Top 100 Profile: Hall Marine Group, No. 4

When it comes to the business world, talk is cheap.
That’s why, at Hall Marine Group, for almost every employee action, there is a document detailing the process through which it should be performed, from boat repair and customer follow-up to answering the phone. With more than 100 employees, that’s a lot of documentation.
“Staff always answers the phone per documented script with a smile,” states the dealership’s “Rules of Engagement.” “Customers can hear a smile over the phone.”
While some of the process details, like this example, are commonplace, some of these documents are ground-breaking, such as a trade-in sales process in which the salesmen and customer evaluate the pre-owned boat together. There’s also a CSI process in which the dealership manager reviews results and maps a new CSI action plan each quarter, and a boat show strategy that involves creating a list of reasons the consumer should buy at each show.
The future of the Sea Ray and Boston Whaler dealer, which boasts six dealership locations and two marinas, is equally well-planned-out, including detailed steps for overcoming obstacles to the achievement of improvement and growth that are updated each month.
This paper trail sounds like a lot of hard work. And for a secret to success, it seems … kind of boring. However, the results are anything but.
The Lake Wylie, S.C.-based dealership reported double-digit revenue growth in 2005. It owned six of the 16 Sea Ray Ambassador dealerships worldwide at the time it submitted its Top 100 Dealer application, making it a major participant in one of the most highly regarded manufacturer-run dealer programs in the industry. In addition, two of its locations have recently captured the No. 1 SSI ranking amongst Sea Ray dealers nationwide – one for sales, one for service. It’s also a Boston Whaler Master Dealer at the four locations that meet the program’s volume requirements and has been named a Mercruiser Platinum Service Dealer and a member of Mercury’s President’s Club for the past 10 years.
Rod Hall, who founded the company in 1976, was the first person to receive the Sea Ray CN Ray Life Time Achievement Award in 2004. And when he retired in September 2005, the 10 prior years he spent creating a comprehensive succession plan with the help of consultants, attorneys and advisors not only paved the way for the sale of the dealership to Rick and Jeff Hall, it created the foundation upon which the business now rests. That family legacy remains at the core of the business, despite the size to which it has grown. In fact, the company’s mission statement was developed from the founder’s philosophy to “do right by every customer, every time.”
In an imperfect world, Hall Marine Group knows doing the right thing means creating a culture of continuing improvement. Over the past few years, Hall has sent all of its sales managers through the Joe Verde training program; established an incentive-based pay program that rewards managers for meeting budget goals; and overhauled the way it tracks and rewards technicians for service department efficiency, resulting in an 80-percent increase in the amount billed and a 10-percent increase in technician’s pay. The service department is actually a major focus for the dealership, with the hiring of a corporate service coordinator an added improvement for the year.
Hall’s marketing strategy is another of its strengths. The dealership hired a marketing agent four years ago, who has helped it better track the effectiveness of its advertising and events, making the company much more efficient. The result hasn’t been a short list of events – much the opposite. Hall participates in an average of two events per month, including many in-house boat shows and local tent and parking lot sales, in addition to the usual spate of rendezvous, boat parades and big shows. The recent launch of a new Web site and the addition of Channel Blade Technologies’ Footsteps Web-based lead management program complement these efforts.
But despite all of these strengths, the company documents almost double the number of “challenges” it faces. It’s this never-ending desire for excellence, talent for identifying weaknesses and willingness to map out a plan for overcoming them that makes this dealership shine amongst its peers.
“What is written is done 90 percent of the time more than what is just thought or talked about,” said Jeff Hall in the company application.
And as another example of the way this dealer overdelivers, it didn’t just “make” the Top 100 like its planning document stated — it jumped all the way to No. 4.

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