Every dealership faces unique challenges, in addition to the challenges prevalent throughout the marine industry as a whole. One challenge specific to family-owned dealerships is honoring tradition while simultaneously honoring one’s own vision for the company.
The owners of Pine Crest Marine, Inc., (ranked 97) had to settle such a dilemma when they acquired their family’s 57-year-old dealership, located in Cedar Lake, Ind. Robert and Michael Gross grew up watching their father and uncle run the then single-location business. When they officially took over the reins in 1998, they were immediately proactive with their vision of growth and recruited business partner Jim Reitsma to help make their dreams of additional locations become a reality. The men have since added two locations under the Pine Crest name, one in Syracuse, Ind., the other near Indianapolis.
“We have strived over the years to keep the standards that the original owners expected from themselves and their employees,” the dealership writes in its Top 100 application. “As the business has grown, Pine Crest has made it a point to ensure that our personnel and customers are treated like family.”
The teamwork, adaptability and balance manifested at Pine Crest Marine make it an exemplary marine dealership.
To get exceptional teamwork, a dealership has to build an exceptional team first. Pine Crest relies on word of mouth from its own team members to weed out those who wouldn’t be right for the job and to attract those who could fit into the Pine Crest culture.
“As our employees discuss their likes and dislikes about the job with their family and friends, people pick up on their opinions about the workplace and tell others what they know,” the dealership writes.
Once the team has been built, Pine Crest focuses on training for all team members, ensuring that customers receive the most well-rounded product knowledge available from their interaction with employees. The dealership wants its sales people and technicians to become experts on particular products, while still having the necessary working knowledge of all other aspects of the dealership.
This specialization, no doubt, aids technician efficiency and customer satisfaction scores. Technicians have boats assigned to them based on their area of expertise. The Footsteps online-impression tracker does the same for sales people, matching customers interested in a certain kind of boat with an appropriately trained representative from the dealership.
Sales personnel at Pine Crest will go a long way for their customers. They want to ensure customers, even prospects, are comfortable with their purchases, going so far as to allow lake tests of a boat prior to purchase to see if it fits the customer’s needs and expectations. Once purchased, boats can either be delivered to the lake closest to the dealership or to the body of water that the customer will frequent the most for boat orientation.
Although some industry insiders believe salespeople should remain on the salesfloor, Pine Crest’s sales force delivers the boats they sell to increase customer trust and allow customers to experience the entire boat buying process with just one person.
Pine Crest technicians also go the extra mile for their customers. Service personnel from the dealership will go to the lake or slip of a customer to pick the boat up for repairs. In some cases, technicians will even make repairs on site so the customer can be back on the water as soon as possible. The dealership will also try to bring in an available technician on the weekend to make a quick emergency repair.
In addition to meeting and anticipating its customers’ needs, Pine Crest also serves the environment. The dealership donates money and time to the Cedar Lake Enhancement Association, a non-profit organization that works toward improving the water quality, plant life and fisheries in the lake. Bob Gross serves as the association’s president and has been instrumental in obtaining funding from all levels of government to support the association’s work.
To further diversify the dealership, Pine Crest has some unique associations that not only grab the attention of current customers, but also draw in new customers to the dealership and, hopefully, some who are new to boating. Pine Crest has a partnership with two Indy Racing League drivers who attend open houses and demo days. The dealership also sponsors a few professional water skiers and wake boarders, who are the prime attractions for one of the dealership’s best, ongoing events. The athletes host clinics through the dealership and teach children and adults to wake board, ski and surf.
Blending the best of traditions with strategic future planning, Pine Crest has learned what works, but isn’t afraid to try something new.