At 20 Years Young, IEDA Throws a Conference to Remember

From Networking Bashes to a Business Program Aimed at Serious Dealer Profitability and Viability, the Independent Equipment Dealers Association Comes of Age with Gusto at Orlando Annual Meeting

The 20th Anniversary Annual Meeting of the Independent Equipment Dealers Association (IEDA) welcomed 130 dealer- and associate-members to the Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, Florida, February 11 through 13. A Friday evening welcome party in the resort lobby and verandah kicked off the group’s biggest face-to-face, members-only gathering since February 2020. Live music, libations, and liberal spreads of hearty party fare punctuated a jovial networking atmosphere that indeed resembled a reunion. 

“Our new executive director, Dave Gordon, and his team peeled the roof right off every high expectation we had for our Orlando event,” said IEDA Vice President Steve Udelson, who owns Easton Sales & Rentals with locations in Ohio, Texas, and New Mexico. “A new bar has been set not only on the details that create a memorable gathering atmosphere, but the level of professional business education far surpassed what I’ve ever seen – I took detailed notes on every single session at this meeting, and so did everyone around me.”

What’s Russia Got to Do with Me?

Two Saturday keynotes elicited standing ovations and an outpouring of offstage dialog as attendees circled speakers, hungry for more insight and stories. 

Members huddle-up for the camera during the closing party on Super Bowl Sunday.

First, a bone-chilling talk from Lunch Keynote Morgan Wright, a Department of Defense- and CIA-insider specializing in cyber-threats, took listeners straight inside Russia’s playbook of the hostile digital strategies currently unfolding ahead of its planned invasion of Ukraine­­ – including the shutdown of power, water, banks, communication and food – and how these same tools and technologies will ultimately be used against American businesses both large and small by cyber criminals. Wright identified a handful of actions every dealer should do immediately to make their business a harder target.

Closing Keynote Keni Thomas, a former Army Ranger, held the room in rapt attention as he told the “Blackhawk Down” story in which 19 U.S. soldiers lost their lives during an 18-hour urban Somalia gunfight in 1993. Leadership, which was thrust suddenly on him when his squad leader was wounded, is never about title, Thomas told his audience, and it’s always about serving the person on your right and on your left. 

Throughout Saturday’s Business Program, carefully-curated experts delivered hard-hitting, relevant insight and a well-lit path for dealer profitability in 2022, beginning with market data and analysis from EquipmentWatch Director of Sales Tom Christerson. Next, a power-panel comprising three industry financial and tax pros unpacked details and recommendations for the year’s profit planning, ranging from keeping cash at the forefront in an inflationary environment, to taking advantage of federal employee retention credits, planning for the scheduled evaporation of bonus depreciation, and managing state nexus when selling across state borders, not to mention getting auction tax regulations right. 

Former Army Ranger Keni Thomas brought attendees to the site of a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter crash in Somalia, 1993, where an urban street battle ensued for 18 long hours.   

Brands, Bashes, and New Beginnings

A marketing and branding panel discussion led attendees through the digital strategies to remain top of mind among customers, letting go of being OEM brand-centric and shifting full throttle on creating loyalty to the dealer’s brand. Moderator Mike Marks, a construction equipment distribution authority, also switched on numerous lightbulb ideas in his afternoon workshop, “How to Make a Boatload of Money in the Equipment Business This Year.” Marks underscored that, “Bigger isn’t better; better is better, so don’t screw up the good thing you have by growing for the sake of growing,” he said. “The balance of today is how to grow, so pick and choose carefully.”

Current headlines about Russia and Ukraine came to life as cyber-crime expert Morgan Wright detailed everything Putin is doing in advance of a physical invasion – and how those same tools will be used by criminals against American businesses. 

A brief Sunday morning drizzle didn’t deter 44 golfers from bringing their swing out of winter hibernation. Spirits were high, drives were long, and everyone had a great time in the scramble-style, friendly competition. 

IEDA’s closing “Big Bash” was also a dream Super Bowl party that treated members to lavish carving stations and bountiful food tables arranged throughout the resort’s hip rooftop bar, “11.” On the poolside deck, scotch and bourbon tastings, cigar rolling, and live rock music delighted attendees beneath a rare upside-down half-moon. Indoors, huge television screens kept fans on the edge of their seats right to the surprise finish. 

State tax expert Jim Marger, along with federal tax guru Steve Pierson (seated, left), and profitability advisor Garry Bartecki (not pictured) delivered tax and economic developments and cautions in a lively, and at times humorous, panel discussion moderated by Mike Marks (seated, right) 

“The only thing that makes it possible for us to put so many good things together for a spectacular, three-day Annual Meeting is the amazing companies that donate financial resources,” said Executive Director Dave Gordon. “I give each of them my humble and sincere thanks for their generosity and all-in support of this organization and where we’re headed.”

Five Platinum Sponsors generously supported the event: CIT, DGI Trading, Jeff Martin Auctioneers, Ritchie Bros., and UNI International. Six Gold-Level Sponsors were also recognized for their contributions: Bryan Auction Co., Streamline Financial Services, Stretch Transports, Trophy Tractor Inc., United States of Freight, and Valley Transportation. Additional Annual Meeting sponsorships that supported the welcome party, several meals, and closing party were provided by: Alliance Funding Group, bidadoo, Calvin Group, Double Edge Equipment, Easton Sales & Rentals, Granite Mountain Machinery, Hall Equipment Co., Newman Tractor, Niece Equipment, Machinery Trader, Raw Machinery, Robertson Equipment International, SIMEX, and Star Tractor. 

IEDA dealer member Mike Pentz (Calvin Group) and marketing expert Steve Clegg (Winsby Group) fielded a range of questions from Mike Marks to help members harness digital technologies that build contractor-customer retention on machine sales, rentals, as well as parts and service.  

Beyond the Annual Meeting’s elevated program content and fun-filled touches, exciting new beginnings are now the hallmark of IEDA as it continues its 20-year anniversary celebration this year, demonstrated in the offering of dealer-specific, accredited continuing education through Ron Slee’s Learning Without Scars, as well as expansion of a new student technician scholarship program. It was fitting, therefore, that an extra special new beginning burst into life even before IEDA members arrived in Kissimmee. Two days before the meeting, IEDA President James Rinehart, from Performance Equipment Sales in Erie, Colorado, and his wife welcomed their fourth baby, a girl, into their family. It was the only thing that could have kept him away from the Florida festivities, he said. 

This material appears in the April 2022 issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & EngineerConstructionConstruction DigestConstruction NewsConstructioneerDixie ContractorMichigan Contractor & BuilderMidwest ContractorNew England ConstructionPacific Builder & EngineerRocky Mountain ConstructionTexas ContractorWestern Builder