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The 20 Group Advantage: An Interview with John Spader
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Following Spader Business Management's launch of a new type of 20 Group, MRAA's Liz Walz sat down with John Spader to discuss the impact of 20 Group participation on marine dealers, the thinking behind the new type of group being developed, and the new education and training discounts offered to MRAA Retail Members.

Liz Walz (LW): Spader Business Management has a long history as a 20 Group Provider to MRAA Members. For those who haven’t experienced a 20 Group, can you tell us about how they work and the benefits they offer to participating dealers? 

John Spader (JS): 20 Groups are groups of non-competing marine dealers who share financial info and successful practices with one another. Belonging to a 20 Group gives you the opportunity to get ideas and strategies from other marine dealers who may have similar goals and objectives as you. Your 20 group becomes, in a sense, your own personal “Board of Directors” that can help you identify ways to make your business more successful and fulfilling. 
LW: When we talk to members who have not experienced a 20 Group before, the three most common concerns we hear about joining are: the time away from the dealership, the sharing of sensitive financial information, and the investment required to participate. Can you speak to these three issues? How do you reassure dealers that it’s worth it to take this leap? 

JS: These are all very common concerns indeed and let's address those one by one.  

With respect to time away from the dealership, in our 40 years of operating 20 Groups, a common comment we hear is: “Before the meeting, I was trying to figure out how I could carve out the time for this meeting, but after participating in the meeting and gleaning so many new ideas and action items that will significantly help our business, I am so glad I came!” 

Sharing sensitive financial info is another hurdle to overcome, but that is the difference between a 20 Group and just a business meeting where people get together to talk about ideas without the actual results to see how good the ideas are working. The financial info only has value when it can be benchmarked against other data. The sharing of financial info amongst members is a cornerstone to the success of 20 Group members. 

The comment we have had from members in regards to the financial investment is that they save more by attending the first meeting and implementing the ideas learned than the first year of membership costs. And is it worth it? Well, let's just say our top performing Marine Industry 20 Group Members are earning 8% to 10% plus nets. Is that worth it?
LW: In our experience, dealers who participate in 20 Groups have a distinct advantage over those who don’t, as they not only are held accountable by their 20 Group peers and facilitators to show real improvement, but they also have a larger network to turn to for advice and best practices when they encounter challenges or opportunities. Do you have any data to back up the idea that 20 Group members are indeed outperforming the marine market or that 20 Group participation delivers a return on investment?  

JS: Whenever we have had the opportunity to compare the average nets of our 20 Group members to aggregate averages of manufacturers or industry lenders, we typically find the 20 Group members average 1.5 to 2.5 times greater net profits. Also, during the last downturn, there was no doubt that 20 Group members, on a whole, adjusted and fared better than the masses. This was confirmed to us by several manufacturers and lenders as well.
LW: Through MRAA’s Young Leaders Advisory Council and Young Professionals Community, we get the opportunity to talk to a lot of up and coming leaders in the dealership. As this new generation takes the helm, they often face the decision of whether to continue their dealership’s participation in a 20 Group or whether to join a 20 Group for the first time. Can you talk about the relationship between succession planning and 20 Group participation?   

JS: In the "Information Era," it's not uncommon for younger professionals to question the impact of 20 Groups since, on the surface, it appears to be all numbers. However, our members would likely tell you: "Yes, the numbers are the numbers, but the secret sauce is not only WHAT the numbers are telling you but more importantly HOW others, in the same industry, can and are producing some amazing results." Not only would I highly recommend 20 Group membership to an up and coming young leader, I would also recommend they get in touch with others who have made the transition and have been thankful to have been part of such a peer group.

After offering 20 Group services for 40 years we have had the opportunity to witness many successions from one generation to the next, and it's very gratifying to know we've played an integral part in many of those successful transitions. So much so that some of our members are 3rd and 4th generation dealerships and a few have recently celebrated 40 years with us. It's just amazing. Transitions, especially within families, have many emotions, issues and challenges that have already been experienced and overcome by other members in the 20 Group. We have seen firsthand the mentoring that takes place within a group as dealerships transition from one generation to the next. It truly is a great place to share with others, to learn and to be coached. 
LW: I understand that Spader Business Management is launching a new 20 Group for the marine industry that is a little bit different than those of the past. What can you tell us about it? 

JS: The objective of this new group is to be more of a developmental peer group for smaller volume dealers who need more hands on training and coaching incorporated into the meetings, seek more coaching and consulting in between meetings and who would benefit from less time away from the dealership. This group will have two face-to-face meetings per year and two coaching/consulting calls between meetings, yet still benefit from the typical benchmarking of data and transfer of successful business practices.  
LW: What types of dealerships would most benefit from this new type of 20 Group? 

JS: Smaller volume dealerships that are seeking the benefits of sharing with a peer group but would like to do it in a format that doesn’t require as much time away from the dealership and gives more one to one coaching and consulting both at and between the meetings.
LW: Why are you launching this new type of 20 Group now? Is there something happening in the industry or within Spader Business Management that is driving it? 

JS: We've identified a need to make the benefits of 20 Group membership available to a broader base of dealerships. 
LW: Of course, 20 Groups aren’t all that Spader Business Management offers. You also provide a host of dealer workshops on topics as diverse as leadership, management, hiring, sales and the service department, as well as one-on-one consulting and even virtual training. If a dealership professional is looking to improve their results, how would you recommend they get started working with Spader?  

JS: In our many years working with dealers, we have created dealer assessments that have proven to be very effective at identifying the best course of action for the greatest impact for a dealer. I would encourage these professionals to contact Spader and speak with someone about administering an assessment for their dealership and then use those results to determine the next steps. 
LW: The MRAA is proud to work alongside Spader Business Management to help our members improve and grow. Can you outline how MRAA members can benefit from our long-term partnership?

JS: Spader Business Management enjoys long-term relationships with MRAA members coast to coast in the United States and Canada. In nearly every situation presented to us, we know of another dealer with the same or similar challenges, how they addressed it and where they are today. A relationship with Spader and MRAA is a combination of not only excellent networking opportunities, but also decades of knowledge, best practices and trends that everyone can benefit from. Both organizations are truly interested in the improvement and profitability of those with which we interact. 

That’s one of the reasons Spader has offered special training discounts to MRAA members. For our 2016/17 program year, we are offering the following discounts:

Total Management 1                                        $100 off per participant
Total Management 2                                        $100 off per participant
Dealer Candidate                                             $200 off per participant
Leadership Development Program                  $300 off per participant
For complete details, visit or call 1-800-772-3377.

8401 73rd Avenue North, Suite 71, Minneapolis, MN 55428