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Member Spotlight: Old Friends, New Business Partners Forecast Robust '16

Tuesday, April 12, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jay Corn
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After assuming joint ownership of Oak Hill Marina in Arnolds Park, Iowa, at the beginning of 2015, Jake Jostand and Tim Sather are two of North America’s newest — and youngest — marine dealership principals.

Jake says working at Oak Hill has been the only job he’s ever had, advancing his way from teenaged gas dock attendant to showroom sales manager and finally the captain’s chair; Tim returned to Iowa after completing vocational school and launching successful endeavors in Florida as both a lead service technician and independent shop owner.

Both quickly point out they are friends as well as business partners and say they will never tire of coming to their home lake everyday to “work.”

Jake and Tim recently sat down to chat a bit about a variety of topics, including the general business climate, the shortage of qualified marine technicians and their emphasis on training a new generation of Oak Hill team members. 

How’s business through the first quarter? What is your outlook for 2016 and how are you guys feeling about the general retail climate?

Jake: We’re excited, and our outlook is pretty much the same as it was last year: we think it’s going to be a real good season. Maybe even a little bit better. We’re not looking for huge growth, but our opportunities are coming in service, storage and obviously everyone wants to grow their sales.

Our operation right now, though, is where it needs to be. We can run it efficiently and be very profitable. We want to grow, but we want to grow slowly. The outlook is great.

Talk about the ongoing technician shortage facing marine dealerships around the country — both from a dealership perspective and high level evaluation of the sector.

Tim: We’re very fortunate here. We have four technicians who work together great and care about the business. They help each other, stay up-to-date on schooling and are just absolute rock stars. We’ve run lean at times, though, and went with three technicians for a while when we knew we needed four. 

We interviewed selectively and hired slowly. We weren’t going to just take anyone off the street and put them into the shop. We did several, several interviews to get it done and eventually wound up hiring a guy who came out of the farm implement business. He’s absolutely killing it right now.

So, I guess if there’s advice that I have for dealers around the country, it’s to create a culture within your dealership that makes it a place people want to work. I really think you can place your dealership ahead of others if you’re known as a place people want to come and work. If dealership principles focus on their service department and make it a place people want to go — you’ll get top talent.

You both have said training represents a key cog in Oak Hill’s future trajectory.  Explain a few ways.

Tim: We don’t skimp on education at all. If there’s something we need to go to, we send everyone. It’s not, “hey, we’re going to have one guy go to outboard school because we need an outboard certification.” No. Everybody in the shop needs to know what’s going on and have an opportunity to benefit themselves and have more opportunity within the dealership.  

Everybody benefits — the customer, the dealership, you become more efficient in the shop, manufacturers pay your warranty rate. We also have performance-based pay plans, so you’re rewarded based on how well you do in the shop, so the technicians obviously benefit.

Jake: You’ve got to want as an owner or manager for your team to do well and stay educated. The culture we create here is for our team to want to be the best. They want to go to school and be the most educated out there. Again, it starts with the culture.

Do your sales team and service shop get along?

Tim: When we talk to other dealers, it’s almost comical how smooth things run here. It works very, very well. We don’t have those issues. On the flipside, whenever people ask me about an in-depth sales question on volume or this or that, I can say, “hey Jake, what are we doing in sales again?” I don’t have to worry about it. Jake has everything covered over there and vice versa.

Jake: We hear from dealers all the time about a clash between their sales and service department, and we have head-butting like everyone else does, but because we’re owners on both sides I think our walls are really small. People get along well.