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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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The missing link to results

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Thursday, October 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags:  execute  journey  MRAA  solutions 

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Explore a Brighter Future

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Thursday, October 11, 2018
This past summer, I took the most incredible vacation ever. We over-planned, over-packed and over-spent on a two-week road trip to Glacier National Park, where we explored the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever laid eyes on.

The incredible memories and this park’s unpredicted rise to the No. 1 spot on our family’s list of favorite National Parks, can be directly attributed to the numerous hikes we took to explore Glacier’s dramatic scenery and sheer beauty. But I think the risk-and-reward factor came in to play with that, as well.

You see, I’m a tough guy. An outdoorsman with cushy hiking shoes, a Camelback, air conditioning and a memory foam mattress (with matching pillows). And so nothing — NOTHING! — scares me. Particularly in front of my wife and two daughters. Nothing. At all. Except … perhaps … possibly … the near-certain likelihood that any hike in Glacier National Park would assuredly end in my being mauled by a grizzly bear.

It’s true. The signs warn you to be “bear aware” on the way into the park. Gift shops sell bear spray in double-barrel packages at prices that suggest your mere survival depends on its ownership. Trail heads let you know that bears frequent the area. Rangers walk around for the sole purpose of protecting you and also for conducting blood transfusions and CPR on you. And to make being death charged by a bear even more likely, my ladies all sported chapstick scented with huckleberry … which, by the way, happens to be the grizzly bear’s favorite food. Right behind “adult male human,” I suppose. Do you even realize how many grizzly bear encounter videos you can find on YouTube?

Now, I know that, as a business leader, you don’t have irrational fears. There are no grizzly bears in your world. You don’t worry about losing your top employee or whether or not that new boat line will pay off. You don’t think about how deep that next recession will be or how much it will slow down your sales. The competition and that brilliant move they just made? Not even on your mind. You never wonder to yourself if, maybe, sacrificing margins in favor of market share is truly the best strategy. It doesn’t cross your mind how you’re going to rid yourself of excess costs, inventory or inefficiencies. And you certainly don’t question your own leadership or management abilities. You’re tough and brave, too. I get it.

But in the event that maybe you are not 100-percent clear on what the future looks like, I want to challenge you to explore it and create it for yourself. I want to challenge you to break out of your comfort zone, take a few risks, experience something new.

In business, as in life itself, the most rewarding experiences are those that at one point seemed the most dangerous. The most risky. The most plotted in harm’s way. They are the opportunities you’ve explored only after overcoming obstacles and hardships. They are the ones that come with constant warning signs and reminders that you could be eaten alive without notice.

All of those bear fears could have, and almost did, deter us from taking those hikes. We could have taken the safe route and just gone to Disney World. But despite the risks and the high number of warning signs, it was not only the visit, but in fact, those hikes and the exploration that took us to the hidden lakes, the beautiful vistas, the waterfalls and glaciers, and yes, even a few grizzly bears — that turned out to be frightened by us, by the way.

As you create your plans for the year ahead, challenge yourself to break out of your regular habits. Learn something new. Try a new direction. Consider a new strategy. Break out of the mold. Envision a brighter future for yourself and your business. And do it by exploring new opportunities. Even those that come with risk.

Just know that as you venture out to explore unknown trails, your MRAA Team stands by to help you pave the way. We’re armed with the bear spray to protect you, and we’ve got the Park Rangers to guide you around the dangers that lurk out there. And we’re quite confident that we can help make your 2019 the most incredible, most rewarding year yet.

Tags:  dealer development  dealer focused  explore  future  growth  MRAA 

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Envision a brighter future

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Thursday, October 4, 2018


[en-vizh-uh n] verb. imagine as a future possibility; visualize

When you close your eyes and envision your future, what do you see? Are those vivid pictures centered around your family? Perhaps on that dream vacation or in retirement? Do you imagine professional accomplishment like bountiful sales or a new location? Or are you dreaming of something even more aspirational, like smooth operations with no HR headaches or odd-hour service calls?

Over here at the MRAA, our team envisions a brighter future for marine retail. We envision a day when the fundamental problems that lead to today’s less-than-ideal boat buying and ownership experiences are behind us. We envision a day when we work hand-in-hand, on an even deeper level, with our manufacturer and supplier partners to aid in the success of our dealers. And we envision a day when, together, we can propel boating, once again, to the No. 1 choice in outdoor recreation.

It’s a lofty vision for sure, but rest assured, that your MRAA staff is made up of a dozen of the hardest-working, most passionate marine industry professionals anyone could dream of working alongside. Our mission is to provide you and your team with the tools, resources and educational opportunities that will inspire you and empower you to reach the growth and success goals you set.

Translated, that means the future you envision is the future we envision. And no matter how you define success, your MRAA team wants to help you get there. Especially if it’s that dream vacation and you want us to go with.

Tags:  dealer development  dealer focused  envision  future  growth  MRAA 

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MRAA History: Supporters

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Friday, September 14, 2018
We can count more than a dozen organizations that were supporting MRAA and its Annual Conference way back when that continue to support us today. That list of leading members has grown tremendously, but our appreciation remains the same.

Tags:  Annual conference  Annual meetings  history  members  MRAA  mraa history  organizations  partners  supporters 

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Tools to compete in the job market

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Good people are hard to find. This statement is as old as any other business cliché, but it has never been more of a slap in the face for me than it is today.

I’m writing this blog as I wait for an interview candidate, who is now more than five minutes late for his interview. The assignment we asked him to complete prior to the interview still hasn’t arrived either. I’d love to exhale and simply move on to the next candidate, but our pool of candidates is bleak.

Five weeks ago, we actually hired someone for this position. She came to the Minneapolis Boat Show with us, a full weekend prior to when she was officially going to start. She had every skill and ability we were looking for, in addition to an eager attitude and a get-it-done mentality. She showed up as planned on Monday, was out until Friday with sick kids, and we haven’t seen her since. Vanished.

The best candidate for the position, after we resumed the recruiting process, took another job the day we were to interview her. Now this next interviewee hasn’t shown up, and it’s more than 10 minutes after his scheduled appointment. Don’t most people show up early for an interview?

I realize I’m singing to the choir here when I complain that it’s tough to find quality employees these days. Our members have been challenged to find technicians for a few years now, and the problem is only getting worse.

MRAA has committed itself to finding solutions for these issues. In fact, for the second year in a row, workforce development issues made our list of top issues to be addressed, which was created by the Advisory Council of Marine Associations, a group of trade association leaders who help to set the MRAA legislative agenda.

In 2016, our efforts created the first MRAA Marine Industry Workforce Assessment. It revealed that more than 21 percent of the positions budgeted to be on dealership payrolls went unfilled in the prior year and suggested that our industry could be short some 31,000 retail employees by 2019. MRAA members can download the assessment here.

In the end, dealers pointed to a few main reasons why they are having trouble finding good employees: the generation gap, a poor transition from schools to the workforce, a lack of tech schools to begin with, the seasonality of our business, a lack of employee training, and an inability to compete with the pay scales of other industries. With a mission to provide solutions for some of these issues, MRAA has:

  1. Held several generation-related topics at the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo. MRAA Retail Members, sign into for access to some of these topics.
  2. Generated a database of marine specific technical schools.
  3. Been working on a guide to dealership training, to be published as a free member resource later this year.
  4. And launched a compensation study to give us a better understanding of the pay scales and structures in the marine industry.

The results of the 2017 MRAA Compensation Study are now available for purchase. For just $299, you can access the high-level executive summary; the full, in-depth report; and an online, dynamic salary calculator that will allow you to run an unlimited number of queries on up to 35 job descriptions, broken down by region, dealership size, and more.

Whether they’re training opportunities or customized resources, these are all tools designed to help you compete better in your market place. The only thing we can’t do is force these people to show up for interviews or for work.

Moving on…

Tags:  Compensation Study  hiring  MRAA  training 

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CRM: A look in the mirror

Posted By Liz Walz, Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Whether you believe in coincidence or not, you’ve probably had an experience like this. A topic comes up. Maybe it’s in conversation, a video or a podcast. You might read it in a book or on a website. And then it comes up again and again and again in the following days and weeks.

In my case, that topic is CRM: Customer Relationship Management. Wikipedia defines it as: “An approach to managing a company's interaction with current and potential future customers that tries to analyze data about customers' history with a company and to improve business relationships with customers, specifically focusing on customer retention and ultimately driving sales growth.”

If you attended the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo in December, you may have heard Sam Dantzler talk about the relationship between CRM and Business Development Centers or BDCs. He believes that BDCs are unnecessary if your team is highly disciplined in its use of CRM technology. That means entering every person who walks in your door, calls your team or shoots you an email into the CRM – and then following up with them to gain the 20 touches it typically requires to convert a prospect to a customer. That kind of discipline is pretty rare, which is why he says most dealerships can benefit from a BDC.

Sam and his team at Garage Composites spoke about CRM in more depth during a powersports customer event in January. But they didn’t just emphasize putting 100% of prospects and customers into it – including the UPS delivery person. They also said failing to do so should be a serious violation of company policy, one with consequences.

CRM was a popular topic in MDCE’s Marketing Track as well. Today’s technology allows us to be highly targeted in our marketing, which tends to be more effective than messaging designed for the masses. Who doesn’t prefer to receive marketing messages that apply directly to our individual interests and preferences? But if you don’t have much prospect and customer data in your CRM, it’s nearly impossible to pull off targeted marketing campaigns.

CRM, CRM, CRM. I can’t escape. In my inbox, in my conversations with my team and with MDCE speakers. Everywhere. I started looking in the mirror. How disciplined have I been in using the MRAA CRM? The answer wasn’t pretty. So, I’m opening up a conversation with the rest of my team about how we all can improve our use of it. Here are the questions we’re asking ourselves – and you may want to ask yourselves too:

    • How does our CRM work? I thought I knew the answer, but it turns out there are several new features that make it much better than it used to be, which will help me use it more. If you haven’t checked in a while, make sure you do.
    • When should I use it? If you believe Sam, the answer is all the time. Not just the sales department, but the service department too. And the marina and boat rental, if you have it. Maybe instead the question should be: When shouldn’t I use it?
    • How do I get my team to use it consistently? If you believe it’s important – and I haven’t found a dealer or expert yet who doesn’t – you have to hold yourself and your employees accountable for using it. That means finding ways to incorporate it into your processes, tracking adherence to those processes, praising those who use it, and introducing coaching and eventually consequences for those who don’t.
    • What information do I include in the CRM? Many dealers focus their CRM notes on products the prospect is interested in or the boat they own right now. However, dealers have the opportunity to strengthen their relationship with the customer by including personal information. How many kids or pets do they have, and what are their names? What do they do for work? What are their hobbies and passions? Use this type of information to transform your follow-up calls in the best possible way.
    • How should I use data from my CRM? The short answer is sales, marketing and coaching. If you’re serious about improving and growing your people and your business, I can’t think of a more powerful tool.

Tags:  BDC  CRM  Dantzler  mdce  MRAA  training tuesday 

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The Dreaded Job Description

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, February 14, 2017

We rarely get pushback from dealers on the need for job descriptions. However, this one requirement often slows down a dealer’s completion of their Certification checklist. For some reason, creating and updating job descriptions ranks right up there with cleaning out the head — except when it comes to the person whose job description is in question.

You might be one of the many dealers who doesn’t have job descriptions already created, in which case you’re likely thinking to yourself: “Where do I start?” Simple. If you’re an MRAA member, you have free access to 50-plus job descriptions in the MRAA Rewards Career Center. These descriptions are available as Word files for easy editing. For instance, if you have a Parts & Service Manager, we have separate descriptions for a Parts Manager and a Service Manage that you can merge. Just copy and paste them into one document to build a unique job description. Once you have reviewed and edited the document, share it with the employee and have them help you finalize the details.

One of the dealer best practices we have identified is to get your employees involved in the creation of their own job description. How? Incorporate it into their performance review, which, of course, is an important part of employee development and retention.

Updating job descriptions during a performance review is a surprisingly effective way to get productive conversation moving between the employee and their supervisor. Simply share the employee’s current job description or one just conceived for them and ask them to review the duties. Have them let you know if they are responsible for tasks that aren’t accounted for in your description, or if they aren’t responsible for certain functions listed in the document. This should lead to useful conversation, and the job description can be updated on the spot. Bonus: It’s much more pleasant than cleaning out the head, and gets your employees more involved in the coaching process.

Don’t forget to co-sign the description with your employee, and date it so you don’t confuse it with older versions.

Lastly, if you haven’t bought in to the idea of job descriptions already, here are several additional areas where they can move the needle for your business:

·       Interviewing/hiring

·       Onboarding

·       Goal setting

·       Career path development

·       Employee training/development plans

·       Cross-training

·       Performance improvement

·       Employee satisfaction and retention


As always, if you still have questions, concerns or get stuck with anything boat dealer-related, contact us at the MRAA, and we’ll do our best to get you the help you need.

Tags:  job descriptions  jobs  MRAA  training tuesday  workforce 

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