Ask Your MHEDA Board

QUESTION: What are one (or more) takeaways you learned at MHEDA’s 2022 Convention and what action steps will you take to implement them?” Mike Ward, President V&H Material Handling, LLC, Harrisburg, Penn.


Thomas Albero, President & CEO – Alliance Material Handling, Inc.

My first takeaway from this year’s convention was how much effort John Gelsimino, Liz Richards and the entire MHEDA staff put forth pre-convention. Every detail was buttoned up before the convention started and it showed. All events were fantastic and if there were any problems, nobody noticed because they already had contingency plans in place if something went wrong. It made me think that we should all take a lesson from this and apply it to our own companies.

Alright, that’s enough credit to Gelsimino. The second biggest takeaway for me was the presentations by Scott Klososky on Technology Integration of Humanity and Digital Maturity and a focus on data activation.

As you looked around the room during his sessions, you could just see the looks on others’ faces as they were writing down notes frantically on the topic. We spend too little time on what will be such a big part of the future of our companies. Data is the most precious asset for our companies after people, and making sure we are taking advantage of this data and using it in ways to grow our companies at a more profitable rate is huge. I thought we were on the forefront of using data to our advantage and Scott’s presentation made me realize we still have a long way to go, and we need to embrace this journey with passion for the sake of our company.

Nathan Storey, President – Storage Solutions

I appreciate your board question as I always try to find a few takeaways when I attend an event like the convention.

This year I have focused in on two:

1. People live up or down to the vision we have for them. – Kevin Brown, “The Hero Effect”
2. Be mindful of how I show up. – Todd Cohen, “The Profound Power of Presence”

I am using both of these as daily reminders on how I can be the leader that I want to be, and my company needs me to be. The first one I use when I meet with fellow employees. As the president of a company with a “Grow or Die” purpose, it is my responsibility to promote the “Growth Mindset” each and every day. We challenge our employees to find 1% improvement each day. Our vision is that we all have a responsibility to approach each day with a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset.

The second takeaway is more personal and serves as a good reminder that I need to constantly be aware of my presence. I’m a big bald guy with a killer “RBF.” This tends to make me “unapproachable” with those who don’t really know me. Presence is in the eye of the beholder, and I need to remember that the way I show up sends people a signal into how interested I am in them and their game. The main thing I am focusing on here is to Smile. It is so simple, but I fully believe this will improve how I show up and make myself more approachable. It is great accountability to ensure that we maximize our investment in the MHEDA Convention.

Michael Vaughan, CFO – Thompson & Johnson Equipment Co., Inc.

A major takeaway that I took from the convention is the significant risk that companies face relating to cyber threats. It is an ever-changing landscape that requires engaging the right caliber of talent to evaluate and implement strategies to mitigate the risks. We are currently evaluating various cybersecurity consulting firms to develop a risk analysis and then define the ongoing measures that need to be implemented. This is an ongoing effort as we believe that the environment will only grow in complexity and risk.

The other takeaway relates to the program put on by Todd Cohen and “Everyone is in Sales.” The program was very enlightening as few “non-sales” employees believe that they are responsible for “selling” on a day-to-day basis. Engaging with these employees will help them realize that they have important interactions with customers every day, both internal customers as well as external customers.

Gerardo Padilla, CEO – SEIL Rentals SA DE CV

The MHEDA 2022 Convention had incredible resources and information. It was amazing to see all the peers sharing information to grow the industry. We learned, we networked and most of all we had fun. In my opinion there are two very important takeaways.

The first one is the cybersecurity threat: it is a challenge to stop today’s hackers. As soon as I got back from the Convention, I shared the information about several presentations with my team. We hired a professional to make an evaluation of our level of security, as well as the probable threat points we need to address. It’s important to see that most of the time, threats could be from the lack of training of our own associates. We need to constantly train and refresh them on many hackers’ new techniques.

The second is the level of automation of our company: we had a meeting with all department heads, and the idea is to evaluate how many activities are done manually in each department that could be automated to be competitive, save time and improve productivity.

Finally, I always like Brian Beaulieu’s economic insight report. He always had the big picture about the future of our industry in a couple of slides. Thanks to all MHEDA staff for this great convention.

Lori Palmer, President – REB Storage Systems International

We worked with three of our Senior Leadership Team Members who attended the MHEDA conference to put our thoughts together. After reviewing the takeaways, we noted we had already been doing some of these items, but we needed to immediately start implementing others.

A common topic was people, our team members, former employees, prospective employees, current employees and the future/succession of our team.

Whether you are a 60-year-old business or a six-month-old business, your business depends on your team. We all want the best of the best. We need to hire right. Coach, train and mentor. We need to show our appreciation with recognition. Everyone wants to feel accepted, and everyone wants the ability to give and receive communication. They want our support and commitment. With this, we will get retention.

In any type of relationship, there is work expected from both parties along with negotiations. Appreciation & Recognition – Most employees ARE in the middle of the curve, but we all tend to focus on the employees who are on both ends of the curve. In speaking to some of our newer employees, they told me that we need to let them become part of the senior leadership meetings. They have ideas that are newer, and they have a better handle on technology that could save us time as a company. We always focus on meetings for newer team members and meetings for senior team members, but it should be a mix. These are times when they learn from each other.

We have always done a personal shout out from the whole team regarding REBiversaries and birthdays. We also started sending cards and gift cards for birthdays. We always celebrate yearly REBiversaries at our holiday party every year. It’s fun to see those in the first 5 years alongside those in the 40-year category.

We are working better at recognizing employees for their efforts. Not just the mind-blowing project someone may be working on but the day-to-day tasks that never get recognized but without that employee doing that job it would negatively have an impact on the company. It’s easy to shake a salesman’s hand for closing an order. But when was the last time you told your accounts payable team member thank you?

Acceptance – In the meeting with some of our newer team members we asked them what we were missing, what would they like to add to REB? They volunteered to be our social committee and are working to add social activities to our workday.

They are planning monthly lunches to help new team members feel more comfortable and a part of the team. This also creates a bond with long term and newer employees. It pulls people out of their offices and cubicles and has everyone eating and socializing together. We also have outdoor activities at lunch and breaks. We have walking groups, corn hole groups, you name it! It’s added laughter to the office and finally, you can no longer break the silence with a knife.

Communication – When there is none, think the worst. We as a company need to remember to communicate across the board – office, warehouse and all remote locations. Everyone needs to receive the same message. If you don’t deliver communication to all, don’t expect communication back from all. Listen when people talk, and if you don’t understand, ask them what they mean. What are they and what aren’t they saying? Don’t always think your managers are working to communicate with their teams, your managers need continued coaching, mentoring and motivation. We all try to randomly have one-on-one meetings every so often just to test the overall temperature.

While talking and meeting with our employees, we are going to create Town Hall meetings. We will try and do one per quarter and then if one is needed in between, there will be a shout out. Currently, we are trying to find the best venue for the meeting since we have corporate offices, warehouses and remote employees in different locations. We want to take it out of our offices and cubicles and into a venue where we can have a big screen to bring in our remote team members.

Support – What is support? If there is an area someone is having issues with, we are working to coach and better educate the employee with the task – we never criticize. The better we make them, the better the company.

Commitment – this should be mutual. We want employees to be committed to us and to our company but what is our commitment to the employee? We continue to check in with the individual and with the team to make sure everyone is good. We encourage honesty. Sometimes it’s hard to get that honesty and transparency from an employee, especially with me in the beginning. But I work my best to make them trust me and find I must prove my honesty, trust and willingness to act and not react. If there is an issue, we want to know. We then have an opportunity to coach and mentor to resolve the issue and it will make us a stronger team.

Retention – After we have worked to hire, train and mentor team members, how do we keep them? Constant conversations, constant check-ins, and the ability to give your employees the “want” to trust that they can be honest with you.

Employees want to know how they can grow. We make sure we always try to promote within when we can. Our company is mid-size and it gives our team members the ability to know what their options are within their own team for the future. Sometimes someone may want to make a turn that we wouldn’t know about unless we communicate the position that is available to our internal team first.

They want to know they are a part of a team. We encourage lunch and learns, team lunches and after-work activities. So many hours a day are spent in the office, people want to laugh and have friends along with doing their jobs.

If you ask questions and if you want a truthful answer, be prepared to be able to answer the question or act. Employees want to be heard. We have monthly Leadership and Senior Leadership meetings along with Process Improvement Meetings. Our employees are given an opportunity to voice at these meetings. All our managers have an open-door policy, and I can be reached anytime of the day or night by any and all employees.

Jim Hammond, President – Valley Industrial Trucks, Inc.

At the MHEDA convention in 2022 we listened to numerous speakers on a variety of topics. One of the topics that I found very interesting was the cybersecurity session presented by Mike Foster. Today, it seems like we hear of another company every day affected by a security breach or being held hostage by ransomware. After listening to Mike and returning to the office to evaluate our security, we found that what we were already doing was not enough. To be honest we were just out of our league. Education of employees in this area is a full-time job and one that cannot be taken lightly.

We decided to hire an outside contractor to evaluate our processes and make the necessary changes. This resulted in everything from new internet service, new hardware and even switching email services. The best part was that after all the improvements, we actually saved money.

Pete Womack, Vice President of Sales – Riekes Equipment

My takeaways from the 2022 convention were the following: “Everyone in your company is in sales” and “Building a talent strategy.”

The idea that everyone is in sales is not a foreign idea to any of us, but the message is one we can all benefit from – every conversation, whether in person or on the phone, is a selling moment and creates a lasting impression. Each time we answer the phone, the individual on the other line is deciding whether they want to partner with Riekes or not based on that one interaction, and they are saying yes or no to the entire organization. Never underestimate the influence and impression you may have, regardless of the title you wear on a day-to-day basis. I say it all the time, our fantastic technicians are our greatest salesman when they are out in the field.

Speaking of titles, I saw a name plate last week that said “Vice President of First Impressions” – that young lady gets it. We are discussing this with all employees at review time and when we have quarterly branch meetings it is part of the conversation.

Alex Chausovsky spoke about using data to attract top talent and retaining them. Yes, he said money was important in both aspects but there are many ways to attract talent and retain it. Some of his examples include:

• Highlighting leadership/management team and talent
• Positive culture
• Mission/vision/value statements that people align with
• The industry you work in
• The products you sell
• Core values
• Being competitive with pay
• Opportunities to grow
• Be flexible with hours and work from home opportunities
• Make sure you do yearly reviews because employees appreciate them

Riekes strives to be a leader in our industry, and we have implemented many of these ideas. Yes, it takes effort to do 230 yearly reviews, but it gets done. We have six core values that we live by: Innovation, Integrity, Performance, People, Collaboration and Accountability. As far as the money aspect, we are in the process of giving annual increases and Duncan Murphy, our president, made it very clear that he did not want to see any of our employees to go backwards because of inflation. That says a lot about Riekes.

Thomas R. Duck, Vice President of Sales – Florida Forklift

This is a tough question because to pinpoint a couple of key items is difficult. As always, the networking is one of the best takeaways but other than that, I would have to say the economic insight and the focus on cybersecurity were key to me. I know, at our company, we need to address cybersecurity to protect the sensitive data and to protect against ransomware. We are now working with our IT department to take more secure measures to protect against attacks.

Brian Beaulieu always gives us an exciting and interesting presentation. He helps clear up a lot of what we are seeing in relation to inflation and where he sees interest rates going. He also presents relevant market outlooks that aid in our strategic planning and helps us to focus on leading indicators to determine the risks we are facing in our markets. His message is not only informative but also entertaining.

Darein Gandall, CEO/Chairman of the Board – Cisco-Eagle, Inc.

First, let me say how invaluable I’ve always found the MHEDA convention. I don’t think I’ve missed one in over a decade. I always come back energized.

This is the second year we brought a wider variety of people to the convention because I wanted more of our employee-owners to have exposure to the resources and networking that I’ve found so indispensable over the years. Developing people is our top priority because we need to involve them in more than their day-to-day work so that they can think more strategically and make better decisions. MHEDA is a big part of that!

The people you meet and the ability to compare notes with our peers has always attracted me to the convention. Conversations in the hallway, during meals or over a beer can be the best kind, but it goes deeper than that.

We’re always riveted by the ITR economics session, and Brian Beaulieu delivered. We made sure that all our people attended that session as we plan extensively based on the data and insights ITR brings to the table. You learn to throw out your perceptions and biases and focus on the hard numbers of the upcoming economic environment.

A lot of the best things we learned were about culture. I think we have a great culture at Cisco-Eagle, but I’m also willing to learn and grow in better ways.

The discussion with Scott Klososky on integrating people and technology cut to the heart of not only what we do in our working lives, but also rings true for what we do for customers. They are also struggling with digital tools and technology changes, some of those in our solutions suite. Building an understanding of how people will interact with and be affected by that technology is critical—because it’s coming our way, no matter what we want or think. We had people at both his sessions, and everyone learned things we can bring home and use as we build our digital integrations here at the company, and with our customers and vendors.

At our heart, we’re a sales organization at Cisco-Eagle. I believe that there are only two jobs at our company: selling or helping people who sell. Both sides of that sentence are extremely valuable and both sides work together. Todd Cohen’s sales culture philosophy has been a good way for us to develop our sales teams.

Speaking of culture, I enjoyed several key insights on that from several sessions, speakers and casual conversations. How can we do better? What are our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to creating a better organization and improving the work lives of our people? That’s my most important mission, so I always enjoy the deep dive into employee culture you get at MHEDA. If I learn nothing else, that’s enough to make the trip and the time worthwhile to me.

Of course, I must mention the vendor exhibit hall and expo. Meeting with our vendor partners and introducing key players to our people is important to me. Finding time for people who may never have met at all, or who have only met over web conferences and phone calls is always great. You pick up tips, you build relationships, and you continue to cement your value to each other by person-to-person contact better than any other way. You also get a chance to meet new vendors and people who can help you help your customers.

When it comes to implementing what we’ve learned, we will bake it into our strategic planning efforts. We always strive to bring ideas to the table that we pick up at MHEDA in those sessions. It’s important for us to always look forward, and the things we learned at the convention helps us think of the future as we plan and operate.

Darin Boik, President – Advanced Equipment Company

The MHEDA convention offers an array of learning opportunities such as current business trends, motivational speakers, economic outlooks and more. However, the networking opportunities are priceless.

There are many benefits from networking such as sharing knowledge, gaining opportunities and simply raising your confidence. I like to take these benefits and challenge our employees to invest in themselves and raise their profile by networking within MHEDA and in their everyday life.

I ask all of my team members to consider joining a MHEDA-NET group, attend a MHEDA regional meeting, social occasion or any other material handling event. But we don’t stop there – they can network anywhere, so we suggest they talk to someone new. It doesn’t matter if it’s at church, on a plane flight or a little league game. Networking teaches them how to ask questions and to listen. It’s natural for networking to lead to opportunities. The only thing you don’t know is when or how they’ll appear. It might be a referral, a partnership, or a request for your product offerings. It’s critical to seize these opportunities when they arise.

In addition, the more people network by pushing themselves to talk to people they don’t know, the more their confidence will increase. By attending business conventions and social events, people become recognizable. This helps to build a reputation of being a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person. Also, within a group, it’s possible that there will be people who have been where they are now. This gives them the chance to learn from others’ mistakes and avoid some of the difficulties they encountered.

In short, networking at the MHEDA convention is a powerful take-away that can raise your profile and help you gain opportunities. If you have not been to one, you are missing out. Sign-up and hopefully we can connect.

Greg Brown, President – W.W. Cannon, LLC

The greatest takeaway that came from convention for me: Getting to meet and discuss ideas face to face with members of a new MHEDA Net Group (my second) that was put together over the last couple of months. This group for MHEDA companies with a dock and door division has now met via web conference. The value I am receiving more than pays for convention.

Jim MacGregor, Vice President, Operations – Toyota Material Handling Systems

One of the many takeaways that I focused on first came from the presentation by Kevin Brown, “The Hero Effect: Creating a Culture of Heroes at Every Level.” Kevin outlined four important things he learned about heroes:

1. Heroes Help People
a. Most people are only willing to be helpful if there is a return on their investment.
b. Heroes help people with no strings attached
2. Heroes create an exceptional experience for everyone at work and at home
a. Heroes are intentional
b. Heroes leave nothing to chance
3. Heroes take 100% responsibility for the life and every circumstance within it
a. What can I do with what I have
4. Heroes see life through a lens of optimism
a. In the absence of heroes, everyone becomes commodities and compete on price Influence is a two-way street. We give very little thought as to whom we allow to influence us. We never forget the voice of influence in our lives. The words “I’m proud of you” are the most powerful words outside of “I love you” and we don’t use those words enough.
These takeaways from Kevin were impactful. So much so that upon my return from convention, I immediately began reflecting.

Near his conclusion, he asked:

a. Can you look in the mirror and see the faces that make you better? Self-made is a myth.
b. Who looks in the mirror and sees your face?
c. Who says they are better because you were there and gave support?
d. You don’t know what people are dealing with when they enter your space.

Focusing on his questions, you begin to evaluate how you are leading currently and how through the lens of others can you improve as a leader. Self-reflection and ability to change are key to becoming stronger, more valuable leaders. Kevin pointed out that if you have breath in your body, you have work to do. There is a version of you inside that you need to bring out. This space he described is called now, and the people in it are not at all by accident.

We have incorporated leadership training and culture training into our organization and the value it has provided is immeasurable, however Kevin’s presentation provided me with a different way to self evaluate and a desire to share this with other leaders within our organization.

A Message from Mike Ward President – V&H Material Handling, LLC

I greatly appreciate the time and feedback from each board member. Everyone seemed to have different highlights and takeaways and that there was something for everyone at the convention.

The common thread was that the convention was informative, interactive, thought provoking and the networking opportunities were outstanding. The socializing was second to none, as well.

The convention in Orlando was the first MHEDA Convention I have attended. I found it valuable to reconnect with past relationships, which have grown distant during the pandemic. It was naturally a terrific opportunity to generate new supplier contacts.

It was beneficial to get to know many small business owners like myself and get their perspective on how they are managing this changing industry. Big or small, we all seemed to share common issues of employee retention, compensation, recruiting, incentives, business controls, marketing, ROI, lead time impacts, cost escalation, cybersecurity and process optimization. Another common thread was the uncertain outlook for the economy while being excited in realizing the vast opportunities that exist within our industry.

I attended the convention searching for specific business solutions and discovered several choices pertaining to each concern. A plethora of industry-specific resources with products and services will improve my business. My personal mission was accomplished, and we are excited to implement several projects to improve our marketing and workflow.

I greatly appreciate the Board’s responses to my question. Having access to these successful industry insiders has been beneficial to my business. The Board Members, along with the professional MHEDA staff, reaffirms our decision to join MHEDA just last year. It’s been a crazy couple of years but understanding how so many of us are facing similar changes and opportunities has been reassuring. Looking forward to seeing everyone again in Nashville next year.