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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  continuous improvement  dealer development  training  employees  Continuous Certification  customer experience  education  experience  workforce  dealer to dealer  discussions  employee satisfaction  growth  MDCE  MRAA  training tuesday  workforce issues  Annual conference  communication  community  CRM  culture  customer service  dealer focused  Experiences  focus  industry insight  lifestyle  marine industry 

Taking on Dealers’ Challenge, Part Two

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Certified Dealers challenged us to make Recertification as valuable for them as Certification. So, we’ve spent the past year formulating a plan for how to do that and gaining industry insight into our plan. Read more about how we went about that in my last blog: Time for a Professional Change.

Now, we’re focused on execution. Our mission? Design relevant, timely and high impact education developed specifically for Certified Dealers and designed to drive continuous improvement in their dealerships. We call it Continuous Certification.

As we sketched it out, we knew the education needed to feature the topics that are most important now. Like how do you get a return on the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software you pay for each month? Or maybe even more importantly, how do you get a return on all the time and money you invest in getting people to contact and ultimately do business with your dealership?

That’s why the course we’re featuring in the first quarter of 2018 is: Taking Your Dealership from Good to Great, by Sam Dantzler of Garage Composites.
This session would be best learned when you need it the most – during prospecting season, also known as boat show season. When you execute a perfect CRM strategy, your CRM efforts will bring more traffic to your boat show display, traffic that you have a greater chance of selling at the show. More importantly, you will learn to start the follow-up process for those who don’t buy at the show and, as a result, sell more boats all year long.
Of course, boat show season is what makes this topic so timely. But relevant? How is this for relevant? Garage Composites estimates that dealers are letting 40 percent of their potential unit sales slip through their fingers, which could be solved through disciplined use of a CRM strategy. Get ready to learn from this session because Sam Dantzler takes this subject personally. He is going to show you how to adopt the core principles to make any CRM system work, including how to generate team buy-in, what data to capture, what to do with that data, and how to use your CRM to increase your customer satisfaction and loyalty.

I’m equally as excited about our second quarter course topic: Improve Loyalty with a Customer Experience Mindset, by Theresa Syer of Syer Hospitality. This is a perfect course for Certified dealers who are always looking for ways to exceed customer expectations.

Let’s get real: We serve customers with very lofty expectations. We are meeting and greeting prospects, many of whom likely drive two or more premium luxury cars, own large well-appointed homes, and have enough money left over to buy a boat that cost as much as a house! What do you think their service expectations might be? 

The NMMA CSI scores show that Certified Dealers already outperform dealers those who are not Certified. Is measuring the buying experience with other boat dealers using the right watermark? Should we look further?

Many of these prospects enjoy vacationing at hotels and resorts managed by the Four Season or Fairmont Hotels. I’m betting we can learn a thing or two from someone who trains and consults the upper end of the hospitality industry – not to mention several marine industry leaders. Someone like Theresa Syer.

Armed with the training this course provides, you will learn to provide a better retail experience, thus positioning yourself to sell more boats with improved profitability and retain more customers.

Stay tuned to this blog for information on the two other high impact topics for 2018: Accountability and Dealership Strategy.

In the meantime, have you and your team taken our Pilot Course, Buyer Motivation: The Key to Building Value? If not, it’s time! Simply sign into with your MRAA username and password, and scroll down to New & Popular Courses at the bottom of the homepage. Don’t have a username and password? Email us at or call 763-315-8043 to receive a username and password today.

The only investment required for this course is your time. We have opened our new learning system to you at no charge so you can experience this interactive, online course firsthand.

This training is sorely needed in our showrooms to make sure that our salespeople are effectively presenting a boat’s features and benefits to each customer. We know that Certified Dealers already have a documented, well-followed sales process. This course will complement your sales strategy and help you close more deals sooner.

Tags:  certification  Continuous Certification  Education  industry insight  Sam Dantzler  Theresa Syer 

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Time for a Professional Change, Part One

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Accountants, Architects, Construction Contractors, Cosmologists, Doctors, Engineers, Firefighters, Insurance Agents, Loan Officers, Nurses, Police, Real Estate Agents, Safety Personnel, Teachers.

What do these pros have in common? To keep their jobs and remain in business, they each need to stay updated on their profession by completing continuous education. 


And let’s be honest. Whether your industry requires it or not, just about any professional can say the same. That’s why I’m so fired up to share the latest development that we’ve been working on at the Marine Retailers Association.


Since joining the MRAA staff nearly two years ago, I've heard from many Certified dealers that the ReCertification program is not delivering the same impact that the initial Certification process did. The first time through was game changing, they said, and truly helped them fine tune their dealership for long-term success. They also liked being able to flaunt, “We’re Certified!” as a competitive advantage. They told me how much they learned about their own company during the Certification process by mapping out their processes for sales, service, parts, CRM, and other areas of the dealership.


But putting a check in the box showing that they still conform to all the requirements for Certification isn’t challenging them and doesn’t add the same kind of value it did the first time through. So, the MRAA leadership and I came up with a new ReCertification plan that would keep some of the dealer favorites of the current program, such as the Employee Satisfaction component, while integrating forward-looking learning strategies and content through continuous education.


We made our case to the Certification Committee and the MRAA Board of Directors, and the concept was overwhelming approved by those dealers and manufacturers, with one little caveat.  They wanted to change the name of ReCertification to Continuous Certification.


Frankly, the term ReCertification hints that the dealer fell from Certification graces and needs to be recertified, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Rather, this program aims to help dealers continually improve the customer and employee experiences to create a more professional, more successful marine business. By providing relevant, timely and high impact education developed specifically for Certified Dealers, Continuous Certification is our answer to the challenge posed by participants. It is designed to drive continuous improvement while raising the bar of marine dealership professionalism.


Want a sample? Check out our free Pilot Course, titled, “Buyer Motivation: The Key to Building Value.” It’s available now at

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Raising Our Game Together

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Over the past four or five years, we’ve had a lot of conversations with dealers like you about how you approach improving and growing your business.

Your commitment to continuing to get better at everything you do is inspiring to us. Especially when we consider all that you’re juggling.

Most dealers are running four or five different kinds of businesses under one roof, each of which has its own unique set of factors that need to be considered and managed to be successful. Add into that the challenges that come with seasonality, economic ups and downs, workforce shortages, the unpredictability of Mother Nature … the list goes on and on.

You are not only making the best of all of the uncertainty of running a business, but we can feel your passion for serving your customers, caring for your team and contributing to your community. You want to be among the best of the best in this industry. We can’t help but respect you and want to help.

As MRAA has worked to serve the marine retail community, our goal has been to offer tools, education and resources that can be quickly and easily put to work in the dealership.

The wake-up call for me has been the realization that, despite the best of intentions, most training and education out there doesn’t go far enough to make a real difference for dealers and their employees. And most dealers don’t have a training or human resources department that can pick up where the trainers and educators leave off.

So, the MRAA team has been working hard to ensure the educational tools, resources and content we provide ARE actionable, CAN be adopted by most dealers and WILL help them improve their performance.

The pinnacle of this effort is coming to life in what we introduced yesterday as Continuous Certification. Certified Dealers don’t just have the desire to improve and grow … they’ve made a commitment to laying down a foundation, a stable platform that they can build a better future on. Certification leads them through the development of this foundation.

Once they’ve built that foundation, it means that regardless of how big their business is, how many locations they have or how many people they employ, when they take on a new training initiative, they’re different from the average dealer. They have the processes in place to quickly and effectively adopt new strategies, and respond to changes in their prospects and customers, and in technology.

That’s why we’ve made the investment in developing a training curriculum just for Certified Dealers … One that we can be confident they can use to improve and grow. We’ve partnered with some of the best educators out there, those that are truly committed to our industry and have a track record for making a real difference. People like Sam Dantzler of Garage Composites, Theresa Syer of Syer Hospitality, John Spence of John Spence Inc. and David Spader of Spader Business Management.

We’re also working with Jim Million of Professional Research Group, Inc., an expert in designing dealer education that produces measurable results and a leading trainer and educator in his own right. In fact, if you’ve entered to take our Pilot Course on Buyer Motivation: The Key to Building Value, you’ve already had a chance to witness Jim in action as the course instructor.

All of us are really excited to see what we’re producing together pay off in spades for Certified Dealers, their employees and their customers.

At the end of the day, our mission with Dealer Certification, or any MRAA educational program, isn’t just to provide as much value as possible. That’s not enough. You trust us to help you and your team get better at what you do, to make a real difference in your businesses and in this industry, not just once, but on an ongoing basis. That’s what Continuous Certification – and everything we do at MRAA – is all about. And in order to keep up with you and your quest for continuous improvement, we have to keep raising our game too.

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Increase Attendance at Annual Meetings

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Tuesday, August 1, 2017

In a recent article for The Membership Management Report, MRAA President Matt Gruhn wrote about the association’s role in growing the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, which is co-produced by MRAA and Boating Industry magazine. Here is an expert from the article Matt was featured in:

Increase Attendance at Annual Meetings

“The Marine Retailers Association of America’s annual convention has grown by 1,100 percent over the last decade. Here’s how:

  1. “Authenticity. We exist to help our members find success and grow. We live and breathe that directive every day, so it’s very natural to extend the authenticity of that mission to our conference.

  2. “Curiosity. We could never fully understand the intricacies of our members’ businesses like they do. We need to remain curious about our members’ needs, so we ask them several times what they want to learn at our conference: in pre-event surveys, in personal conversations, in our committee meetings, in session evaluations, following a keynote, and in post- event surveys. And then we deliver exactly what they ask for.

  3. “Focus. We stay very focused on why this event exists: to educate our dealers. Association conferences tempt us with distractions to take us off of our mission, but we remain diligent about delivering a first-class educational experience. If we succeed in this effort, every other interested party succeeds as well.

  4. “Humility. We have a deep understanding that our formula is effective because our members gave us the opportunity to make it work. We owe our success to them for giving us the opportunity, for believing and trusting in us and for encouraging us to keep pushing forward. So, we shower them with gratitude in the form of complimentary tools and resources, in addition to personal outreach, handwritten cards and, sometimes, little thank-you gifts.”
— Matt Gruhn, President, Marine Retailers Association

Attached is the entire Membership Management Report.

Download File (PDF)

Tags:  \  Annual meetings  attendence  authenticity  Conference  curiosity  focus  humility  MDCE  Membership Management Report 

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What's in a Name (Tag)

Posted By Bob McCann, Monday, July 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to do Mergers and Acquisitions Right

Posted By Liz Walz, Thursday, July 13, 2017
If there’s one thing it seems you can count on in the marine industry’s news this year, it’s mergers and acquisitions. This trend doesn’t discriminate: it touches dealers, marinas, boat builders and suppliers alike. And probably other boat business sectors too.

I’ve been through a few of them in my career. My husband has endured three in the last five years. And I have friends in this industry who are feeling the effects too. With that said, I’m no expert – and I have a healthy respect for the challenge that they represent for leadership. Bringing two or more organizations together with different people, systems and cultures … well, it can’t be easy.

But what I’ve observed matches up with the insight provided by Steve Case, co-founder and former CEO of AOL, in his Daily Fuel video, “Worst Merger Ever.”

Where most mergers and acquisitions go wrong – 70 to 90 percent fail, according to Harvard Business Review – is a “failure in people and culture,” Case says.

“Get the right people on the bus in the right seats focusing on the right things, that’s how you take entrepreneurial ideas and turn them into significant iconic businesses that really do impact people’s lives.”

In my experience, businesses would benefit from helping the people who are most impacted by mergers and acquisitions understand, embrace and succeed in navigating the incredible change that often results. When transparency is lacking and new twists and turns are introduced in large, unexpected and unexplained doses, it can wreak havoc on individuals, teams, clients and partners for weeks, months and sometimes years afterward.

It’s not hard to figure out why this happens. Leaders are human. When you’re leading a merger or acquisition, you’re faced with adapting to new people, products, strategies, systems and cultures yourself. Until you understand all that newness and can determine the best path forward, it can be difficult to know what to communicate to your team or how to help them navigate changes that aren’t yet clear to you.

Maybe that’s where a missed opportunity lies. Do we as leaders need to figure it out ourselves? Or do the best leadership stories start when we seek insight and direction from our people? After all, they are our company’s and our industry’s most valuable assets.

I’m not sure. But I suspect Steve is on to something when he says: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, you must go together.” What do you think?

Tags:  acquisitions  culture  leadership  mergers  Steve Case  teamwork 

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Don’t forget the ING

Posted By Bob McCann, Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I know, I know, I’ve heard from ALL of you on the phone, emails, texts, Facebook and at dealer meetings: You are too busy this time of year! But to keep this thing called boat sales rolling for years to come, we need to remember to promote the “ING” in boating.

It’s easy when times are good to put off what got you back in the game when sales weren’t so plentiful. During those times, I watched dealers become good marketers and promoters of boating. Many of you found new ways of getting boaters involved in boating, whether it was thinking up a new trip or two for your boat club, adding another fishing tournament, or finding a spare weekend for Demo Days.

These events got your customers on the water and reconnected to their boats and families. Fortunately, a few prospects caught our beloved boating disease and made the jump. Imagine how those efforts would pay off today with customer confidence at an all-time high. But not if we’re too busy for the extra effort.

The dealers that formed the requirements for Certification knew that they needed to do more than just sell boats. They also needed to promote the lifestyle. So, they included requirements for a Certified dealer to have a CRM strategy and a process to keep improving it, as well as a list of customer activities and events to promote boating. The latter keep customers using their boats and move them to mingle with other owners. This gives them a chance to get reinfected with the disease, using their current boat more often or falling in love with one a foot or two larger.

This is especially important right now. It’s only a few days before the biggest weekend for boating. Have you promoted the best place to watch your local fireworks from a boat along with a few safety reminders? It’s not too late. A quick email will create a spark and inject the courage to pack up the family and watch the fireworks from the best place on earth: your own boat.

I’ve seen fireworks in New York, Washington, and at two Boy Scout National and World jamborees. The best fireworks experience is with my wife Carol, directly overhead our boat, with an unobstructed view, my own head, and booms that shake the T-top.

I hope your customers don’t miss a memorable 4th of July event on their boats. Hopefully, it inspires them to think about an even bigger boat next year!

Wishing a Happy and Safe America’s Birthday to all our dealer friends and families!

Your partners at MRAA

Tags:  certification  holiday  lifestyle  marketing  social media  time management  upselling 

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How to Get More Done Faster

Posted By Liz Walz, Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Over the weekend, I stumbled over something that might help both of us in the heat of the season – the boating season for you, and the product development season for the team at the Marine Retailers Association.

While you’re busy selling and servicing boats, we’re busy working with industry experts to create new workshops, sessions, online training, certification courses, and white papers to serve you now and throughout the coming year.

Neither of us have any extra time to spare, and it’s critical that we do everything we can to get ahead. That’s why I wanted to share something I read in the book, “Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success” by Rory Vaden.

If you’re like me, you feel compelled to do your research so you have all the facts before you make a decision. And yet this time of year, who has time for that? So what often happens is the key decision that could give us the edge is put off indefinitely, translating into lost opportunity. Not good.

Instead, Rory recommends that: “We need to stop spending so much of our time trying to make the right decision and … start spending our time making decisions and then making them right.”

Rather than wasting our time asking the question, “Should I?” we can then focus on answering the question, “How will I?”

A simple shift in mindset, but one that could really make a difference, especially this time of year. And that’s our goal: To really make a difference in your success, your team’s success and your dealership’s success.

That’s why we’re hiring Rory Vaden as the Closing Keynote speaker at the 2017 Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, coming up this December 10-13 in Orlando. A record number of dealers have already signed up to join us there. I hope you will too.

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How to Coach In the Heat of the Season

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Memorial Day Weekend is a memory. The winter shows are over. The spring cleaning is done. All the boats once in storage are now in the water. The units sold at the shows have been delivered. And sales training is complete.

Wait a minute! Do we ever stop learning or practicing our skills? Do athletes stop training or practicing when the season starts? The losers might, but the winners are always fine-tuning their skills. They continue to improve all season long to make sure they meet or exceed the goals they set before the season began.

When the season starts is when the coaches, aka Sales and Service Managers, earn their paychecks. Athletes keep their coaches close on the sidelines because pros know that they can get too close to the game and miss opportunities that come their way. A tuned-in Sales Manager with the help of modern-day systems can ensure their salespeople stay with the game plan by selecting the perfect boat for their customer, negotiating a mutually beneficial price, and delivering a better-than-expected buying experience. And a tuned-in Service Manager with the help of modern-day systems can ensure their technicians, riggers, yard staff and service writers stay with the game plan by selecting the perfect maintenance package for their customer, operating at high efficiency, and delivering a better-than-expected service experience.

I hear too often working with Certified Dealers that training is scheduled for the fall, and they have no plan to revisit what they learned during the offseason. Tell me it’s not so! Your favorite players continually develop and practice their skills, and you should do the same all season long.

Dealer Principles, Sales and Service Managers: We know this is a crazy time of year. We need to sell boats and keep up with the demand for service. We agree: It is time to put our heads down and sell, sell, sell and service. But there is still time to sharpen our skills during the game. I find that most dealers are still meeting with their sales and service teams on a regular schedule during the season. Since you’ve found the time to meet, make the most of this time and always touch on training.

I learned a formula for a successful meeting years ago during my Ford days that is a simple to execute and can apply to any dealership department. Every meeting should include:
  1. Recognition. They crave it and don’t get enough of it, which our Employee Satisfaction Survey results confirm. Note what they are doing well and give them a shout out. This requires making notes all week and reviewing them before your meeting.

  2. Housekeeping. Every dealership must stay on top of deals, scheduled jobs, deliveries, and the does & don’ts.

  3. Training. End every meeting with something that will help them sell or service a boat today. Take 10 minutes to review those nuggets you learned in the offseason so they don’t forget to use the information they’ve already picked up. Keep it simple. Go around the room and ask each salesperson why now is a good time to buy a boat. Each will have to think and answer, but often the biggest learning opportunity comes from the sharing of ideas. Or ask each technician how they can improve their efficiency or the customer experience. Or break-out those takeaways from MDCE. Review a page or two of your notes – or even better, an MDCE video or two – to relive those moments of brilliance in December and put the lessons to work. This is what good coaches do for their teams!

If after weeks of positive reinforcement, you still have a couple of team members not conforming to the process, meet with them privately for a refresher course that notes their deficiencies using my proven formula: Hug ‘em, Smack ‘em, Hug ‘em! Simply, start the conversation with what they are doing right. Give them the desired direction, and finish with some basic math: adding together what they are doing right along with the adjustment, which will end with a better result.

Champions never stop learning – and practicing what they know. When you make it a priority to carve out a few minutes a day during the heat of the summer to take advantage of the investments made in the off-season, you will reap the rewards of building a stronger foundation for success.

Tags:  housekeeping  off-season  positive reinforcement  recognition  Sales Managers  Service Managers  skills  Training 

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A Seat at the Table

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Today’s boating industry could teach politicians a thing or two about coming together for the greater good.

And who knows? Perhaps we’ll get the chance. This week, the industry is gathering in Washington, D.C., at the American Boating Congress, which attracts people from just about every corner of the recreational marine business.

While the No. 1 purpose of ABC is to lobby together on The Hill in support of the boating industry, there are a lot of other meetings here as well. For example, yesterday, local, state, regional and national trade associations representing dealers, marinas, manufacturers, distributors and representatives sat down together to share best practices during a National Marine Trades Council meeting.

That group joined the Recreational Boating Leadership Council at lunchtime for a joint panel discussion on solutions to the most painful challenge we’re facing right now: workforce issues. After lunch, the RBLC went on to discuss what else the industry is doing and can do to overcome some of our biggest barriers to growth.

Today, history will be made when the Marine Retailers Association and the National Marine Manufacturers Association sit down at the same table for their first ever joint board meeting. Afterwards, BoatPAC – the joint political action committee of the NMMA and MRAA – will bring the industry together for a fundraising event.

We work in what has been often called a fragmented industry. And there have been times in our history when we’ve struggled to come together to sit at the same table. But there are few things that give me more faith in our future than the collaboration that’s taking place in our industry today. During a time when the United States is more divided along political lines than ever before, the recreational marine community is going in the opposite direction. We are working across the aisles that have historically divided our industry. And there’s no better city to be doing it in. Those that aren’t here to witness this and join in, I wish you could be.

Tags:  American Boating Congress  BoatPAC  collaboration  Legislation  marine industry  NMMA  politics  workforce issues 

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