Top 100 Ideas: All Hands on Deck


Tom Kaiser
January 11, 2013
Filed under Features, Top Stories

This is one in a series of lessons from the 2012 Boating Industry Top 100. To apply for the 2013 list, visit

Where do you find new ideas for moving your dealership forward? In this age of best practices, 20 groups, networking, social media, customer satisfaction surveys and trade publications like Boating Industry, there are countless ways for dealerships to get their fingers on the pulse of emerging business trends and customer sentiment. However, there may be one knowledge base you’ve yet to tap: your employees.

Many corporations and dealerships have preserved a strong top-down mentality that may prevent fresh ideas from some of your non-managerial staff. As we heard from The Boat Shop, of Tafton, Penn., scheduling time to interview each and every staff member on a regular basis has led to ad budget changes, market-specific sales ideas and tangibly improved its customer service efforts.

As part of its Top 100 application where dealerships are also asked what business ideas were implemented in the last year, The Boat Shop said it had immediate success scheduling individual monthly interviews with every one of its 10 employees. The interviews and subsequent ideas have led to major improvements.

The Boat Shop’s first implemented change was to increase its advertising budget, and take a more market-specific approach with its marketing. One involved a small lake approximately 40 minutes away from the dealership that has a length restriction. As the new Cobalt 200 met the restriction, the dealer pushed hard to spread the word, which led to selling five boats through referrals and other outreach efforts.

Another area of focus that came to light through staff interviews was online customer response time. While customers have long been able to submit questions by email, the new initiative was able to lower response times to less than one hour — a major improvement.

A new pay scale for the service department was another initiative, designed to increase efficiency and productivity. After going through a trial basis, The Boat Shop realized a significant increase in billable hours.

While none of these are large-scale, revolutionary ideas, seeking out the opinions, ideas and feedback from your entire staff can in itself spark a revolution. Happier customers, increased sales, smartly targeted advertising are serious improvements. Coupling those incremental changes with a staff that feels valued and listened to may be the biggest change of all.


Feel free to leave a comment...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!