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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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What's in a Name (Tag)

Posted By Bob McCann, Monday, July 17, 2017

What do you think about your crew wearing name tags? If it was up to me, I would have the customers wear them too! I’m the worst at remembering names, even two minutes after an introduction. As a customer, I love it when the employees I meet are wearing name tags. It allows me to use their name, and I feel like I get better service because of the instant rapport we build. This is especially true when trying to get out of a middle seat on an airplane, into a nicer rental car or into a room with a view!

For the not so selfish, there are plenty of reasons for name tags too:

  • Ease of starting a conversation. Lack of communication is one of those reasons that often surfaces when we take a good look at an issue causing conflict at the dealership. If we can make it easier to get people talking and avoid the awkwardness of having to ask a staff member their name, it will help us avoid issues with customers and might even help us sell service or a boat.

  • Simplicity when reporting issues and problem solving for both customers and mangers. When a customer leaves the keys to a boat with the guy in the parking lot, it’s much easier to find the keys when that same customer remembers seeing Bob’s name tag!

  • Balance the playing field when talking with customers. It’s often taught to seek out and use the customer’s name during a conversation. This is done from reading the name on a credit card, warranty card, appointment card, etc. Why shouldn’t customers know employees names as well?

  • Credit where credit’s due when an employee goes out of their way to please a customer. It’s easier to tweet or post on Facebook, “Bob saved our day of fishing with his quick service to get our baitwell working before the start of the tournament” than “The tattooed guy with hipster facial hair…”

  • Deterrence and accountability. An employee who has had a long day would be less likely to tell off (or flip off) a customer if they have a name badge on. They provide deterrence and instant accountability.
Should all employees wear name tags?  Or should owners and managers be exempt? I’m always impressed when I visit MarineMax Team Support in Clearwater, Fla., where there are no customers but everyone wears a name badge, including Bill McGill. I don’t think you can tell your staff that for the above reasons, name badges are a good idea and not wear one yourself!

Name tags help to develop a genuine relationship between staff and guests. And “genuine” matters a lot to today’s customers. Rightly so.

Tags:  accountability  communication  credit  customers  ease  employees  name tags  sales  service  team 

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How to Protect Your Dealership’s Most Valuable Assets

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What’s most valuable to your dealership? Is it your customer database, physical assets, your boat brands? These are all important for sure, but none of them are more important to your business than the knowledge and know how of the people that do the work, which is captured in your dealership’s processes.

Such valuable assets need to be saved and protected. How? Through process documentation, the collection of mapped out visuals that anyone in your organization can easily navigate. The dealers who conceived the requirements for the Marine Industry Certified Dealership program knew of this thinking years ago and brilliantly decided to make process mapping a standard for a Certified Dealership.

Some dealers look at the prospect of creating process maps for everything they do a daunting task. It doesn’t have to be. Dealers have found ways to make quick work of this requirement, and I have some tips that can help too. But first, let’s look at the many payoffs.

    1. You can become certified, which offers a ton of marketing, sales and dealership operations benefits. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    2. You can easily use customer and employee feedback to improve dealership productivity and provide a higher quality and more consistent customer experience. All you do is use what you learn to continually update your process maps.

    3. As an educator, process maps allow me to deliver highly effective training that takes a fraction of the time to understand. The same will be true for you when you have new team members to train. With complete roadmaps to study, the newbie will become a useful part of the team in a fraction of the time it would take relying on the old guy’s memory!
Those are just a few of the benefits of dealership process mapping. Now, let’s look at how to do it fast and easy. Many dealers have found that they can make quick work of this requirement by getting their employees involved. Together, they can use a whiteboard to jot down everything that happens in their department. Once in place across all departments, these processes become the tool to visualize how everything in the dealership is done, which is critical for effective management.

So, once you’re ready to document your processes, the whiteboard exercise is the key to making the project easy and an effective use of time. Dealers say: “We don’t have whiteboards large enough to capture everything.” No worries. That’s why the MRAA invented smartphones with cameras! Just take a picture of the whiteboard, erase, and continue with your sub processes until the desired level of detail is captured.

The long pole in the tent to process mapping has always been publishing a good visual representation of the process. With the software and apps available today, this has become the easy part. I’ve become so comfortable with using PowerPoint (PPT), I lean on it to create most everything for desktop publishing, including my maps. But not all dealers are experienced with PPT. To find a simpler way, I Googled “Process Map Software.” It returned pages of solutions, and I tried out a few.  All were so much easier and intuitive than using PPT for creating maps. I settled on Lucidchart because it was simple and cheaper than the others!

So, don’t go another day without protecting your dealership’s most valuable asset. We’ve heard of dealers spending large amounts of money for consulting firms to interview their employees and create the documentation. Save the money and bring the benefits of process mapping to your dealership though Marine Dealer Certification. You can save thousands by using the experience gained by MRAA consultants who work with marine dealers every day. Learn more at

Tags:  certification  document  employees  MICD  process mapping  processes 

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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

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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