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2016 Editor’s Choice: Futrell Marine

By Jonathan Sweet

Futrell Marine

Nashville, Ark.

One of the most important factors in the Top 100 is how dealers improve. No matter how good a company is, the best recognize that you can always get better.

It’s a trait apparent throughout the best dealers on the list, and one that Futrell exemplified in 2015.

Most notably, Futrell moved into the burgeoning wake sports market with the acquisition of Hydrolife Sports, Arkansas’s sole MasterCraft dealer, located about an hour away from Futrell’s existing Heber Springs store.

“The acquisition was initiated, in part, to become a major Arkansas player in the largest growth segment in boating, and in part to overcome minor erosion in profitability in Futrell’s [other brands],” says President Rick Kesterson.

After lengthy discussions with others in the industry and another tow boat dealer, Futrell focused acquisition efforts on Hydrolife Sports, “due to the strength of MasterCraft and the ability to integrate Hydrolife’s existing MasterCraft specific talent base within Futrell’s personnel.”

The deal closed on April 1 and the Hydrolife operations were moved to Heber Springs on Oct. 1, when the existing Hydrolife store was closed at the end of the season.

James Cicero, the previous owner of Hydrolife, assumed the role of manager of Futrell’s Hot Springs store, as well as serving as MasterCraft brand manager and service director at both the Hot Springs and Heber Springs locations. Other staff from Hydrolife moved over to the Heber Spring store.

“In addition, to James’s love for the brand and lifestyle, James brought a passion for service to Futrell, which was a strength of his prior dealership,” Kesterson says. “James quickly targeted deficits within Futrell’s existing service operations and implemented policies, procedures, along with the necessary workflow, to increase service efficiency and bottom-line departmental profitability.”

Futrell has focused on improving service operations as an important component of delivering what Cicero calls the “Full Lake Lifestyle” – providing customers a great boat, but also all the support, service, education and events they need to fully enjoy the boating lifestyle.

“While short-term profit centric dealers are solely focused on today’s sale, Futrell Marine views sales as the delivery of a dream and service as the tool in putting an occasional broken dream back together again,” Kesterson says.

Futrell made several improvements to its service operations in 2015.

The dealership rolled out a full implementation of flat rate jobs. Spader job codes provided a base line, which were then adjusted, based on Futrell specific time expectations and reasonability of customer acceptance in pricing. The implementation of flat rate jobs was a major driver in the $192,000 increase in customer pay revenue in 2015.

Futrell improved its scheduling methodology with a project management style emphasis.

“The target benefit of the program was an improved understanding of expected job completion,” Kesterson said. “Beginning in 2015 service coordinators were held responsible for providing management with completion times and availability. Jobs are charted in real time for management and service writer review, providing Futrell service the ability to deliver accurate estimates of completion and availability.”

Futrell also improved efficiency by enhancing tech accountability.

As part of the annual budgeting process, technicians provided personal budget efficiencies. Service managers met individually with technicians during the budget process, providing expectations and an enhanced incentive pay program based on efficiency. In 2015, upon starting a job, techs were provided with an expected completion time, along with a solid understanding of incentive bonus potential. In addition, a job description list was provided, making techs accountable for all items, complete with a sign-off line. If a task is overlooked or skipped and the repair comes back, the technician is unable to claim misunderstanding, the company says.

To further that goal, Futrell began displaying weekly reports detailing not only efficiency achieved, along with period and year-to-date bonus earned, but also providing techs with how much potential bonus was left on the table if they had achieved 100 percent efficiency.

“Peer performance is included for all to review,” Kesterson says. “Futrell believes this fully accountable, transparent approach is a major driver in the significant increase in year-over-year technician efficiency.”

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