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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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Marine Retailing in a Learning Economy

Posted By Liz Walz, Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Updated: Monday, January 7, 2019

Educate. [ej-oo-keyt] verb. to provide with information in order to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction for a particular calling or practice in a particular area for a particular purpose.


When we were kids, we thought we had it figured out. First, you go to school to get educated. Then, you graduate and put what you learned to work in the real world – in our case, the boat dealership.

But we were wrong. The first thing you learn when you start a new job is how much you DON’T know. Yeah, with experience, you learn how to be more successful at your job. But just when you start getting good, you either get promoted into a new job where it all starts over again or you begin to realize that what it means to be good at most of the jobs we do is changing.

That’s why, as leaders in the boat business, education for ourselves and our team needs to be top of mind. Education doesn’t mean the same thing to us now as it did in school. It’s not about learning for the sake of learning. It’s quite simply our path to sustaining, improving and growing our dealerships. And if anything, it has become MORE important since our school days, not less.

The idea that what we think we know about our work is constantly changing is the focus of a book that just came out, called “Never Stop Learning.” In it, author Brad Staats makes the argument that we no longer live in a “knowledge economy” – where growth is dependent on the quantity, quality, and accessibility of the information available.

We actually live in a “learning economy,” where what drives success in our businesses is constantly changing. Knowledge and information are not fixed anymore. What you learned a year ago or even a month ago may not apply today. Education is no longer an event – it’s a continuous process.

Think about your dealership, for example. There is new information being generated every day – about your prospects, your customers, your employees, your revenue, your profitability, your assets, your efficiency, your marketing and sales. What in the dealership DOESN’T generate data these days? Your growth is dependent on your ability to always be learning about what the latest information – from inside and outside your dealership – means for your success. And adapting to what’s changing.


To help you create the culture of continuous improvement that a learning economy requires, the Marine Retailers Association prepared a Guide to Dealership Improvement, available to members in the Resource Center at MRAA.com.

In addition, we’re constantly producing new educational courses, videos, digital publications, blogs, research reports and tools to support you and your team. Want to learn more? Check out our website at MRAA.com or give our team a call at 763-315-8043.

Tags:  boat dealership  continuous improvement  continuous process  culture  dealer development  develop  educate  Guide to Dealership Improvement  resources 

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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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The Tale of Two Milkshakes

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Hi, I’m Bob and I’m a chocolate milkshake-aholic!

Because of this addiction, I frequent places that serve such divine pleasure. One place that got my attention this week promotes a Happier Hour and offers milkshakes at half price. They are hand-dipped, old-fashioned shakes topped with whipped cream and a cherry, all for $1.61 including tax! What’s not to like? I’ll tell ya: The aggravation of getting one!

The only thing consistent at this shake establishment is a poor customer experience that starts with, “Is anyone helping you?” This after a several-minute wait with no other customers in the place, delivered by a checked-out employee. Yes, I do go into the restaurant with décor that gets me in the mood for this classic, smooth beverage. The reason I go into the restaurant is to confirm that they are open and there are people working. You can’t tell from the silence coming through the speaker in the drive-thru! Every time I manage to achieve one of these shakes, I’m thinking it will be my last because a place like this isn’t going to stay open long.

Serving vs. selling
Compare this experience with a place down the street that doesn’t have Shake in their name, a chicken sandwich place. How can a place that sells chicken compare with a place that serves Steak and Shakes?  The difference is that the chicken place SERVES their customers and the steak place SELLS their customers. Truth is, the shakes at Chick-fil-A are machine made and the flavor is spun in, but they don’t forget the whipped cream and cherry! It’s the pleasure of being served by such enthused employees that makes the shake taste better.

I’ve been a raving fan of Chick-fil-A for years, and they find ways to further delight me on every visit. I have always parked my car and gone into the restaurant because the line that wraps around the building for the drive-thru deters me. I went out today to do some errands and brought along our new puppy, Lilly. I had the urge to fulfill my addiction and pulled into Chick-fil-A knowing I couldn’t walk in for my shake because I couldn’t bring Lilly inside. Leaving a dog in a car in the Florida heat is not an option. There it was, the line wrapped around the building, and I had to wait for vehicles to leave the window so I could get in line!

As I was thinking, “Is this worth it?” a young lady walked up to my window and asked my name. “Do you know what you would like?” I gave her my order, and she asked if I was paying cash or card. Meanwhile, the line ahead of me is already rounding the first corner of the building, so she asked me to move forward and walked along with me. She told me that she could take my card, swiped it across her belt, and returned my card. Again, the traffic ahead had already turned the next corner, and I followed, encountering another young lady who was holding my receipt and said, “Here you go, Bob!”

I still hadn’t come to a full stop, and I saw a young man directing the car ahead of me forward to clear the window for me with their bag of food in hand. I finally could make a full stop and put my credit card away while another lady at the window asked, “How’s it going today, Bob?” as she bagged my sandwich and handed me my chocolate fix!

Wow! It took less time to get served from a line that wrapped around a building than it took for the other restaurant to say, “Is anyone helping you?” I don’t think I need to see the books for each of these businesses to determine which is more profitable or review employee satisfaction surveys to know which has happier, more engaged employees.

How they do what they do
How does Chick-fil-A do it? I’m certain it didn’t happen overnight. I’ve eaten Chick-fil-A sandwiches for too long, well before they started serving my version of crack. They were never this good. They went from good to great! They haven’t shared their secrets with me, and I’m not sure they will. But I’m certain it starts with a proper culture and training. Then lots of observing and talking with customers to find the less-than-desirable parts of the experience and make them a pleasure.

Can we do the same in the service department at a boat dealership? I think we can by creating a great place to work, always looking for ways to exceed the customer’s expectation that will naturally drive profits, thus having a viable company that will keep customers for life. Adopting the processes required to become a Marine Industry Certified Dealership is a good start to creating the right culture and making sure your dealership’s operations are in line with customer expectations. However, the process to stay Certified is the special sauce that keeps you looking for ways to further delight your customers on every visit.

I hope you enjoy your food and milkshake on your next visit to Chick-fil-A, and more importantly, enjoy how they serve their customers!

Tags:  certification  culture  customer experience  employee satisfaction  engaged  milkshakes  profitable 

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