Like so many kids, my eight-year-old son looks out the window and daydreams about being outside on the slopes, in the woods, at the beach, on the playground and in the water when he’s supposed to be doing his schoolwork.
He is in second grade, but when we talk about his future as a grown-up, you can already sense his yearning to finish school so he can “really live.”
I remember feeling that way too. School seemed disconnected from the real world, even in college. There was a lot of talk about the importance of “learning to learn” and other vague concepts that didn’t seem to have much to do with whether I would be able to venture out on my own, get a job, pay the bills and find happiness.
As I slowly followed my peers up on stage to receive my diploma, it was all I could do to keep myself from grabbing it and sprinting off to start a “real” life.
As an adult, however, I’m painfully aware of how much I have yet to learn. I’m hungry for each book, idea, class or piece of advice that might allow me to write a better newsletter, create a more effective marketing plan or grow our membership a little faster.
It’s not about a framed piece of paper anymore. It’s about growing an industry I love; building an association that makes a real difference for thousands of dealerships, employees and their families; and making a bigger contribution to my family so we can replace our aging roof, buy a new boat when our old one finally dies, send the kids to college and go on the adventures my husband and I dream about some day.
It’s also about how fast the world is changing. Just when you start to think you have a hold on the latest technology you need to do your job, there are two new technologies to replace it.
Writer and philosopher Eric Hoffer said: “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” I’m not sure there is anything but “times of change” anymore.
Of course, there are two things that keep even the hungriest among us from continuing our education the way we might like: There is never enough time or money.
That’s when we need to step back and remind ourselves of the consequences of NOT spending that time and money. If we don’t stay a step ahead of what’s happening in our industry and our market, it won’t be long before we have plenty of time and even less money.
Take the Marine Dealer Conference & Expo, for example. When you add up the costs to attend (registration, hotel, flight and food), you might be looking at $1,000 per person. That’s a lot of money for most of us.
But in the four days of education and networking, if you pick up one new idea, product or service that allows you to sell one additional boat, two service jobs or three slips, you just covered your costs. And with 22 sessions, three educational tracks and more than 100 exhibitors, most attendees pick up more than that.
Bring a few employees, and now you’ve infused your business with dozens of new ideas. Maybe even a new mindset for the year ahead.
MDCE is one example. There are tons of other ways to bring new ideas and inspiration into your dealership, from newsletters, magazines and books to webinars, videos, seminars and workshops.
Ask yourself what would help you meet and exceed your goals this year. Then ask your managers and employees. What training opportunities might whet their appetites and take their performance to the next level?
Use this information to create a priority list and a training budget. Then develop a training and education plan for the year (or the next few years) and a logbook to track the results.
Your staff will appreciate that you care enough about their interests and professional development to ask. And if you can use that information to help them create a career path at your dealership, your likelihood of retaining them over the long haul will get a big boost.
In the end, you may be surprised to find out how hungry your employees are and how far they can take your business when well fed.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.