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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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Answers to More of Your PPP Questions

Posted By Liz Walz, Thursday, May 14, 2020

If you’re a marine dealer based in the United States, you’re likely one of the 90 percent of dealerships that have applied for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).  


The question on many dealers’ minds is: So, what now?


Many of you who have applied and received these funds may be wondering how your business can use them in a way that helps your business stay afloat, and gets as much of the amount forgiven as possible.


That’s no surprise. The SBA had provided limited answers to those questions up until now, but has been promising more guidance would be coming.


Well, today we received some of that promised guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department’s release of some frequently asked questions around the Paycheck Protection Program. You can find the SBA document here.


The PPP is one of several Coronavirus Relief Options offered by the U.S. Small
Business Administration that many marine dealers have applied for and are now
putting to use; however, several questions remain about how to apply for
forgiveness of these loans.




This week, MRAA also received some guidance from Eric Craig of USA Specialty Lending, which is approved by SBA to originate and process PPP loans.


As a longtime friend of MRAA and someone who has spent much of his career in the marine industry, we asked Eric some questions to help dealers navigate these difficult times and PPP loans in particular.


QUESTION: Eric, you said that there are still a lot of funds available through the PPP, and recommended dealerships that have not yet taken advantage of the program consider it. Can you explain why you recommend that? I know a lot of dealers have concerns about applying for the loans because there have been so many unanswered questions about the program – and specifically about loan forgiveness.  


ANSWER: I’m sure every dealership has been affected by this pandemic. The funds are meant to give temporary relief for specifically these types of small businesses. The ability to have the loan forgiven, should the funds be used appropriately, offers very little downside. If a dealership can apply, and hasn’t already, they should do so soon. The second round of funds are estimated at over $100 Billion, giving qualified businesses and business owners the ability to obtain some relief.


QUESTION: For those dealers who have already applied for the PPP and received their funds, what advice do you have?


ANSWER: First, try to be patient. Lenders, just like dealerships, are awaiting further guidance from the SBA as to what documentation to collect and how the process for forgiveness will be implemented. Second, if you haven’t started already, collect payroll documentation, utility bills, lease payments or mortgage statements and bank statements for the 8-week period following the initial disbursements of funds. More detailed information from the SBA and your lender will follow, but it’s helpful if you start putting some of this together now.


QUESTION: We have heard that you have eight weeks from the date the PPP funds are deposited that it can be forgiven, if you use the funds to pay for approved costs. Is that right? Does that mean you have eight weeks to use any funds you want forgiven or eight weeks to apply for forgiveness for the funds you plan to use for approved costs?


ANSWER: Based on guidance thus far, the funds utilized during the eight weeks following initial disbursement are eligible for forgiveness. Keep in mind, 75% of the funds eligible for forgiveness must be utilized toward payroll costs.


QUESTION: After the eight weeks, you can either return what you didn’t use or any amount that has not been forgiven by the SBA (either because you used the funds on unapproved costs or because you didn’t apply for forgiveness in time) becomes a loan at 1% interest. Do we understand that correctly? Is that the same interest rate no matter what bank you went through?


ANSWER: This is a loan that happens to have the ability to be forgiven. If funds aren’t utilized appropriately or in their entirety, the borrower will have a six-month deferment and then a repayment period of 18 months. The interest rate, no matter the lender, is 1%. The funds can be repaid at any time, in full, if you so choose. However, I would read your loan agreement thoroughly as to the lender’s guidelines on prepayment.


QUESTION: What do you need to do within the eight weeks to get the PPP money forgiven? Do you send in something that shows how you have spent that money? Is that done on a portal or hard copy? Through your bank or directly with SBA?


ANSWER: As previously mentioned, start collecting payroll, rent, mortgage and/or utility documentation. While the documents vary per entity type. I’d like to think every lender will send instructions on what documentations is needed and how to submit. This documentation will go directly to your lender. It is your lender’s responsibility to apply for forgiveness. It seems there will also be a final certification the borrower’s representative must make regarding the documents provided and how the funds were utilized. This might be an SBA form or something your lender may provide. Further guidance has yet to be relayed on this topic.


QUESTION: If I understand correctly, an IRS rule published late last month suggests that companies that use PPP dollars toward their payroll and other covered expenses can't then deduct those amounts from their taxes. Is that right? I think it’s important dealers understand this and plan for it, as it could potentially offset some of the loan's benefits.


ANSWER: While this detail is important, I am not a tax advisor and any discussion of tax implications should be had with the dealership’s accountant.


QUESTION: What else should dealers know about participating in this program?


ANSWER: It’s a very simple application process if you already have a commercial banking relationship and they offer the SBA Paycheck Protection Program. There is also a finite window to apply. Once funds run out the program is over. There doesn’t seem to be any more funding going before Congress at this time.


Got more questions? Here are four places to turn:

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Help MRAA Support our Industry

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Tuesday, May 5, 2020

As businesses across our industry fight to navigate the landscape of federal stimulus packages, there’s an untold story you should be aware of.


That is that the organizations the government designates to support their respective industries — which in this case means almost every single one of the marine trade associations you know today — are NOT eligible for the federal stimulus program.


As a 501(c)(6) non-profit trade association, the MRAA was created for the sole purpose of supporting and fostering the success of the marine industry. Our founding documents call it the “welfare of marine retailers” … or in other words the health, happiness and fortunes of those businesses. But 501(c)(6) organizations were left off of the list of organizations eligible for the PPP.


Despite this decision, over the last 45 days or so your MRAA team has worked tirelessly to support your business. They’ve produced more webinars in 45 days than they had planned for the entire calendar year. They’ve written and designed more pages of educational content than any single quarter in the history of this organization. They’ve flipped the switch on years (and more than $100,000) of online educational course investments to give every dealer – members or non-members — free access. They’ve had more conversations with decision makers in Congressional offices and at the state-level than any previous two-month period. They’ve battled for the “essential” status of retailers in almost every state. They’ve conducted and shared more research and best-practice-related blogs than any entire year previous. It's been a herculean effort in support of our dealers and all despite the payroll reductions that we, too, have had to incorporate.


The MRAA is a non-profit entity and as such is focused on providing support much more than collecting revenue. Yet, in times like these, it’s so easy for businesses to think that their membership dues don’t mean a lot and are easy to trim out of their expenses. The exact opposite of that is true. Your membership dues are what make MRAA’s work possible.


I don’t know who had the authority to designate today #GivingTuesdayNow, a day designed to raise awareness of non-profits in these difficult times, but regardless, our team here at MRAA is pausing (after yet another great webinar, mind you) to recognize this movement and to ask for your support. Let me be clear, we’re not asking for a donation … we’re asking for you to support the MRAA in ways that will give you incredible return on investment and amplify our ability to advocate for you.

·       Renew your membership or join the MRAA for as little as $395.

·       Upgrade to Silver Membership for $995 and give your team access to 140 courses at

·       Or Get Certified and gain access to a proven business template for your dealership.


Even though the MRAA is a non-profit, it is a business just like yours. Except we are unique in that without support from our industry, from the businesses and individuals we work so hard to support, we don’t exist. While we continue to fight hard to help create more opportunities for your business, we are also fighting to gain access to some of the same stimulus package opportunities for ours and other 501(c)(6) organizations.


We’ve heard plenty of experts tell us to be direct when making an “ask,” so that’s what I’ll do. We ask that if you find MRAA’s programs or services or any of the COVID-19 related webinars, documents, data, best practices, publications, communications or other resources of value, please support the MRAA and this incredible team by becoming a member.


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A closer look at March new boat registrations

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Thursday, April 30, 2020

When we turn on the news these days, there is a lot of data being thrown at us. And for good reason. With all the speculation about what might happen in the COVID-19 economy, data is needed to help us sensibly navigate our current reality. It also grabs our attention, and the media knows it.

But as important and compelling as it is, data needs to be understood in the proper context. Take, for instance, recently reported data showing an 18-percent decline in new powerboat registrations in March 2020, as compared to the same time last year.


In normal times, registration data gives our industry a monthly pulse on how our industry is performing. It is invaluable and remains critical to understanding the trends in the market place at any point in time. This blog is not meant to question that.


However, when looking at recent registration data, it is important to note that of the 50 state offices that process boat registrations across the United States, only two — Georgia and Wyoming — are actually open to the public. Four others — Arizona, Iowa, New Hampshire and Oklahoma — permit consumers to enter administrative offices on an appointment-only basis. The other 44 state offices, as well as countless municipal offices responsible for administering motorboat registrations, are closed to the public, offering only mail-in or online services.



44 of the 50 state offices that processed registrations are closed to the public, offering only mail-in and online registrations. 



As a regular practice, organizations that analyze state registrations comb through monthly data from “early-reporting” states, and the number of states reporting for any given monthly snapshot fluctuates on a regular basis, typically between 25 and 32 states. March 2020 early-reporting states totaled 22 in all, or about 42 percent of the U.S. boat market. Comparatively, February 2020 early-reporting state data was based on registrations from 30 states or about 61.5 percent of the market.


I am not disputing the accuracy of the new boat registrations that were reported. Nor would I argue that new boat sales haven’t been negatively affected — we have every reason to believe that boat sales would be impacted by the mandated closures of many marine businesses and the restrictions placed on the public in many states.

However, as the ability of states to keep up and accurately report registration data has been disrupted by closures and delays, the possibility of a temporary disconnect between boat registration data and new boat sales as a result of this pandemic is also part of the story we need to understand.


I spoke with dealers in each of the “appointment-only” states, and it sounds like there remain opportunities, albeit reduced, to get boat registrations processed. And even in states like Minnesota, where registration offices are closed to the public, some dealers have noted that they have a “secret way in” to the office that’s not available to the public.


Regardless, the decline in the availability of state government employees and offices to process registrations has undoubtedly impacted boat registration data, particularly when it is compared to the same month last year. During this time when our businesses and our government offices can be deemed “essential” or “non-essential,” it’s important to identify that such statistics don’t offer an apples-to-apples comparison and may be influenced to varying degrees on a state-by-state basis and on a month-by-month basis, depending on the status of each specific state office and their many satellite locations.


Although we researched and identified the status of each of the 50 state registration offices (see graphic), their actual operational capacity for processing registrations remains unclear. We know, for example, that the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles was shut down on and off for weeks, dating back to mid-March, with some branches being unable to register private-sale boats. While the DMV has adjusted procedures, they are admitting that they are delayed.


We also identified that some states, like Kentucky, are taking steps to extend registration timelines so customers can use their boats while there are delays. Other states, like Colorado, are offering boaters the option to obtain another temporary registration permit from the dealership they purchased their boat from. In addition, agencies are moving to a larger emphasis on online and mail-in registrations. This, of course, could increase the already-existing lag time between purchase and boat registration as well.


It is reasonable to expect boat sales to be off of the pace of last year, as there are significant challenges for our dealers right now. Many dealerships are only partially open, at best, learning on the fly how to run a brick-and-mortar retail business out of individual employees’ homes and conducting boat sales by appointment only. Mix that with rising unemployment and serious economic concerns, and the playing field looks like a giant uphill battle.


While it’s clear that government office closures undoubtedly impact the flow of boat registrations, it’s difficult to ascertain the size of the overall impact and whether the reported numbers are better or worse than what’s actually happening out there. It may simply mean that there will be a larger-than-normal lag before registrations are processed, and we’ll need to understand that that’s part of our current registration analysis reality until shelter-at-home orders are lifted, social distancing guidelines relaxed and the economy regains a sense of normalcy.


Until then, MRAA will continue to look at boat sales trends through a variety of lenses, including a study that MRAA began fielding on Tuesday.

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Michigan closure causes mass layoffs; elsewhere, PPP loans save dealership personnel

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Wednesday, April 29, 2020


Boat dealership layoffs spiked in the state of Michigan in April, when compared to other states, as government officials locked down the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey conducted by the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.


In a survey of 199 dealerships across the United States during the week of April 20th, 61 percent of the respondents suggested they had no layoffs to date, and another 14 percent had laid off just 1-10 percent of their staff.



Question: What percentage of your location's workforce have you
had to layoff due to the COVID-19 Crisis?

61 percent of dealerships reported having no layoffs through the third
week of April. And 80 percent laid off fewer than 26 percent of their teams.



Of the 21 percent of dealerships that noted that 26 percent or more of their teams had been laid off, a full 45 percent of them were from the state of Michigan.


“Our state has shut down our business as well as the right to do any motorized boating,” noted the president of one Michigan-based dealership.


“Get the governor to let us do some business,” demanded the CEO of another dealership there.


In Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on April 10 that the use of motorized boats would be prohibited, and marine businesses had been deemed “non-essential” and therefore must remain closed. Her executive order remained in place until April 24, the day before this MRAA survey closed.


“Our governor has made the use of a boat with a motor against her mandates, with a minimum fine of $1,000 if you get caught,” commented the owner of a Michigan dealer. “We lost a month, but things are looking good as long as our shutdown doesn’t get extended.”


Similarly, dealers in New York, a state that also had strict “non-essential” mandates on marine businesses, recorded high levels of layoffs in the MRAA study, noting nearly 20 percent of the responses in the 26 percent and up categories. The “essential” business status for N.Y. marine businesses was returned on April 18, the Saturday prior to this survey launching.


One dealership operations manager from New York noted that the company had laid off more than 75 percent of its employees, but “we were allowed to reopen on the 20th, and we have brought back 35 percent of our workers so far.”


“We used our own cash to keep everyone on when the mandate to close first started,” shared another New York-based dealership president. “Now we have the assistance of the PPP loan program to help. We have just been able to reopen, so it remains to be seen how business will be and how long we can continue to front the payroll, the insurance and of the rest of our expenses.”


More than 80 percent of survey respondents had laid off fewer than 25 percent of their team members, a threshold that’s notable because the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program provides for forgivable loans, so long as business owners retain 75 percent or more of their payroll. And it’s true that the PPP loans were mentioned numerous times throughout the 85 comments the survey received as the means for which dealers didn’t have more layoffs.


“Only because of the PPP was I able to keep my people working,” noted an Iowa-based dealership president.


“We were able to get the SBA PPP loan and keep our folks on payroll and working in the shop,” shared a Pennsylvania-based dealership general manager.


And many dealers who noted they had gone through some layoffs, have brought staff back since they received their loan proceeds.


“We reduced our staff from five days a week to four days a week,” commented a New Jersey-based dealership manager. “We received our PPP funding from the SBA on April 17, so we had our employees return to the five-days-a-week schedule.”


“Since we received the payroll protection SBA loan, we are almost back to 100 percent,” said the CEO of an Indiana-based dealership.


“I am lucky so far,” noted the president of a dealership who reported no layoffs. “I did not have to close so far, and we are busy. Liquidity is still an issue, though, and if we don’t close the gap in boat sales and/or get our PPP money, I will need to reduce staff by 20 percent and cut pay within the next 30 days. If I get the PPP money, I will actually add a technician.”

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“Way more interest in boats” dealers report

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Saturday, April 25, 2020


In a news cycle that’s heavy with bad news, it’s important to underscore the positive things happening around the marine industry. And there’s a lot to take note of, so I thought I’d spend some time sharing what we’re hearing.


Little by little, politicians are noting the importance of outdoor recreation in today’s physical distancing culture. In Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz recommended from the early days of his shelter-at-home order that getting outside, and notably fishing and boating, was important. Last week, he backed up those words with actions and transitioned boat retailers to “essential” status, allowing them to service boats and sell by appointment.


Within days, Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York reversed a decision to exclude marinas and dealerships from the essential list, collaborating with governors from New Jersey and Connecticut to announce that marinas, boatyards and marine manufacturers will be allowed to open for personal use as long as strict social distancing and sanitation protocols are followed. (Find 49 best practices for creating your strict protocols here.)


In what has been the most restrictive state in terms of boating limitations, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer relaxed boating restrictions on Friday and allowed for prep, delivery, launch and/or curbside pickup of boats in storage or boats ordered online or remotely, provided the business and employees adhere to social distancing guidelines.


And then Miami-Dade County Mayor announced a three-phase plan to reopen public ramps and marinas in south Florida, reversing restrictions he had placed on them a month earlier.


For the dealers around North America, navigating these on-again, off-again restrictions and re-openings has no doubt created challenges, but what we’re seeing is that consumers are turning to boating for the ultimate physical distancing activity.


On Lake Minnetonka outside of Minneapolis, boating activity has rarely, if ever been as heavy as it has been through mid-April. Boat sales reports in the state have been better than expected for many dealers.


“There’s way more interest in boats than I can ever remember there being in April,” says Dave Briggs, who owns Wayzata Marine located on Lake Minnetonka.


MarineMax, Inc., who also has a location on Lake Minnetonka, as well as 60-plus other locations across the United States, reported revenue growth of almost 2 percent in the quarter ended March 31st. While MarineMax noted its results were partially impacted by the pandemic, the company noted that its online engagement with customers has been stronger than usual.


Similarly, Discover Boating, the industry-led marketing campaign to grow participation in recreational boating reported strong performance and growth this week, compared to the same period last year. The Discover Boating team has been tapping into real-time data on consumer interests and providing relevant, helpful content, resulting in record site traffic. Compared to March of 2019, site traffic in 2020 has shown a 30-percent increase in website visitors, 44-percent increase in organic traffic, a 118-percent increase in visitors to the Boat Loan Calculator, a 45-percent increase in female visitors and a 78-percent increase in visitors age 18-24. And things look to be getting even better, as early April saw a 300-percent spike in organic traffic following the release of new content.


While soft spots remain in the market place, the desire to get outside and go boating seems to be on the rise as people remain on shelter-from-home orders and spring temperatures move upward. At Norris Marine in Oklahoma, sales picked up over the last week, and the service department has been busy.


“I’m cautiously optimistic we can get things going,” said owner Shawn Easton. “People’s attitudes change with the direction of the news, but at some point, they’re going to get a little stir crazy and want to get out on the lake.”

At FB Marine Group in Fort Lauderdale, they’ve had to deal with the ramp closures in Miami-Dade, and that has caused a hit on the company’s service work. At the same time, however, boat sales have been solid, and when I spoke to owner Kim Sweers last week — before the ramps had opened back up — the company had sold a couple boats that day.


While certainly cautious optimism will be key, I’m a firm believer that boating could help lead our economy out of this slow down, as people look to socially and physically distance themselves from each other and from the confinement of their homes. And this upward trend for boating could last for years!

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Dealers need more relief

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Wednesday, April 22, 2020

As the CARES Act stimulus program was running out of money last week, nearly 60 percent of the boat dealers that responded to MRAA’s research reported that they had applied but had yet to receive their funds.


As noted in an early-April survey, close to 90 percent of boat dealers had already applied or planned to apply. This, according more than 450 survey responses.


By the end of last week, more than 420 dealer responses showed that 57 percent of dealers had applied and had still not received their funds, while 30 percent of the respondents had already received their funds.


Nearly 60 percent of boat dealers who applied for a federal loan under the 
U.S. stimulus program have yet to receive their funds.



“We were told we should have the funds next week,” reported one dealer.


“The SBA approved us, but we have been waiting over seven days for loan documents from the bank,” said another.


“How long should this take?” asked another.


Many of the dealers who had not received their funds reported frustration and confusion with the process of applying and receiving their loans.


“We are approved and have a loan number,” noted one dealer. “Since we have this info, are we guaranteed the money?”


“This is taking too long,” commented another. “The process, as far as communication, is very poor!”


“The SBA has funded us, but now it’s on to the necessary bank documents before we get the funds,” said another. “It’s been weeks and a damn-convoluted process.”


“My CPA said that since I have not received a PIN number yet to re-file,” one dealer explained. “She said the SBA sent a memo out that if no PIN was received that the business should re-file. Some applications got lost in confusion.”


MRAA wrapped up the survey results the day the CARES Act ran out of money. Yesterday, the U.S. Senate approved a nearly half-trillion-dollar additional aid package that includes $380 billion for small businesses. There’s hope that the U.S. House of Representatives will pass the bill later this week.


Thirteen percent of last week’s respondents reported that they had not applied, which falls in line closely with the combined 12 percent of early-April survey respondents who said they were undecided or didn’t know enough about the loans yet or that they did not play to apply.

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4 Courses Dealers are Watching Right Now; And 4 More That They Should Watch Next

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Tuesday, April 21, 2020
Updated: Monday, April 20, 2020

No matter what your dealership’s situation – business as usual or otherwise – in most places around North America, traffic is likely to be slower than normal for a while as the COVID-19 crisis runs its course. While it’s certainly not the time to take your eyes off of finding revenue, there’s always time to train your team and today’s slower environment may offer you the perfect opportunity to do just that.


In our efforts to help dealers strengthen their teams and come out of this slowdown stronger than they were when they went in, MRAA has made all of its standard educational courses at FREE to any dealership personnel – MRAA Member or not -- through the end of May 2020. We believe if your team taps into these courses, which have received world-class net promoter scores, you’ll be able to ramp up more quickly when the economy begins to rebound. (Learn how to access the courses on the home page of


Theresa Syer's Customer Experience Workshop from Dealer Week 2020
is one of the top-four most purchases courses at 



So, to help you get started, here are the four most popular courses dealers are watching on as well as the four courses I personally think they would find equally, if not more valuable. (Please note: In order for the links below to work, you must be signed in at


Here are the four most-popular courses right now:


A Is For Attitude

If ever there’s a time that your attitude is critical, it’s in the midst of a crisis. Sure, there’s a lot on your mind today, but if you’re walking around letting fear or anxiety show up on your face, that’s not going to work for anyone. A crisis like this calls for a leader with a positive attitude and lots of optimism. Tap into this course to learn how the beliefs and attitudes of you and your team members will directly impact the rest of your team, your customers and your company’s bottom line.


Master The Write-Up

Many brick-and-mortar boat dealer locations these days are operating only their service and parts departments. And there are times where it looks like the service department is the best opportunity to drive revenue in today’s climate. So getting your service department to operate at its highest level of effectiveness is critical. Check out this course to learn how master service advisors build rapport, identify needs, make recommendations address concerns and reach agreement with their customers, one write-up at a time.


Service CSI & Upselling: Not an Either/Or Proposition

Today’s intense focus on driving service revenues and profitability has many dealers turning to this great course by service expert Valerie Ziebron. When done right, a service department’s CSI and profitability go hand-in-hand. This course will give you insights into the strategies that top service and parts advisors use to improve both metrics at the same time, and you’ll learn the key elements within an advisor’s control that can keep the customer loving your dealership with each service and parts experience.


Supercharge Your Customer Experience Workshop

One of MRAA’s newest courses, this in-depth workshop shot at the 2019 Dealer Week, will share 7 Key Emotional Motivators that can shift the tide emotionally for customers. Noted customer experience expert Theresa Syer will also show you how to develop your own Key Emotional Drivers that will affect those Emotional Motivators and keep your dealership’s customers coming to you, working with you and ultimately buying from you.



There's no denying that those are four great courses that you could learn a lot from. But here are four courses that everyone should be watching to help them navigate today's market place:


The Agile Dealership: Confidently Responding to Change & the Unknown

The original description for this said, “no one knows exactly when the next recession will hit…” So, let’s start with an update: It’s quite likely we’re in the midst of a recession as I type this. And this course was designed specifically to help you through such a scenario. It will help you identify, monitor and respond to the key issues you face now and into the future. It covers the characteristics of agile leaders, concerns employees have during change and indicators you can use to ensure your business is on track.


Buyer Motivation: The Key to Building Value

In any sales environment, the key to closing the deal is building value. In today’s abnormal marketplace, it’s even more critical that you understand buyers’ personal motivations. Through this course, you’ll learn the four main buying motivations that govern most purchases, how to translate features into personalized benefits to those motivations, and the six magic words to use as a transition statement for personalized presentations. Now’s the perfect time to refine this critical sales technique. And you’ll be impressed with the format and comprehensive approach of this course, which mimics our Dealership Certification continuing education.


Master Your Time & Stress

In the new work-from-home world we’re living in, particularly with health concerns surrounding us, there may no better time to learn how manage both your time and your stress. In this course, you can learn how to gain control of your day, manage stress that can improve your job performance and satisfaction and avoid the most common dealership time crushers – even if you’re not quite back into the dealership full time yet. Please note that in addition to this great course, we recently published a guide to working from home, complete with resources that will help you manage your time.


Increase Closing Rates with Content Marketing

As dealers look for ways to cut costs with the sudden market slow down, they typically look to non-revenue-producing departments like marketing to make that happen. Experts like highly regarded Marcus Sheridan advises differently, and in his course here you will learn how content marketing can be the greatest sales tool in the world. In the ever-blurring lines between sales and marketing, you need this course to help you learn the powerful effect that great content has on the buying process, as well as how it impacts leads, appointments and closing rates.


Tap into these courses — FOR FREE — to help you power through this downturn and into a brighter future.

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5 Critical Issues Dealers Face Today

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Monday, April 20, 2020


Over the course of the last month, MRAA has been in touch with thousands of dealers, through one-to-one contacts and surveys that are keeping the pulse of their businesses throughout today’s market place. It became clear in week one that the top concern on their minds was their cash flow. It makes sense — it’s the simple question of whether or not they have enough to pay their bills … and for how long?


But through our charting of every conversation, every email, every question on our dozen-plus webinars to date, and more than 1,000 open-ended responses to our weekly surveys, we’ve identified the five most critical issues on dealers’ minds. I encourage you to think about how your business can support dealers in these areas:


1.     Cash Flow
It’s the topic on every business leader’s mind today. How much cash do I have? How much cash will be coming in? And how long can I keep my business running under various scenarios … scenarios created using greater levels of uncertainty than ever before. MRAA responded with a series of webinars to help dealers manage cash flow, but they’re looking for other creative ways their partners can help them through this crisis. It should come as no surprise that three of the other four hot buttons (if not all four) directly impact their cash flow.

Dealer Insight: “Independent dealers are going to be most concerned about money. Cash flow is drying-up and debt payments are due and will soon become the most significant disrupter in their business.”



2.     Government Support
The first three stimulus programs are out, and while the Paycheck Protection Program has run out of money, there’s hope that a fourth stimulus may arrive as soon as this week. The programs are directly aimed at helping small businesses – with fewer than 500 employees – get through this downturn, providing for funds that can be applied to payroll, health care benefits, employee compensation, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, or importantly, “interest on any other debt obligations that were incurred before the covered period.” READ: Floorplan financing interest. Read MRAA’s analysis of the stimulus programs here, including an FAQ.

Dealer Insight: “My worries are about my business being able to pay the flooring interest as we go on hold. And as we go back, will there be an economy that will give people confidence to buy? I cannot sit on inventory for long periods of time.”


3.     People
There’s a really difficult balance right dealers are striking at the moment. Through the workforce crisis of the last decade, they have worked hard to build great teams. They want to keep them on the payroll. They also have to navigate the risk of people working in a public setting and potentially being exposed to the virus. How does one balance the safety of their employees with the needs of keeping those employees paid? How does a dealership keep employees on the payroll if they are deemed “non-essential” businesses and are not allowed to work? There’s a lot to figure out. MRAA’s Legal Insights Ask the Expert webinar, along with our FAQ on the subject can provide some of the answers.

Dealer Insight: We work really hard to hire amazing people. We don't want to be in the position where we can't employ them. How can I keep our awesome employees if we aren't working? I need to pay them. How do we balance, we want to keep people safe AND work/stay afloat?”


4.     Industry Support
MRAA has heard a steady rhythm, particularly in the early days of the slowdown, of dealers wondering how their partners would rally to support them. While many announcements on that topic have circulated and the support has become clearer (and we’ve included those we’ve gathered on this page), the questions have slowed. Still, like it did in the midst of The Great Recession, the sentiment remained that it will take strong dealer-supplier partnerships to help companies through this crisis.

Dealer Insight: “We need to bring the industry together — manufacturers, dealers and lenders — to all take a breath and think this through. We can win, collectively, and it will help with calming those who are panicking.”

5.     Best Practices

This crisis hit so fast and so hard that dealers didn’t have much time to react. And every time they adjusted their business, external conditions changed, and they were forced to react again. Mix in the fact that brick-and-mortar retail’s No. 1 ingredient for success is to have customers swing open the door, and today’s “essential-business-only” mandates make for an extremely confusing and challenging environment. Dealers need answers on how to conduct business under these new rules of retail. Check out the resources and blogs MRAA created to highlight such best practices.


Dealer Insight: “What are creative ways we can float through this time but keep the business somewhat active (while being shut down)?”


MRAA's Action Guide for Responding to Today's Crisis is
jam-packed with best practices and resources for dealers.



As dealers continue to navigate these challenges, they can turn to MRAA’s Action Guide for Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis. They can tap into – for FREE – which is packed full of best practices and insights. They can access all MRAA webinars that were specifically produced to help them sell, service and market their business during this crisis. They can access numerous best practices and insights on the opportunities available to them today. And if you have resources available for them, we’d be happy to include them on our Industry Support page.



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Re-Start With Your Why

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Saturday, April 18, 2020


I’ve spoken at numerous events over the last few years telling the story of how author Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” has impacted me, our team and our overall business here at the MRAA. The bulk of the message in this book, aside from the guide to creating your own “why statement” is that people don’t buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it.


At MRAA, starting with creating our why statement has been the guiding light for everything we do — from who we hire, to how we invest in new and current products, and frankly all the way through to providing us with the know-how for our team to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. It’s a powerful tool that can serve as a guiding light for you and your team in all market conditions.


In your world, that means they don’t buy a boat from you just because you sell boats; customers today want a deeper connection than that. 


Start With Why has had a profound impact on MRAA's work.



If you’ve never gone through this process of creating a Why statement, now is the time. We never gain a clearer picture of who we are and what our business really stands for than when we’re fighting for our survival. And through a crisis like this one, those leaders and organizations who truly know why they exist will be the ones who prevail in the best condition.


Further than that, while life has slowed down and the majority of us find ourselves working from home, the state-of-pause provides the perfect time to re-start our organizations with a defined “Why.” The exercise will not only help your team rally around a common mission, but will also give your customers and your partners a clear, powerful understanding of why they should believe in you.


Having gone through this exercise with our team, here’s my advice on how to do it:

  1. Read the book Start With Why by Simon Sinek. It offers deep insights and his expert know-how for creating your own why statement. (Note, he also authored, Find Your Why. A practical guide for discovering purpose for you and your team.)
  2. If you’re skeptical, you just don’t like to read or you want to give your brain a head start before your book arrives, check out Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action
  3. Provide these same resources to your team, which would mean buying them the book, and including them in the conversations you will have.
  4. Start the conversation by calling a meeting. In the meeting, explain your desire to create a Why statement and that you’d like the team’s input. Ask them to engage the resources you’ve provided.
  5. Outline the advice from the book for them as a reminder and ask everyone on the team to write the company’s why statement from their point of view and email it to you.
  6. As you collect the statements, compile them in a document without the team member author’s name attached to it.
  7. Before your next meeting, send that document to the team for their review.
  8. Then, gather to discuss them. Have someone read each statement out loud and then have a brief discussion on what people liked about that statement and even what they didn’t like or don’t agree with. The debate will be a great tool for narrowing down on the company’s overall Why, so make sure to capture key words or phrases that you and the team prefer.
  9. Once you have the direction from this meeting, it’s your time to go to work. Sit down with the statements and the key words and phrases and assemble them into a Why statement that you can stand on. It’s important to remember that this isn’t just about today’s market conditions, but rather a statement that can serve you at all times.
  10. As the entrepreneur, you need to weight your belief for why your business exists most heavily, but never underestimate the power of including the thoughts and opinions of your frontline workers – the ones who work directly with your customers. Not only can they share insights from experiences they’ve had, but they can oftentimes help clarify your thinking and terminology. Every experience I’ve had with this exercise has provided significant insights from our team members.
  11. Once you’ve had time to create it and then tweak it over a short period of time, bring the team back together and share it with them. I would caution you to not share it with them as though it’s the final, final version. But rather, share it with them and ask them to poke holes in it. Does it resonate with them? Will it provide something your customers and partners can believe in? Are there pieces that can be strengthened? Done right, this should become the defining statement for you and your team to power through this downturn and accelerate your growth afterward. It’s critical that you don’t short-change the exercise.
  12. Refine the statement, create a final version and then share it with everyone: Your team, your partners, and your customers.
  13. And then LIVE IT. You can’t create a Why statement and let it remain words on a page. You have to live it and talk about it and make sure that you’re making decisions based on those words. Make it a part of your culture and ensure that your team knows it and can recite it. One exercise we use to make sure that it’s engrained in all that we do is to randomly bring a blank “Why” statement sheet to our team meetings and ask everyone to – without cheating – write the statement and turn it in. It gives me clear understanding of whether or not we are living our Why.


I truly don’t know where MRAA would be today without having that Why statement serve our team. This book, which was recommended to me by Bill McGill at MarineMax, Inc., has had a profound impact on our organization and the focus we bring to serving our industry. I hope you’ll give it a shot yourself.

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Can your SBA loan be used for floor plan expenses?

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Wednesday, April 15, 2020

In our work with dealers over the last few months, the two biggest concerns they’ve had surrounding their cash flow challenges are, as one could imagine, their two largest expense categories: their people and their floor plan expenses.


With the stimulus package loan proceeds beginning to refill dealership bank accounts, it’s clear that the intent of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and its aptly named Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) were designed to help keep people employed. But many dealers don’t realize that the proceeds can be used for other expenses, as well.


The biggest question on dealers’ minds is: Can the proceeds be used to cover floor plan expenses? And the answer, according to the experts we’ve spoken with, is “yes.”


Buried in the law itself where it describes the PPP, under Title I Section 1102(F)9i)(VII), the law outlines that the proceeds can be used for “interest obligation on any other debt obligations that were incurred before the coverage period.” Additionally, last Thursday, April 9th, the Small Business Administration (SBA) released their “Interim Final Rule” on the loans, outlining the intent of the statute, giving themselves the opportunity to clarify further. Section 2(r)(vi) of the rule answers the question of how PPP loans can be used related to interest on debt other than for real estate mortgages. As with the CARES Act, the rule broadly states that dealers can use the loan proceeds to pay for “interest payments on any other debt obligations that were incurred before February 15, 2020.” More info and analysis on the stimulus programs here.


“What that means is,” explains Kevin Timson, an Associate at Bellavia Blatt PC, a dealer-focused law firm and long-time partner of the MRAA, “if you signed an agreement for floor plan financing before February 15th and you continued to make interest payments on that obligation, you should be able to use the loan proceeds for the interest portion of those payments. Both the statute and the rule refer broadly to allowing payments on interest for ‘other debt obligations’ which should reasonably include floor plan financing. Also, there’s nothing in the statute or rules that state otherwise to excluding interest on floor plan financing from such a broad category of debt that could be incurred by dealers.”


In an MRAA Ask the Expert Webinar held yesterday, Timson outlined the same, noting that he has spoken with counsel at trade organizations for auto dealers, with lenders and with CPA firms, all of whom have taken similar positions in interpreting the CARES Act to allow PPP loan proceeds for payment of interest on floor plan loans, subject to the borrower’s obligations on such loans to have been incurred prior to February 15, 2020.


The thing that dealers should be aware of, however, is that the SBA has not provided any guidance on whether payment on floor plan interest can be forgiven under Section 1106 of the CARES Act. The Act states that interest on mortgages of real property or personal property can be forgiven. However, it is not clear whether the SBA considers floor plan financing a “mortgage of personal property” for the purposes of loan forgiveness under Section 1106. We expect the SBA to be providing further guidance on PPP loan forgiveness in the coming week and hope that such guidance will provide more clarity on this issue for dealers. Keep in mind that even if floor plan interest can be included in any forgiveness amount, dealers are limited in how much they can allocate such interest, or any non-payroll expense, for forgiveness. This is because the rules state that at least 75% of the total amount forgiven on any PPP loan must be for payroll expenses.

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