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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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Dealer to Dealer: March 2020

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, March 11, 2020
If you were to start a brand new dealership today, what would be your first priority for establishing a foundation for success?

“The key to starting and maintaining any business begins with your people and their culture.  You can be the best at what you do but without a strong team behind you, the long term successes will be short lived.  A formal plan to educate and maintain your team allows them to grow within your business.  Your people are the face of your business and who form the relationships with your customers.  As a business owner you can only wear so many hats and be successful.  Hire and take care of your staff and they will look out for you.” - Jeff Siems, Blue Springs Marine

“Creating an internal company culture which promotes and fosters individual growth through collaborative, team centric and employee focused programs. Build the company around building up your team. That foundation is unshakeable. Businesses should promote human flourishing, both inside and outside of the company. But we have to start with allowing our people to flourish.” - David deAndrade, White Lake Marine

“To make sure the team is clear on the mission of the organization. This goes for President to the lot person. This needs to be put in a handbook. That is used and not stored away.” - Ken Toby, Marine Sales

“The first priority must be hiring the best people for where you want the company to go.  Sometimes that means paying up for a better person, but in the long run it's worth it.” - Jeremy Anderson, Big Thunder Marine

“Putting a good business plan together would be the first thing I would do. You need to know the area and the opportunities that exist. Establishing relationships with banks and vendors, what products you would like to sell and what lines are available for that area are key. Specialize in something! Have a product or service that no one else has or can provide. Although location is always important if you specialize in something I believe it is not as important as it used to be.” - Lou Cecchini,  Off Shore Marine, Inc.

“One of my first priorities would be to have a well laid out plan for departments which would include clearly documented processes along with properly educated employees with clear job descriptions and proper training.  This has been one of our biggest challenges to implement after being in business for 30 years and allowing the business to grow without these items in place.” - David Muirhead, Willey’s Marine

“Purchase a on-water location so storage and rental could be included as revenue contributors.” - Joe Lewis, Mount Dora Boating Center

“Products are an important piece that can attract a new customer. Many products are available online, but a store that carries quality merchandise can give consumers their first chance to experience a feel/smell/touch of something that makes them decide whether or not it is the right choice and why it is important to carry a wide variety of different items when trying to see what your new area is in need of.” - Dave Larrison, Waterfront Marine

“[When you first start a dealership], you have nothing… and nobody knows who you are. My first priority would be to create vision, mission and value statements. As you go out into the world to create your dream business, people need to know who you are and what you stand for. Having these statements will inform and impress prospective lenders, vendors, employees and customers that you have a direction, how you intend to get there, and that you are someone that can be trusted.” - Larry Russo, Sr., MarineMax Russo

“My first priority would be finding the right people to help me run it. I truly believe that The Sportsman is very successful because of our staff. You have to have the right people in the right places to do the right things!” - Christi Romero, The Sportsman

“It would be the location! We’ve all heard the saying “location, location, location”  Where are your competitors located? How close are you to water for demoing? How many people drive by your location each day? Freeway visibility is a huge way to get your name out in the local community.” - Bob Bense, Superior Boats

“With experienced personnel at a premium, finding the best Dealer Management System has become more important than ever. Picking the product that has a foundation of managing the day to day business and not just an accounting system with management tools added, is critical. The time spent learning the pros and cons of the many DMS that exist will pay dividends for years to come.  The DMS will be the very foundation that the business will be built upon and will play a pivotal role  in achieving success.” - Frank Sublette, Marine Sales


What would be your first priority? Tell us below in the comment section.

Tags:  best practices  business advice  continuous improvement  culture  customer experience  dealer  dealer development  dealer to dealer  discussions  employee satisfaction  growth  industry insight  marine industry  member spotlight  MRAA member  relationships 

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Dealer to Dealer: February 2020

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, February 12, 2020
How do you and your team inspire prospects and customers to trust you?

“Lasting trust is accomplished over time. If you view your walk ins and leads like “just a number” you are going in the wrong direction. Helping a client find what truly fits their needs and not trying to cram them into your oldest non-current is a good start. My take on trust comes down to this, ‘if you wouldn’t treat your mother that way, don’t treat your client that way.’” - Greg Harvey, Tobler Marina

“At the risk of using some overused expressions, we are basically honest to a fault. We believe in complete transparency and treat customers with the utmost integrity. We under-promise but over-deliver. Procedurally, our sales process is pain free - from sea trials to closing to service after the sale – our customer are made to feel at ease and treated like friends. We’re always accessible, we carry reliable products, and we maintain consistency throughout our six locations.” - Frank Ferraro, Nautical Ventures Group

“By assimilating my life and experiences to theirs. By demonstrating that I am a professional boat dealer and I give them answers that are correct and make sense to them. I ask questions and use their answers to "fit" the boat to their needs in a transparent and entertaining way.” - Jim Sabia, Top Notch Marine

“We have always taken the approach that we are to guide and educate them on the journey to boat ownership- not sell them.” - David deAndrade, White Lake Marina

“Tell the customer the truth […] and you will earn the respect and a good customer. I have been doing this for the past 57 years.” - Anthony Cavallo, Hi-Tide Boat Sales & Service

“Review reputation with Google and Facebook. Prior customers provides that first line advantage.” - David Nichols, Eric's Outboard Marine Sevice, Inc.

“Become an advocate / educator for your customers. Work hard to communicate with your customers on a regular basis. For example, email / post tips and articles for your customers and prospects to see. Offer to take existing customers on test runs of new models as they arrive at dealership. Both of you will experience a new model together with no expectation to purchase. You never know where the experience will lead to!  Hopefully an upgrade and trade of their existing boat or potentially a referral to a friend looking for a similar boat!” - Kim Sweers, FB Marine Group

"At the conference this year I heard the statement that sales sell the first boat at a dealership and service sells the rest. We fully believe in that statement. Many of our customers do business with us because of the service they received from us before the made any purchases from us. Those same customers are our best promoters. It always seems to come back to quality service in a timely manner. Customers for life or even customers for generations." - Jeff Sanborn, Handberg's Marine

“Integrity and  backing of the product you sell, strong follow through, open communication which includes “listening” to the customer.  What tops the list for me is reassurance of how we will take care of them “after” the sale.” - Shauna Reetz, Tracker Marine Boat Center - Sidney, Nebraska

“Attitude, kindness, and holding ourselves to a higher standard, use our mistakes as wisdom and correct our shortcomings and successes, and use examples to others in our communications to teach, inspire, and build truth into the relationship. Lead by example.” - Ed Brailsford, Charlotte Ski Boats

“We get told over and over again from prospective customers, recent new customers and ones who are on their 4th+ round with Rinker’s; why they not only chose us but keep coming back … and it’s not a surprise if sometimes they pop-in to say “Hi” and/or for a visit to catch-up. It’s simple … we are genuine in showing we really do care! Our always friendly atmosphere, personalized service and amazing, timely follow-ups makes all of our customers feel special and like they have become an extension of our family, not just a ’one-and-done’ experience/relationship just to get another boat out the door. At Rinker’s Boat World we strive to provide the most comprehensive and enjoyable experience overall for the customer as our major, #1 objective. We listen to what their needs are, develop great communication with them and show empathy. Empathy matters in sales, leading with empathy can mean the difference between a good salesperson and a great salesperson. When you're able to connect with a customer on a higher emotional level, the more likely they are to trust and believe in your ability to help. When salespeople understand and feel what the customer feels, they gain deeper insight into the emotional foundations of the customer's needs. This enables them in turn to define and articulate the best solution in terms that resonate with the customer.” - Carrie Ranney, Rinker’s Boat World


What do you and your team do to inspire trust? Tell us below in the comment section.

Tags:  authenticity  best practices  business advice  continuous improvement  culture  customer experience  dealer development  dealer focused  dealer to dealer  discussions  employee satisfaction  growth  industry insight  marine industry  member spotlight  MRAA member  relationships  workforce 

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Their Loss, Our Gain

Posted By Liz Walz, Wednesday, August 8, 2018
My 13-year-old son, Nathan, and I spent an hour yesterday in a car dealership, signing the papers on a new vehicle. Nathan is passionate (obsessed is probably a better word for it) about anything that has a steering wheel, from the boat and the lawn tractor to his go-cart and the family cars.

While my lease didn’t expire until October, Nathan began researching new vehicles last Christmas break, and he hasn’t let up. If we had it my way, we would have waited to turn in our lease until the day it was due – and probably would have saved a few thousand dollars. But that would have meant enduring another three months of debate with a 13-year-old over the benefits of this feature vs. feature and this model vs. that one.

So, Nathan accompanied me to the dealership, partly out of his passion to be in a business full of cars, and partly so I would choose a vehicle that met his standards. As I was signing the papers, I shared with the salesman that Nathan has considered a career in car sales. He has a natural way with people. He loves to be behind the wheel. And all his time researching cars online has made him an encyclopedia of specifications and options.

I’m thinking that this guy has the opportunity to give my son the encouragement to chase his dream, to get paid to pursue his passion. He has the power to not only influence him to follow in his footsteps, but also to change my kid’s life.

Or not. The salesman – a 60-something who has been selling cars since he was 19 – rolls his eyes and says: “Go to college, kid!”

Opportunity lost. Experience ruined.

 As dealers, it’s our job to focus on the customer experience. A big part of their experience is determined by whether they’re interacting with people who love what they do for a living. Your employees’ passion can not only attract people to want to buy from you and to engage at a higher level in boating (or driving), but it also can inspire people to want to work alongside you. Or not.

When it comes to careers, boating actually has a BIG advantage over other industries. Whether you’re selling or servicing boats, you get the chance to bring people together on the water with their friends, their family and the natural world to have fun and to escape from the stress of life on land.

If your dealership hires employees who believe in the incredible value of what you provide to your customers and train them to apply that enthusiasm to delivering a great customer experience, we can not only attract and retain more customers, but also spark more interest in working in our businesses and our industry. If other industries fail to do the same, their loss, our gain.

Tags:  customer experience  dealer development  dealer focused  employee satisfaction  experience  Experiences 

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Morale Matters More Now. Here's Why.

Posted By Nikki Duffney, Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Does it really matter if an employee is happy when they show up to work? They showed up on time, the work is being performed at a mostly satisfactory level, they are taking the scheduled breaks and leaving when the work is done or the shift is over. That’s enough, right?

Wrong. Employee morale impacts every aspect of your business. Distracted and unhappy employees are more likely to cut corners to perform the minimum to get the job done. Attitudes are contagious, whether the unhappiness or grumpy attitudes are being spread to other employees – or your customers – unhappy employees are a problem. So how can we make our companies a place that employees come in with joy to share with everyone they interact with? It’s simple, invest in your staff with compassion and open dialogue to reap rewards.

We don’t know what we don’t know and if you aren’t having open and honest dialogue with your employees about what makes them happy at work, chances are you are missing an opportunity to create engaged, happy employees. By engaging with your crew, you are bringing them into the conversation around what is important to them from a workplace. Sometimes small changes can have major outcomes that leadership can miss without that open conversation. By investing in your employees’ overall happiness, you will see returns through improved relationships and communications with your external customers and your internal customers (other departments and staff). Could something as simple and small as providing a coffee machine for your crew to stay amped up impact your overall employee happiness? If you don’t know, you can ask!

Compassion is underrated by many employers, and by society in general. Humans can’t just leave their emotions at home or the door when they walk into work, no matter how great they are at compartmentalization. When you are in pain (emotional or physical), you carry that with you. Emotions live in your hands as you write a work order or turn a wrench, the tension is there. Life’s struggles are in your face as you engage with a customer that is stressed about their boat not working or unsure about the part they need. Creating space in your dealership for people to experience their humanity and emotions can have minor disruptions to a short period of time, yet not addressing a pain point for one of your staff when it is happening can turn the current problem into an enduring problem.

“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.” says Sybil F. Stershic, author of Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care. By making your employees feel as important as the customers, you will see the customer service experience improve. When I enter the marketplace as a customer, I can usually tell which companies are invested in their employee through the way I am treated while at their business. If the service staff treats me like I am an old friend (even if it is my first time at the establishment), I walk away feeling that the leadership and owners care about their business and all their stakeholders equally. That is what drives my loyalty, spending my dollars at companies who care about their crew.

Why does this matter now, when the marine industry is in the busiest time of the year? This is when you have the most interaction with your customers and leaders need to find time and energy to ensure employees are happily engaged to “infect” your customers with happiness while at your dealership. The sales could happen due to the demand for summer fun on the water, however, will the customer be loyal and return to you for service and storage if their sales experience was lackluster and flat? Maybe. If the customer service experience exceeds their expectations because the employee was excited to serve the customer, that is where loyalty is created.

If you’re still reading, by now you may be wondering, “what can I do to foster employee happiness and engagement at my company?
” Great question and good news, MRAA and the MICD program have designed the template for engaging your staff to inform leadership on how to shape a meaningful workplace for your crew. Interested in learning more, contact Nikki at MRAA.

Tags:  attitude  certification  CSI  employee satisfaction  employees  MICD 

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The Rest of the Story

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A question from the MRAA Employee Satisfaction Survey that often receives low scores is: “I am compensated fairly for the work I perform.” You’re probably not surprised by this. But did you know that dealerships that hold regularly scheduled performance reviews tend to have higher scores on this question because they address this issue in their employee discussions?

Naturally, employees tend to focus on their gross or net pay and forget that the dealer is paying for their employment tax, federal unemployment insurance, and other valuable benefits. If the employee is not reminded about this additional compensation, we find that this question stays at the top of the dissatisfaction list. Even those dealerships that excel at delivering on-time performance reviews may be missing a huge intangible called: “Learning Income.” If you want to dig into the meaning of this term and consider how it can benefit your dealership, start with this blog written by 2016 Marine Dealer Conference & Expo keynote speaker Josh Linkner.

Performance reviews don’t need to be a hassle that managers and employee work to avoid. They are a great chance to review some of the more delicate areas that are required to keep employees engaged and loyal to your dealership. These meetings are also a terrific time to review and update job descriptions by “engaging” the employee in the conversation.


Don’t have a performance review process? MRAA Members, check out our 10 Tips for Marine Dealership Performance Reviews.

Tags:  conversation  employee satisfaction  employees  learning income  performance reviews 

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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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