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UNC and Caterpillar's Ground-breaking Program: A Deep Dive

For Caterpillar, dealers are not just distributors, but fully fledged partners. Find out how they are nurtured in this unique long-read download

Wednesday 02 November 2016


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“We’d sooner cut off our right arm than sell directly to customers and bypass our dealers.” ~ Don Frites, then Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, Inc., writing in 1996.

Caterpillar has a unique bond with their dealerships, and ensuring their continued success is an on-going top priority. That is why nine years ago Caterpillar designed the custom-made ‘Think’ program with UNC Executive Development of the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, and has been running it to great effect ever since.

“A $40 billion global company, Caterpillar manufactures its equipment, offers financing support and then counts on its independently owned dealers to market, sell and service the equipment. Caterpillar believes that the local knowledge its independent dealer network brings to the company is a key competitive advantage in a highly competitive and global industry.” - An excerpt from the full supplement available for you to download below.

The 6-page Developing Leaders Extra Supplement available for download below describes the design, theory, innovation and impact of the program in full detail – with insights from UNC professors of entrepreneurship, marketing, finance and sustainable enterprise – as well as from the program director, and multiple managers and stakeholders from Caterpillar.

Key Insights include: (with some further example quotes from the supplement)

Global-to-Granular: The three-day ‘Think’ sessions are formatted to reflect the equal importance of both global and local priorities. “In broad terms, the program advances from an external perspective on the first day, to more internal strategic considerations on the second day, to even more granular, dealer-specific concerns on the third day.”

Strategy vs. Execution: Participants are pushed to think about their strategies including past strategies that did not work. “The best plans are nothing but plans on paper. You can sit in a room and develop strategies for eight hours, but if you don’t know how to execute, you’re in trouble.”

Industry-specific: For Caterpillar, one of the major challenges is low-priced competitors from emerging markets. “Manufacturers from all over the world, including China, are making machines that are rather comparable to Caterpillar machines. Maybe they are not as reliable or have all the bells and whistles, but the problem is, they come in and undercut the market by 20% or 30%.”

You can Download the Full Supplement by clicking on the Download Resource button and Completing the short form (or by logging in to your existing account).

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