Retired U.S. Army General Eric Shinseki once observed, “If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less.”
The four-star general could have had the office technology dealer space in mind, though in light of the pandemic, it could apply to almost anything.
Change was thrust upon not only our industry and business in general, but the world itself. The pandemic stood as a reset button for humanity, forcing everyone to readjust their priorities and lives. That filtered down into our corner of the business world. It permeated everything and nearly brought commerce to a complete standstill. And eight months later, we’re still asking ourselves, “Now what?”
But business goes on for those companies that were—and are—most receptive to change. In that vein, we offer this year’s roster of 117 Elite Dealers. They are enduring the greatest threat to business since the Great Depression. We cannot speak of the pandemic in past terms quite yet, but these top dealers are positioned to move forward under the most difficult of circumstances by accepting change and altering their approach to serving clients under this new reality, this for-now normal.
In any other year, success would be measured by the bottom line, profit growth, net-new business, an expanded workforce and product/service enhancements. While it is true that we took all of that into consideration in gauging the worthiness of Elite Dealer applicants, bonus points went to those dealers that outlined their pandemic pivot.
For years, we have explained the subjective nature of an Elite Dealer and the difficulty in using universally accepted analytics that can apply a number to greatness. But there are qualities that speak to their ability to accept (if not embrace) change, and the willingness to craft an approach that best fits the needs of customers, employees, partners and the overall vitality of the business. Here are a few of the yardsticks common to this year’s core of Elite Dealers.
The “open” shingle still stands. In no other year would making it through the year without having to lay off or furlough employees be considered a major triumph. But 2020 is a year unlike any other, and more than a few dealers listed “managed to endure pandemic” as their greatest accomplishment. Companies were proud of the fact that they leveraged the Paycheck Protection Program to help stay afloat during difficult times. And many pointed out they were able to maintain pre-pandemic staffing levels.
Quite a few also detailed how they got their own people settled into a work-from-home arrangement, and pivoted quickly to ensure that customers’ needs were being met. It called for a bit of creativity, patience and understanding in dealing with a book of business that worried about being able to fulfill the obligations of product and service contracts. Many Elite Dealers huddled with their leasing partners to construct forgiveness programs and loan modifications.
Offering pandemic-related products. From face masks to hand sanitizer to floor and wall signage, Elite Dealers weren’t afraid to go off-script and seek out alternatives that would enable business for clients. But easily the biggest product accoutrement for dealers is the temperature-scanning kiosk systems that enable customers to measure and manage the health status of employees, clients and other visitors to their facilities. It required a bit of research on the dealers’ part, as several distributors encountered difficulty in sourcing the machines, but many dealers forged solid relationships with manufacturers who specialize in temperature scanners.
Industry honors and publication accolades. Don’t just take our word for it. Many Elite Dealers boast shelves heavy with awards from various organizations, including manufacturers, leasing partners and national publications. From top places to work to service excellence and fastest-growing companies, it’s no surprise that other entities have recognized dealers for top performance.
Does it sound like your dealership has a lot in common with our Elite Dealers? If yes, then be sure to submit your firm’s nomination for the 2021 competition. In the meantime, pour a tall coffee and enjoy the profiles of our 2020 Elite Dealers.