In 2012, Legendary Marine wowed the Boating Industry team with its rapid growth and dedication to quality.
What we didn’t expect was the wave of improvements Legendary made over the last year. Not content to rest on its laurels, the Destin, Fla.-based dealer implemented several new initiatives in 2012. It’s a record that made it nearly impossible for us not to recognize Legendary as Top 100 Dealer of the Year for the second year in a row.
Culture of improvement
Focusing on constant improvement is an important part of Legendary’s culture, said managing partner Fred Pace.
Every year, each division at Legendary is charged by the management team with reviewing every aspect of their operations and finding specific ways to improve. Each division manager must report to the entire group at the company’s annual retreat, sharing goals and tactics for the coming year. After the improvement plan is finalized, accountability measures are established – putting everyone on the same page with defined, measureable goals.
“We recognize that our business can change very quickly,” Pace said. “It is important that we work every day to keep our business strong and likewise, to earn the right to be the dealership of choice for our customers and prospects alike. That requires that we continue to seek ways to improve all aspects of our business.”
Legendary undertook many new programs in 2012, and improved others. Improvements ran the gamut from sales to service to marketing to customer relations.
One of the most notable is Legendary’s Five Star Military VIP Program, started in late 2011. With seven bases within driving distance of Legendary’s four dealerships, the military market is an obvious one for the company. The program offers special discounts and package offerings to active duty and retired military.
“With the advent of military base consolidation, we’ve seen 5,000 troops relocated to our area over the past year and a half alone,” Pace said. “Our region not only has a wealth of active duty from every branch of service, but is a hotbed for retirees who find the mild temperatures, cost of living and military community appealing.”
Legendary has formed partnerships with two charities – Fisher House and Bob Hope Enlisted Village – that benefit military families. For every boat sold to a member of the military, Legendary donates $100 to one of the charities, resulting in thousands of dollars donated to date. The company also hosts several events on bases, including demo rides during base family days, fishing seminars and tournaments, and mini boat shows.
Beyond the boats sold to individual members of the military, Legendary has also sold fleets to base marina operators and won a four-year service contract for military recreational boats at the Destin Army Recreational Facility.
Many of Legendary’s efforts have been focused on getting people on the water. To that end, Legendary launched the Legends Boating Club late in 2012.
While seen by some dealers as a potential competitor, Legendary saw the boat club as an opportunity to bring people into boating who would normally not participate in the sport.
“We have experienced some wonderful successes ... several people have joined who never would have entered boating through traditional channels; other former boaters who had left the lifestyle have returned due to the no-maintenance club format; and we’ve even had one new member convert to a new boat sale,” Pace said.
With local competitor boat clubs offering older, refurbished models, Legendary saw an opportunity in featuring new 2013 models from its Cobalt, Sea Hunt and Hurricane lines.
“We believe the boat club is a good mix for our business and also makes good financial sense due to its positive impact on other aspects of our business,” Pace said. “Our club owners buy fuel and other provisions. The club rents storage from the marina and compensates service for club boat maintenance. And our sales team has the opportunity to sell club boats at the end of the season as we invest in new 2014 models.”
One of the deciding factors in finally deciding to take the boat club plunge was the success seen by other members of Legendary’s Cobalt 20 group. It’s just one of the many times being part of a 20 group has paid dividends for the dealership.
“It’s one thing to casually know other successful dealers, but something altogether different when you can sit in a group of like-minded business owners where there are no sacred cows and everyone is there to help each other become better in their business,” Pace said. “To be in a group where you can give and receive constructive criticisms, with all the barriers down, is an amazing experience.”
Having the chance to learn from the other dealers in the group – many of whom are fixtures in the Top 100 – has played a significant role in the company’s success.
“Specifically, the exchange of financial information and key processes with 19 top performers created a solid benchmark that resulted in major improvements,” Pace said. “Legendary Marine has become far more profitable as a result of our participation in the Cobalt 20 Group.”
There were several other improvements in 2012 including a new website, a new reception center, an enhanced CSI program, increased sales training and service department renovations.
Even Legendary’s mistakes offer a learning opportunity. In 2011, Legendary had the opportunity to rent space in a Tampa marina in cooperation with an adjacent storage facility. While the facility was profitable, its location seven hours from the rest of Legendary’s northwest Florida operations made management and customer service a challenge. In 2012, the management team made the decision to close it.
“Quite honestly, we didn’t anticipate the impact the distance would have on our management team and manpower/resources,” Pace said. “The time investment alone in setting up sales and service staffing and operations took a lot more time than anticipated. In our current market, we can travel to any of our locations and be home in the evening. Tampa was a two-day travel requirement.”
As a major metro market, Tampa also made marketing and advertising more expensive than Legendary’s other Gulf Coast markets, leaving less opportunity for potential growth.
Still, Legendary would consider future expansion in the right situation, Pace said.
“However, it would need to be within the Northwest geographic Gulf Coast market area in which we operate, with opportunity to represent many of our primary brands, and in a market size and scope that provides cost efficient marketing opportunities,” he said.
With it’s second Dealer of the Year honor, Legendary will join our three Hall of Fame companies next year, but don’t expect the innovation to stop any time soon. Improvement is a part of the Legendary DNA.
“We are constantly seeking ways to better serve and engage our customers and prospects, while becoming more profitable throughout the different areas of our operation,” Pace said. “We have our eye on several new initiatives that we hope will improve our overall performance, while positively impacting the bottom line.”