Perpetual Growth of Leaders Through Lifelong Learning #MondayBlogs

Perpetual Growth of Leaders Through Lifelong Learning #MondayBlogs

Guest writer Virginia Cooper returns this week with another look at ongoing education in “Perpetual Growth of Leaders Through Lifelong Learning,” our contribution to #MondayBlogs.

In an ever-evolving world, the concept of lifelong learning stands as a cornerstone for community leaders. It’s not merely about the accumulation of knowledge but rather a continuous journey of personal and professional development. This article from Learning Without Scars aims to underscore the significance of lifelong learning for community leaders, focusing on how it can shape their skills, perspectives, and effectiveness. By embracing a culture of perpetual growth, leaders can better serve their communities and foster environments of innovation and resilience.

Enhancing Leadership Abilities

Strong leadership is not an innate trait but a skill honed over time. Lifelong learning plays a pivotal role in this process.

  • Adopting New Leadership Styles: Exposure to diverse perspectives encourages leaders to adapt their leadership style to different situations and individuals.
  • Strategic Decision-Making: Continual learning fosters the ability to make informed, strategic decisions in the face of complex community challenges.
  • Emphasis on Self-Discipline: The essence of leadership lies in self-discipline. It enables leaders to model the values and work ethic they wish to see in their community.
  • Conflict-Resolution Skills: Learning about and experiencing various conflict-resolution strategies equips leaders to handle disagreements constructively.

Furthering Your Education

The pursuit of formal education, at any stage of life, can significantly enhance a leader’s expertise and credibility.

  • Online Computer Science Degree: When a person works to complete your online computer science degree, leaders are empowered with digital literacy, which is crucial in today’s technology-driven world. 
  • Interdisciplinary Studies: Engaging in interdisciplinary studies broadens a leader’s understanding of various sectors, promoting a holistic approach to community development.
  • Cultural and Ethical Understanding: Courses in cultural studies and ethics enhance a leader’s ability to navigate and respect diverse viewpoints and moral considerations.

Networking and Collaborative Learning

Lifelong learning often involves stepping out of one’s comfort zone to connect with others, fostering a network of collaboration and support.

  • Joining Professional Groups: Engaging with professional networks offers opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and shared learning.
  • Attending Workshops and Conferences: These gatherings provide a platform for exchanging ideas and staying abreast of current trends and challenges.
  • Community Engagement: Participating in community events and projects helps leaders understand the real-time needs and dynamics of their constituents.

Staying Abreast of Technological Advancements

In a rapidly changing technological landscape, staying updated is key for effective leadership.

  • Regularly Attending Tech Webinars: This keeps leaders informed about emerging technologies and potential applications in community development.
  • Hands-on Experience with New Technologies: Experimenting with new tools and platforms enhances a leader’s ability to integrate technology into community initiatives.
  • Promoting Digital Literacy in the Community: Leaders can advocate for and implement programs that increase the community’s engagement with technology.

Personal Development and Wellness

A leader’s personal well-being is integral to their effectiveness and resilience.

  • Mindfulness and Stress Management: Learning and practicing mindfulness techniques can help leaders manage stress and maintain clarity of thought.
  • Physical Fitness: Regular physical activity contributes to overall health, energy levels, and mental sharpness.
  • Lifelong Reading Habit: A habit of reading not only expands knowledge but also promotes empathy, imagination, and cognitive flexibility.

Lifelong learning is an indispensable tool for community leaders. It equips them with the necessary skills, knowledge, and perspective to navigate the complexities of leadership effectively. By committing to continuous personal and professional development and furthering their education, leaders can inspire change, foster community growth, and create a lasting impact. In this journey, the pursuit of knowledge becomes not just a professional obligation but a personal mantra for growth and resilience.

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OUR Art of the Possible #MondayBlogs

OUR Art of the Possible #MondayBlogs

Today, our founder and managing member, Ron Slee, takes a broad look at what we do and how we do it in, “OUR Art of the Possible,” a blog post for #MondayBlogs.

We have been busy around here for quite a time now. I am sure it is much the same for most of you. I have been struggling somewhat in trying to put balance in my life. Ideally, we all have some sense of balance within our careers, our families and ourselves. In most cases the first thing we drop is looking after ourselves. Next, we concentrate on keeping our career, so we become consumed at times with work. That is not a good “art of the possible.” 

When I left the employment of dealers and went out on my own in 1980 it was a rather meaningful change in my approach to what I wanted to do with my life. I had been married for six years and had a wonderful daughter. We had moved from Quebec because of the political dynamic there and moved across the country to British Columbia. That was quite a change and quite a move. From that initial move we have lived in Denver, Palm Desert and Hawaii. 

The first time we were in Hawaii I commented on the fact that I felt completely decompressed when I got off the airplane. We have wanted to live in Hawaii ever since. We had been planning this for what seems like forever and have finally done it. As of December 29, 2016, we became residents of Hawaii. 

That is the positive side of things and of course there is a negative side as well. The Ying and Yang of life continues. Our daughter Caroline, her spouse Joanna, and our grandchildren are still in California. Not being able to see them on impulse is not so much fun. We miss them and their growing up and life experiences and their energy. We must adjust our approaches as a family when we are together and really take advantage of every minute, we are able to be together.

Another thing that happened is that I have completely stopped soliciting consulting work. I have clients, to be sure, that continue to want to collaborate with me in their businesses. I am blessed with wonderful clients. We started the consulting business in June 1980 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada not too far from where I was born in Mannville, Alberta.

I am not sure, but I think winding down the business has been more traumatic for me than starting it in the first place. One was challenging work the other was emotional work. You have an identity as a worker that to some degree defines who you are in life. When you stop doing the work you have the potential to lose who you are. I am sure someone could say that much more eloquently than I, perhaps Caroline.

I have been presented wonderful opportunities along the way. Several mentors helped me. David Steele, a consultant with Urwick Curry who taught me how to evaluate business systems. From Bob Kirk and Larry Noe and Roger Fay at Caterpillar Tractor, who put me under their wings. From Rod Boileau, the individual for whom I have unlimited respect. I have truly been lucky with the individuals helping me with my personal development.

It seems that I have always been curious and wondering “why” we did things certain ways. The consulting world is the perfect place for me to have ended up. I have also always been teaching in my life. Starting as a teenager at a Country Club in the summers. Then to be teaching at McGill University. Even in my consulting work I was instructing people about new methods or systems. 

In the early 1990’s most manufacturers and associations stopped doing management training. It had become too expensive. Employee Development had become a “discretionary expense.” Well, I disagreed with that and decided that we would get back into teaching. This time in management training. It was 1992 and I sat in my office talking to the computer and created three two-hundred-and-fifty-page training manuals; parts, service as well as selling and marketing.

I sat talking to my computer using voice recognition. IBM had a product called ViaVoice and this was clearly the early days for that technology. I would talk for an hour and then the computer would work for two hours putting it all in a word document. This was the start of our employee development business. We called it Quest, Learning Centers. We incorporated it in Colorado. From there I asked my consulting clients if they would be willing to come and critique the different classes by sitting in for three days and experiencing what I would be teaching. They provided invaluable assistance. We changed a lot about how we were structured and ended up with two-day classes. We offered fifteen hours of learning with each two-day class. That gave us a nice structure for teaching. Four blocks of learning which we split into two specific learning experiences, two hours each. We covered Leadership, Operations, Selling, and Finance. Those two-hour subject specific class segments are with us still today. Quest, Learning Centers became the sole supplier of management training for the Associated Equipment Distributors in 1994 and we continued until 2015 when we chose to take a different direction in delivering our training products.

In the early 2000’s webinars became the new training method. No travel, short sessions and inexpensive was the goal. We created many webinars. Each of them was about an hour of learning. It was slides that everyone could see with me talking to them expanding what was on the slides. I hated it. I am a teacher at heart, and I couldn’t see the students. So, I changed things up and got a high-definition camera and projector and ran the webinars with remote control. This allows me to break the learning into “chunks” of about ten minutes. I would then turn off the slide show, walk in front of the camera, and talk to the audience. They could see me, which helped but I still couldn’t see them. I started to wear Hawaii Shirts, almost like a uniform and people became rather interested in what shirt I was going to be wearing during the webinars.

So, we offered three levels of classroom training with Quest; What It Looks Like When it is Right, Performance Excellence, Reaching Market Potential. We need this for the Parts business, the Service business, the Selling business and Parts and Service Marketing business. We offered over twenty different webinars. I started looking at how we could change our offering and make it more available to more people.

By the year 2000 I was doing training for Komatsu, Volvo, Ditch Witch dealers worldwide. I was conducting training for Caterpillar, Deere, and Bobcat dealers in North America. I was also doing dealer specific training for large dealers across the world. It was a lot of travel and incredibly challenging physically with time zones and being away from home. I started to explore different options for a delivery system.

I have always been involved with technology. Another individual who was very influential in my work life was Ian Sharp. He founded IP Sharp Associates which provided internet-based business systems in the early 1970’s. I was using the internet in 1973 with a “portable” computer. That is a rather interesting description of a “electric” typewrite as the terminal and an acoustic coupler to connect to my telephone. Now don’t laugh, the network speed was 30 BPS. Imagine that? Well, there were very few people on the network, so it was fine.

My first consulting work was with Canadian National Railways, officially sanctioned by my employer at the time, Hewitt Equipment. I designed warehouses using the computer. I got dimensions, usage activity and inventory levels and built virtual warehouses. The system placed every part number in the appropriate location based on size and activity and inventory levels. Created a move list of parts in the old locations and where they were to be placed in the new locations. We also designed the picking and packing and shipping functions and determined the number of people necessary to be employed to satisfy the needs of the users. It was a lot of fun and extremely challenging. I did that type of work with a lot of dealers. That was something that really excited me. 

So, I had always had my eye on being able to work independently and Marlene, my wife, and I talked about it often. We did that in 1980 when I started consulting and now, I was looking at the next Possibility and that was taking our training products to the internet. 

 We created Learning Without Scars in 2015. Well, it is now a Hawaii Corporation, and the California business was closed as of December 2016. But there was a lot of work to do converting everything that we did to the internet.

Caroline was doing the yeoman’s work in converting all our learning products to an internet-based Learning Management System, we now use Litmos and getting all this material fresh copyrights and trademarks. Our training business started with Quest, Learning Centers. We started with Classroom courses with three levels and four modules per level. These management training programs were created in the early 1990’s. We took that material and compressed it into Webinars starting in the early 2000’s. With the internet option, we had to convert these webinars, of which we had developed over ninety different programs, to the Learning Management Software Litmos. This meant a heavy learning curve for Caroline and a lot of work for me. Everything had to be redone. The text content all had to be updated and upgraded. Then we needed to create audio files to go with the text. Then we had to run prototypes so we could have input from actual learners. They wanted to inject me into the program like we had in the webinars so we are working with a Professional, Paul Baumann, from XFINIGEN Media, and creating Vimeo files which we will insert into the learning products. 

And finally, Caroline is working with the IACET, The International Association of Continuous Education Training and we are now an Approved Provider of educational products. All our learning programs certified so that they will earn CEU’s, Continuous Education Units credits that would apply to Colleges, Universities and Junior Colleges across the world. That, too, is a big task but one that will bring us, we believe, nice results. We have been and continue to be busy. We keep changing things.

I don’t know how many of you know that my mother was a teacher, a well-recognized teacher in her day as one of the pioneer teachers of the Pittman reading program, which accelerated the ability of young children to read. Kindergarten and Grade one specifically was reading newspapers and comprehending. My grandmother was a teacher. She received her master’s degree from the University of Manitoba in 1915. Granny taught in a one room schoolhouse, and I had the pleasure of meeting several of her students when they attended her eightieth birthday party. I suspect she had an impact on them, don’t you? My daughter Caroline is a teacher. She teaches in the California School System. We must have some teaching chops in the genes. I know I get excited when I see the lights go on in peoples’ eyes when they “GET” something.

But one thing I can tell you is that Learning is HARD. I know we have been told how to learn repeatedly. It is repetition. Do it repeatedly ad nausea. That never really worked for me so that is not how I taught. I wanted people to understand something so that they would remember it. Not memorize it so they could forget it.

It turns out that the instructions from schools and teachers about – highlighting and underlining and sustained reading and rereading notes and texts are not that appropriate. Endel Tulving, a psychologist, at the University of Toronto challenged this traditional model of learning and remembering through his series of investigations starting in the mid-1960’s. Tulving found that the learning curves were statistically indistinguishable between the tried-and-true learning pattern recommended above and random learning models that were not based on repetition. Well, that is how we have designed the internet learning programs. We want you to Learn, to Know, not to memorize. 

I am excited about what we are doing, and we are busy releasing innovative programs every month. We have one hundred and eight different subject specific classes and eighteen comprehensive skills assessments.

We have help from Ross Atkinson who has a deep background in IT. He is keeping us on the leading edge of technology. We use software to create audio tracks from word documents. We use software to create closed captions on all our film clips and Podcasts. We are currently testing software which will emulate our teacher with a Customer Character who will deliver instructions in eight or less minutes using an emulation of the teacher’s voice. And we will be able to do this in multiple languages. We are trying to provide the latest technology with the latest in educational deliveries. 

We have developed two distinct learning programs. One which is for Technical Schools, students, and the other for Workforce Development, adult learning. We are being helped in this arena by Steve Johnson. Steve has been retired for a few years now and has agreed to help us getting our products into schools across the US and Canada.

Based on what Steve and the schools have concluded each of our classes for the Technical Schools has to cover thirteen hours of face-to-face training and twenty six hours of homework. Our classes consisted of slides with text, audio tracks and film clips. We had to go back to the drawing board once again and redevelop our classes. Each Class for the Technical Schools now has six and a half hours of face-to-face learning and thirteen hours of homework. Two of our classes now qualify as academic credits for technical schools. We also modified our adult education. The conclusion of our students who are full-time employed was that those classes were too long. So, we developed a separate series of learning products for adult education that are five to six hours of learning split up into one-hour chapters. These classes typically are completed in a one-month period.

Well, that is our journey on “OUR Art of the Possible.” What is yours? 

The time is now.

Did you enjoy this blog? Read more great blog posts here.
For our course lists, please click here.

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.



A New Value Proposition for Leaders

A New Value Proposition for Leaders

How Do We Measure Success?

Tonight’s blog is courtesy of Ed Wallace, in a continuation of his last blog post: How Do We Measure Success?

Most executives and managers will tell you that strong human relationships are critical to their success. They say they also need their team members and employees to be great at developing and maintaining relationships, collaborating, innovating, advocating for company goals and keeping the organization functioning effectively.  Whether it’s external or internal business relationships, we need to understand how people think and act, what it takes for someone to want to listen to you, help you, work for you, work with you, and even buy from you.

The challenge we face during the pandemic is that proximate relationships are difficult to foster let alone to launch new ones. A recent McKinsey survey indicated that most companies are going to behave like they are as of this writing for another 12 months after the pandemic is over. This leads to what I call the need to become a hybrid relational leader. However, very few leaders take any kind of structural, systematic approach to doing this.


I find it paradoxical that if relationships are so important, then why are leaders unable to display ‘intentionality’ toward them?  The answer is due to the fluid, unpredictable nature of business relationships that makes companies struggle with just how to capitalize on their potential. In fact, many business leaders view developing business relationships as an instinctive mind-set rather than as an approach based on beliefs, new skills, and a repeatable process.  I’ve heard the phrase, “We focus on hiring and growing people with the most magic,” hoping that magic will rub off on everyone else. The common result is a haphazard, almost accidental process of relationship development. How risky is that now that we can’t meet with people in person as often?

What’s Missing?

So, why are leaders missing the relational mark? My experience, through many years of research into business relationships and working with over 28,000 business professionals and 300 companies, has shown me that there are five identifiable principles that lead to intentional relationship development whether it be proximate or digital and, not surprisingly, superior performance.  They are at the very heart of the practice of the most successful leaders at all levels in organizations and life. The Five Principles of the Relational Leader are:

  1. Display Worthy Intent
  2. Care About People’s Goals, Passions, and Struggles
  3. Make Every Interaction Matter
  4. Value People Before Processes
  5. Connect Performance to a Purpose


The Five Principles of the Relational Leader

Relational Agility: A New Competency

These principles form a system of beliefs for high performers that Relational Leaders follow and apply intentionally. I define this intentionality as the way Relational Leaders coordinate a principled, purposeful and practical relational approach. This results in a competency that I call relational agility that allows them to bridge the generational, cultural, and yes, the pandemic gaps, that exist today. Through my experiences and research, I know they can be learned, practiced and improved bringing a surprising level of precision to relationships in organizations.

This begins with the first principle, known as Display Worthy Intent- putting the other person’s goals and values at the forefront of each business relationship, creating an exceptional experience for others. Relational Leaders then apply the remaining principles to create relationships that immunize them against all competitors both within and outside their organizations.

We all create plans and strategies for many aspects of life – education, careers, building a home, retirement, and even playing games with our children. So why leave the development of important business relationships largely to improvisation or magic when even magicians have a disciplined process to accomplish their illusions. Relational Leaders deliver on the new value proposition for leadership through a strategic, intentional focus on their business relationships using the five principles and process that I shared in this article. Companies that ‘invest in relational capital’ will be the long-term winners in today’s complex business environment.

The margin for error in business today is razor thin, so why takes chances on your relationships!

Ed Wallace, President, AchieveNEXT Human Capital.

Ed consults with and speaks for corporations and associations across the globe with a client list that is a Who’s Who of Fortune 500 companies. He is the author of Fares to FriendsCreating Relational Capital, Business Relationships That Last, and his most recent the #1 best seller, The Relationship Engine.  In addition, Ed is currently on the Executive Education faculty of Drexel’s LeBow College of Business and Villanova University’s Human Resources Master’s program.


Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing

Mets Kramer

Digital Marketing: Billboard vs Engagement

“At the moment, our research shows buyers making 90% of their purchase decision before contacting the dealer.” And there it was. I had been having thoughts like these swirling around in my head for a few months now. But when Charles Bowles at Trader Interactive spoke with me, I had no idea how much our industry had shifted.

I have a theory about Digital Marketing in our construction equipment industry and I believe it can be considered in two ways.

  • First, is what I’d like to call Billboard Marketing, which refers to digital strategies geared towards establishing and maintaining digital visibility. These approaches are often additional marketing strategies, while continuing the existing methods of communication.
  • The second approach is called Engagement Marketing and includes digital activities to connect and develop engagement opportunities with your target audience. Dealers who implement Engagement Marketing consider their digital marketing presence as transformative and suggest these methods could replace most, if not all, past marketing approaches.

There are three aspects of Digital Marketing that I would like to look at and compare Billboard and Engagement strategies. They include Websites, Email Marketing and Advertising campaigns.

  1. Websites

Most dealers have a website today, which is a great start, but the buck doesn’t stop there. Listing your equipment, providing contact information and location falls under the Billboard approach: you present your information to visitors and hope they contact you. However, for Engagement Marketing, your website should provide a virtual visit to your dealership; images and videos of your inventory, and related documents showing the quality of the equipment and records of its health and maintenance. The icing on the cake would lead the visitor to a button they can click on to take them onto the next step. (Replace “Contact for more information” with “I’m interested in Buying”) But let’s be real, this call to action isn’t the icing, it’s the entire cake! How do you measure whether you are leading your visitor into an engaging relationship? Make sure you provide ample information about the machine so they can decide on the spot. If there’s not enough detail, Bowles says 90% of visitors will go to check out another listing to find what they need. Hop onto Google Analytics to help you assess whether you’re Engaging or Billboarding.

  1. Email Campaigning

The next common aspect of Digital Marketing is email campaigning.  Email campaigns are a great way to stay connected to customers and present new products. To use email campaigns effectively, it is important to consider your audience and develop strategies in order to create a continuing conversation. Mail programs such as Constant Contact or Mailchimp provide the tools to send information to tens of thousands of people.  A Billboard approach sends the same message to everyone who drives by it – no matter who they are or what they are looking for. We don’t want to use email campaigns the same way. Instead, consider a more strategic approach, engaging different segments of your audience based off their interests. Provide a mixture of Equipment For Sale messages and industry, fleet focused education. Use the tools provided by the email platforms to understand who is interacting with your campaigns and change the messaging and frequency for each segment to further engage your audience. While email campaigns can feel like a one-way communication, change your mindset and remember, email is most effective as a conversation tool. So, create campaigns that encourage your audience to talk back!

  1. Digital Advertising

Finally, Digital Advertising, whether Google, Facebook or others, are designed to bring visitors to your digital dealership: your website.  The Billboard approach will stop at bidding on generic words (ex. Caterpillar excavator, Komatsu bulldozer, Case backhoe, etc.)  which will hopefully bring visitors to your website to see what your dealership has to offer. But let’s keep in mind that digital advertising can be expensive, so the set up and focus of your advertisements should be focused for an Engagement approach. Let’s milk every opportunity! How about bidding on specific machines that are in your inventory? Specific combinations like Komatsu D65EX, for example, will have less bidders, making them cheaper and bringing visitors exactly to what they are looking for, the machine on your website.

The digital marketplace is real and becoming the source of future sales.  All leading industries are showing signs of transformation into the Engagement model of digital marketing.  Automotive sales, Commercial trucks are some but do not forget about Amazon and similar services. We are all proof that Engagement Marketing and Sales keeps us coming back for another slice.

We will continue this discussion soon.

To continue to develop your expertise in Marketing, please visit our website at Learning Without Scars.

High Demand Jobs

High Demand Jobs

This week brings our second guest post from Don Shilling. He talks about the not-so-glamorous world of high demand jobs. Don was born to this industry. In his own words:

Don Shilling

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.

High Demand Jobs

In my initial blog I discussed the fact that we need to be able to find good people and then train them. This seems simple enough, except what the Workforce Development Council defines as “High Demand Jobs” typically are not considered glamorous. High Demand Jobs don’t get a lot of attention when our youth are exploring their future careers.

Why is that? We find it easy to blame our educational system and all the College promotional materials out there that tout the excitement of degrees in computing or high tech. But, as they say, maybe it is time to look in the mirror if you want to lay blame. The “High Demand Jobs” are typically tied to industries who have allowed this to happen. Owners and managers within these industries have not taken the time to engage the educational system and demand equal time with our youth as they select their career options.

How Do Young People Discover Us If We Don’t Tell Them We Are Here?!

However, thanks to the Pandemic . . . maybe, just maybe, we have reached a time where we can turn that corner. What we have found in our local Workforce Development Council is the jobs that were lost during the Pandemic were tied to people who are perhaps under-skilled. In some cases, these were people who made employment choices early in their careers that were not focused on these high demand employment positions. In fact, most of the jobs that were considered “essential” during the Pandemic are also  on the “High Demand Jobs” lists. Perhaps with only a little additional skills training we can help the now under-employed find a stable career that is also considered “essential”.

Industry needs to react to this immediately! As Ron Slee says at the end of each blog, “the time is now,” especially for all of us who employ people in these “high demand jobs.” It is time for us to pull together to support the Career and Technical Education sector as it begins the process of re-tooling our unemployed or under-employed.

By support, I mean something very simple: you need to get involved. Perhaps you can start an apprenticeship program, or connect with your local Career and Technical Education system and see what they might need to start a program that would benefit your labor shortage areas. You can work at recruiting our youth and consider helping the right candidates with educational expenses. Bring them into your businesses and show them opportunities they might have never imagined. Let’s get started! You are going to like what you see in the mirror when you do.

For further information on re-tooling your skills, please visit us at Learning Without Scars.

Continuous Improvement and Employee Retention

Continuous Improvement and Employee Retention

Today’s Guest Blogger has a great deal of wisdom to offer us. Here’s a bit more about Don Shilling, in his own words.

Don Shilling


My background is what has helped make me so passionate about continuous improvement and employee retention. 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.

Training is an important element of continuous improvement and employee retention. But before we can train our employees, we must find them!

I am currently on the Workforce Development Council in our area. Congress mandates that every state have a Workforce Development Council. The Governor appoints Members and the Council should consist of at least 50% business and industry leaders.

As a Council, we first develop the list of “High Demand Jobs” in our region. After that, we advise the Governor on what programs we need to attract people to these jobs. The High Demand Jobs we all know; some vary from state to state but certainly 75% of them are skilled jobs. These careers require two years of college or trade school or less. Many are apprentice learned skill sets. Certainly all of these skilled positions require additional training annually.

What Comes Next?

We, as business leaders, must explore the information and recommendations from our local Workforce Development Council. All of us need to do our homework by engaging in a deep dive into all the programs available in our area to attract people to these High Demand Jobs. We have to support the recruitment, education and continued training of the employees we attract.

Every State has programs that support us as we fill these High Demand Jobs. These programs can include tuition reimbursement, as well as grants for On the Job Training and Job Shadows. There might be incentives for continuous improvement.

It costs money to educate and train our current employees or these future employees but finding monetary relief through available State Sponsored programs can help you to get engaged and ease that burden. The successful businesses of the future will be the ones who utilize these programs. These businesses will aggressively explore options for finding and training people.

More detail in future blogs.

For more information on how we can help you with continuous improvement and employee retention, please visit our website at

Up-Skilling Is Not Just a Buzzword

Up-Skilling Is Not Just a Buzzword

I remember when most people used to think that when they left school, their learning was complete. Whether that was High School, Technical School, Junior College or University. As a teacher, I taught education, in other words I taught people how to teach. I used to tell my students at University that when they graduated and went out into the world – that is when their learning really started. I always told aspiring teachers that one of our primary goals as teachers, is to teach people how to teach themselves.

With the world we live in today that is truer than ever. The younger generations are much smarter, at their ages, than we were at comparable ages. They know a lot more about things and subjects than my generation did. (I learned how to wire Unit Record Equipment – almost an analogue computer.) One of the biggest differences that I see is that they are impatient. Today a lot of older management view that as a negative quality. I view that as a positive. If these younger employees are not learning and growing their potential, as employees, they do not want to stay around. I really admire that quality. They have a need, if not a thirst to learn. They want to continuously improve. They want up-skilling.

The moves us directly into our term for today: up-skilling is not just a buzzword. This is the term that explains that the skills of the employees are being constantly improved and enhanced, they are being up-skilled. That fits perfectly into our view of learning. First take an assessment and understand your individual strengths and weaknesses. Take classes, address your weaknesses, and fill in your skills gaps. Get Up-Skilled. And that never ends. There is always something more to learn.

We provide dealers and employees Learning Paths. They are based on Skill Levels reported in the Job Function Skills Assessment. Those Skill Levels: Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Expert allow us to recommend subject specific classes to allow the employee to improve their skill level. When used in conjunction with an annual performance review, dealerships are unlocking the potential of each individual employee and enhancing their company value to the workplace.

Never forget that talented people serving your customers are your heroes. Neither forget that the talent pool available to us is shrinking. The competition for these talented people is becoming fiercer that at any time I have seen. I don’t believe that this will become any easier, in fact I believe it will become more difficult. If you want to be able to attract, hire, develop and retain your workforce you must have a solid foundation, skill set inventories and career path opportunities, for each individual employee. You also need to be able to discuss with them their specific career path and what is necessary for them to be available for promotions and other opportunities in the company. Do you have these skill set inventories in place? Do you know the individual skills required for each job function? This is that solid foundation that is required. Do you have it in place? Should you?

The choice is yours. I would urge you to consider that the consequences are significant.

The time is now.

What Subject Specific Classes Can Do For You

What Subject Specific Classes Can Do For You

Moving from the role of an employee in an equipment dealership to being a consultant was an interesting transition. I started at Hewitt Equipment, the Caterpillar Dealer in Quebec, in March 1969 on a one-year contract. While with Hewitt I was given the opportunity to learn and grow my skills. I never forgot that. In 1978 I moved to Western Canada and worked for Finning Tractor and Equipment. In 1980 I moved back to Alberta where we started our consulting business. Through those twelve years I was given the opportunity to learn. I could never have done the work I did as a consultant without all of the training I received while working for those two Caterpillar dealerships. That opportunity for learning is what our subject specific classes can provide for you.

I don’t think I was very different then than the millennials and younger generation today. I needed to learn. I HAD to learn to progress in my work. I think the younger generations today are in exactly the same frame of mind as I was at their age. If I am not learning and progressing, I am wasting my time and should be looking for something else. I continue to be in awe at the knowledge of these younger generations. They have so much more knowledge than we Baby Boomers had at a similar age. I suppose that is a normal progression in society but it is one that needs to be respected. These younger generations are what we older generations have to rely on in our dotage.

In the consulting business I would be involved in identifying opportunities, negotiating solution options and implementing change. This invariably involved teaching people how to do things the “new” way. Before I started at Hewitt, I taught education at McGill University in Montreal. I absolutely love when I see the lights go on in a students’ eyes when they “Get” it. That really turns my crank. In the early 1990’s most of the OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and business associations (AED Associated Equipment Dealers) stopped doing any management training in the Parts and Service business. I thought I could fill that void.

I spent the summer of 1992 creating three “text” books for management in Parts, Service and Product Support Sales. In other words, I created the foundation from three management training classes. I set up the classes to take place over three days and split the learning into six distinct categories. Selling, Operations, Asset Management, Finance, Leadership, and Standards of Performance. This was the beginning of Quest, Learning Centers. In 2016 we incorporated Learning Without Scars and transitioned to the internet. We now offer the largest selection of internet-based employee development classes in the Industry. We have ninety-four subject specific classes available to the parts, service and selling aspects of Product Support.

Last week the focus of our blogs was on the assessments. This week we are moving to our classes. The foundation question for the assessments, is what is the department that you are interested in reviewing. We start the same way with the classes. You select a department and then we take you to the class options for that department. We will take you to the next step tomorrow.

The time is now.

For more information on our programs and what we can do for you, please visit our website at

What Would Winston Say Today?

What Would Winston Say Today?

Winston Churchill was a special individual. A unique individual. He always stood on principle even at a significant cost to himself personally. He saved the United Kingdom by the force of his will during World War II. Then he got rejected after the war in the first election. It wasn’t the first time he was rejected. But he never strayed from him principles. He was born in 1874 and passed in 1965.

Let’s review some of his quotations.

  • When I was younger, I made it a rule never to take a strong drink before lunch. It is now my rule never to do so before breakfast. (Single Malt is perfect.)

For today consider the following.

  • The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
  • Democracy is the worse form of government, except for all the others.
  • Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.
    • (Read about how the Scots viewed societal responsibilities)

Then getting closer to home.

  • You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all other possibilities.
  • An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
  • If you make 10,000 regulations you destroy all respect for the law.
  • To build may have to be the slow laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.
  • When the eagles are silent, the parrots begin to jabber.
  • All of the empires of the future will be empires of the mind.
  • Every man should ask himself each day whether he is not too readily accepting negative solutions.
  • If we open a quarrel between the past and the present we shall find that we have lost the future.
  • Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon.
  • The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent value of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
  • The malice of the wicked was reinforced by the weakness of the virtuous.
  • We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.

The Time is Now.