The management team at Ellens Equipment has been participating in a 20 group for the last 3 years. Owner Don Ellens finds that the group helps keep them accountable and almost serves as a board of directors for the dealership. Don says one of the biggest impacts by participating in the group is looking at the numbers with the other dealers. “I was never a numbers guy and I’m still not. But we look at the numbers and learn what we need to do to poise our business for success. At times, some of the needed changes are painful. You go into those meetings and your financials are open to everyone there. I was scared the first time. What are they going to say? But realistically, it comes down to cold, hard facts. You’ve got to face these facts if you want to succeed, these are the things that you need to do. And that’s been very, very important in how we’ve done business in the last 3 years,” he says.
Luke Ellens, Don’s son and a part owner in the dealership, says the group offers them some outside perspective. “They’ll tell us, ‘You need to change this or be careful of that.’ Getting somebody else’s perspective on your business, even though they don’t know anything about it other than your numbers, is pretty interesting. We’ve got some very good businessmen in our 20 group. It’s good to have people like that who just tell you how it is and what you need to do.”
In the group, everyone is an open book and you learn everyone’s successes and failures, says Linda Ellens. “You really learn to love these people because you can be so open with them. For instance, our friends don’t fully understand our worries, concerns and joys of being a dealer and they [in the 20 group] all do. So we can share in each other’s joys. But also when they come and say, ‘Man, we had this happen and it was awful. Don’t ever do this,’ we can learn from their mistakes and they can really share all of their struggles, too,” she says.
Participating in the 20 group also forces Don, Linda and Luke to step away from the dealership and take the time to work on the business. During the meetings they’ll take plenty of notes and then on their way home they go through them and discuss what they might want to implement or what they need to change, Linda explains. “We just don’t go and come back and go back to our daily lives. We need to change or we shouldn’t go,” Linda says