Print Page | Contact Us | Sign In | Join
MRAA Blogs
Blog Home All Blogs
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.


Search all posts for:   


Top tags: dealer development  dealer focused  continuous improvement  Annual conference  certification  mraa history  customer experience  growth  experience  Annual meetings  dealer to dealer  MRAA  discussions  employees  Experiences  training  Continuous Certification  MDCE  customer service  education  employee satisfaction  future  marine industry  relationships  resources  throwbackthursday  workforce  communication  history  industry insight 

Tell Your Boss MDCE Is Right for You

Posted By Liz Keener, Tuesday, October 30, 2018

You’ve looked at the MDCE lineup and schedule and have determined the 2018 conference and expo is the right place for you to grow your dealership and advance your career. Now how do you convince your supervisor that this is the right training for you? The MRAA has developed a letter for you to deliver to your boss, helping you explain all the reasons you should attend, including which sessions would bring the most ROI to your dealership and what other events and activities can aid in your learning and networking. The template is laid out in a simple form – just add your personalization, turn it in and be prepared to discuss why MDCE 2018 will help you and your dealership flourish.

To choose your best lineup, read through all the material on the MDCE website. If you need further guidance, reach out to education specialist Liz Keener.

Dear Supervisor’s Name Here,

I’ve been researching the upcoming 2018 Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, which will be held December 9-12 in Orlando, Florida. I would like to attend the conference and represent our dealership at the event this year.

In particular, I believe the following sessions would allow me to learn more about my position within the dealership, how I can better serve the dealership and some best practices that I can share with the team when I return.

Those sessions include:

Session Name:
Session Description:
How I believe this could help our dealership:

Session Name:
Session Description:
How I believe this could help our dealership:

Session Name:
Session Description:
How I believe this could help our dealership:

Session Name:
Session Description:
How I believe this could help our dealership:

Of course, there are others I will attend as well, including the opening keynote, “Build Trust or Die in the New Economy” and the closing keynote, “Future-Proofing Your Business.”

In addition to gaining knowledge in the educational sessions, I plan to participate in the Dealer Roundtables, which will allow me to bounce ideas off fellow boat dealer peers and learn from their failures and successes. I also intend to attend all of the networking events with the hopes of meeting fellow dealers, speakers, industry advocates, manufacturers and suppliers in order to glean insight from them.

The cost to attend the conference will be the registration fee, travel expenses, additional meals not included in registration, the hotel and transportation within Orlando.

  • Registration: $449 for MRAA members, or $529 for non-members

  • Pre-conference workshop: $185

  • Flight: Varies

  • Additional Meals (lunch and breakfast are included Tuesday and Wednesday): $150

  • Hotel (needed for Sunday through Tuesday nights): $189.75 per night for a total of $569.25

  • Transportation to and from the airport: About $50

  • Total expense: Varies
Although this is a sizable expense, I know from looking at the session Walk Away Withs and from the variety of testimonials shared about the show that I will bring back ideas worth more than the dealership’s investment. The MDCE is designed specifically for boat dealers and their employees, which will make its sessions, networking events and expo hall especially pertinent to what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Thank you for your consideration. I hope we can discuss this more this week!

Your Name

Tags:  Annual conference  continuous improvement  dealer development  mdce 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Dealer to Dealer: September

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What do you do to foster teamwork between dealership departments?

"We provide lunch for our entire crew, every day, 12 months a year. When we are extremely busy, the crew will eat on the run and not leave the dealership. When things are little slower we gather around while eating and have a daily meeting from all departments in order to address problems and listen to suggestions. We work with a local restaurant to provide lunch daily for $60.00. Granted it’s close to $20k a year, but all it takes is a couple missed boat sales or infuriated customers because of the lack of staff over the lunch hour to cost us even more!" - Dennis Robbins, Robbins Marine



Each month, MRAA connects with dealership management on a timely and relevant topic and publishing their insights at Tell us what you have to say about this month’s question by commenting below and participating in the conversation. Also, watch for next month’s question.

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  growth 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Communication Is Key, Right?

Posted By Allison Gruhn, Monday, September 24, 2018

How many times have we heard the cliché that “communication is key”? Or, that it’s better to over-communicate to avoid misunderstandings?

In customer relationships, it is not enough to merely communicate.  Here’s a recent experience of mine that I believe proves that how often you are communicating with your customers and what you are actually saying, is even more important. Is your message sincere? Or is it just lip service?   

Last summer, a storm rolled through Minneapolis and caused damage to our siding and roof. After many “storm chasers” knocked on our door to offer services, my husband and I decided to go with a contractor who was recommended from a friend, and who lived in our area. We had an initial meeting to discuss the work that was needed, and decided to add-on some additional home improvement items. Our contract was signed and we were excited to have the work begin.

And then we waited. And waited. And waited.

Just waiting for the work to begin was agonizing. We signed our contract in August, with the promise that the work would be completed in time for Thanksgiving. But we waited. Waited for materials to be delivered, for a dumpster to be delivered, for any communication of a timeline. Anything.

We finally reached out to our contractor, who instead of taking a proactive approach and communicating with us a plan about the work schedule, left us hanging with multiple excuses of “I haven’t heard from the siders yet” or “I’m waiting for the shingles to be delivered” or “the materials were delayed from the factory” or “I ordered the wrong garage door,” or … or … or. At one point, we actually received a message that said: “We haven’t forgotten about you. Sorry about my crummy communication skills. I’ll let you know as soon as I know a better timeline.”

After every excuse, we waited days to weeks with no communication or updates, which caused us to become upset and frustrated. It seemed as if we were always the ones to be reaching out to him, instead of him contacting us first. But more importantly, when he did finally respond to us, he’d make promises he wouldn’t deliver on. So we lost faith in his words.

So the question here is, how do you stay in touch with your customers? When their boat is in for service, do you wait hours, days, a week or even a month before providing an update? When that part finally shows up, do you let the customer know, or do you just let the technician know? When your customer’s new boat is on order, are you diligent about communicating updates from the factory with them?

It is not enough to just communicate. That is the basic expectation. What you say and how you say it is just the first step. If you wait until the customer asks, you’re not meeting expectations. You need to be proactive with your communication. Think through what it’s like to be the customer and how you can exceed expectations and deliver an incredible buying and ownership experience. And never forget that your follow-through -- what you do after you make the promises – is what truly defines the quality of the customer experience.

Tags:  communication  continuous improvement  customer experience  expectations  experience  Experiences  misunderstandings  relationships 

Share |
PermalinkComments (1)

To attend or not attend MDCE

Posted By Katie Eichelberger, Friday, September 21, 2018
According to science making a decision is a 7-Step process. Let’s say that’s true for deciding whether to attend MDCE or not. But really, it shouldn’t be that hard. The answer is yes. To humor you and ourselves, we’ll empower you with the information to make this decision, step…by…step…

Step 1: Identify the Decision
  • Not attend MDCE (Not probable)
  • Attend MDCE (Probable)
  • Attend and bring teammates along (strongest probability)
Step 2: Gather relevant information
  • Like world-class education? > 
  • Like in-depth workshops? >
  • Like Dealer-to-Dealer Roundtable discussions for moving the industry forward by working through obstacles and opportunities with other dealers? >
  • Like the current MDCE schedule, event list, educational line-up, and a grand list of testimonials both written and spoken?
Step 3: Identify the alternatives
  • None?
  • Name something bigger, more dynamic and beneficial than MDCE
Step 4: Weigh the evidence
  • We went out and hired super-secret personal detectives to investigate the MDCE, this is what they said... just kidding, we didn’t hire fake detectives, these are REAL people, REAL attendees and these are their stories.
Step 5: Choose among alternatives
  • The alternative: sit at home in your dealership while your competitors better themselves for 3 days straight
  • The alternative: sit at home in your dealership and listen to customers complain that you don’t have the ZL-4 in electric blue.
  • PS: we have the tools to manage situations like this like the customer-centric dealership that you are and should be.
  • PPS: ZL-4 is not a real boat model, we googled it and Jay-Z came up.
These may be great, but how cool would it be to step away, engage with world-class education, connect with over 1,000 attendees looking to make the industry the best it can be and discover your dealership’s true potential?

Step 6: Take action
  • Or keep reading and then register
Step 7: Review your decision and its consequences
  • You go, meet new people, gain new insights and learn a ton to help your dealership be successful in 2019.
  • You don’t go and you risk asking yourself what you could have been if you had attended.

After all this reading, was it worth it? Or was your decision made before you even read the list? We think you probably knew you were meant to attend and the answer is yes. Yes, to engaging with the opportunities offered at the MDCE to challenge and drive you and your dealership to improvement. Yes, to connecting with dealers and partners that will change the way you view your dealership. Yes, to discovering what you and your dealership can do in 2019 and beyond.

See you there.

Tags:  Annual conference  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer focused  dealer to dealer  marine industry  mdce 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Dealer to Dealer: August

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Thursday, August 16, 2018

What is the most impactful lesson you learned about consumers during this selling season?

"That everything I thought before about consumers is still true…when people feel like they have money and economy is good, whether they really can afford it or cannot, they wish to spend money and spend it less frugally." - Ray Fernandez, Bridge Marina

"Today's customers sure know where to find us when it comes to - close to - DEMANDING immediate gratification when it comes to service but, when asked about their recent parts/accessory purchases, have all kinds of reasons/excuses why we seem to have been forgotten. We do our best to compete with the Amazons of the world but today's mobile purchase habits are getting stronger by the minute." - Ken Grabowski, Custom Marine, Inc.

"We have learned the following about consumers during this selling season:
  • Many don’t want to own they want to rent boats
  • People do have money to spend
  • Many consumers we are finding are looking for more family time
  • We are finding our old customers are getting old, retiring and getting out of boating
  • Finding a lot of consumers are very rate/payment conscious
  • Consumers are not buying at the shows, they are very educated on the product before they even get to the showroom" - Carlton Philips, Prince William Marine Sales

Each month, MRAA connects with dealership management on a timely and relevant topic and publishing their insights at Tell us what you have to say about this month’s question by commenting below and participating in the conversation. Also, watch for next month’s question.

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  growth 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Track customer experiences at your dealership

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Wednesday, July 25, 2018

It’s been 19 years since Joseph Pine and James Gilmore authored their groundbreaking book, “The Experience Economy,” which boldly predicted that “future economic growth lies in the value of experiences and transformations — goods and services are no longer enough.”

Whether Pine and Gilmore were premature in their prediction or it’s simply that their insight has multiplied over the last two decades, it’s become extraordinarily clear that their speculation has never been more accurate than it is today.

Experiences matter more now than ever before, and everywhere we turn, experts and businesses alike are preaching on the power of experiences. And please note: Customer experience-focused approaches for businesses are far different than the rather bland thinking that surrounds customer service and customer satisfaction.

As author, consultant and speaker Theresa Syer noted in her Dealership Certification Course, “Improve Loyalty With A Customer Experience Mindset,” customer service is defined as the most basic of interactions between a customer and a company. Its core focus is a single transaction that takes place at a specific time. “The customer asks for something. The employee provides it. Transaction complete,” Syer notes.

The customer experience, on the other hand, is the sum total of every interaction a customer has with your business. It includes the customer’s overall perception after every moment of contact throughout their relationship with your business. It’s the net result of your website, your phone greeting, your in-person meet and greet, your sales process, all the way through to interactions with the delivery person, service team and the yard staff. Customer service is a part of the experience, but it doesn’t define it, Syer explains.

In this scenario, you might provide outstanding customer service, but one other touchpoint — as small as it may be — could destroy the customer experience. Do you know for sure, how well your employees are focused on providing an outstanding customer experience?

Here’s a tool for you, courtesy of the Continuous Certification Course Theresa created for MRAA and its Certified Dealers. It’s just an introductory experience log that introduces participants to this course, which is rich with many other tools and resources to help you provide your customers with a much more rewarding experience. Print this form and use it to log the experiences you’re having every day when interacting with other businesses. And then use again to think through how your customers are interacting with your business. I recommend you have some of your customers log their experience with you so you can learn from it.

As Pine and Gilmore predicted back in the late 90s, customer experiences are the currency we deal with today. They matter more than we ever could have expected. Over the next few weeks, you’ll hear stories in this blog about some incredible experiences our staff members have had, and you’ll hear stories about some horrible experiences we have had.

Let’s start working today to ensure your customers are having only incredible experiences.

Tags:  Continuous Certification  continuous improvement  customer experience  customer service  Experiences  relationships  resources  Theresa Syer  tools 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Dealer to Dealer: July

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, July 25, 2018

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge leaders are facing today?

There are "co-biggest” problems. 1) PreK-12 education - current model is not developing an employable product. There is excessive remedial work required whether by the post-secondary degree programs or employers. 2) Workers Comp /Health insurance - the cost continues to rise at an unsustainable rate. The delivery models do not seem to be user friendly or efficient. - Jim Dragseth, Whiticar Boat Works

Finding qualified mechanics. - Dennis Benish, Winona Marina

Finding and keeping good service personal. - Robert Paton, Patona Bay Boat Service

The biggest challenge we have in this industry in my opinion is attracting motivated staff members. I don't want to get all political or anything although I think we need to put more effort into vetting people migrating to this country who want to work. As much as I hate to admit it I believe our growth in numbers are going to come from people who are more motivated then the average young American citizen. We need to focus on investing in people who look at being a mechanic or tradesman as an opportunity and not an entry level or stepping stone job. - Rob Brown, Clark Marine

Buyouts and staffing of employees are some of the biggest challenges for leaders today. - Ken Sorley. Marineland Boating Center

Each month, MRAA connects with dealership management on a timely and relevant topic and publishing their insights at Tell us what you have to say about this month’s question by commenting below and participating in the conversation. Also, watch for next month’s question.

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  growth 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Make Meaningful Connections, Always

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, June 27, 2018

You never know when you are going to meet someone that will change your life. The woman you had a conversation with while waiting for take-out might turn into the future you’s best customer, or your mailman who you see every morning may become your best source for referrals. How are your current, everyday connections shaping your future success?

Tricky question, right? Some of you are natural sales people who do not struggle with asking the “right” questions or directing conversation in order to learn more about others. Unfortunately for the rest of us, connections and the act of networking, does not come as easy.

The MRAA team recently attended a conference that held an entire session on networking. The speaker introduced the idea of ROR, return on relationships. His idea was that when you turn the conversation away from making a sale you could find yourself building a lasting relationship that will continue to drive ROI well into the future. Any interaction in any place could lead to a relationship that leads itself to a sale.

This idea isn’t exactly profound. We have all heard that relationships = ROI, but are we truly taking full advantage of this idea? Just think about this and don’t forget to say hello to your mailman in the morning!

Tags:  connections  continuous improvement  Education  networking  ROI 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Dealer to Dealer: June

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What do you do in order to keep your team motivated through your busy season?

"Remind them everyday how much they are appreciated. Always make a point to recognize good work, even just the smallest thing. We do a free staff lunch every Thursday. Share positive feedback from customers (social media, emails or verbal comments, etc). Treat employees like they are the most important person in the dealership because THEY ARE!" - Mark Payne, Payne Marine

"At South Florida Marine, we motivate our staff by having bi-weekly staff meetings. We meet on Tuesday mornings and review any issues or accomplishments that has happened in the previous weeks. We give a Employee of the month certificate and 50.00 gift card to one person each month. This employee of the month is voted on by the staff with a sealed ballot. The owners also give a free lunch to anyone who is mentioned or has helped us receive an online review. These accomplishments are awarded at the meetings and help keep our staff in service and sales motivated. We also discuss any problems and try to work through them as a team, instead of only one department trying to resolve the issue alone." - Jana Wood, South Florida Marine  

"Get out and work with them. When ever the work load gets a little overwhelming having the boss recognize the problem, willing to get in the trenches and work through it is a big morale boost." - Joe Lewis, Mount Dora Boating Center

"During the early season, motivation is not too difficult. Once the season starts to drag on, that is when folks get tired. We monitor the energy and tolerance level of our employees and delegate additional paid time off accordingly. Balance is important." - Rob Brown, Clark Marine

"Having a motivated team is not just what happens at the office but also after hours. We noticed 6 years ago that almost all of our employees loved hockey so we started our own summer hockey league once a week. Every Tuesday night 90% of the staff gets together on the ice to play a weekly game of hockey. This is not only a great motivator but also a great team building opportunity. We have also used our summer hockey league as a way to attract future employees and it as become a part of our recruiting tools. We found out that motivating your employees is not always done with money, you need to listen and find out what works in your environment." - Marc Savage, Orleans Boat World


Each month, MRAA connects with dealership management on a timely and relevant topic and publishing their insights at Tell us what you have to say about this month’s question by commenting below and participating in the conversation. Also, watch for next month’s question.

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  growth 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)

Dealer to Dealer: May

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Monday, May 7, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Core Values" - Kristina Litjens, Boulder Boats

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


Each month, MRAA connects with dealership management on a timely and relevant topic and publishing their insights at Tell us what you have to say about this month’s question by commenting below and participating in the conversation. Also, watch for next month’s question coming soon

Tags:  continuous improvement  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  growth 

Share |
PermalinkComments (0)
Page 1 of 2
1  |  2
8401 73rd Avenue North, Suite 71, Minneapolis, MN 55428