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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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Busting a Few Myths

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, January 22, 2019
In my last blog, I wrote about the premise of Brad Staat’s book, Never Stop Learning. Because the knowledge we need to successfully run our businesses keeps changing, he argues, we need to keep learning. We now operate in a learning economy, not a knowledge economy.

If we need to be continuously learning, then it’s critical for us to know how we and our teams can best learn. As it turns out, much of what we think we know about education is wrong. Here are a few of the many myths about learning:

LEARNING IS AN EVENT. We often schedule education as if learning is an event – a conference, a workshop or a training day – with a beginning and end, something we can check off the list. The research suggests that’s not true. Learning is a four-step process that begins when you’re exposed to new information, like when a speaker gives an educational presentation or when you watch an online course. But don’t stop there. We need to consistently re-expose ourselves and the people we’re training to the new information after we first hear it. When we only take in the information once, chances are it will quickly fade out of our short-term memory before we store it as knowledge and before we have the opportunity to apply it. Our brain is like a video tape that quickly gets recorded over if we don’t proactively work to hold onto new information through repetition.

LEARNING DOESN’T DRIVE RESULTS. The most common reason for this myth is simply that what most people call learning is only the first step of the learning process: Being exposed to new information. If you skip the other three steps, you’ll never truly learn something new, apply it to your business or experience the results.

LEARNING BELONGS IN THE CLASSROOM (NOT THE DEALERSHIP). Research shows us that people typically forget 90 percent of the information they are exposed to in a class within 30 days. The majority of this forgetting occurs within the first few hours after class. That’s because learning is a four-step process, and the classroom is just step one. And of course, the classroom is not the only place you can turn for new information. There are digital publications, books, podcasts, workshops, online courses, conferences and more. The real work involved in learning – and the real rewards – come when you take the information you’ve been exposed to, hold it up against what you’ve experienced in the past (step two), consider how it might apply to your day-to-day responsibilities in the future (step three), and then experiment with it in the dealership (step four).

NO TALKING IN SCHOOL. The truth is the exact opposite. When we discuss what we’re learning with others, not only do we create repetition, which helps us hold onto that information in our memory, but we have the opportunity to reflect out loud on how it applies to what we already know and have experienced, and how we might apply it moving forward. Those are critical steps in the learning process. BONUS: When you as a leader in your dealership talk about what you’re learning and how you might use it to improve and grow, you inspire and encourage others to consider their own learning opportunities.

CRAM FOR THE TEST. Cramming works great if it’s only important that you remember something for a short period of time. But if you want to hold onto it for the long haul (and maybe even USE what you’re learning at work), space out your repetition. Schedule a once a week practice of a key new process or strategy. Research shows that such repetition is needed even years after you’ve supposedly learned something “for good.” Even your most experienced team members can gain huge benefit from refresher classes.

TAKE YOUR SEAT, OPEN YOUR EARS. In reality, the more senses involved in your dealership education – such as seeing, hearing and touching – the more likely you and your team will remember it when it comes time to use what you’re learning. That’s why an audio recording is good, but a video is even better. And a course that involves not just video, but also activities, tests and homework is even more effective. Research suggests that if information is presented orally, people remember about 10 percent 72 hours after exposure. Add a picture and that percentage goes up to 65 percent. As a human, our vision is our most powerful sense. The more your training is a multi-sensory experience, the higher the chances you will retain it.

MRAA takes all of this to heart. We work with the experts to design in-person and online education, resources and tools available to you and your employees all year long. They are designed specifically to achieve REAL learning and drive REAL results. And we’re here whenever you need us to guide you along the way.

Tags:  continuous improvement  cram  discussions  event  learning economy  myths  real-life application 

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Marine Retailing in a Learning Economy

Posted By Liz Walz, Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Updated: Monday, January 7, 2019

Educate. [ej-oo-keyt] verb. to provide with information in order to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction for a particular calling or practice in a particular area for a particular purpose.

When we were kids, we thought we had it figured out. First, you go to school to get educated. Then, you graduate and put what you learned to work in the real world – in our case, the boat dealership.

But we were wrong. The first thing you learn when you start a new job is how much you DON’T know. Yeah, with experience, you learn how to be more successful at your job. But just when you start getting good, you either get promoted into a new job where it all starts over again or you begin to realize that what it means to be good at most of the jobs we do is changing.

That’s why, as leaders in the boat business, education for ourselves and our team needs to be top of mind. Education doesn’t mean the same thing to us now as it did in school. It’s not about learning for the sake of learning. It’s quite simply our path to sustaining, improving and growing our dealerships. And if anything, it has become MORE important since our school days, not less.

The idea that what we think we know about our work is constantly changing is the focus of a book that just came out, called “Never Stop Learning.” In it, author Brad Staats makes the argument that we no longer live in a “knowledge economy” – where growth is dependent on the quantity, quality, and accessibility of the information available.

We actually live in a “learning economy,” where what drives success in our businesses is constantly changing. Knowledge and information are not fixed anymore. What you learned a year ago or even a month ago may not apply today. Education is no longer an event – it’s a continuous process.

Think about your dealership, for example. There is new information being generated every day – about your prospects, your customers, your employees, your revenue, your profitability, your assets, your efficiency, your marketing and sales. What in the dealership DOESN’T generate data these days? Your growth is dependent on your ability to always be learning about what the latest information – from inside and outside your dealership – means for your success. And adapting to what’s changing.

To help you create the culture of continuous improvement that a learning economy requires, the Marine Retailers Association prepared a Guide to Dealership Improvement, available to members in the Resource Center at

In addition, we’re constantly producing new educational courses, videos, digital publications, blogs, research reports and tools to support you and your team. Want to learn more? Check out our website at or give our team a call at 763-315-8043.

Tags:  boat dealership  continuous improvement  continuous process  culture  dealer development  develop  educate  Guide to Dealership Improvement  resources 

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Dealer to Dealer: January

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, January 8, 2019

What did your dealership accomplish in 2018 that you're most proud of?

In light of a record sales year, receiving several top industry awards, and signing on a variety of marquis brands, I think I’m most proud of the strides we made with our personnel. We’re now over 100 employees strong and in 2018 we implemented new policies, procedures and benefit programs to insure a harmonious work place with a work environment that offers an atmosphere of growth, stability and teamwork. - Roger Moore, Nautical Ventures

The 2018 year was a huge challenge for our team. We ended 2017 by losing two key long term managers and our top sales guy. During our busy spring, our service writer quit without warning leaving us with two technicians instead of our typical three.  At the end of 2018, our sales office administrator left with our gel coat technician soon to follow. Needless to say, we were short handed with the workforce being more difficult to obtain the correct team members. We got through the year though and ended up very successful with serving our customers with the high standards we hold ourselves to and even being profitable. I am very proud of our other employees that took the initiative to step up and get the tasks done to provide our customers with stellar service and products. - Marc Shallcross, Reed’s Marine

Staff Development.  We filled open positions with great people and provided resources to help them grow in their roles. - Joe Lewis, Mount Dora Boating Center

The biggest achievement/accomplishment we made in the last year was to hire a General Manager for the store and to start a training process for him. During this last 7 months, a milestone was taking him to his first 20 group meeting this fall. Additionally, in terms of curiosity, we added a ninja course and redemption games to our showroom for the winter. It is based primarily on a shoppertainment retail business model. We had over 500 paying ninjas over the Christmas break. - Adrian Spiker, Deep Creek Marina

Each month, MRAA connects with dealership management on a timely and relevant topic and publishing their insights at Tell us what you have to say about this month’s question by commenting below and participating in the conversation. Also, watch for next month’s question.

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  growth 

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Engaging Conversation

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Friday, November 30, 2018
Updated: Monday, January 7, 2019

Engage. [en-geyj] verb. to come together and occupy the attention of toward a joint effort task or idea.

A dealer friend found himself at odds with an employee today. His senior technician wants to be paid more — a common issue all the time, right? … but particularly in today’s growing economy and shrinking number of quality technicians.

Ultimately, the dealer wants to do right by his tech – he’s a good guy and he’s reliable. But behind the scenes, he’s also the least efficient in the shop, despite the “senior” designation — and by a long shot. He’s billing less than 50 percent of his clocked hours but seeks the pay of someone far more effective in their role.

As it shakes out, the guy who keeps the shop running while the boss isn’t around wouldn’t have a place to work if it weren’t for his more-efficient yet lower-paid brethren.

In many ways, there’s much to be gained when we can engage our employees in a conversation about the business. When we can sit down and outline the equation of revenue earned to expenses paid – personnel and otherwise. And that’s what this boiled down to: “I can pay you more, but let’s talk about and improve upon the profitability equation of the work you do for us.”

Far too often, however, we treat the idea of engaging like it’s a one-directional conversation. You come to work. You engage in your responsibilities. Everyone’s happy.

By definition, though, “to engage” means to come together and occupy the attention of toward a joint effort, task, or idea. It’s not a one-way street. We need to come together toward a joint effort, task or idea with our employees in order to be efficient and effective, both as individuals and as a business.

I often think of it the same way as our role here at MRAA. We want to engage you in a conversation about the business of boating and how we can aid in your growth and success. It’s a rewarding moment when we get to talk to our members — even our non-members, in this case — about these topics, and it’s even more rewarding when we see them engage in the tools, resources and educational opportunities we have to offer them.

Because ultimately, we need to come together toward a joint effort, task or idea in order to grow our industry. And we can only do that by opening up engaging dialog.

We look forward to doing just that next week at the MDCE. Hope to see you there.

Tags:  conversation  dealer focused  engage  engaging conversations  technician 

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The Most Important Tool in Your Leadership Toolbox

Posted By Liz Walz, Thursday, November 15, 2018

Equip. [ih-kwip] verb. to provide appropriate provisions, resources, and preparations for performance or action.

A lot can be learned about leadership in the dojo.

To be a world class martial artist, you must be equipped with flexibility. Among other things, it allows you to deliver a devastating and lightning-fast kick to your opponent’s head.

That’s why, about 11 years ago, on a slow and plodding journey to black belt, I bought a stretcher. I knew that at 32 years old, I was not going to become a world class martial artist. But I aspired to get as close as I could. I had good motivation: It doesn’t take receiving very many kicks to the head before you wish you could kick to the head too.

To use this piece of equipment, which resembles a medieval torture device, you strap your legs in and then crank a wheel a little further each day, each week, until you’ve reached your goal of a full split – which brings with it the ability to deliver that devastating kick.

Similar to the martial arts world, to be a leader in your dealership, you need to be equipped with a kind of flexibility. In the 18-month Leadership Development Program offered by Spader Business Management, the word David Spader uses is “adaptability” – not exactly the same as flexibility, but a close cousin.

David goes so far as to call adaptability “the single best predictor of our sustained individual and organizational success.”

So, dealership leaders, are you equipped with adaptability? Well, there are two prerequisites. One, a desire to adapt. And two, a willingness to feel the discomfort of doing things differently.

If you have that desire and that willingness, the MRAA has a lot to offer you. We’ve partnered with leading educators – people like David Spader – to develop a wealth of training resources, tools and courses to help you improve and grow in this fast-changing market.

In fact, one of the central themes of our upcoming conference – the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo – is future-proofing: looking forward to what’s coming toward us to minimize the shocks and stresses of the change ahead, so we can maximize our success. There’s no better place to gain insight into adapting yourself, your department and your dealership to the evolution of our customer and our industry.

In the end, I’ve learned that adaptability is, in fact, more important than its cousin, flexibility. A few weeks into the use of my torture device, I landed in the doctor’s office. Turns out my hips were not made to flex like that, much to my chagrin, and my attempts to try actually chipped a piece of bone off the edge of my hip socket.

The doctor gave me a choice: Pick another sport or stop trying to kick to the head. Needless to say, I love martial arts. I wasn’t going to pick another sport. So, instead of relying on flexibility, I’ve equipped myself with another martial arts skill. Hint: Watch out for my hook.

What new skills are you and your team developing to adapt to the changes taking place under your roof and in your boating community? Share them with us in the comments or at the MDCE in December. See you there!

Tags:  adaptability  equip  flexibility  future-proofing  leadership 

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Give Yourself the Authority

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Friday, November 9, 2018

Empower. [em-pou-er] verb. to give (someone) the authority or power to do something.

Make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.

In our business world today, where leadership and management courses, consultancies, books and countless other resources constitute a multi-million-dollar business, we can easily be led to believe that empowerment is something that must be done to us. We must have a manager-type empower us to make decisions. We must have a leader to authorize us to do something or to accomplish something. Someone that is not us must grant us the authority to make things happen.

I don’t believe this thinking could be further from the truth, and I believe that its guidance misleads many would-be leaders into thinking they have to wait for the signal -- to wait for the message that someone believes in them enough to allow them to step up and create results.

At a time when we are striving to recognize young leaders in our industry and at a time when there’s a great deal of conversation about generational differences, I wonder if we’re doing a good enough job of encouraging and supporting our up-and-comers? I wonder if they feel empowered or if they’re waiting for us to fulfill the perception that someone must empower them?

At MRAA, we exist to support you, your business and your team with tools, resources and educational programs. We go so far as to say that our annual conference will engage, energize and empower you and your team to greater results.

But this “empower” is not about what MRAA can do for you or to you. It’s about making resources available so you can make the critical decisions. So, you can empower yourself and your team to be better today than you were yesterday.

I like to think of it as a challenge for myself, for my team, and for you and your team, as well: Give yourself the authority to do something incredible. Take control of your business, your career trajectory, your customers and the results that you desire to create.

Tags:  dealer development  ealer focused  mpower  rowth  uture 

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The Path to Today’s Bottom-line Results

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Thursday, November 1, 2018

Excel. [ik-sel] verb. to exceed all expectations and achieve a level higher in performance, quality, or degree.

It was a truly memorable moment of my career. The boss and I were out on the road sharing the concept for an all-new program, trying to create buy-in. The meeting had arrived at the moment of the close, and she leaned in, focused and sincere: “We’ve really built this program to ensure that we can over-promise and under-deliver.”

The faux pas wasn’t lost on the group. We got a good laugh out of it then, and I still get a chuckle out of it when I think about it more than a decade later.

As author and sales guru Grant Cardone suggests in his book, “10X. The Only Difference Between Success and Failure,” even the culturally acceptable idea of under-promising and over-delivering is a poor way to capture business. Think about it. Let’s under-promise and tell our customers that the boat will float most of the time, so they’re surprised and delighted when it never actually sinks. How many more boats do you think you would sell?

In our demanding society, and particularly in a want-based industry like boating, where expectations are continually on the rise, there is still an easy pathway we can take to excel – to exceed all expectations and achieve a level higher in performance and quality. That pathway is to create better experiences for our customers.

A friend, who is the CEO for a fast-growing tech company, calls it the Amazon effect, noting that price, availability and delivery are no longer points to compete on. “So what’s left?” he asks. Brand and reputation … which are shaped by the experience you provide.

Experiences are today’s currency. Experiences – again, particularly in a want-based industry like boating – are what make or break our businesses and indeed, the success of our entire industry. How are you doing with the experiences you and your business provide? How is your team doing? And how do you know?

Several brief mystery shopping exercises around the marine and RV industries suggest that somewhere between 35 and 40 percent of the leads sent to our dealers are going unanswered. But not at your dealership, right? What does this tell you about the experiences our industry is providing?

Similarly, a recent study by AVALA Marketing Group showed that more than 40 percent of consumers who made it through the initial contact hurdle and have actually bought a boat never hear from their dealer again. There was no “thank you.” No, “how did we do?” No assistance. Just, “here’s your boat. And good luck.” Are you sure that doesn’t happen at your business?

If you want to excel in today’s market place, you have to focus on the experience. You have to make a commitment to creating world-class experiences and to over-delivering on that promise every step of the way. You have to exceed expectations. It’s not just a feel-good manner of taking care of your customers; it’s clear that this approach will not only set you apart from the competition, but will also offer you a long-term strategy with real-world, bottom-line business results at stake.

Tags:  dealer development  dealer focused  excel  future  growth 

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Tell Your Boss MDCE Is Right for You

Posted By Liz Keener, Tuesday, October 30, 2018

You’ve looked at the MDCE lineup and schedule and have determined the 2018 conference and expo is the right place for you to grow your dealership and advance your career. Now how do you convince your supervisor that this is the right training for you? The MRAA has developed a letter for you to deliver to your boss, helping you explain all the reasons you should attend, including which sessions would bring the most ROI to your dealership and what other events and activities can aid in your learning and networking. The template is laid out in a simple form – just add your personalization, turn it in and be prepared to discuss why MDCE 2018 will help you and your dealership flourish.

To choose your best lineup, read through all the material on the MDCE website. If you need further guidance, reach out to education specialist Liz Keener.

Dear Supervisor’s Name Here,

I’ve been researching the upcoming 2018 Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, which will be held December 9-12 in Orlando, Florida. I would like to attend the conference and represent our dealership at the event this year.

In particular, I believe the following sessions would allow me to learn more about my position within the dealership, how I can better serve the dealership and some best practices that I can share with the team when I return.

Those sessions include:

Session Name:
Session Description:
How I believe this could help our dealership:

Session Name:
Session Description:
How I believe this could help our dealership:

Session Name:
Session Description:
How I believe this could help our dealership:

Session Name:
Session Description:
How I believe this could help our dealership:

Of course, there are others I will attend as well, including the opening keynote, “Build Trust or Die in the New Economy” and the closing keynote, “Future-Proofing Your Business.”

In addition to gaining knowledge in the educational sessions, I plan to participate in the Dealer Roundtables, which will allow me to bounce ideas off fellow boat dealer peers and learn from their failures and successes. I also intend to attend all of the networking events with the hopes of meeting fellow dealers, speakers, industry advocates, manufacturers and suppliers in order to glean insight from them.

The cost to attend the conference will be the registration fee, travel expenses, additional meals not included in registration, the hotel and transportation within Orlando.

  • Registration: $449 for MRAA members, or $529 for non-members

  • Pre-conference workshop: $185

  • Flight: Varies

  • Additional Meals (lunch and breakfast are included Tuesday and Wednesday): $150

  • Hotel (needed for Sunday through Tuesday nights): $189.75 per night for a total of $569.25

  • Transportation to and from the airport: About $50

  • Total expense: Varies
Although this is a sizable expense, I know from looking at the session Walk Away Withs and from the variety of testimonials shared about the show that I will bring back ideas worth more than the dealership’s investment. The MDCE is designed specifically for boat dealers and their employees, which will make its sessions, networking events and expo hall especially pertinent to what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Thank you for your consideration. I hope we can discuss this more this week!

Your Name

Tags:  Annual conference  continuous improvement  dealer development  mdce 

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MRAA History: BoatPAC

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Thursday, October 25, 2018
In honor of BoatPAC reaching this year’s fundraising goal, let’s throwback to the BoatPAC event at MDCE 2016.

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  Annual conference  Annual meetings  BoatPAC  dealer focused  fundraising  mraa history 

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The missing link to results

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Thursday, October 25, 2018

Execute. [ek-si-kyoot] verb. to put into effect fully; carry out, in accordance with a prescribed design or process/plan.

Seven years and 30 days ago this very moment, I was living my best life — the first day on the new job at the MRAA. A new desk, new keyboard, and a new opportunity to make an impact. I was off and running with an invigorating breath of fresh air.

I was welcomed to the role with a series of frank conversations, though: “Why does MRAA even exist?” asked one industry exec. “What the hell were you thinking making the jump to MRAA?” asked another.

On the face of it … man, it felt like a rough start. But the vision I carried for rebuilding the organization was lofty, and I was confident in the path we would take to get there. It included a revamp of our priorities, a focus on collaboration, a rebuild of our foundational offerings, and most importantly, the assembling of an all-star team of individuals to help us navigate it all.

I’m not one to believe that we’ve ever truly arrived at our destination. I like to think that we’re always evolving to a new place on this journey. Hopefully, a better place. For what it’s worth, though, I’m darn proud of how far we’ve come and the accomplishments we’ve notched along the way. They all feel like reminders that we actually executed on that vision.

We’ve built an arsenal of products and services that can drive real results for you and your business. From basic business templates, cost-savings benefits, and online and in-person educational programs all the way through to our industry’s only blueprint for running a world-class dealership: The Marine Industry Certified Dealership Program. In short, we’ve delivered on our promise to create real-world, tangible solutions for our industry’s dealers.

But here’s the thing: None of this really matters unless those solutions can impact your business. None of it matters unless you execute on the deliverables we provide.

Larry Bossidy, business consultant, speaker and the author of the book Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, wrote that, “Execution has to be a part of a company’s strategy and its goals. It is the missing link between aspirations and results.”

At MRAA, we believe the only prerequisite for MRAA membership is your desire to be the best. And we’re sincere about that. If you don’t have the desire to be better today than you were yesterday, then MRAA is not the right organization for you. If you have that desire, then MRAA can fuel your growth and success.

Our educational programming offers you best practices, trends and insights. It will help you build your strategy and give you the tools and resources to bring that strategy to life. But it’s your job to execute on that strategy. To turn your own lofty aspirations into actions to build that bridge to results. It’s your job to turn that desire to be the best into a commitment to be the best.

Along the way, we would be honored to be your partner, your consultant, your supplier, your support network. We exist to have a profound impact on your success. And we’re just getting started.

Tags:  execute  journey  MRAA  solutions 

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