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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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Give Yourself the Authority

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Friday, November 9, 2018

Empower. [em-pou-er] verb. to give (someone) the authority or power to do something.

make (someone) stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.

In our business world today, where leadership and management courses, consultancies, books and countless other resources constitute a multi-million-dollar business, we can easily be led to believe that empowerment is something that must be done to us. We must have a manager-type empower us to make decisions. We must have a leader to authorize us to do something or to accomplish something. Someone that is not us must grant us the authority to make things happen.

I don’t believe this thinking could be further from the truth, and I believe that its guidance misleads many would-be leaders into thinking they have to wait for the signal -- to wait for the message that someone believes in them enough to allow them to step up and create results.

At a time when we are striving to recognize young leaders in our industry and at a time when there’s a great deal of conversation about generational differences, I wonder if we’re doing a good enough job of encouraging and supporting our up-and-comers? I wonder if they feel empowered or if they’re waiting for us to fulfill the perception that someone must empower them?

At MRAA, we exist to support you, your business and your team with tools, resources and educational programs. We go so far as to say that our annual conference will engage, energize and empower you and your team to greater results.

But this “empower” is not about what MRAA can do for you or to you. It’s about making resources available so you can make the critical decisions. So, you can empower yourself and your team to be better today than you were yesterday.

I like to think of it as a challenge for myself, for my team, and for you and your team, as well: Give yourself the authority to do something incredible. Take control of your business, your career trajectory, your customers and the results that you desire to create.

Tags:  dealer development  ealer focused  mpower  rowth  uture 

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The Path to Today’s Bottom-line Results

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Thursday, November 1, 2018

Excel. [ik-sel] verb. to exceed all expectations and achieve a level higher in performance, quality, or degree.

It was a truly memorable moment of my career. The boss and I were out on the road sharing the concept for an all-new program, trying to create buy-in. The meeting had arrived at the moment of the close, and she leaned in, focused and sincere: “We’ve really built this program to ensure that we can over-promise and under-deliver.”

The faux pas wasn’t lost on the group. We got a good laugh out of it then, and I still get a chuckle out of it when I think about it more than a decade later.

As author and sales guru Grant Cardone suggests in his book, “10X. The Only Difference Between Success and Failure,” even the culturally acceptable idea of under-promising and over-delivering is a poor way to capture business. Think about it. Let’s under-promise and tell our customers that the boat will float most of the time, so they’re surprised and delighted when it never actually sinks. How many more boats do you think you would sell?

In our demanding society, and particularly in a want-based industry like boating, where expectations are continually on the rise, there is still an easy pathway we can take to excel – to exceed all expectations and achieve a level higher in performance and quality. That pathway is to create better experiences for our customers.

A friend, who is the CEO for a fast-growing tech company, calls it the Amazon effect, noting that price, availability and delivery are no longer points to compete on. “So what’s left?” he asks. Brand and reputation … which are shaped by the experience you provide.

Experiences are today’s currency. Experiences – again, particularly in a want-based industry like boating – are what make or break our businesses and indeed, the success of our entire industry. How are you doing with the experiences you and your business provide? How is your team doing? And how do you know?

Several brief mystery shopping exercises around the marine and RV industries suggest that somewhere between 35 and 40 percent of the leads sent to our dealers are going unanswered. But not at your dealership, right? What does this tell you about the experiences our industry is providing?

Similarly, a recent study by AVALA Marketing Group showed that more than 40 percent of consumers who made it through the initial contact hurdle and have actually bought a boat never hear from their dealer again. There was no “thank you.” No, “how did we do?” No assistance. Just, “here’s your boat. And good luck.” Are you sure that doesn’t happen at your business?

If you want to excel in today’s market place, you have to focus on the experience. You have to make a commitment to creating world-class experiences and to over-delivering on that promise every step of the way. You have to exceed expectations. It’s not just a feel-good manner of taking care of your customers; it’s clear that this approach will not only set you apart from the competition, but will also offer you a long-term strategy with real-world, bottom-line business results at stake.

Tags:  dealer development  dealer focused  excel  future  growth 

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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 

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How do you stay energized?

Posted By Matt Gruhn, Thursday, October 18, 2018
I’m having issues with batteries these days. In our mobile, always-on-the-go society, batteries are more and more frequently the power source of choice. And while, yes, they’re getting better all the time, they’re still largely unpredictable.

I watch my daughter struggle with battery management on her new cell phone. Is it normal for teenagers to always hover around two-percent battery life? A coworker’s dead car battery nearly stranded her at the office. I have two dead – and very heavy – batteries I carry around in my cordless drill case. And I can’t tell you how many times the rechargeable battery in my trimmer has left my facial hair half manicured and half gray and shaggy.

This issue I’m having serves as a constant reminder that staying energized is not about recharging batteries. Recharging suggests you let your battery die or dwindle in its power before you give it life again.

I like to think of “energize” as a constant state of power, not something we allow to dissipate before we refuel. It’s the fuel that we use to attain goals at work, to foster meaningful relationships, to engage in hobbies, and to be passionate about anything we do. As Webster says it, it means to inspire action with invigorating effort.

Inspiration comes in many forms. You can find it in meeting a goal, selling that boat, landing that client, creating a relationship, taking a vacation, reading a book, hearing a great message, running a marathon, learning a new hobby, or countless other options. When it comes to your own power source, your own method for being energized, that diversity in where you find it is important. It can’t all come from work. It can’t all come from play. The balance is critical to not letting your batteries die.

At MRAA, we want to be your professional power source. We want to offer you the means for finding inspiration in your everyday work life and help you achieve the goals you’ve set. And we’re willing to provide the invigorating effort to make that happen.

Whether you’re looking for business solutions through membership or our annual conference, we can connect you with the right partners. Whether you’re looking for educational opportunities online or in person, we’ve got a world class catalog to offer you. Whether you’re looking for simple inspiration in a specific area of need or a proven template for running your entire dealership, MRAA wants to be your power choice of source to energize your performance and your business to bigger and better things in the year ahead.

Our means of being energized comes from the passion of the team that surrounds us here at MRAA. The passion that each of us pour into delivering inspiring, invigorating opportunities for you. Look at today’s opportunity alone. Membership Development Manager Nikki Duffney is celebrating her own birthday by delivering a powerful, energizing educational opportunity: A live webinar on how to unify your sales and service departments for delivering optimal customer experiences. “Happy birthday to me. Here’s an incredible gift for all of you.” That kind of passion is what we mean by Energize and it’s why we’re confident in becoming your power source of choice.

(NOTE: If you missed the live version of this event, there will be a recording available soon.)

Tags:  dealer development  dealer focused  energize  future  growth  inspiration  refuel 

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The Top 4 Courses on and Why

Posted By Katie Eichelberger, Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Being a member of the MRAA offers a wide variety of educational opportunity. But with roughly 100 courses in the online learning system, where do you start? How about the top four most viewed courses on”
  1. Make Customer Service Your Competitive Advantage, with Theresa Syer
    If you think you’re getting by viewing customer interactions as another transactional part of your dealership, you won’t succeed. Theresa displays her passion for incorporating “The Human Factor” into every aspect of the customer experience and once you hear why, we think you’ll relate and feel inspired to do just that.

  2. A is for Attitude, with Sam Dantzler
    This course is not your typical “Ra ra go team” presentation. Sam takes a deep dive into the very science behind what happens around you when you simply come to work in a good mood. Our team took this one together for #TrainingDayWithMRAA, and our words were… “Mind, blown.”

  3. The Key to a Killer Sales Process, with Sam Dantzler
    How do you motivate your sales employees? This is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Sam walks us through why this piece is so important and gives advice on how to implement great sales processes into your dealership.

  4. The Rules of Engagement, with David Martin
    Harvard proves that a customer goes through a certain process before making a big purchase. We all know this. We also know that sales teams should also follow a process. David Martin proves that there are 8 steps to getting the write-up and in turn, making that sale.

Tags:  #trainingdaywithMRAA  David Martin  dealer development  online learning  Sam Dantzler  Theresa Syer  virtual training 

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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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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 

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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 

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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 

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