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The drive to continuously grow and improve is at the heart of the MRAA, our members and our staff. That’s why we’re launching this blog: to share what we’re learning in our work and in our lives with you – and in hopes you’ll share what you’re learning too.

 

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Determine who comes first

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, April 4, 2017

There’s no doubt that there are aspects of the marine industry and the individual companies that make it up that are unique compared to other industries and businesses.

But exactly how different the factors that drive success in a given marine business vary from a similarly sized business in another industry … well, that’s debatable. Are they 60 percent the same? 90 percent the same?

Today, I’m leaning more toward 90 percent. In a book I’m reading called, “Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business,” the author – one of the most respected entrepreneurs of the restaurant industry – writes about his formula for success, which involves providing “enlightened hospitality” to his customers.

One of his core strategies is putting employees first, a concept that can apply to just about any organization. Easy to say, harder to do. Especially in an industry like the restaurant business with all the turnover it experiences. But that’s precisely why he does it.

“There are five primary stakeholders to whom we express our most caring hospitality and in whom we take the greatest interest,” writes Danny Meyer. “Prioritizing those people in the following order is the guiding principle for practically every decision we make, and it has made the single greatest contribution to the ongoing success of our company.”

  1. Our employees
  2. Our guests
  3. Our community
  4. Our suppliers
  5. Our investors

When he says “ongoing success,” what he really means is sustainable profits, which he argues is near impossible to achieve without a team of dedicated employees providing the best possible service to your customers.

If you put investors first – and let’s be clear: when he writes “investors” he’s talking primarily about delivering a return on investment for himself, his friends and family – “there will inevitably be a revolving door of staff members who, finding themselves in a business culture that does not place their own or the customers’ interests ahead of the other key stakeholders, will quickly cease to feel particularly proud, motivated or enthusiastic about coming to work,” he writes.

But what does it mean

It’s easy to get behind an idea like putting employees first. But what truly interests me is how it’s practiced in the business.

So many companies will tell you about their “values” or “mission” or “culture,” but even when management has the best of intentions, it rarely seems to be reflected in the day-to-day experience of the employee or the customer.

Here’s a few ways that Danny practices what he preaches in his restaurants:

  • Staff roundtable discussions where employees provide feedback on how they feel the business is performing;
  • Monthly dining voucher program through which staff can dine at the restaurant in exchange for completing a detailed questionnaire about their experience;
  • Walk the Talk” survey where employees rate the company’s leadership and management.

The best dealers in the industry have found similar ways to improve and grow their business.

  • Marine Industry Certified Dealerships adopt an Employee Satisfaction Process that includes conducting an annual survey, sharing the results with their team and using their insight to improve the way they do business.
  • Other dealers ask employees to rate their managers as part of the company’s performance review process.
  • And still others use more informal strategies, like employee suggestion boxes (They’re not just for customers!) and asking for feedback during company and one-on-one meetings.
  • We want to know: Do you believe in putting employees first? Why or why not? And if so, how do you do it? Respond to this blog or email me at liz@mraa.com.

As I learn more about other industries, I’m beginning to suspect that regardless of the size or target customer of a business – or even the product, the foundation on which success is built is much the same.

As Danny writes, “You may think, as I once did, that I’m primarily in the business of serving good food. Actually, though, food is secondary to something that matters even more. In the end, what’s most meaningful is creating positive, uplifting outcomes for human experiences and human relationships. Business, like life, is all about how you make people feel. It’s that simple, and it’s that hard.”

Tags:  employees  experience  hospitality  satisfaction  sustainable profits 

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A common misunderstanding

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, March 28, 2017
In the year and half that has passed since taking on the roll as Lead Certification Consultant, I’ve witnessed a common misunderstanding among many dealers concerning the literal translation of the requirements for Certification.

It was bestowed upon me by the MRAA staff and the dealers who sit on our Board of Directors that each requirement has an intent. In order to fulfill the Certification requirement, a dealer must meet the intent of the requirement or standard, not the literal translation. As a consultant, I recommend dealers fulfill these requirements by the most simple and effective method allowed – ideally, using the tools a dealer already has in place, though I also make the dealer aware of cost effective solutions others are using.

That was my strategy when I sold cars. I hated filling out paperwork when I could be selling more cars!  I was amazed by the redundancy of filling out forms that asked for the same exact data, like the sales agreement, AVC form, credit app, odometer forms, temporary registration, and others the government kept adding to protect the customer from me!  

So, I wrote a basic program for my Commodore Vic-20 to print out these forms in minutes, which saved me all kinds of time and shortened the purchase experience for the customer. A side effect of this effort was floppy disks full of names and addresses that allowed me to print letters after I talked my dealer into buying tractor-feed letterhead for my dot matrix printer to stay in touch with my customers and prospects. A more timesaving way to fold, lick, and stamp envelopes is another story!

The point is: Dealers like you created the Certification requirements and agreed that they were the best practices to elevate the customer experience and make dealers more money. Now it’s the MRAA’s responsibility to make them easier to adhere to vs. unnecessarily adding work to your day.

As an example, Certification requires dealers to supply sales follow-up logs with customer name, sale date, call date, person calling and call results. To satisfy the requirement, you must show 100 percent follow-up by phone within seven days of delivery. If a dealer is currently using a CRM system that prompts the team to contact the customer at predetermined post sale intervals (7-day minimum) and generates a report that shows them complying 100 percent, that satisfies the requirement. In fact, it’s exactly what we’re looking for: a method that is integrated right into a dealer’s everyday tools that helps them sell and service more boats.

When we see a separate form filled out that shows post sale follow-up, we look to help the dealer find a way to make use of processes or tools already installed at the dealership to eliminate additional forms or paperwork used exclusively for becoming Certified. Each of the Certification requirements must be fulfilled naturally in your daily routine or they will become a burden rather than a means of enhancing the customer experience and dealer profits.

Your Certification consultants have spent their entire careers looking for the easiest and most effective ways to achieve success. We seek to help our Certified dealers do the same.

Tags:  certification  consultants  intent  requirements  resources  training 

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No time for training

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, March 21, 2017

During my early days running a dealership and then later at Channel Blade, we constantly made or heard the excuse: “We don’t have time for training. We need to work the phones or sell or fix something.” 

We learned later that not dedicating time to training cost us a ton in wasted time! Not to mention lost customers and sales because the crew wasn’t up to speed on their product, the competitor’s products, or the sales skills to help people buy.

Dealers today still find it difficult to dedicate time for training. That was the subject of a conversation I had with Liz Walz leading up to MDCE 2016. If you know Liz, you know that she is extremely passionate about dealer education and works vigorously to produce hours of training on multitudes of topics by industry experts, available at MDCE and MRAA.com in the MRAA Resource Center and MRAA Interactive Virtual Training System. She gets frustrated knowing that dealers are struggling to take advantage of training that could make a real difference for their team.

That’s where I came in. Liz asked me to create a training workshop at MDCE to show dealers how easy it is to create a simple plan to educate their people without adding more hours to the day. Fortunately, Liz asked me early in the year, as it took most of that time to find ways to make the process simple, with just a few steps.

We gave the workshop at MDCE, offering a complementary workbook to help attendees learn:

  • The why behind training
  • Who needs training
  • How to define your training needs and set training goals
  • Where to find training resources
  • How to schedule training
  • How to track and assess the results

It’s really that simple: determine who needs training, what training you need, what’s the goal for the training, find the training, and then schedule it! Schedule it? That’s the problem! We can help you find unique ways to work training in more often without working longer hours.

Now, we’re taking the research we did for that workshop and expanding upon it, transforming it into an MRAA Guide to Training that will walk you and your team through the planning (and if needed, budgeting) process from start to finish, offering you the chance to customize your strategy to fit your dealership’s and your team members’ unique needs and interests.

We spend time on getting buy-in from both employees and management. You simply need to find out what your crew wants to learn and keep it in line with management’s priorities. As we mentioned in a recent blog on job descriptions, marine dealers can see a big benefit from performance evaluations. This is yet another reason for them: So you can find out what your employees want and need to learn, instead of just checking the box that you did training. Click here to access the MRAA Member Resource: 10 Tips for Marine Dealership Performance Reviews.

Lastly, to keep training perpetual in your store, it’s important that every course your dealership attends or conducts has a goal and that you track the results. We are confident that when you train on a certain area, you will get better results in that area. When you get better results, you will keep doing what got you the results.

Tags:  education  resources  time management  training 

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Brick and mortar vs. click and order

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017

Amidst the monotony of the ongoing political banter and the optimism of a growing economy, you may have missed a troubling report coming out of CNN Money.

The report, published just last week, suggests that the American economy may be experiencing the bursting of a retail bubble. Dispute the concept of a retail bubble if you’d like — I think we could agree there has been no boom to set up the burst — but the fact remains that traditional brick-and-mortar retail is struggling.

The article documents disappointing quarterly results from several large retailers, store closures, an underperforming retail organization’s IPO, bankruptcies and more. All juxtaposed with the incredible continued success of Amazon and other online retailers.

There are examples of strong retail stores out there, some of which are also highlighted in the report. Each of those examples has differentiated itself by finding a niche to capitalize on.

And herein lies the challenge to you. What are you doing to differentiate yourself in the marketplace? How do you go about making yourself irreplaceable to your customers and your market?

If, as our industry continues to grow, you think there’s no risk to your business, I want to urge you to think again. The retail business is changing. Our industry is changing. And the business of online retailing, as you can tell by this article, “Amazon is going to sell cars online,” is soon to change even further.

How long it takes before Amazon considers moving into the marine industry, no one knows. But it would be a wise move for you to consider how you would capitalize on your competitive advantage under such circumstances. Begin today by defining how you currently differentiate your business and how you should further differentiate.

In the end, we can either evolve or stay the same. Amazon’s success has come at the expense of industries that have chosen to stay the same.

Tags:  Amazon  economy  online retailers  retail 

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Tools to compete in the job market

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Good people are hard to find. This statement is as old as any other business cliché, but it has never been more of a slap in the face for me than it is today.

I’m writing this blog as I wait for an interview candidate, who is now more than five minutes late for his interview. The assignment we asked him to complete prior to the interview still hasn’t arrived either. I’d love to exhale and simply move on to the next candidate, but our pool of candidates is bleak.

Five weeks ago, we actually hired someone for this position. She came to the Minneapolis Boat Show with us, a full weekend prior to when she was officially going to start. She had every skill and ability we were looking for, in addition to an eager attitude and a get-it-done mentality. She showed up as planned on Monday, was out until Friday with sick kids, and we haven’t seen her since. Vanished.

The best candidate for the position, after we resumed the recruiting process, took another job the day we were to interview her. Now this next interviewee hasn’t shown up, and it’s more than 10 minutes after his scheduled appointment. Don’t most people show up early for an interview?

I realize I’m singing to the choir here when I complain that it’s tough to find quality employees these days. Our members have been challenged to find technicians for a few years now, and the problem is only getting worse.

MRAA has committed itself to finding solutions for these issues. In fact, for the second year in a row, workforce development issues made our list of top issues to be addressed, which was created by the Advisory Council of Marine Associations, a group of trade association leaders who help to set the MRAA legislative agenda.

In 2016, our efforts created the first MRAA Marine Industry Workforce Assessment. It revealed that more than 21 percent of the positions budgeted to be on dealership payrolls went unfilled in the prior year and suggested that our industry could be short some 31,000 retail employees by 2019. MRAA members can download the assessment here.

In the end, dealers pointed to a few main reasons why they are having trouble finding good employees: the generation gap, a poor transition from schools to the workforce, a lack of tech schools to begin with, the seasonality of our business, a lack of employee training, and an inability to compete with the pay scales of other industries. With a mission to provide solutions for some of these issues, MRAA has:

  1. Held several generation-related topics at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo. MRAA Retail Members, sign into MRAATraining.com for access to some of these topics.
  2. Generated a database of marine specific technical schools.
  3. Been working on a guide to dealership training, to be published as a free member resource later this year.
  4. And launched a compensation study to give us a better understanding of the pay scales and structures in the marine industry.

The results of the 2017 MRAA Compensation Study are now available for purchase. For just $299, you can access the high-level executive summary; the full, in-depth report; and an online, dynamic salary calculator that will allow you to run an unlimited number of queries on up to 35 job descriptions, broken down by region, dealership size, and more.

Whether they’re training opportunities or customized resources, these are all tools designed to help you compete better in your market place. The only thing we can’t do is force these people to show up for interviews or for work.

Moving on…

Tags:  Compensation Study  hiring  MRAA  training 

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CRM: A look in the mirror

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Whether you believe in coincidence or not, you’ve probably had an experience like this. A topic comes up. Maybe it’s in conversation, a video or a podcast. You might read it in a book or on a website. And then it comes up again and again and again in the following days and weeks.

In my case, that topic is CRM: Customer Relationship Management. Wikipedia defines it as: “An approach to managing a company's interaction with current and potential future customers that tries to analyze data about customers' history with a company and to improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on customer retention and ultimately driving sales growth.”

If you attended the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in December, you may have heard Sam Dantzler talk about the relationship between CRM and Business Development Centers or BDCs. He believes that BDCs are unnecessary if your team is highly disciplined in its use of CRM technology. That means entering every person who walks in your door, calls your team or shoots you an email into the CRM – and then following up with them to gain the 20 touches it typically requires to convert a prospect to a customer. That kind of discipline is pretty rare, which is why he says most dealerships can benefit from a BDC.

Sam and his team at Garage Composites spoke about CRM in more depth during a powersports customer event in January. But they didn’t just emphasize putting 100% of prospects and customers into it – including the UPS delivery person. They also said failing to do so should be a serious violation of company policy, one with consequences.

CRM was a popular topic in MDCE’s Marketing Track as well. Today’s technology allows us to be highly targeted in our marketing, which tends to be more effective than messaging designed for the masses. Who doesn’t prefer to receive marketing messages that apply directly to our individual interests and preferences? But if you don’t have much prospect and customer data in your CRM, it’s nearly impossible to pull off targeted marketing campaigns.

CRM, CRM, CRM. I can’t escape. In my inbox, in my conversations with my team and with MDCE speakers. Everywhere. I started looking in the mirror. How disciplined have I been in using the MRAA CRM? The answer wasn’t pretty. So, I’m opening up a conversation with the rest of my team about how we all can improve our use of it. Here are the questions we’re asking ourselves – and you may want to ask yourselves too:

    • How does our CRM work? I thought I knew the answer, but it turns out there are several new features that make it much better than it used to be, which will help me use it more. If you haven’t checked in a while, make sure you do.
    • When should I use it? If you believe Sam, the answer is all the time. Not just the sales department, but the service department too. And the marina and boat rental, if you have it. Maybe instead the question should be: When shouldn’t I use it?
    • How do I get my team to use it consistently? If you believe it’s important – and I haven’t found a dealer or expert yet who doesn’t – you have to hold yourself and your employees accountable for using it. That means finding ways to incorporate it into your processes, tracking adherence to those processes, praising those who use it, and introducing coaching and eventually consequences for those who don’t.
    • What information do I include in the CRM? Many dealers focus their CRM notes on products the prospect is interested in or the boat they own right now. However, dealers have the opportunity to strengthen their relationship with the customer by including personal information. How many kids or pets do they have, and what are their names? What do they do for work? What are their hobbies and passions? Use this type of information to transform your follow-up calls in the best possible way.
    • How should I use data from my CRM? The short answer is sales, marketing and coaching. If you’re serious about improving and growing your people and your business, I can’t think of a more powerful tool.

Tags:  BDC  CRM  Dantzler  mdce  MRAA  training tuesday 

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The Dreaded Job Description

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, February 14, 2017

We rarely get pushback from dealers on the need for job descriptions. However, this one requirement often slows down a dealer’s completion of their Certification checklist. For some reason, creating and updating job descriptions ranks right up there with cleaning out the head — except when it comes to the person whose job description is in question.

You might be one of the many dealers who doesn’t have job descriptions already created, in which case you’re likely thinking to yourself: “Where do I start?” Simple. If you’re an MRAA member, you have free access to 50-plus job descriptions in the MRAA Rewards Career Center. These descriptions are available as Word files for easy editing. For instance, if you have a Parts & Service Manager, we have separate descriptions for a Parts Manager and a Service Manage that you can merge. Just copy and paste them into one document to build a unique job description. Once you have reviewed and edited the document, share it with the employee and have them help you finalize the details.

One of the dealer best practices we have identified is to get your employees involved in the creation of their own job description. How? Incorporate it into their performance review, which, of course, is an important part of employee development and retention.

Updating job descriptions during a performance review is a surprisingly effective way to get productive conversation moving between the employee and their supervisor. Simply share the employee’s current job description or one just conceived for them and ask them to review the duties. Have them let you know if they are responsible for tasks that aren’t accounted for in your description, or if they aren’t responsible for certain functions listed in the document. This should lead to useful conversation, and the job description can be updated on the spot. Bonus: It’s much more pleasant than cleaning out the head, and gets your employees more involved in the coaching process.

Don’t forget to co-sign the description with your employee, and date it so you don’t confuse it with older versions.

Lastly, if you haven’t bought in to the idea of job descriptions already, here are several additional areas where they can move the needle for your business:

·       Interviewing/hiring

·       Onboarding

·       Goal setting

·       Career path development

·       Employee training/development plans

·       Cross-training

·       Performance improvement

·       Employee satisfaction and retention

 

As always, if you still have questions, concerns or get stuck with anything boat dealer-related, contact us at the MRAA, and we’ll do our best to get you the help you need.

Tags:  job descriptions  jobs  MRAA  training tuesday  workforce 

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A Work in Progress

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Updated: Thursday, February 2, 2017

My 11-year-old son, Nathan, is at the age where he no longer places an unwavering faith in the words and actions of his parents. Rather, it seems he’s constantly questioning what we do and say, looking for confirmation – and undoubtedly finding it – that we’re the flawed human beings he has recently begun suspecting us to be.

Of course, I’ve known about my flawed nature all along. And I’ve worked hard to acknowledge it – both at home and at work. I regularly admit to myself, my family and my team that I’m a “work in progress.”

It’s a way to talk back to my inner voice and send a message to those around me at home and at work. If we don’t accept that it’s okay to be flawed, to be human, to try and to fail, then what are the chances that we’re going to take the risk – when we inevitably fall short of perfection – of trying again, of learning from our mistakes and attempting to do it better the next time?

That drive to continuously grow and improve is at the heart of our work at the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. The one thing that our members have in common is a desire to keep getting better and to ultimately become the best – however you define it. So every benefit, educational program and resource we provide and every partnership we enter into is designed to contribute to that journey.

But if we truly believe in the idea of continuous improvement, then we must actively pursue it ourselves. We can’t call ourselves a “work in progress” if we’re standing still.

That’s the idea behind the launch of the MRAA’s new blog, to be published each week on “Training Tuesday.” By committing to this blog, the MRAA team is promising you that not only will we be working each day and each week to get better at serving you, but we’ll also share what we’re learning along the way. We hope you’ll share what you’re learning on your journey with us too.

After all, the way we see it, we’re in this together. The boating business can’t grow and improve unless marine retailers like you grow and improve. You’re at the heart of this industry, working day in and day out on the front lines, bringing boating to life for families in your local community. We’re here to serve you and your desire to be the best. And like you, we are traveling the sometimes meandering and bumpy path known as progress.

Our end goal is the same. To provide an incredible boating lifestyle that attracts people to the water and to your businesses time and time again.

Make sure you follow along by clicking the subscribe button at the top of this page so you receive notices when we've got more to share with you. Until then...

Tags:  desire  improvement  journey  lifestyle  progress  pursue  training  training tuesday 

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