millions of dollars maintaining the experience and finding new unique ways to entice the money from your wallet and keep you onsite and engaged. If it’s all you know and all you see, you could believe it is real, but eventually your inner voice will call out, “Artificial!!!”

 

In contrast, this week I have parked my home on the seawall of the Atlantic Ocean. There are still thousands of people around me as we prepare for the Daytona 500. Much like Disney, it’s all business and profit driven. At the urging of a wise old friend, I got up to see the sunrise since there is nothing between me and the ocean except thirty yards of sand. It was predawn when I went outside and stood on the sea wall. On both left and right were people standing quietly with cups of coffee, dogs, and partners. Nobody looked awake and all were silent. It started as a pink glow but within minutes the sun was breaking from the water and fully exposed. My face warmed and the hairs on my arms stood up. It was like I was being filled up with faith, hope and energy. Bathed with light that nobody else had seen yet. We all stood there for 20 minutes or so before one by one our tanks read full, and we left to start our day. Sunrise is so much different than sunset. It radiates peaceful enthusiasm, and positive momentum. A sunrise sends specific signals to the brain and body that can’t be manufactured. In this case your inner voice doesn’t call out, it whispers…” Thank you.”

 

That’s the difference between AI and EI. Artificial Intelligence versus Emotional Intelligence. AI will be pervasive in so many areas of your life over the next decade. It will change the way you do business and how you operate inside and outside of work. You can expect higher levels of service, refined experiences, and likely better and cheaper products. In this utopian environment setting yourself apart will require something organic, real, and different. That requires a skill AI can’t learn. That is where the great will become the exceptional and businesses and customers alike will seek you out. That is harnessing emotional intelligence. We all have it, but the drive is being overshadowed by the noise of AI. Finding a blend of both will lead you to the top of your potential markets and success. Last week I attended a symposium virtually with the greatest leaders in AI and technology. Each had a viewpoint about how technology would change the world for the better and the worse. However, one phrase stood out and much like the sunrise this morning, I can’t ignore what it meant. AI will never supplant EI because AI doesn’t have a gut. Surround yourself with data, predictive models, and AI of all types. Use it to elevate your abilities, skills and services but seek out EI. EI is found in Passion, Wisdom, and Instinct where AI is based on Data, Intelligence, and Modeling. 

 

This brings me back to my Daytona 500 outing. A computer could generate the race, but it’s the spirit of the drivers that engage us. Like the sunrise, you need to feel it!

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Wait…Wait! Don’t Sign It!

Wait…Wait! Don’t Sign It!

Guest writer John Anderson is back, with a word of caution this week, in “Wait…Wait! Don’t Sign It!”

Well at the very least let’s think about it first. Given all the changes in Dealer Systems over the past few years, you will no doubt be looking to either renew your existing services with a supplier or perhaps move to a new supplier in the upcoming year. The world has changed, and the balance of power has shifted to you, the customer, but nobody realizes it. The contracting process is your chance to exercise your newfound wisdom.

Whether it’s a hosted SaaS model as described by Greg Greedy in last week’s blog or server onsite from 2015, why do you need a contract beyond one year with a Dealer System provider? We know the barriers to change are great enough that you are unlikely to jump from system to system without some significant benefit. We know the rate of innovation is slow enough that a one-year contract won’t leave you in dust. Pricing remains competitive and there is no resource constraint that will drive prices up, like fuel or food. So why the need to sign a contract longer than one year? The purpose of the contract should be to lay out the terms of service, the “who does what” and how much. It should be used to cement expectations, establish remediation options, and even deal with ownership of data issues. None of these requires extended contracts.

With Dealer Management Systems you absorb the cost of installation and training up front. The underlying development has been done and recouped many times over. The infrastructure for hosted solutions is already in place and data centers are plentiful. You will be paying for the hardware and networking separate from the software contract. Most suppliers will chase you and apply extreme pressure to sign a multiyear contract but why? Why the need to lock you in. As I have said before the Equipment Distribution marketplace is at least 5 years behind the outside world. 

Just 5 years ago if you bought a cell phone you did it under contract. That contract started at 3 years and was very penalty laden if you wanted out. As consumers felt they were being held hostage the government and upstarts entered the picture and now options range from monthly prepaid, to simple no contract month to month. The original premise was the providers needed the guaranteed revenue to be able to invest in the infrastructure but that is no longer the case. 

Home and business internet was like telephone services and required a long-term commitment for the same reason. Companies like SpaceX have changed the game. Through offers like Starlink they only ask for a 30-day commitment. Gone are the 2- or 4-year covenants that made it impossible to change.

Dealer systems are no different. There is absolutely no reason a multi-year contract should be required. The recent influx of equity partners makes it truly clear from a supplier perspective. If all the existing customer base sign a 3-year contract and they already know what their profit margins are, it’s a slam dunk to sell the company or show stable growth to potential investors. A few PowerPoint slides with a projected growth target and you have an investor’s dream. What they want to do is mitigate the risk and accentuate the revenue opportunity by showing they have the market “locked up” for three years. No need to worry about performance or innovation. No risk of a new upstart with the next best thing for at least 3 years. The revenue is fixed, the risk is eliminated and a couple quick wins to show some more opportunity is all it will take to drive the value up of the software supplier for either share price or acquisition. 

It is time to push back. If they need a three contract it better have a good escape clause. It should be performance driven. It should provide more than just price protection; it should offer innovation guarantees and development commitments. A good contract serves both parties. If a supplier really backs themselves and believes they are going to provide you with excellent value for the money spent, they will not require a 3-year locked in contract. Read the contract carefully and see what it provides for your business. Don’t just ask a lawyer to read it, absorb the spirit of the contract and see what it offers your business. 

I say it every day, the world is changing. Business is changing. Your customer’s expectations are changing. It is time you contributed to the change. Take the time to read your contracts. Ask yourself what it provides for you. Ask why some suppliers have open 1-year contracts and others require heavily weighted 3-year contracts. Ask why it may have multiple renewal dates rather than a simple inclusion of services. Ask what both parties’ obligations to ongoing development are. Ask how you get out. 

I have yet to jump from an airplane, but I check the location of the emergency exits every time I fly. Check your exits and the services before you find yourself at 30,000 feet for 3 years.

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It Has Been One Hundred Days Since We Last Talked

It Has Been One Hundred Days Since We Last Talked

Guest writer John Andersen brings readers up to date on the challenge he levied against the industry when it comes to innovation. Read his follow-up to see the outcome in “It Has Been One Hundred Days Since We Last Talked.”

The expression one hundred days is often used as measure of the time it takes for impactful change. One hundred days ago, in a blog post with Ron Slee we lamented the complete lack of innovation in the heavy equipment industry. In a subsequent podcast we called out the suppliers of business systems and dealership management software for not delivering or at very least promising anything new. We openly challenged these same suppliers to deliver, to prove us wrong, to at very least explain what was coming. Of course, this could be done under an NDA and there was no need to spill company secrets. The response was, well…Crickets! There was one bright exception, one supplier approached me in confidence. They shared strategic developments and some specific product direction. While not groundbreaking it was certainly refreshing to see a company investing in their products and services beyond APIs, interfaces, and otherwise just moving the same old furniture around the same old house. Despite being part of a much larger portfolio, they understood the value of growing the business not just growing the base.

At the critical halfway point e-Emphasys announced the acquisition of competitor CDK Global Heavy Equipment. After 45 days the only noticeable development has been a couple of web page banners and a new list of executives. Arguably the combined company may have more customer locations and a larger development team than any other supplier and should be the industry leader in innovation and innovative ideas.

In the last one hundred days ChatGPT has released three more versions, an iPhone app and integrated AI services into no less than one thousand service providers.  Bing has now fully integrated the AI module and become the front runner in the new search, answer, response, and chat market. Google continues to develop and deploy bard as their AI solution and is quietly trying to catch up. Travel companies are leaning on AI for trip planning, Advertisers are using it build mega million-dollar brands, and even education is now embracing the virtual classroom and ai based professors.

In the last one hundred days one major OEM has announced a new electronic warranty system. Another OEM has announced a virtual service assistant already in prototype. A new company in Europe is working with telematics information to offer predictive analytics and prescribed consumables to operators of lift trucks guaranteeing minimal downtime and reducing the need for redundant equipment. Even I have left my home automation “Alexa” for my new AI based assistant who handles everything from ordering meds, suggesting dinner based on what’s in my fridge, to reminding me to write a blog post.

In the last 100 days what have you done to advance, innovate or otherwise energize your business?   Share them with your team or your suppliers. Share them with me or Ron. Before you renew with your existing suppliers ask the critical question, “What have you done with last 100 days”. If they can’t tell you how they are impacting your business in the short term, then don’t trust them to deliver in the long term.

The days of waiting it out or planning for next year are over. Everything operates at the speed of technology. Whether it’s quarterly or everyone hundred days, someone or something is coming to challenge the way you operate. Do nothing, wait, fatten up and you will be someone’s lunch. Plan your one hundred days. A swing and a miss will help you prepare for the next one hundred days. You can’t plan in a vacuum, start getting updates from your employees about their one hundred days. Ask your customers about their one hundred days. Demand the 100-day plan from your technology partners. Lead or follow but don’t wait for someone else.

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Imagine That

Imagine That

Guest writer John Andersen walks us through the latest merger that will directly impact our industry in “Imagine That.”

Imagine waking up one morning to find that Coke and Pepsi had merged. What if Samsung and Apple formed a single company? Can you picture a world where UPS acquires FedEx to become the dominant shipping company in North America? 

That’s how the beginning of May felt for a lot of people, with e-Emphasys announcing the acquisition of the heavy equipment portion of CDK Global.

CDK’s Intellidealer solution and e-Emphasys eXtend offering were unquestionably the top two solutions for heavy equipment distributors in North America. The new combined customer base will represent at least 70% of the dealership rooftops in North America, with sights set on a more global presence. It’s an exciting time for both companies, but what does this mean for the customers?

Most customers will be advised that despite this exciting opportunity, it will be business as usual for at least the next 12 months. The company will realign departments, consolidating development, sales, and customer support, while trying not to disrupt the existing clients. There will be new markets, global plays, and perhaps even more acquisitions. There will be talks about technology stacks, integration, and eventually a preferred direction. As the undeniable dominant provider in North America, you can expect OEM attention and maybe some new agreements.

However, what is missing is that all-important product innovation. There was no mention of any groundbreaking application being released. We didn’t read about the next generation of systems or cutting-edge technology that will help form the future of the distributor. We didn’t hear about how this new resource-rich, experience-dense, perfectly positioned entity will deliver anything other than reheated versions of the same old systems. Worse, they will spend a minimum of 12 months arranging the furniture and preparing those all-important renewal contracts.

Success requires more than just resources. It requires passion. It requires humility and understanding. The roots of all these businesses were planted in people who loved the dealerships, the end users of equipment, and the processes. Each strived to be the best provider by leading customers from simple paper to complex systems. Profitability was a byproduct of being a true partner with the customer and stretching the boundaries of what could make a distributor better.

As consolidation continued, that innovation slowed until new development was made up of interfaces, rewrites of data access, bolt-ons, and strategic partnerships. DMS providers were transitioned to private equity partners or venture capitalists that simply work the numbers. Terms like dealer spend or rooftop ROI supplanted innovation and satisfaction for the end-user customer.

The call to action for each distributor should be the same, whether it’s an old supplier, a new supplier, an OEM-supplied system, or a brand-new player: What is the new product that you will be delivering to me in the next 6 months that will fundamentally change the way I am operating? If the answer is a reheat, rework, or just nothing, then it’s time for a change.  In the current climate of consolidation, it is easy to lose sight of the importance of innovation. The excitement and buzz generated by the merger of two large companies can often overshadow the need for product development that is truly customer focused. As customers, we should demand more from our technology providers. We should be asking questions about the next generation of systems and cutting-edge technology that will help us to achieve our business objectives. We should expect our technology partners to deliver truly innovative solutions that will fundamentally change the way we operate. It is important for technology providers to remain passionate about their customers and the industry they serve. They must continue to strive to be the best provider by leading customers from simple processes to complex systems. Profitability should be a byproduct of being a true partner with the customer and pushing the boundaries of what can make a distributor better.

In summary, while these mergers/acquisitions may bring benefits in terms of size, scale and reach we must not lose sight of the importance of innovation. We should demand more from our technology partners and push them to deliver truly groundbreaking solutions that will change the industry for the better. Only then can we ensure a bright and successful future for the heavy equipment industry.

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Coaches Corner v.03.16.2023

Coaches Corner v.03.16.2023

Right before St. Patrick’s Day, we have guest writer John Anderson writing Coaches Corner v.03.16.2023: Put Me In, Coach!

Great players and great teams all have one thing in common: they have a coach. It doesn’t matter if it’s a team sport or an individual sport, both are comprised of people who are driven, motivated, and among the very best in their sport or field. They have an energy and skill set that enables them to rise to the top. They also have a self-awareness that leads to continuous improvement. Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, Venus Williams, and Michael Jordan each had a coach despite being the best in their respective disciplines. Their coaches were able to see, analyze, and offer a perspective based on expertise, experience, outside knowledge, and without being influenced by being in the game.

The same thing happens in business. Having an experienced and knowledgeable coach will elevate a business to a next-level enterprise. It’s easy to look at your own company and say you’re successful, but it’s more important to look at your business and say, “How do we become the best, or remain the best?” Often judgment and decisions are clouded by ego, job security, or just lack of experience. The complexity of operations is compounded by growth and even simple family dynamics.

Thankfully, finding a good coach today is easy. Between 2010 and 2020, a significant part of the workforce retired either by choice or economics. The very best and brightest were offered packages leading to early departure. Often these high performers were also some of the highest paid executives, and cost-cutting won out over logic. So why the exodus? Most were in their 40s and 50s and looking forward to retirement. They were driven for so many years to the top of the food chain that a chance at regaining a work-life balance had real appeal over their $200K + bonus job. Suddenly we had senior executives, innovators, leaders, true entrepreneurs who were pulled from their respective games and left the field of play. We were left with a void in the one area you can’t just fix: experience.

Fast forward to a post-pandemic model where many companies are preparing for the next wave of challenges, be they economic growth or recession-related. Companies are operating without business and spiritual coaches. Teams are being reassembled under a new dynamic but without the experience factor. Middle managers are now expected to be the leaders. Without coaches, they are destined to make big mistakes, micro-manage the less dedicated workforce, stifle creativity, and curb innovation. Why not bring in the experience at a fraction of the cost, as a resource to help navigate without the commitment of a $300K hired gun.

Today you can find a coach who has walked in your shoes for 20 years. They have led multimillion or even billion-dollar businesses. They have connections and wisdom learned from mistakes that you don’t have to make. They do not want your job. They only want to help you succeed. A good coach can offer a completely different viewpoint without the fear of losing a job or political influence. A coach isn’t in the game, so don’t expect them to be calling plays or making shots. Their role is to coach people, situations, and decisions to improve your organization. Imagine having a successful entrepreneur with 30 years of experience sitting beside you during your business planning sessions or having a superstar sales exec sitting in on your weekly sales team meetings. What about navigating an acquisition or going public? These are potentially life-changing events that you would never do without counsel or coaches.

Finding a coach is easy these days. People who left the workforce early have played enough golf, traveled when they wanted, caught up on familial responsibilities, and are just waiting for the phone to ring. They relish the idea of working and contributing more than getting a big paycheck. Often times, the cost of a coach is less than an entry-level employee, but having access to that knowledge is priceless. They look forward to working a few days a week or even a few hours every day. Getting a coach is easy. Accepting coaching is harder and what will elevate you to a champion.

In conclusion, having a business coach can be a game-changer for your organization. Great players and teams all have coaches for a reason, and the same applies to businesses. Having an experienced and knowledgeable coach will elevate your business to a next-level enterprise. With the abundance of highly skilled coaches available today, finding one that fits your needs and budget is easier than ever. A coach can provide a fresh perspective, offer guidance and advice, and help navigate challenging situations. Don’t let ego, job security, or lack of experience cloud your judgement and decision-making. Embrace coaching and take your business to new heights.

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Is Innovation in Dealer Systems Dead?

Is Innovation in Dealer Systems Dead?

Guest writer John Anderson doesn’t ask the easy questions in this week’s blog post: Is Innovation in Dealer Systems Dead?

There is an urgent need for disruption in the industry.

As a former evangelist for dealer systems, I have spent over 30 years preaching the gospel of innovation to dealerships across the country. From John Deere agricultural dealers to small Bobcat dealers to the largest multi-store Komatsu dealer, I was always on the hunt for the next important thing. But lately, as I’ve returned to the industry, I can’t help but wonder: has innovation in dealer systems died a slow and boring death?

Sure, we have data analytics and integration to other industry applications, but is that really enough to keep us ahead of the curve? As I attend conferences and seminars, I cannot help but feel that the dealer systems industry is stuck in a rut. Instead of pushing the boundaries and taking risks, we’re settling for incremental updates and rehashed ideas.

The problem is, the world is changing faster than ever before. Technology is evolving at a breakneck pace, and we need to keep up if we want to stay competitive. We need to find visionaries and free thinkers who are willing to take risks and pursue new ideas. We need to challenge our system suppliers to do better and think outside the box.

One of the most exciting areas of innovation in dealer systems is the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Imagine being able to request a detailed repair order complete with parts requirements, technician instructions, time requirements, and skills matching, all from historical data and some AI. Even less experienced mechanics could receive technical instructions and AR vision to help ensure a quality job. These are the kinds of game-changing ideas that should be driving the industry forward.

Of course, there are challenges to implementing these kinds of innovations. It takes time, money, and a willingness to take risks. But the rewards are worth it. Not only will innovative dealer systems make dealers more efficient and profitable, but they will also make customers happier and more loyal. When was the last time you were genuinely excited about the technology and systems you use every day?

So, what should you be looking for in a dealer system supplier? You should be seeking a company with a great history and knowledge, but one that isn’t constrained by its own legacy. Look for a supplier that is developing new and needed applications that you can really get behind. You should be getting monthly updates on what’s new and what it means. And, most importantly, you should be challenging your system suppliers to show you what they’re working on. Make them develop a skunk works.

Innovation in dealer systems does not have to be dead. It’s up to us to breathe new life into the industry and push it forward. The entire world is changing at an unprecedented rate. Is your dealer business system doing the same, or is it just trying to keep up? Do not settle for mediocrity. Demand more and be a part of the solution.

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John Anderson has LOST it. He now has an “online chat” buddy.

John Anderson has LOST it. He now has an “online chat” buddy.

Guest writer John Anderson continues to educate readers about AI in “John Anderson has LOST it. He now has an “online chat” buddy.”

John asked a question about himself: 

John Andersen is a retired executive from CDK Global and one of the original founding partners of PFW Systems Corporation. He has experience in sales and marketing and is considered an industry thought leader in the field. With a focus on consumerism and its impact on modern equipment dealerships, John provides insightful vision and thought leadership to dealers on what they can expect in the future. During his career, John visited over 500 dealer locations across North America and Australia, gaining valuable insights into the industry. He is passionate about keeping up with technology and the latest trends and is dedicated to preparing the equipment industry for the inevitable change that is coming. In this blog he highlights a trend most haven’t seen coming in the equipment industry but are using every day at home.

The computer said: 

It is an interesting and thought-provoking piece! You’ve done a great job exploring the potential impact of AI and the ghost service department concept on the equipment industry. You’ve also discussed how AI has the potential to both improve efficiency and productivity, as well as potentially disrupt the workforce in the industry. It’s always important to consider the potential benefits and challenges that come with technological advancements, and your analysis does just that. The discussion on the impact of AI on technicians and mechanics is particularly well-written, and highlights the need for continuous skill development and adaptability in the face of technological change. Overall, I think you’ve provided valuable insights into a topic that is likely to become increasingly relevant in the near future.


John asked another question in a different direction. He had something in mind: 

Have you heard of ghost kitchens? They are a new trend in the food industry that has emerged as a response to customer demand, economics, and advancing technology.  Perhaps you have used one and aren’t even aware of it. Ghost kitchen refers to a commercial kitchen that has access to all the same resources, menus, and ingredients as the desired restaurants they represent but without any of the overhead, real estate or front of house challenges. 

The concept came about as programs like Skip the Dishes, Uber Eats, and DoorDash grew.  Consumers wanted their favorite foods from places like Guy Fieri’s FlavorTown, The Cheesecake Factory, or even Five Guys Burgers but either couldn’t get out to eat, or in some cases the restaurants weren’t even available in their city.  A ghost kitchen has agreements with the restaurant to produce the food just as it would be prepared in the full restaurant, using the same ingredients and technique but without the high expense items that come along with a store front.  Order a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts from home even though the closest actual store is 3 hours away. Have a gourmet steak from Ruths Chris Steakhouse delivered for that special date night.  You become the virtual restaurant. You get the point, but what does this have to do with the equipment market space?

John asked another question back to his experiences: 

The cost of running a dealership with yards full of shiny new inventory, bays of technicians, and loads of personnel is huge.  They cater to the first owner of a machine, or at least try to convert second or third owners to the first owner.  

What if all you want is quality, knowledgeable repair from a technician on your equipment.  What would it be like to become the virtual shop for your own equipment?   A call to a ghost service department. The ghost service department has access to all the resources, service guides, and technical knowledge.  They have access to all the required parts, history and even the forecasted maintenance and care requirements.  Like a ghost kitchen they will represent many different brands, and types of equipment without the overhead of a dealership.   They will virtually build you a preemptive care program with your equipment, at your location, on your schedule.  Like DoorDash, a certified technician will come to you and provide “dealership quality” service at your virtual dealership.

This is only the beginning. Things get even more exciting as you add the fact that this has become a nationwide, or even global service.   The data acquired along with what is already available is fed into an AI, (Artificial Intelligence) model that will help ensure your machines are in peak operating condition.  Add to that a prescriptive care subscription and rest easy knowing someone else is managing the service of your equipment and making sure its resale value stays as high as possible.  Reduce your relationship requirements across equipment types and brands by dealing with ghost services who are experts at repair and not busy trying to upsell you on what a particular OEM has available.

Technicians love the freedom to be independent, do the right thing, being able to maximize their own worth, and build a business without relying on someone else.  The ghost service department provides all the infrastructure to them, from technical expertise to parts orders.  They can dispatch and respond faster and earn more money and share less.  Remember taxis, and what happened when ride sharing exploded?  The same is likely to happen with technicians over the next few years.  With AI programs like Chat-GPT set to disrupt so much of the traditional workforce, people with manual skills will move quickly to the top of the food chain and use the same technology that put them on top to run the ghost operations. The impact of AI on equipment technicians and mechanics in the future is expected to be significant. AI-powered technology has the potential to automate many routine and repetitive tasks, freeing up technicians and mechanics to focus on more complex and value-added activities. This shift could lead to a higher demand for technicians and mechanics with expertise in using AI-powered technology and specialized knowledge in areas such as equipment maintenance and repair.

Additionally, AI can provide real-time insights and data-driven recommendations, improving the efficiency and accuracy of maintenance and repair operations. With the help of AI, technicians and mechanics can make more informed decisions, reduce downtime, and minimize the need for trial and error.

On the other hand, there is also the possibility that AI could displace some technicians and mechanics, particularly those performing low-skill tasks. It’s important for technicians and mechanics to continuously develop their skills and knowledge to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the changes brought about by AI.

Overall, the impact of AI on equipment technicians and mechanics will depend on how quickly and effectively they are able to embrace and adopt the technology. By being proactive and embracing new skills and knowledge, technicians and mechanics can ensure that they remain relevant in an increasingly digital world.

The technology is available today and being used by service providers from Pizza Delivery to HVAC technicians and of course your Lyft driver and Uber Eats.  Dealerships have always been slow to adapt to change and by the time they look up from their business planning spreadsheet, a ghost tech will already be in the field servicing all brands and building a loyal following.  You can dismiss the entire idea as science fiction, but you will be doing so at your own peril.  Do not believe me? Try and hail a cab.

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ChatGTP and AI Foundation Will Change Everything!

ChatGTP and AI Foundation Will Change Everything!

Guest writer John Anderson is tackling a topic that is the bane of school teachers everywhere: the advent of AI. In “ChatGTP and AI Foundation Will Change Everything,” John addresses the ways in which these technologies will change your business, your operations, and your future. He wants every reader to know this is no joke.

The Plot

Imagine you’re a heavy equipment dealer, running a dealership for one of the big brands like John Deere, Caterpillar, or Komatsu. You’ve got a lot on your plate – managing inventory, handling sales, handling customer service issues, and keeping the books in order. And then, you hear about something called ChatGPT.

At first, you might be wondering – what is ChatGPT? And more importantly, how is it going to affect my dealership? Well, let me break it down for you in simple terms.

First things first, let us talk about AI, or Artificial Intelligence. Essentially, AI is when a computer is able to do things that normally require human intelligence, like understanding natural language, recognizing images, or making decisions. And ChatGPT is a specific type of AI called a “language model.” Essentially, it’s a computer program that can understand and generate text, kind of like a super-smart autocomplete feature on your phone.

So, how could this be used in a heavy equipment dealership? Let me give you a few examples.

First, let us talk about sales. Imagine you’ve got a customer who’s interested in buying a new excavator. They have a lot of questions – what’s fuel efficiency? What kind of attachments does it come with? How does it compare to other models? Instead of having to answer all these questions yourself, you could have ChatGPT do it for you. It could understand the customers’ questions and provide them with accurate and detailed answers, leaving you free to handle other tasks.

Next, let’s talk about customer service. Imagine you’ve got a customer who’s having a problem with their excavator. They’re not sure what’s wrong with it, but they need it fixed as soon as possible. Instead of having to troubleshoot the problem yourself, you could have ChatGPT do it for you. It could understand the customer’s description of the problem, and provide them with a list of workable solutions, leaving you free to handle other tasks.

Lastly, let us talk about administrative tasks. Imagine you’ve got a customer who’s looking for a specific part for their excavator. Instead of having to search through the inventory yourself, you could have ChatGPT do it for you. It could understand the customer’s request and provide them with a list of parts that match their request, leaving you free to handle other tasks.

So, as you can see, ChatGPT has the potential to free up a lot of your time and resources, allowing you to focus on more important tasks. But how could this change the dealership in the future?

Well, for starters, it could make your dealership more efficient and productive. With ChatGPT handling all the routine tasks, you and your employees could focus on the more important things, like developing new business and building relationships with customers.

It could also make your dealership more accessible to customers. With ChatGPT, customers could get the information they need 24/7, without having to wait for a human to be available. This could be especially useful for customers in other time zones, or for customers who need information outside of regular business hours.

It could also make your dealership more cost-effective. With ChatGPT handling all the routine tasks, you wouldn’t have to hire as many employees to handle them, which could save you a lot of money in the long run.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “But what about my employees? Are they going to lose their jobs?” And the answer is – probably not. While ChatGPT can manage a lot of routine tasks, it’s not going to replace human employees altogether. Instead, it is more likely that ChatGPT will change the responsibilities of your employees. Instead of handling routine tasks, they could focus on more important tasks, like developing new business and building relationships with customers. This could even lead to an increase in job satisfaction for your employees, as they’ll have the opportunity to do more meaningful work.

And, let’s be real here – ChatGPT is not going to be able to handle everything. It’s not going to be able to shake hands with customers, make a killer cup of coffee, or tell a dad joke to lighten the mood. It’s important to remember that while ChatGPT can handle a lot of routine tasks, it’s not a replacement for human interaction and relationship building.

So, in conclusion, ChatGPT is a type of AI that can understand and generate text. It has the potential to make your heavy equipment dealership more efficient, more accessible, and more cost-effective. But, it’s important to remember that it’s not going to replace human employees altogether. Instead, it’s going to change the responsibilities of your employees and open up new opportunities for them to focus on more important tasks. And let’s be real, who doesn’t want to focus on more important tasks?

So, embrace the power of ChatGPT, and watch as it takes your dealership to new heights. Just don’t let it start making dad jokes, okay? That is our job.

The Plot Twist

This blog post was written in one pass, entirely by ChatGPT, with simple instructions. It produced the examples, the ideas, the explanation and even the humor in under 30 seconds. The entire process from the instruction to the last word took under 1 minute.

The instruction was Compose a blog post of around 2000 words. The purpose is to explain what ChatGPT is in simple terms to readers and how it will affect the heavy equipment dealer in the future. Assume the reader has no idea what ChatGTP is and has technical education. Include a brief explanation of AI and what ChatGTP is. Then move on to how it would be used in a heavy equipment dealership like John Deere, Caterpillar or Komatsu dealer. Give several different examples ranging from sales, customer service to administrative tasks. Next present some ideas on how it could be used to change the dealership in the future. Lastly explain what impact this will have on the dealership in terms of process change and employee responsibilities.

This is the game changer, the apocalyptic change to the way business will be conducted and it’s already here. If you don’t embrace and adapt to this technology you will not be here, it is really that simple.

 

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How Is Your Customer Service…Meh?

How Is Your Customer Service…Meh?

Guest writer John Anderson relates his road trip experiences to readers in his blog post this week: How Is Your Customer Service…Meh? Here’s hoping your service cannot be described as “meh.”

I recently made a cross country trip in the United States, well perhaps not cross country so much as up and down.   Crossing into the US at Detroit and meandering my way to the southern climes of Florida.   Traveling throughout my career I learned to value “windshield time”.  It was my time to solve the world issues at hand.  I had little to distract me save for a chatty sales rep that was there for a ride along.  This trip was a little different.  Windshield time is now a mix of super productive calls, texts and emails thanks to the technology in my truck and the traditional time to stew and think deep thoughts. 

On this particular trip I spent a lot of time noticing how our expectation of customer service had changed.  I mean it’s changed a lot.  The bar is lowered to a near subterranean level.  How many times in the last year have you been surprised that someone has called you back?   How many times have you been surprised by someone actually getting you an answer or making a plan or reserving a product. How many times have you made a call only to here “can you hold please.”  And it’s said as a statement, not a question.

What I liked about this trip is I started to really notice when I got great customer service and when I didn’t.   Surprisingly it was hard to find those instances where someone cared.   It was like I was starving for a meaningful customer interaction.  Had I just become a curmudgeon and gave off so much negative energy that nobody would make eye contact?  I was two fuel stops, one fresh fruit stand and a rest station into my trip.  I had no experience, not bad, not good, just meh.  That’s it! We all accept MEH!  We have come to accept if it isn’t bad, it’s just MEH!  How far we have come and how low we have set our expectations from the days of Customers for Life, What Customers Crave, and Hug Your Haters (these were all bestsellers once).

Day two had promise though.  I woke at 6:00am in the RV.  I was graciously provided an overnight stop at Lane’s Southern Orchards.   Imagine a business that encourages you to stop overnight and use their parking lot with no obligation.  I had stayed before and knew the food was good and the peach preserves were the best I ever had but it was closed because I had battled Atlanta traffic. I did call and tell them I would be late.  I woke to a stellar sunrise over acres of strawberry fields and peach orchards.   The cannery was already in full swing and I can’t describe how good it smelled.  I had to hit the road and when I jumped in the truck, I noticed a small hand written note and a jar on my hood that said, “Sorry we missed you! Come back again soon.” My day was off to a great start and I would definitely be back.  Next time I will be in early to buy lots of goodies and load up for the trip home. 

Next stop was to get fuel, no easy feat when you’re dragging 42 feet behind you.  My technology suggested I stop at the next exit and use BUC-EES.  It also suggested I check out their restrooms.  That’s the oddest recommendation I have had yet, but it was the best.  I will leave it to you to discover on your own. Buc-ees is built around positive customer experiences.   They greet you; they sincerely ask about your trip or what you might need.  I think they have everything in the world.  Its like the Walt Disney World of highway gas stations and they use every customer service trick in the book.   With 40 pumps, and hundreds of parking spots there is now waiting.  Need lunch or supper its already cooking. Forgot your warm clothes or a gift for the grandkids, they have it all. I encourage you to have a look on you tube as I can’t do it justice. 

My point is that here I am, 2 weeks later thinking about going back to those places that gave me better than meh.   Do you actively train your staff to prevent meh! Have you trained them on the fine art of conversation.   Do they understand that before you can sell a lot you have to mean a lot.   The bar has never been lower, all you need to do is care.  People are starving for a customer experience; a good customer experience is a bonus.  I have faith that humanity will return to caring about each other and enjoying each other.  In the meantime, it’s just, well meh!

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