Equipment Purchases: Should Employees Help?
Should Employees Give Input on Equipment Purchases?
We always advise any business owners or operations managers to get an opinion from a trusted dealer before deciding to buy a diesel truck, a generator, or some other piece of heavy equipment for their business. The power and transportation are important to your bottom line, and you want a team with experience and perspective on your side.
But what about getting input from the other direction? Should you ask for opinions from managers, mechanics, or even drivers and frontline employees when making equipment purchases? This is a question we get asked from time to time, particularly as our customers start thinking about the issues and challenges of buying things like big engines and expensive boats for their companies.
You can probably make an argument either way. In our experience, having some input from employees can be valuable. But at the same time you might not want to rely on their preferences, prioritizing your own needs and dealership advice instead.
To help you make sense of that contradiction, and to help you make the best decisions you can, we’ll look at both sides of the issue in today’s post.
Why You Want Employees to Have a Say in Big Equipment Purchases
Certainly, having some degree of input from your employees can be helpful, particularly if you’re making a big investment in equipment. That’s because your team is going to have information and perspectives that you don’t.
For example, you might know how much fuel your fleet burns on average, or how often the manufacturer says the diesel engines should be overhauled. However, you might not know how safe or comfortable the trucks are, or whether there are persistent complaints about some aspect of their performance or reliability. Having that info could help you make a better decision (or even avoid a costly mistake).
In the same way, your employees might have different experiences or insights than you do. For instance, it could be that you have always worked with a certain type of marine engine, but you could have technicians on your staff who know what it’s like to service different models that you aren’t as familiar with. Or, they might have colleagues who work at different companies who have shared information that can only be gained through experience.
In most cases, the feedback you get from workers won’t be different than what you would hear from an experienced dealer. Still, why wouldn’t you get first-hand impressions if they are available to you? Most of the business owners and operations managers we work with don’t interact with trucks and other pieces of equipment on a day-to-day basis. So it never hurts to get an informed opinion.
It’s also worth remembering that soliciting feedback from your team has other ancillary benefits, too. Everyone likes to feel valued and included. By taking a bit of time to learn about employee preferences, you are demonstrating that you value their knowledge and experience. Even if you don’t end up following their ideas and suggestions, they can at least know that you want their input as part of the decision-making process. That can pay big dividends, particularly if you have to transition from one type of equipment to another.
Gathering employee feedback can be done formally or informally. You might send out questionnaires and take notes, or simply step in on a staff meeting and ask for some quick impressions. Either approach is valid, and your process should be guided by the amount of knowledge your employees have about heavy equipment and industry trends.
No matter how it gets accomplished, though, we do recommend that you involve your employees in the buying process – or at least key team members like maintenance supervisors. They’ll be able to tell you things you can’t learn elsewhere, and soliciting their opinions is good for morale. You don’t want to rely entirely on their suggestions, though, which brings us to our next point.
Why You Might Not Want Too Much Input From Employees on Equipment Purchases
Now that we have given you all the reasons you might want to involve your employees in the decision to invest in new equipment, let’s look at the other side of the coin. While you certainly want feedback, you don’t want too much of it. And you definitely won’t want to leave it to your team to make a buying decision for you.
There are a number of reasons for this. The first (and most obvious) is that you might have different priorities than your employees do. For an obvious example, consider what would happen if you were thinking of buying a fleet of trucks for local deliveries. Your top concerns might be safety, efficiency, and reliability. Ask your drivers, though, and they might put a premium on in-cabin comforts.
To put this in simpler terms, you could want a truck that is inexpensive to operate and easy to insure as well as burns less fuel. However, your team would be very likely to prefer whichever trucks had the best seats, stereos, and air conditioning. There is likely to be a middle ground that can be reached, but you are starting with fundamentally different ways of evaluating options.
Another difficulty comes in when you realize that employees might be working with incomplete information. We mentioned before that they could potentially have experience or contacts that could lend a different type of first-hand experience. But on the other side of things, they probably aren’t meeting with dealers, seeing tech sheets, or reviewing contracts and invoices. In other words, they can only see their own piece of the puzzle, not the entire picture.
For that reason, even if your team does want what’s best for the company, they might not be able to understand it. They may not realize how things like cost, ongoing maintenance, or depreciation and resale value affect the bottom line. You have to look out for their operational needs and the future of your company at the same time. They may not realize that.
It’s also an unfortunate fact that the team you have today might not be the one you’ll have in the future. So, while you could have employees with strong preferences on the payroll, you don’t want to be stuck with equipment they like if they happen to move on.
What happens if half your drivers go to another company, or your best mechanic decides to retire? If you have based your buying strategy on their needs and preferences, you’re going to be stuck when these changes occur. In fact, you might be forced to hire others just like them, with the same skills and experience, whether you want to or not.
Ultimately, your choice of trucks and equipment isn’t likely to affect your staffing very significantly one way or the other. Still, it’s worth remembering that you are very likely to own and operate your business well into the future. Turnover, however, is a very real eventuality and you can’t stop employees from moving on. So, their personal opinions about what kinds of equipment to buy have to be taken with a pinch of salt.
How to Find the Right Balance
With both of these perspectives in mind, how can you find the right balance when investing in new equipment? As we’ve mentioned, a lot will depend on your business, your employees, and your own level of knowledge and experience.
We would recommend that you start by getting some informal opinions when you begin the process of looking at trucks, generators, or a piece of equipment. Just have a few quick conversations and see whether your team members have had any problems with your current equipment, know of any alternatives you should consider, or have any items on their “wish lists” that they would want you to consider.
You might repeat these conversations once more when you get close to a final decision. At that point you might only include key personnel (like managers), and make it clear that while you want their input, you’ll need to make a decision that’s best for the company.
Of course, a couple of informal meetings aren’t going to be enough to lead you to a firm decision. That’s why the gaps should be filled in by someone with the right amount of expertise. And that, of course, is going to be a trusted dealer who knows many different brands and companies.
The right dealer is going to be able to offer you facts and perspectives that employees can’t. On the one hand, they are going to be familiar with top brands and manufacturers, allowing you to see the best from each one. But on the other hand, they will have worked with dozens of companies just like yours. They’ll know how other business owners and managers are using the equipment you’re looking at and can fill in those knowledge gaps. They’ll know all about technical specs and product details. They’ll also know which units provide the best in value, reliability, and cost to performance.
Even more important than this knowledge, however, is what a good dealer can help you understand yourself. By asking the right kinds of questions, they can get you to focus on your real operational needs and long-term plans. In other words, they can keep you from making snap judgments based on appearance or third-hand opinions and keep you centered on more important criteria like safety and return on investment.
None of this will take any aspect of the decision out of your hands. But what it will do is help you get all the information you need from a source that has your business’s best interests at heart. In other words, the dealer has much more experience than your employees do, along with the advantage of being able to see things from a higher-level point of view. They can talk about the day-to-day realities of working with a particular generator, as an example, but also think in terms of operating costs and capital depreciation.
Your employees and vendors can give you first-hand opinions you can’t get from anywhere else, and including them in the decision-making process is a good idea for all the reasons we’ve outlined. But at the end of the day, you need more detailed advice than they can give. A good diesel engine and heavy equipment dealer can help you feel confident that you’re making investments that will help you reach the decision that’s right for your company.
Want Help From an Expert Team Who Knows Diesel Engines, Generators, and Equipment?
Employee opinions and feedback can be valuable when you’re making big equipment purchases for your company. After all, the men and women who work for you every day have a perspective you can’t get anywhere else.
But when it comes to sifting through brands, models, and financing packages – and then finding the right solutions for your business – you need someone who has experience across the industry. That’s where our team of professionals comes in. We can help you take what you’ve gotten from employees, colleagues, and experience running your company and turn it into an actionable power and transportation plan.
To see what makes us different from other diesel dealerships, and why so many business owners and managers won’t work with anyone else, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We can help you make the right kinds of comparisons, walk you through choices, and then ensure you get a great deal on the equipment you need.