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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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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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4 ways to help your community in this time of need

Posted By Katie Eichelberger, Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The world is lacking in a range of supplies from crucial life-saving equipment like ventilators, to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to keep our essential workers safe, and basic necessities, such as food and personal care items. Though this isn’t great news, companies and organizations all across the globe are rallying together to help. 

Here’s how you can help too:

1. Use social media. Check your own feed! You could get a pretty good idea of your community’s needs while scrolling. Involve your customers in the rally to help others. Community outreach could have a large impact on your brand recognition come boating time! 


2. Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce. This is another great way to get a feel for what our community needs are. A little goes a long way in helping others during this time. (Even if it’s as simple as a roll of toilet paper or two.)


3. Check your state’s or province’s department of health website. We can’t promise that every state or province has the amount of detail on this as others, but check in and see what the situation is like in your area and learn how you could help! 


4. Take inventory. One dealer had thousands of n95 masks that they were able to contribute to the cause. This is a huge help! But be sure if you are still selling and servicing that you have enough gloves for your own staff to stay safe, before donating. 

Here are some examples of manufacturers and dealers who have made an impact in their local area: 

Buckeye Marine’s Food Bank

Two Maryland boatyards, a Maine publication, marine trade association collect critical supplies

Brunswick and Correct Craft step up to devote time to PPE supply. 

Brunswick Boat Group’s Sea Ray and Boston Whaler brands now sewing masks. 

Volvo Penta Manufacturing PPE

Comment below with ideas on how you can help your local community during this time! And don’t forget, if you’re in need of help, visit our COVID-19 Resources page.

Updated 4.22.2020

Tags:  Boat dealers  community  community help  community involvement  COVID  COVID-19  giving back  How to help 

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Horseshoes, Hand Grenades and COMPLIANCE? Good Faith Matters In Meeting Compliance Requirements – Even In COVID 19 Days

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Monday, April 13, 2020

This blog post was authored and submitted by Myril Shaw of Dealer Profit Services, LLC.


Compliance. No one wants to talk about it. It is that boring topic – just a bunch of useless rules, regulations and paperwork – until you get on the wrong side of law.

How does that happen? You inadvertently allow someone to become a victim of identity theft – or you sell to an identity thief. You don't check closely enough and suddenly you have sold a boat to someone on the government's drug or terror watch list. Maybe you get caught up in a money laundering scheme.

Do these things happen often? Absolutely not. They only need to happen to you once.

Selling to someone on the watch list could cost you up to $1,000,000.00 and up to 20 years in prison – and cash transactions count just like finance transactions do. Failure to properly dispose of Consumer Credit applications could cost you $2,500.00 per incident. Just over $42,000 per incident is the potential cost for the improper storage of personally identifiable information. The list goes on and frequently the infractions compound.

So – it does not take repeated sloppiness (or even simple lack of knowledge) for compliance violations to get expensive, or even put you out of business – or in jail. One event can do it.

All of that is the bad news. Compliance is no place to be complacent. That said, the government does give credit for good faith efforts to comply – even if mistakes are made.

Where does a good faith effort start?

Good faith is like horseshoes and hand grenades – close counts. Just trying, counts.

There are three key steps to demonstrating a desire, willingness and effort to be compliant.
  1. Five Compliance Process and Procedures Manuals must be printed, bound, executed by a Compliance Officer and be on display – the five manuals are Red Flags; Disposal; OFAC; Safeguard; and, USA Patriot Act.
  2. A recurring training program for all management and everyone who deals with private, personally identifiable information;
  3. A trained Compliance Officer who is familiar with the rules, the policy and procedure manuals and who will sign the manuals and ensure best compliance efforts.
Today, in the new virtual/no-touch/social distancing world, these rules have not changed – they just may be a little trickier. Here are some tips:
  • The Patriot Act requires that you verify the identity of the person that you are dealing with – at the time of delivery you should do the following – have the customer leave their driver's license and, if possible, their social security card (warn them in advance) on the table or in the unit being delivered before you present the documents for signing – verify and copy those and return them with the documents for signing
  • Ensure that you have Red Flag checks turned on in your Credit Bureau returns
  • Use soft credit pulls with Red Flag checks turned on for your cash buyers
  • Slow down – even more – anyone in a rush today should be slowed and investigated fully – confirm that there are no Red Flags, verify identity
  • While documents may be trickier to physically handle, the rules on Disposal and Safeguard have not changed – use gloves to handle the documents for 72 hours and to handle shredding for 72 hours – and shred and file these exactly the way they should be
Compliance is not fun, especially in COVID 19 days – it is more fun than any alternative, especially today. Demonstrate good faith on compliance and save yourself a whole lot of potential trouble.

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Dealer loan applicants in holding pattern

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Friday, April 10, 2020

Nearly 80 percent of boat dealers have applied for a loan from the Small Business Administration as part of the federal stimulus programs, but the vast majority of those who responded to a survey conducted by the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas report a lack of clarity on where things stand.

 

“I have applied, and according to my banker, our funds have been 'reserved' with the SBA,” commented one dealer. “Still waiting to hear on what the next steps will be, and I have been given no indication as to when I might receive the funds.”

 

Responses to the question: What is your intention related to loans
made available through the stimulus programs for your dealership?
 

 

 

In a survey fielded by the MRAA from April 7 through April 9, a total of 78 percent of dealers reported that they had already applied for a loan and another 10 percent indicated that they plan to apply. There were 453 dealers that responded to the survey, including 213 written comments.

 

Generally, the open-ended comments outline a lack of clarity on when the loans will be funded and what, if any, next steps will be necessary. Individual dealers report filing for loans as far back as March 19th. At the time, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan process was open for applications. Those EIDL loans were intended to help cover six months’ worth of operational expenses and promised an advance of $10,000 within three days of application.

 

“It has been slow and not much information or update on where I stand on the loans,” wrote one dealer. “It says 3 days. It now has been 14 days. Also did the PPP on Friday and have not heard anything back on that also.”

 

“I have not heard back on my SBA loan request or the payroll request yet,” commented another. “It has been more than three days, and I have not received the $10,000 grant.”

 

“I applied for the EIDL loan on March 19th and the $10K advance on March 30th, but have not seen any funds as yet,” said another.

 

While the survey did not specifically ask whether or not any loans had been funded, no dealer’s open-ended comments indicated anyone had received their loan.

 

Survey comments seemed to suggest a general understanding that the loan programs were instituted quickly and both the SBA and their local banks were still trying to figure out the details.

 

“My local lender says it will be another week or two before they can get to my application,” explained one dealer. “They received so many they had to place a hold on accepting any further.”

 

“It took a week and a half for all the communication to get ironed out regarding how to calculate, what documents were required and creating an online app,” outlined another dealer. “I know that the banks had a lot of concerns that took time to resolve with the government. The app finally got into the bank yesterday, so we'll see how smooth it goes from here.”

 

“The process was slow, as the administrators of the stimulus programs are trying to figure it all out too,” another dealer reported. “They are making it up as they go along. Let’s hope it all comes together soon.”

 

“I am in the queue, and they say someone will contact me to complete the forms,” wrote another dealer, “but I'm concerned by the time they get to us, funds may be gone to others.”

 

“It’s not good,” summarized one dealer. “Had to update our app six times because the process keeps changing.”

 

And there has been a clear lack of follow up from the banks on the status of loans.

 

“On Friday last week, I applied for the PPP through my bank as well as a local credit union,” noted one dealer. “Both have allowed me to make the initial online request, but neither is ready to complete the process or willing to let me know if I will be accepted.”

 

“I applied with my local credit union who is SBA affiliated,” commented another dealer. “Haven't heard back from them nor will they return my emails or phone calls.”

 

But for the most part, the dealer respondents held out hope that the system would get ironed out sooner rather than later.

 

“So far, so good,” noted one dealer. “It's a complicated and time-consuming bureaucratic process. The forms changed midway in the process, so at that point we had to start over. It should be worth the effort, especially in support of our employees. We're expecting the money to be in sometime next week.”

 

“We have the approval,” said another. “Just waiting to find out when and how we will be funded.”

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The Training Path

Posted By Patrick Green, Thursday, April 9, 2020

We were classified into the “non-essential” category, by the State of Idaho. So we met just after the state shut everything down, to discuss options for our employees. Our leadership team came to the decision that the “right thing to do” was to retain our team and have them be paid for the two weeks of the shutdown. We would still have limited staff available to maintain inventory and functional business operations. Obviously with total uncertainty of how all the stimulus stuff would play out, this was a tough decision. We looked at how other projects would have to be put on hold, and how it would effect our cash position in the long run.

While initially we planned just to pay everyone, looking at the impacts how that culturally effected the folks that were still coming into the store and putting themselves at risk, we decided to design a work from home program. The initial vision for certain employees was not easy, specifically with employees who couldn’t understand how they could do their job from home. The vision had to be assigned in the direction that even though they weren’t productive in the normal sense, they were contributing to a greater good of making Tobler a better place to work, after the virus shutdowns had ended. Continuous improvement is really what we tried to lay the groundwork for. And in essence, it has been extremely valuable to see which employees are willing to put in the time and effort, versus the employees that are just collecting a paycheck.

Through this program, everyone who was at home getting paid, was assigned courses through MRAATraining.com, CDK Global Training, OEM webinars, Yamaha, Honda, etc. Along with other process/administrative-related tasks to help improve the everyday life at Tobler. Currently we have 18 employees working from home, and our hope is that when they are able to return to the store, they will be ready for whatever comes at them.

We have been calling employees twice a day to check in on their progress, and also in some cases, their wellbeing.

We have implemented a weekly email updating the entire store on progress for each department. This is an email that I think we will continue to do outside of the shutdown. It’s a great way to keep everyone informed and remind them of the big picture. Overcommunication in times like these, I think, is vital for everyone. The media and uncertainty that we face on a daily basis is ultimately negative. To see people around you making strides forward is positive.

I’ve included some notes from Tobler Team members that we have received on our daily updates from employees:

“I enjoyed the Service Scheduling and How to Create Harmony class; it showed how important the service schedule is and how it effects parts. Also showed me how much the service writer has to follow up with the customer.” — From one of our shop technicians

“I just completed the Service CSI & Upselling class. Certainly some useful information in there for our department and what we can do to increase customer ROs.” — from one of our Canvas Technicians.

While the uncertainty of where we will go if the lockdown continues in the State of Idaho past the two weeks originally designated, we will have some even harder decisions to make for the livelihood of our employees. We applied for the PPP and have yet to hear back and are averaging somewhere around 30 phone calls a day of customers wanting their boats for summer. Interesting times indeed, but important to focus on what we can do with our time.

— Patrick Green, General Manager, Tobler Marina, Hayden, Idaho

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Sharpen your team’s phone skills today

Posted By Nikki Duffney, Thursday, April 9, 2020

When we operate out of our normal businesses, dedicated staff typically receive all inbound calls. We train them how to transfer calls, how to answer customer questions and how we represent our brand over the phone.

 

 Download this FREE guide to mastering your team's phone skills.

 

 

Today’s work-from-home business reality demands that everyone on our team becomes even better communicators over the phone. And with a slower business environment, there’s no better time to have your team work on it than right now.

 

The MRAA published a Guide to Phone Skills that you and your team can download for free (in addition to offering several courses on MRAATraining.com that incorporate phone skills). I went through and pulled out some highlights to whet your appetite or maybe as a replace for those of you who are members of the #tldr club. 

 

  • Page 4 - Tip sheet outlines the do’s and don’ts of scripted calls. While scripted calls can be great for training and helping people get comfortable with delivering answers on calls – be careful to not have the scripts drafted in a way that doesn’t allow for natural flexibility in the conversation. They called you because they wanted to talk with a human, otherwise they would have emailed or used a chat.
  • Pages 6 & 7 – These are packed full of gems, read it and re-read it and then have staff read it. While we working remotely, this could be a great time to do phone trainings with role play. Have an experienced person call the staff with less phone experience to ask common questions and allow for time to work through the responses.
  • Page 8 – Texting, are you set up to send and receive texts with customers? If not, this is the time to figure out how you can bring text to life in your operations. (NOTE: There is a great and very timely course on Texting found at MRAATraining.com.)
  • All the courses listed in the Guide are phenomenal recommendations, check them out.

 

I spend a lot of my time at MRAA calling dealer members to talk with them about their business. Somedays, calls go off perfectly with connections made, resources delivered, new members joining and giving back to the industry. Other days, I don’t know if it is me or the people I am calling, but nothing clicks. I sit on hold for several minutes; listen to advertisements from years gone by; get hung up on; am transferred to the wrong department; or have frustrated people not representing your brand the way you’d hope … In those moments, I wonder if customers have the same experience.

 

Now’s the time to sharpen your team’s skills.

Tags:  customer experience  marine industry  phone skills  Training 

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Moving Beyond 'The Way We’ve Always Done It'

Posted By Liz Keener, Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Innovation is the creation of something new. And I have been extremely impressed with the innovation I’ve seen from dealers lately.

 

A few weeks ago, early in North America’s COVID-19 crisis, I read a blog. I wish I could remember which blog it was, but the point is it mentioned innovation, and how in times of crisis the companies that innovate find the most success.

 

I wanted to share it at the time, but I’ll admit that in crisis fog, I couldn’t make the dealer connection. When I thought of innovation in crisis, I thought of product innovation. I thought about what manufacturers could do to innovate.

 

But then I realized, innovation isn’t always about a new product but often about a new way of thinking, a new method of doing something.

 

I’ve started to see innovation from dealers in remarkable ways. There are dealers who have never tried video before shooting Facebook Live updates about their business and offering walkarounds to customers who are uncomfortable coming into the store.

 

Dealers are trying virtual boat shows, or exhibiting at NMMA virtual boat shows. They’re experimenting with all sorts of new methods to sell from a distance.

 

Dealers are allowing their staff to work from home, focusing on relationship development with customers and prospects.

 

Dealers are working on their long-term plans, tackling those projects that were deep down on their to-do lists, the important but not urgent.

 

Dealers are partnering with each other, working with their marine trades associations and working with the MRAA to get essential business status and fight for their place within new laws.

 

Dealers are reaching out to boaters, encouraging social distancing on the water, to prevent waterway shutdowns in their area.  

 

Dealers are enrolling their staff in training, making sure everyone is sharper when business gets moving again.

 

Sometimes we all get stuck in “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Well, the way we’ve always done most things aren’t feasible or aren’t allowed right now. So we’ve had to innovate. And, dealers, you have answered that call.

 

You are resilient. You are showing adaptability and flexibility. And you’re innovating. And with that push, we hope you will all succeed, drive forward and come out of this crisis stronger than before. As an industry, we’re in this together, and we’re all rooting for each other. Let’s keep that momentum going.

Tags:  innovation 

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Dealers on a ‘giant ticking clock’ amid shutdown

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Tuesday, April 7, 2020


Boat dealers remain on shaky ground at the beginning of April as the nationwide shutdown of non-essential businesses forces them to consider cash position and expense structure, according to the monthly Pulse Report, published by the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, Soundings Trade Only and Robert W. Baird.

The report, which was published today, shows that nearly a quarter of marine industry dealers have less than a month’s worth of cash on hand to help them navigate today’s economic challenges. Twenty-one percent of the 120 respondents suggested they had one to three weeks’ worth of cash, while three percent suggested they had less than one week’s cash. Forty-four percent noted they had enough cash for 1 to 2 months, while 32 percent said they had enough cash for 3 or more months. The insight came from their responses to the question of “Given your cash position, how long could your dealership/retail location afford to shut down amid the coronavirus outbreak?”

Dealer Cash Position

Nearly a quarter of boat dealers report having less than a month's worth of cash on hand.

 


“We are on a giant, ticking clock, waiting to see how long we can all hang on to current employees with COVID conditions,” wrote one respondent.

“We are hopeful that the Paycheck Protection Program will get us through without having to lay off about 10 staff,” wrote another.

The survey also asked dealers to characterize their expense structure at this time, noting how much of their cost base they would still incur if their dealership was forced to close for a period of time. More than 50 percent of the survey’s respondents suggested that the majority of their monthly expenses were fixed expenses – mortgages, floor plan loan payments, insurance, etc. In all, 33 percent said that 50-75 percent of their expenses were fixed, while 20 percent of the respondents noted that more than 75 percent of their expenses were fixed.

“The relief act is a help, but nothing the government does will make up for the loss of two of the largest [boat sales] months of the year,” wrote on of the respondents. “Gross profit will be off and when it does open up, manufacturers will not be able to reload inventories quickly enough. Hopefully dealers have enough cash to make it a year without any income. If not, it should be their goal.”

An MRAA Ask The Expert Webinar held today noted that dealers need six to 12 months of cash on hand in order to have the best chance of surviving the current economic environment. The program, which will be available here later today, featured noted industry expert John Spader and offered a series of cash flow resources for dealers to tap into. The webinar series continues tomorrow and Thursday with more insights for dealers to use.

During the month of March Marine Retailer Sentiment, which is measured via the Pulse Report, plummeted to levels not seen since the report was created in December of 2013. The report outlines the steep drop in boat sales retail trends and corresponding increases in discomfort with inventory levels, the net effect of which caused short-term marine retailer sentiment to fall sharply on current conditions (4 vs. 47 in February and 70 in January). The respondents’ 3- to 5-year outlook remained neutral (50 vs. 56 in February).

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Guest Blog: The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Anticipated Boating and Fishing Activity in 2020

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Monday, April 6, 2020


This Guest Blog was authored by Jerry Mona of Left Brain Marketing

The emergence of the COVID-19 crisis has severely impacted nearly every aspect of society. And, while there are more important concerns than going boating or fishing, these activities remain important to the lifestyle of many. In this article, we discuss the findings from a recent survey regarding how boat owners anticipate the current crisis will affect their on-water activity and how dealers and marinas can support them at this time.

Background
An online survey was conducted with members of the BoaterInput online community (developed by Left Brain Marketing, Inc). The survey was conducted between March 22nd and March 31st, 2020. A total of 151 responses were received from boat owners across the country.

Findings

While the COVID-19 crisis will curtail boating for some, many boaters intend to remain active.

In our survey, over half (60%) indicated that they plan on boating as much (no impact) or more as a result of the crisis. Nearly one-third (30%) will likely boat less.

Sixty percent of boaters report they anticipate the coronavirus situation will have
no impact on their boating activity or they will go boating more often.



Of those who intend to go at least as much as before, key reasons were that they already boat/fish by themselves or with close family members only, they have more time, or it is a good way to practice “social distancing." However, many acknowledged that the closing of lakes or parks could impact their plans and, when they do go, they would be less likely to visit marinas and other on-water establishments.

 “For me, it’s a good way to social distance. I fish by myself.”
 “COVID-19 should have NO impact on myself or fellow boaters if we all agree to work diligently with public health officials, CDC, etc. It is my, and my fellow boating Americans, responsibility to make sure we are not spreading the virus. I cannot speak for everyone but I typically boat/fish alone or with a close friend, and never in a large group. Mostly recreational. I feel that it’s a great time to continue to participate in outdoor activities and boating/fishing just so happens to be one of a few activities to allow us to distance ourselves socially while keeping up our spirits at a time when the world seems to be under a massive amount of pressure. It’s an ideal stress reliever and as long as there is no evidence to suggest being out on the water is dangerous, I will be there.”

But for the nearly one-third (30%) of boaters who will likely boat less, lake/park closures, travel restrictions and the need to limit who and how many can boat with them were the key reasons.

“Because we usually go camping when we go fishing and all the places we go camping are closed because of the virus. So not sure if we will even buy a fishing license to go this year.”
“During the state of emergency in Michigan, we are required to shelter in place. We are only allowed to leave our home for necessities like groceries or a medical emergency.”
“I will be reluctant to invite other than immediate family on my boat until while social distancing recommendations are effective.”


Concerns regarding the virus will impact WHO people go boating with.

Half of the boaters surveyed indicated that the current crisis will change who gets to go on their boat. For many, this means that only their spouse/significant other or close family members (i.e., children) will be able to participate.

However, approximately only a quarter indicated that the current situation will alter where they go boating or what they do when taking their boat out.

Many would like to see dealers and marinas remain open and accessible for service or maintenance items during this time.

When boaters were asked how the industry could support them during the crisis, the most common response was that they did not need support. This was especially true among those who don’t plan to use their boat or will use it less often.

However, others felt it was important for dealers and marinas to keep their doors open (even if for a limited time), practice safe habits (e.g., keep facilities clean, wear gloves/protective gear, disinfect surfaces, schedule appointments to minimize congestion, etc.) and offering alternative ways to purchase parts/maintenance items or receive service.

The following are some of the specific suggestions offered:

“In my area, we need the marinas to stay in operation.”
“Just have someone available to either repair or contact for problems.”
“Just staying open for parts and repairs.”
“Be available to service and repair my boat when needed.”
“I would love to have my local service center come pick up my boat for service and then return it when done.”
“Simple drop off and then pay online then pick up for any needed services.”
“Provide ways to pay online for service, and maintain social distancing in the shop.”
“Keep facilities clean.”
“Servicemen and maintenance individuals providing sanitization after handling controls or any door access points.”

 

Conclusions

In normal times, boating and fishing is an important recreational activity for millions of families in the US. However, during the current COVID-19 crisis, it can also provide a much-needed distraction from the chaos going on in our world.

Because many intend to continue to boat and fish this season, dealers and marinas need to find ways to support them as best as possible. Some actions to consider are as follows:

  • Communicate with your customers regularly. Boaters have questions regarding how to get supplies or service, which lakes or ramps are closed in the area, and what precautions have been taken at your business to protect their safety. A weekly newsletter along with more frequent social media posts would go a long way in alleviating these anxieties.
  • Offer pick-up and/or delivery service. Like restaurants and “big box” retailers, find a way to allow your customers to order products or schedule service without having to physically enter your place of business.
  • Offer phone or chat support for questions or technical issues. Some issues can simply be handled over the phone or via a video call without having to visit the dealer. One way to manage this is to use an online calendar tool such as Calendly, Doodle, YouCanBook.me or ScheduleOnce that enables your customers to book an appointment with a service technician. You could even have a virtual “tip jar” via Pay Pal for customers to thank technicians as they see fit.
  • Implement safe practices. As noted earlier, it is important for dealers and marinas that remain open to take steps to protect the health of their employees and customers. Check out the CDC website for the latest guidelines for businesses. And you need to let your customers know that you have taken these steps for their protection.

For more suggestions for how to serve your customers during these times, see the MRAA publication on 29 Tips to Sell and Service Boats Safely.

Undoubtedly, the ongoing pandemic will have a severe impact on companies that are part of, or support, the boating industry – including my own. But the good news is this crisis is an opportunity to develop new ways to serve your customers and implement procedures to engage them long after the sale that should pay dividends after this storm is over.

Jerry Mona is President of Left Brain Marketing, Inc. and is often considered the leading research expert in boating. You can download a copy of the report with the included graphics and tables here. The original blog post was published here. You can contact Jerry Mona at jerrym (at) leftbraininc.com

A printer-friendly copy of the report is available for download by clicking here.

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