This, too, shall change

G. Bennett Closner, president and CEO of Closner Equipment, Schertz, Texas, and 2009 president of the Associated Equipment Distributors, has a 26-year history with the dealer association. It’s a perspective he used to remind the people attending his inaugural dinner last month that change is really the modus operandi of the construction equipment business.

In short order, he named several of the pivotal changes he’s seen:
The Asian era, when Japanese manufacturers began to enter the U.S. market, driven by a dollar-versus-yen disparity, making available previously unknown brands.
The bank rollup era, when bank failures harmed dealers who had loans called in after federal intervention into the banking industry.

The gray iron era, when a skew in world currency and pricing resulted in a massive importation of European and Asian machines.

The rent-to-rent rollup era, consolidating a number of mom-and-pop rental houses into a few national giants, and making some fear traditional dealers would go away.
The Internet era, which appeared to be another “death to dealers” blow, in which some envisioned dealers as becoming no more than service centers.
Closner intriguingly calls the present the “Chinese era,” with players such as Sany and LiuGong attempting to follow the path of successful Japanese and Korean manufacturers before them.

All of this served to underline his main point: This industry has never operated in a static environment. And the job before his association is clear, he says – “to focus on the areas of greatest relevance to our members and provide value, in real time.”
Closner’s speech wasn’t just a trip down memory lane for me. It served as a mission reminder. When you look at his statement in the paragraph above, just substitute the word “readers” for “members,” and you have our assignment.

The world is no longer funding the ways we used to do things, prompting companies everywhere to reassess not only the what and how of their products, but also the why. We’re in the same “re” boat as everyone else – reevaluating, realigning and reworking the basic assumptions we’ve built on.

The redesign we unveiled in January signals the first part of our shift. Our editorial staff is now grappling with the tough questions facing all business-to-business publishers: Does the information we give you still work – in content, style and format? How can we give you the best value at the best time? When do we report and when do we refer you to available sources? If you hired us as your personal industry information source, what would you expect?
Look for the answers to those questions to quickly evolve over the next few months. We’ll experiment, perhaps fail, retool and try again. What we can’t do is continue to present the same old, same old. You need – and demand – more.