We’re back! Today kicks off the 2021 Dealership Minds Summit — Developing Your Homegrown Talent. It feels great to be back hosting an in-person event after 18 months of virtual meetings. I’m looking forward to seeing those who were able to make it out to Omaha for the Summit.

For the next two days we’ll be dialed into leadership development and mentoring employees who are — or someday could be — transitioning into leadership and management roles at your dealership. As dealerships continue to grow — whether through consolidation or organically — the need for managers is going to only increase. Across industries, finding good employees (or any for that matter) has become increasingly challenging. And based on the number of job postings I’ve seen lately on dealers’ Facebook pages, we’re certainly feeling that pain here in the farm equipment business.

Being able to groom those leaders from the staff you already have is going to be necessary. But that goes beyond just having a good training program in place. It means you need to have a career path in place for young employees. Young employees want to know from the start what comes next. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are trying to bypass being an entry level person … they just want to see what you have planned for them in the future. They want to know they can grow with you.

If one of your department managers was promoted — or even left the dealership — do you know who would replace them? Do you have employees who you’ve mentored and trained who are prepared to move into management roles? In the case of sports, having a strong bench prepares a team for something as every day as the starters needing to take a breather to the more serious — season-ending injuries.

The same is true for your dealership staff. Your department managers and key employees are your starters. Their “breathers” are vacations and sick days. And their season-ending injuries, retirement, promotion or leaving the business. You need to have the bench strength to carry on — and succeed — without them. Lately it seems like we talk a lot about recruiting new employees, but are we giving enough attention to developing the employees we already have?

If 2020 taught us anything it was that you never know what’s going to happen and you need a flexible and adaptable staff who can step up on a moment’s notice. In a recent survey conducted by the Western Equipment Dealers Assn., 46% of dealers said they were not confident they have the bench strength to advance current staff into senior or mid-level management roles.

It’s going to be an information packed 2 days, but when we’re done hopefully we’ll be well on our way to improving that number of dealers who are confident in their bench strength.