When I drove onto Prince William Marina’s 18-acre property this spring, you might say I made a mistake.
Instead of pulling up to the showroom, I parked in front of the marina below and then walked in through the service department. But I soon realized I was exactly where I wanted to be: at the heart of the company. Thirty minutes later, Prince William held its weekly all-company meeting right there on the shop floor, the reason for which became more clear as the day wore on.
Before company co-owner Carlton Phillips purchased the land on which Prince William sits today, he ran his own auto body shop, fixing Corvettes and other sports cars and motorcycles four days a week and working in a local marina’s service shop the other three. When he bought into the marina, he was able to build upon an already established reputation for taking care of his customers.
To this day, service remains the basis for this Sea Ray Ambassador Dealer’s success. Three of its technicians were congratulated for achieving MerCruiser certification during the company meeting, for example. Now, all 11 of its techs are certified, as well as the two Master Techs. It’s no surprise that one of those Master Techs is Carlton’s son Doug, the service manager.
Perhaps it’s the technical nature of his background that gives Carlton his eye for detail. As we toured the property, it was easy to see that the facilities surrounding the 340-slip sea of Sea Ray that is the Prince William Marina are meticulously maintained. Later, in his office, Carlton showed off both the checklists the company uses to inspect each and every feature of the property, from the golf carts to the docks, in addition to his personal to-do list. It was several pages long and included, among other things, mundane tasks like changing light bulbs. It’s clear that he takes personal pride in the environment Prince William provides its customers, down to the smallest details.
That commitment translates into seven-day work weeks, made convenient by the location of his house – only a short walk from the grounds – and his policy of personally addressing customer complaints. Not only does he make himself available to customers by leaving his cell phone number on his voicemail, he often asks customers with complaints to meet with him for a face-to-face discussion.
Carlton still enjoys working in the company’s shop each week, mostly fabricating parts for customers’ boats, and he often comes to work in the same service uniform worn by his technicians. As the assistant service manager, Rusty Davis, explains, Carlton can fill in for any employee at the boat sales, service, dry-stack and marina operation — and often does. Recently, when the cleaning lady was out sick, Carlton and his wife cleaned the restrooms themselves. That’s how he earns employees’ respect.
“I don’t ask anyone to do anything I can’t or won’t do,” Phillips explains.
During the company meeting, both Doug and Carlton spoke about what they had learned during the
Performance Group meeting from which they had just returned. As part of those meetings, participants shared their financials, and while revenues at Prince William are down this year, the company is still profitable, and in fact, has the highest gross margins in the entire group.
“It all comes back to service,” Carlton said. “People buy boats because of service. A boat is supposed to take away their problems, not add to their problems.”
Later that morning, the service department gathered for an impromptu meeting. The dealership had recently received a few comebacks, the details of which Doug read to the entire group.
He then reminded the technicians that
they were the highest paid of any of their peers in the Performance Group – in some cases, making double or triple that of other dealerships’ techs.
Before leaving the meeting, Carlton issued a reminder to his employees — “Don’t forget: We have our jobs because of these customers.”