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Transform training into results

By Liz Walz

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You return from a conference or training opportunity with lots of new ideas you want to put in place, maybe scribbled down in a notebook or on your tablet.

Today, you have to catch up on all that stuff that piled up while you were gone. But tomorrow or at least by the end of the week, you’ll go back to those notes and start putting the ideas to work. “This time, I really will,” you tell yourself.

One or two ideas will stick in your head and find their way into a meeting or onto a “To Do” list in the weeks or months after the event. But chances are, the rest will fall to the wayside, victim of your busy life.

This has happened to me. Many times. And I know most of you are at least as busy as I am.

Well, shame on us. We know better. When we make the commitment to pursue education, we should also commit to maximizing the value we take away from it. But to do that, we must have a system in place. And, really, who has the time to create that system?

A system that works

Lucky for us, there are dealers out there who have made the time. After last year’s Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, it came to the attention of Jerry Brouwer of Action Water Sports, Hudsonville, Mich., that the staff members who had come onboard since the recession hadn’t absorbed the company’s culture the way he had hoped.

“Things I would expect them to know and understand, they didn’t,” he said. “I realized that it was my fault they didn’t understand. How can I expect them to get those things if I haven’t explained them?”

While the dealership had continued to send people to MDCE and manufacturer training during the recession, Jerry had gotten out of the habit of dedicating time for internal training, which meant that many of the valuable lessons learned during these educational sessions weren’t being passed along to his entire team.

Out of those realizations was born a new tradition, one Jerry plans to perpetuate moving forward. During the January to March time frame, Action Water Sports decided to close the dealership on Mondays, but require the entire staff to report to work. Out of those 12 weeks, seven Mondays were set aside specifically for company-wide training.

“We’ve tried to conduct training when the dealership is open, but it doesn’t work,” he explained. “The phone is ringing. Customers are walking in. You have to do it when the store is closed.”

An agenda that delivers

During some of that time, employees split into groups to work on updating the company’s mission, vision and core values, ultimately voting on the version they liked best.

To help the marketing team create a new brochure for Action Water Sports, the team brainstormed about attributes of their business that customers appreciate.

They also remapped some processes to break-up logjams that were taking place in the dealership’s three driveways. And Jerry led his team through the Power of the Dollar exercise he experienced at a Spader Business Management course.

Another area of focus consisted of highlights from MDCE. For example, the dealership purchased a video from keynote speaker Robert Stevenson, which was shown to the group and discussed.

The results

Ultimately, that training time turned out to be invaluable. Not only did it help new staff members better understand the company culture and contribute to it, but it also gave the entire team a new appreciation for educational opportunities like MDCE.

“It worked better than I could have imagined,” Jerry said. “It brought our team together around a common cause. It helped people understand each other’s departments. And it allowed them to see that the outside training we participate in is worthwhile.”

Already, Jerry has begun planning for next year’s Monday training series. At the very least, he expects it to give his team the jump on the upcoming season that this year’s version provided.

Liz Walz is director of membership & marketing for the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. To learn more, visit www.mraa.com or email her at liz@mraa.com.


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