Unconventional Wisdom: Underway with Grow Boating

In the past, wherever two or more members of the marine trades are gathered, discussion soon turns to what’s wrong with our industry. Logically, these discussions will now turn more and more to the good things that are happening.

We have endured years of steadily diminishing unit sales. Selling more expensive products to make up the difference has a natural limit, which we have approached.
Never fear, Grow Boating is here, right now, waiting for each of us to take advantage of it.

I write this after returning from a double-barreled dose of boating growth in Chicago. We have all been trying to fire the first shot for years, and it finally went off with a bang. NMMA, MRAA and Five Star Solutions collaborated to introduce Marine Dealer Certification to a test pilot group of 25 dealers from all parts of the market — little guys, big guys, east coast, west coast, North and South. We even had a sailboat dealer.

Their unifying characteristic is a desire to improve their dealerships to and through the level necessary for certification. This happily coincides with increased profit.

This level requires the performance demanded not of a virtuoso but of the solid journeyman in the craft. As we listened, most of us realized that we already do a great part of what is needed.

It quickly became obvious that we would be better at what we do, have better satisfied customers, and be more profitable if we do all these things at once and keep on doing them. This is promoted with the included recertification process. No rocket science or heroic efforts will be needed, just good solid doing boat dealer business as it ought to be done.

Five Star Solutions became the glue that holds the disparate parts together. Their presentation skills, backed by many years experience doing the same for Chrysler dealers, made very obvious how good habits and facilities produce good businesses. They have listened carefully to the experience embodied in their audience and fine-tuned the program to meet our specific industry needs. They know dealers and obviously like working with them. Sign up as soon as you can. Participation is a no-brainer. Failure to participate could eventually be expensive.

A lot of folks deserve great credit for their efforts in bringing this and other Grow Boating programs to fruition, but three need recognition here:

1. Phil Keeter, long-time president of MRAA with 50 years in the industry, most of it striving to make it a better and more profitable place to do business. Phil has embraced the tenets of Grow Boating and Dealer Certification longer than most of us have wet a prop. There are few (probably no) servants of the marine industry so good and faithful. He now deserves a fervent, “well done”.

2. Thom Dammrich, the relatively recent and highly energetic President of NMMA. Thom will probably tell you that his short and busy time with us feels like forever. We have all gotten our money’s worth out of his non-stop efforts. He probably needs a rest, but he knows he can’t have it until the job is complete. He, too, deserves the industry’s “well done.”

3. The last entity is Fate, who put these two on the same plane as seatmates when Thom came to take over his responsibilities at NMMA. Both are gregarious, and they soon found that they shared destinies in the same arena. I’m sure that Phil presented the needs of dealers most thoroughly, but more important, the two formed a friendship that transcends the occasional disagreements necessary in their jobs.

We can’t forget Larry Russo and his Dealer Standards Task Force, even though their jobs were made easier by the climate of trust and cooperation fostered by Phil and Thom.

The second barrel to go off was a first gathering for Grow Boating’s Water Access Task Force, ably administrated by Jim Frye of NMMA and AMI. After “herding cats” for a while, the group centered discussions on several approaches to enhancing water access and marina viability. Look for coordinated efforts in the areas of innovative land use and permit facilitation. Further, it seeks an enhanced view of the public and private value attached to marinas versus other waterfront land uses.

A lot of the group’s work appears to be centering around regulatory agency and politician persuasion. You will see more in the press about its activities as its approach moves from shotgun to rifle. As I said in my last column, this well may be the choke point for our industry in the next few years without attention. Here comes attention. Hopefully, we will have a stirring saga of their adventures in a near future issue.

Grow Boating means business — for us!

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