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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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Top tags: certification  training  continuous improvement  Continuous Certification  employees  customer experience  dealer development  education  MRAA  training tuesday  workforce  communication  CRM  culture  customer service  dealer to dealer  discussions  employee satisfaction  focus  growth  industry insight  lifestyle  marketing  MDCE  resources  sales  service  time management  workforce issues  #trainingdaywithMRAA 

MRAA and the Boating Industry Cruise Into Washington D.C.

Posted By William Higgins, Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Earlier this month, more than 250 representatives of the recreational boating industry met in Washington DC to discuss the industry’s most important policy issues with members of the US House of Representatives and Senate.

The American Boating Congress (ABC), the marine industry’s premier political and legislative event produced by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and sponsored by MRAA shed a bright light on critical issues impacting the recreational boating industry, such as getting the Modern Fish Act passed, stopping the year-round sale of E15, and jump-starting the marine workforce.

More than a dozen high profile speakers, from members of Congress to members of the Trump Administration, addressed ABC attendees throughout the three-day conference, the largest and most influential group of speakers to date.

The lineup included Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, and heads departments such as NOAA (Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet) and the U. S. Coast Guard (Captain Jennifer Williams). Keynoting ABC was Chris Wallace, award-winning journalist and host of FOX News Sunday.

Additional highlights of the week included the conference’s issue workshops, which covered everything from trade and fuel policy to fishing access and jobs, which were designed to help ABC attendees navigate the industry’s most important issues ahead of the conference’s hill meeting’s. Of note was an NMMA and MRAA hosted panel discussion on overcoming the recreational boating industry’s workforce shortage. The panel was timely considering that according to a recent assessment by the MRAA, 21 percent of positions in the recreational boating industry remain unfilled, 59 percent of vacant positions are in service, and 88 percent of the open service positions are technicians.

The core of the American Boating Congress is the interaction between industry representatives and member of Congress. This year, ABC attendees held more than 180 meetings with members of Congress and their staff including Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.), Sen. Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.), Rep. Jimmy Duncan (Tenn.), and Rep. Bill Keating (Mass).

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The Rest of the Story

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A question from the MRAA Employee Satisfaction Survey that often receives low scores is: “I am compensated fairly for the work I perform.” You’re probably not surprised by this. But did you know that dealerships that hold regularly scheduled performance reviews tend to have higher scores on this question because they address this issue in their employee discussions?

Naturally, employees tend to focus on their gross or net pay and forget that the dealer is paying for their employment tax, federal unemployment insurance, and other valuable benefits. If the employee is not reminded about this additional compensation, we find that this question stays at the top of the dissatisfaction list. Even those dealerships that excel at delivering on-time performance reviews may be missing a huge intangible called: “Learning Income.” If you want to dig into the meaning of this term and consider how it can benefit your dealership, start with this blog written by 2016 Marine Dealer Conference & Expo keynote speaker Josh Linkner.

Performance reviews don’t need to be a hassle that managers and employee work to avoid. They are a great chance to review some of the more delicate areas that are required to keep employees engaged and loyal to your dealership. These meetings are also a terrific time to review and update job descriptions by “engaging” the employee in the conversation.

Don’t have a performance review process? MRAA Members, check out our 10 Tips for Marine Dealership Performance Reviews.

Tags:  conversation  employee satisfaction  employees  learning income  performance reviews 

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Cultivating Communities

Posted By Nikki Duffney, Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Imagine walking into a room full of friends who share your best interests and are confident that you are invested in their best interests. What does that feel like? I liken it to walking into a room full of trust, learning and support.

That is the feeling I had when I walked into the Sunset meeting room in Rhode Island where the National Marine Trades Association Council met May 15-18. The marine industry has so much to share with each other and when we support the work we are all invested in, we cultivate community that results in collaboration and excellence. We do this on an association level at MRAA because we feel that we need to be united as an industry to fight the challenges that we all face, like the workforce shortage issue and getting new boaters on the water.

Turning this around, how can dealerships cultivate communities in their local area and is it worth the energy, and possibly financial, investment? Absolutely, it is worth it and the results of crafting a community around your company has dividends that will pay for years.

Creating spaces for people who live in your market to come out to an event that you put on or are present at to show investment in enriching the community will increase visibility for your brand and demonstrate your commitment to the people who live in your area. By partnering with your local marine trades association or your city’s chamber of commerce, you will increase your visibility to your market and show your investment to the community.

Partnerships with local groups to cultivate community could increase your access to potential buyers and employees. Putting your dealership brand out in front of the community, investing in children’s activities and your brand’s impact will holistically increase. For example, touch-a-boat events are targeted at getting children out and interested in learning about boats and boating. What do children bring with them? Adults! Those adults could be your prospect customers and potential employees.

Tags:  association  boating industry  community  NMTA  partnership  trust  workforce 

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32 Ways You Can Beat the Workforce Crisis

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The workforce challenges we face can be debilitating. One day, we hire a rockstar to fill that critically important position, and all is right in the universe. The next day, we’re blindsided by the loss of a key employee, and we find ourselves reaching for the Tums. When will it end?

The honest truth is that it will never end. Just as our businesses evolve in the products and services we offer and in how we deliver them, the way we staff our businesses is in constant flux as well.

At the moment, however, the technician shortage may be the exception to that rule. It’s challenging to think we’re in constant change with our techs when it seems we just can’t find the right people — let alone the wrong people — to fill open positions. There’s not a dealer anywhere who wouldn’t hire a technician on a moment’s notice if the opportunity presented itself.

One of the greatest takeaways that sunk in with me while finalizing the just-published “10+1 Strategy: A Marine Industry Guide to Growing the Workforce,” was the revelation that in the not-so-distant future (like, maybe right after you read this), workforce planning will take precedence over financial planning.

Think about that. We all spend time budgeting, comparing actuals to budget, contemplating how our margins are being squeezed and working hard to meet our projections. But how often do we consider our strategy when it comes to staffing our operations? Our largest financial investment is in our people, but yet, our financial planning rarely includes strategic staffing considerations. We react to personnel changes rather than planning for and taking control of our future.

With the introduction of the, “Marine Industry Guide to Growing the Workforce,” we at the MRAA, along with our co-authors at the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association, are giving you more control than you’ve ever had when it comes to the workforce challenges. We’re not just offering you a high-level, industry-endorsed, 11-prong strategy; we’re offering you 32 specific tactics you can engage with today to begin your rebellion against the workforce challenges.

This Guide has been designed as a tool for us to all collaborate on addressing the issues from a national level — that’s us at MRAA and our national trade association colleagues; from a regional level — that’s our industry’s regional/state trade associations; and from the employer level — that’s YOU. Download this guide today; use the 32 tactics and the 20-plus live resources it features; and turn workforce planning into your competitive advantage.

Tags:  downloadable guide  Industry Guide  industry insight  technician shortage  workforce  workforce issues 

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Dealer to Dealer: May

Posted By Mickaela Giese, Monday, May 7, 2018

What is the most important to your organization- mission, core values, or vision? How do you instill that key element into your company’s culture?

"Core values come first. I’m not sure you can set a vision or create a mission statement you can follow without having a code of ethics in place as a guide.  

Customers are not going to judge a company on what they say they are in their mission statement. Some may commend a company for having a great action plan in place to achieve their stated vision. In the end, however, a company will be judged on its actions.    

Part of our initial training starts with refreshing new hires on using the manners their mothers taught them. We go beyond saying please and thank you. Living put these core values on and off the clock are essential for being part of our team.

Always tell the truth. Show up on time. Do what we say we will do. Charge what we quote or less. Use the manners our mothers taught us. Be in control of our attitude at all times. Give a little more than is expected."
- Rob Brown, Clark Marine

"Core Values" - Jim Dragseth, Whiticar Boat Works, Inc.

"Core Values" - Kristina Litjens, Boulder Boats

"Employee & Manufacturer Relationships" - Ken Sorley, Marineland Boating Center


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 coming soon

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  growth 

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Practice What You Learn

Posted By Bob McCann, Monday, May 7, 2018

In the Continuous Certification Q1 course, “Take Your Dealership From Good to Great with CRM,” instructor Sam Dantzler opened our eyes to asking how customers want to be contacted. Since then, I’ve been taking notice how the businesses that I interact with contact me. This week, I needed to get my bike tuned up and have the handle bar tape replaced.

I rode the bike to the shop and was greeted enthusiastically by the service team. They threw the bike on the rack and asked what I was looking for. I told them the rear derailleur needs adjusting and the bar tape replaced.

They grabbed a repair order and started filling it out with my name, my phone numbers and when I needed it back. After some small talk I tucked my copy of RO in the pocket, looked at a couple of new bikes and walked home.

Later in the day, when I was emptying my pockets, I noticed some boxes that were built into their RO that weren’t used. Based on what I learned in that Continuous Certification Course, I thought the bike shop missed two great opportunities to build a better relationship with me and build in more efficiencies.

The RO has two permission boxes for texting and emailing. These are built into the RO to remind the employee to ask the customer how they want to be contacted. Neither was used. I can only imagine the amount of time that could have been saved for both the shop and myself if they simply sent me a text that my bike was ready. I do believe if a business or representative can move into the customer’s text space, the relationship advances. And a growing number of people prefer to be contacted by text these days.

The second opportunity seems light years old and obvious: How could anyone miss out on collecting email addresses these days? We’ve been preaching to boat dealers at our annual conference for years to always capture a customer’s email address. Even after all these years, email marketing arguably gets you the best bang for the buck.

So, my question to you, are you executing on what you’re learning or are you missing these same opportunities?

Tags:  bike shop  communication  continuous improvement  CRM  relationships  repair order 

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#trainingdaywithMRAA Recap: What I Can't Stop Thinking About

Posted By Mickaela Giese, Tuesday, April 17, 2018

It has almost been a week since last Friday’s #trainingdaywithMRAA, and I can’t stop thinking about what Theresa Syer said in her session, “Make Customer Service Your Competitive Advantage.”

“According to the IPSIS Mori Study, emotionally engaged customers are 3-times more likely to recommend you to others.”

Whoa. We all know that the moment a potential buyer can picture their children (or dog, in my case) sitting in that new boat, the sale is closed. People are emotional creatures. So how can we use this information to keep customers returning to your dealership and bringing their friends?

Theresa says we need to shift our focus from the single task that needs to be completed (ie. selling a boat) to a future focus that will keep customers coming back for more. This happens when the customer is greeted upon arrival, is escorted to the place they need to be, is offered professional advice without cost, is given an above and beyond customer experience that they can’t stop thinking about.   

We shouldn’t strive to get customers in and out of the door as soon as possible; but instead create a unique experience for them to be wowed by. They are going to remember their experience when they need service on their new boat because you made things different for them.

Join the #trainingtrio on Twitter every Friday morning for their weekly #trainingdaywithMRAA session.

Tags:  #trainingdaywithMRAA  #trainingtrio  buyers  customer  customer experience  customer service  emotional  focus  training 

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Experiences > Products

Posted By Nikki Duffney, Monday, April 16, 2018

Experiences are greater than material products.

I’ve been hearing this mantra from many directions lately. For example, Instagram is using influencers and ads to capture the experience you will get from engaging with the product – to capture the feelings and emotions tied to using their product. Going to a conference has changed; it used to be the land of samples, dry education, and services or product information. Today’s conferences have focus on the guest experience; food and drinks, location, engaging education and entertainment, and community building.

The membership team at MRAA went to a seminar in early April, the Secrets to Engagement, to learn about how we can continually improve how we serve our members. The emphasis on impressions and experiences was impactful, and it helped us take a look at how we welcome new members into the association.

We know marine retailers join for our tools, resources and education – what can we offer as the staff to turn our products into experiences? It seems so simple as I put these words down: It’s about the human interaction; it’s about making people feel important and heard; it’s about responding to a need with compassion and support. MRAA members are our customers, and we need to maintain focus on how to continually improve how we deliver excellence with interactions that result in meaningful experiences.

To further develop this thinking, the MRAA staff is participating in the elite education put together by the Continuous Certification team for Certified Dealers in quarter two – "Improve Customer Loyalty with a Customer Experience Mindset," by Theresa Syer. Theresa points to a similar mantra around experiences; detailing the emotional experience that retailers must deliver to move from delivering in customer service to deliver an engaging customer experience. When customers visit a marine retailer, the staff needs to focus on the experiential mindset that combines the sum of all moments while at the dealership. That means the entire staff ensures the guest feels cared for and addresses their needs in an intuitive and human way. It seems obvious, I know, but it’s challenging in practice. Theresa underscores the importance of success in this area, however, when she says, “The Human Factor is the behavior that directly influences your customer based on how you made them feel.”

The time for change on how we deliver on experiences over selling products is now. We only have one moment to make a lasting impression that could create a loyal, raving fan of a customer. And the boating industry is noticing this trend. We need to shift from selling boats (the product) to remaining focused on delivering boaters a world-class lifestyle (the experience). What can we do to increase the positive experiences for customers, members, and guests, to impact future spending and commitment to each of our unique brands? In some cases, it will be as simple as a genuine smile!

Are you interested in learning more about enhancing the customer experience at your dealership? The Marine Industry Certified Dealership program has the template for developing the resources and processes to create loyal fans as customers.

Tags:  certification  Continuous Certification  continuous improvement  customer experience  customer service  Experiences  moments 

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Dealer to Dealer: April

Posted By Mickaela Giese, Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, April 4, 2018

What is your most effective marketing tactic to attract prospective customers to your dealership this time of year?

"We are finding that making contacts at boat show and then inviting them to the dealership has been pretty effective. Whether it is cost effective is another question." - John Ladner, Breath's Boats & Motors

"Open houses" - Jim Dragseth, Whiticar Boat Works, Inc.

"On water demo days work well for us." - Stuart Litjens, Boulder Boats

"Boat handling skills training" - Joe Lewis, Mount Dora Boating Center

"I found using Radio has been very good for us. We have short 30 second commercials played often that way clients know to come to us first." - Nancy Struthers, Roger's 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 coming soon.

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  growth 

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3 Real Changes Dealers are Implementing TODAY

Posted By Mickaela Giese, Tuesday, April 3, 2018
All it takes is one small (or large) change at your dealership to increase your odds of success. At MRAA’s annual conference, the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, we often remind attendees to not bite off more than they can chew and to prioritize a manageable list of their top three conference takeaways home with them. So, to celebrate open registration for the 2018 MDCE, here are three ways 2017 MDCE attendees are maximizing their success right now:

1. Tools and Resources
“We will be implementing the YMCA tool from Schooly [Jordan Schoolmeester, of Garage Composites], re-visiting our process maps, with the staff from each department and making improvements/changes as necessary.” - Vanessa Orchard, C.A.S. Power Marine Ltd.

2. Streamlining and Implementing a CRM System

“We will be able to organize our service and sales departments better, and we will be implementing a CRM system.” - Rufino Cruz, Regal & Nautique of Orlando

3. Creating an Superb Online User Experience
“We took a marketing seminar and the guy was focused on getting websites up to date. It’s inevitable because the world has gotten digital, so we’re going to concentrate on making our website more user friendly and work on our mobile devices as well.” - Derrick Collins, Boat Owners Warehouse

Change is hard, but progress is necessary for the success of your dealership. The 2018 MDCE can help you make incremental improvements to your dealership’s success.

If you are interested in experiencing what other dealers already know, join us at the 2018 Marine Dealer Conference & Expo. Click here.

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