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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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Top tags: marine industry  dealer development  continuous improvement  MRAA member  member spotlight  business advice  growth  fun facts  dealer focused  customer experience  Annual conference  dealer to dealer  best practices  discussions  certification  mraa history  resources  Continuous Certification  experience  MICD  Education  relationships  training  Annual meetings  industry insight  MRAA  employee satisfaction  employees  Experiences  intent 

Customer Relationship Management

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Intent: We need to see that the dealer is promoting boating and the boating lifestyle in their market. In doing this, they should also be getting their name out in front of prospects.

It’s true … everyone loves a good party, especially when boats and water are involved. We are sure you had a great turnout for you latest event. Did you get contact information from those in attendance? And the most recent mail campaign, how was the response rate? Did people respond to your strong call-to-action and contact the dealership?

After the fun is had and the calls come in, how are you reporting, tracking and following up with these potential new boat buyers? Do you have a system that your entire staff has bought in to and utilizes consistently?

This is what the intent of the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Process of the Marine Industry Certified Dealership program. The program wants to make sure that not only are you spreading the word about boating, but actually following up with your leads in order to sell more boats and getting more people out on the water.

Tags:  best practices  continuous improvement  dealer development  intent  intentions  marine industry  Marine Industry Certified Dealership  MICD  resources 

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Education and Training Records

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Intent: Too many dealers are relying exclusively on OEM training. The more knowledge their team puts into place, the more the dealership will have opportunities to improve and grow.

What does training look like in your dealership?

From the conversations we have with dealers from all over the country, we know that many of you have great training and education programs that foster a culture of continuous improvement. But are you taking the time to record and track what team members are being trained and what they are being trained on?

Oftentimes, marine dealers, even the dealers who value education, become very one-sided in their training. Many fall into a routine of sending their sales team to OEM sales training at model year or enrolling technicians in manufacturer-based training to maintain their tech certifications. That is all great and valuable insight into the products you sell and service, but what about the rest of your team and the skills that they possess?

As part of the Marine Industry Certified Dealership program, you will be asked to record your staff’s training schedules (or provide training logs you already have!). From this exercise, you will be able to see gaps in your training programs and clear paths to ensure everyone is receiving the training they need to be successful in their job roles.

If you’re not currently tracking staff training, your Certification Consultant can provide you with a Training Matrix, which outlines the training topics and goals and results for each topic, so you can best assess which training is working and which training you should offer to more team members.

Tags:  best practices  Continuous Certification  continuous improvement  dealer development  intent  intentions  marine industry  MICD  resources 

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The Employee Process

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Intent: To assure that dealers are taking care of their staff. Employee satisfaction leads to customer satisfaction.

Certification Requirements:
  • An employee handbook... check!
  • Branded clothing and/or name tags... check!
  • Performance evaluations... check!
  • Quarterly Management Review process... check!
  • Process Improvement Reports... check!
As part of the Certification program, we want to make sure that your employees have the tools and resources necessary to be successful in their unique role at the dealership. The processes that you will work so hard to create and refine throughout the Certification process are only as good as the people who will execute on them daily. As most of you already know, happy and fulfilled employees tend to produce desired results and drive revenue within your business. So it is critical to take the time to check in with your employees.

So do your employees understand their job roles and responsibilities? Do they feel like their opinions and ideas are being heard? Do they have a cohesive look that makes them feel part of the team?

The intention of the Employee process ensures that your dealership is ready to take on the changes that the Certification process will bring.

Part of the Employee process is also the Employee Satisfaction Survey, but we will get into the intent of that in a later blog.

Tags:  best practices  Continuous Certification  continuous improvement  dealer development  intent  intentions  marine industry  MICD  resources 

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The Pre-Certification Assessment

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Intent: For the Dealer to understand where they need improvement and for the consultant to understand where and how they can help.

The Marine Industry Certified Dealership program’s Pre-Certification Assessment is the base from which the program begins.

We could argue that the Pre-Certification Assessment is one of the most important steps in the MICD program. It is the step that sets the context for the work that you will be doing (and achieving!!) throughout the Certification process. The Pre-Certification Assessment allows you to take a hard look at your business and analyze which areas you believe you’re already strong in and which you believe your consultant can help the most with.

So our challenge to you is to take time on your Pre-Certification Assessment. Really think about where your processes break down, or where you need more structure. Be thoughtful and honest in your completion of the assessment. Doing so will help you get the most out of the Certification program, allowing you to draw on the experience and knowledge of your consultant and the entire Certification team in helping your business improve.

Tags:  best practices  Continuous Certification  continuous improvement  dealer development  intent  intentions  marine industry  MICD  resources 

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There's Always A Reason For That

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, January 15, 2020
When I think of the word intent, my mind often takes a step further and thinks of the word intentions. With anything that you make a commitment to – relationships, your health, continuing your education – there are always intentions attached.

So much like everything the association does, there is intent behind each resource and program that is built. For example, the Marine Industry Certified Dealership program…

Since the initial program was built, the intention of the program has always been to provide a set of standards or benchmarks that marine dealerships can strive for. It is not the intention of the program for a third-party (MRAA) to come in and tell marine retailers (you) how to run a business. The most rewarding part of the process for the MRAA Certification team is to witness the unique ways dealers across North America run their operations. Now that they program is 15 years old, we can tell you with confidence that not one location is exactly the same as another.

This is why we have clear intentions for each step of the program. Over the course of the next few months, members of the MRAA Certification team will walk you through the intentions and thought process behind each section of the MICD program. Make sure to follow along!

Tags:  best practices  Continuous Certification  continuous improvement  dealer development  intent  intentions  marine industry  MICD  resources 

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Prepare for the Next Recession – Online and In-Person

Posted By Mike Davin, Tuesday, September 24, 2019
We’re often asked whether we have tools to help dealers survive the next recession. The answer is “yes.”

It's impossible to know when the next recession will arrive; however, as anyone who experienced the last downturn will attest, you'd be crazy not to be prepared when it does.

To help with that process, MRAA has a couple of tools available from Spader Business Management, one that is available online now, and one that will be hosted at Dealer Week in Tampa, Dec. 8-11.

The first is John Spader’s online course “Become Bulletproof for the Next Recession,” which is available via through February of 2020.

As John Spader notes in his description of the course, if your dealership survived the last recession, you may feel ready for the next one. But feeling ready isn’t the same thing as being ready. The course walks dealers through some tough questions like, “Have you and your business really gotten better since the last recession or have you just been riding the rising tide?”

The course explores what will be different about the next soft market compared to the last one, what will be the same, and walks dealers through assessments to determine the strength of their businesses. It also provides concrete benchmarks to measure your staying power and adaptability, whether you have the right people in the right seats, how well you’re steering the bus, and the speed with which you can change direction.

The course is available for purchase or for free with a Silver or Gold MRAA membership.

The second opportunity comes from David Spader, who will present “The Agile Dealership: Confidently Responding to Change & the Unknown” at MRAA’s Dealer Week.

The two-hour workshop is designed to help marine dealers identify, monitor, and respond to the key issues that their businesses are facing now and in the future. The workshop will walk through the characteristics of an agile leader, the six concerns employees have during change, key people indicators, key economic indicators, and share a dealership case study.

The course will cap off The Dealership Pathway at the Dealer Week. Early registration for Dealer Week runs through Sept. 30.

Tags:  Annual conference  best practices  continuous improvement  dealer development  future  industry insight  marine industry  MRAA member  resources 

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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

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 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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Resources for Disaster Preparedness and Recovery

Posted By Mickaela Hilleren, Wednesday, September 12, 2018

From natural occurrences (much like the Hurricanes headed towards shore) to the "freak" events that take you off guard, we never know when disaster is going to hit and put your business in danger. The MRAA team felt the time was right to offer a few resources that can help you prepare or recover after disaster strikes.

Seven Tips to Help Your Small Business Recover From Hurricane Damage

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Small Business Recovery Expanded Guide

Small Business Association: Prepare for Emergencies

Sea Grant Crisis Management Guide

Weathering the Storm: Hurricane Preparedness & Recovery Event

If you are looking for resources specific to your area, please email and we will do our best to point you in the right direction.

Tags:  crisis  disaster  guides  hurricanes  recovery  resources  tips  weather 

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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 

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A common misunderstanding

Posted By Bob McCann, Tuesday, March 28, 2017
In the year and half that has passed since taking on the roll as Lead Certification Consultant, I’ve witnessed a common misunderstanding among many dealers concerning the literal translation of the requirements for Certification.

It was bestowed upon me by the MRAA staff and the dealers who sit on our Board of Directors that each requirement has an intent. In order to fulfill the Certification requirement, a dealer must meet the intent of the requirement or standard, not the literal translation. As a consultant, I recommend dealers fulfill these requirements by the most simple and effective method allowed – ideally, using the tools a dealer already has in place, though I also make the dealer aware of cost effective solutions others are using.

That was my strategy when I sold cars. I hated filling out paperwork when I could be selling more cars!  I was amazed by the redundancy of filling out forms that asked for the same exact data, like the sales agreement, AVC form, credit app, odometer forms, temporary registration, and others the government kept adding to protect the customer from me!  

So, I wrote a basic program for my Commodore Vic-20 to print out these forms in minutes, which saved me all kinds of time and shortened the purchase experience for the customer. A side effect of this effort was floppy disks full of names and addresses that allowed me to print letters after I talked my dealer into buying tractor-feed letterhead for my dot matrix printer to stay in touch with my customers and prospects. A more timesaving way to fold, lick, and stamp envelopes is another story!

The point is: Dealers like you created the Certification requirements and agreed that they were the best practices to elevate the customer experience and make dealers more money. Now it’s the MRAA’s responsibility to make them easier to adhere to vs. unnecessarily adding work to your day.

As an example, Certification requires dealers to supply sales follow-up logs with customer name, sale date, call date, person calling and call results. To satisfy the requirement, you must show 100 percent follow-up by phone within seven days of delivery. If a dealer is currently using a CRM system that prompts the team to contact the customer at predetermined post sale intervals (7-day minimum) and generates a report that shows them complying 100 percent, that satisfies the requirement. In fact, it’s exactly what we’re looking for: a method that is integrated right into a dealer’s everyday tools that helps them sell and service more boats.

When we see a separate form filled out that shows post sale follow-up, we look to help the dealer find a way to make use of processes or tools already installed at the dealership to eliminate additional forms or paperwork used exclusively for becoming Certified. Each of the Certification requirements must be fulfilled naturally in your daily routine or they will become a burden rather than a means of enhancing the customer experience and dealer profits.

Your Certification consultants have spent their entire careers looking for the easiest and most effective ways to achieve success. We seek to help our Certified dealers do the same.

Tags:  certification  consultants  intent  requirements  resources  training 

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