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MRAA Receives Top Honors From Midwest Society of Association Executives

Sunday, June 29, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lindsey Johnson
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The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas was honored at the Midwest Society of Association Executives 58th Annual Meeting on Tuesday, June 17 with the MSAE Award of Excellence for its "Shifting From What to Why” campaign.

Shortly after coming on board as MRAA president in 2011, Matt Gruhn embraced the mantra of Simon Sinek’s bestselling book "Start With Why.” Rather than simply focusing on what the association needs to do in order to function and be productive for its members, Gruhn instead directed his attention towards why the association exists. Since that time, MRAA has developed a "why statement” and uses it as the guiding light for all association business.

Through its "Shifting From What to Why” campaign, MRAA set out to increase association membership, gain recognition as a go-to marine industry resource, improve and enhance the value it offers members, and create lasting relationships among marine retailers and within the marine industry in general. Through its commitment to living the "why” versus "what” philosophy, MRAA experienced significant growth in its annual dealer educational event, the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo, increased membership by 203 percent over the past two years, and the MRAA staff ballooned from one to a total of nine as of June 2014.

"Other associations can learn from this shift,” commented one MSAE judge on MRAA’s award-winning entry in this year’s competition. "It shows great initiative and a very positive growth program.” The contest judges said MRAA’s award entry was "a great look at how leadership can impact an association. [It is a] positive way to make changes [and] it took one focus to drive it.”

The MSAE Awards of Excellence program started in 1995 and recognizes association activities and programs that make a difference within the associations themselves, the community at large or both. The accomplishments and activities of MSAE members are an example of how associations work to improve their communities, professions and industries.

"It is an honor and a privilege to receive the MSAE Award of Excellence, as well as a real testament to the fact that living for ‘why’ versus ‘what’ can absolutely transform an organization,” says Gruhn. "Simon Sinek’s proclamation of ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’ is a concept that MRAA has fully embraced as an organization. It’s become the backbone and guiding light for how we operate, and the difference it has made thus far in the impact we have on the industry and for our members cannot be overstated. It’s wonderful to be recognized for our efforts by MSAE, and we look forward to living up to this honor as we continue doing great work for our members and the industry at large.”

Present to accept the award on behalf of MRAA were Michele Rosacker, administrative assistant; Gruhn, president; Bart Zienda, business development manager; Sonja Moseley, director of certification and benefits; Mary Gillen, marketing coordinator; and Hannah Muerhoff, membership coordinator. Not present were Liz Walz, director of education, and Lindsey Johnson, content manager.

To learn more, visit the MSAE Awards of Excellence page.

About the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas
At the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas (MRAA), we believe that for the marine industry to thrive, the companies that interact with the boater in their community must thrive. Those businesses determine the boater’s experience and are the leading factor in the industry’s success. MRAA works to create a strong and healthy boating industry by uniting those businesses, providing them with opportunities for improvement and growth, and representing them with a powerful voice. For more information, visit

About the Midwest Society of Association Executives
Founded in 1956, MSAE represents and is devoted exclusively to the promotion, advancement and development of association professionals and the organizations they serve in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. MSAE is a professional association with more than 1,000 members, representing the interests of approximately 300 associations. For more information, visit


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