Top 100 Profiles: MarineMax, No. 1

History has proven that size isn’t everything. In fact, it can work against you.
But MarineMax’s strategy is to be both bigger and better – and never one at the cost of the other. Earlier this year, the boat retail giant spent more than $50 million to acquire Surfside 3 Marina (No. 3 on last year’s list of Top 100 Dealers) and Port Arrowhead Marina. Now at 85 locations, 2,218 employees and a new boat sales volume of well more than 6,000 units, MarineMax has stretched its lead as the biggest boat dealer in the United States.
But even more impressive is the company’s list of improvements, of which Lean Six Sigma is one example. This fall, MarineMax began training its employees in the discipline. And while it isn’t alone in its recognition of the benefits Lean Six Sigma offers, its commitment to the concept is unrivaled in the boating retail community. Eventually, the company plans to have at least 5 full-time black belts on staff devoted to implementing Lean Six Sigma and 6 green belts devoted to the program part-time. The program will define, measure, analyze, improve and control the range of processes used to conduct business across its stores with two main aims: to improve customer satisfaction and to achieve financial savings. It expects to spend $500,000 on this.
MarineMax is also improving the processes by which its managers’ success is measured and rewarded. Its adoption of Management By Objectives has involved the identification of critical success factors, out of which measurable goals are assigned to each position by quarter and by year. They can range from financial targets and store appearance goals to CSI scores and number of Getaway trips taken. This new program is already delivering measurable results.
Yet another recent milestone has been the launch of the Laguna line, the concept for which came from MarineMax. The premium-priced Boston Whaler line was not available to all of the retail chain’s stores. MarineMax suggested to Brunswick that it was interested in a mid-range priced fishing boat, and the two companies partnered to create Laguna. While this line is currently available to MarineMax alone, it eventually will be extended to other Brunswick dealers.
The results of these and other changes speak for themselves. MarineMax saw double-digit increases in revenue, same-store sales growth and net income in 2005, and followed that with a 37.6-percent jump in revenue, a 26.7-percent jump in net income and a 1.2-percent jump in same store sales during the most recent quarter – one in which the boating market as a whole has been down.
This, in fact, is where MarineMax has demonstrated yet another of its strengths. The company created two marketing programs this year that successfully helped it counteract the market slowdown – a boat giveaway in the spring and an off-site boat sale in the summer – both of which piggybacked on Sea Ray national promotions. This wasn’t a departure from the MarineMax model. In fact, the company says it’s this model that made the promotions so successful.
“You’re going to get a great deal, but no short cuts,” says Glenn Sandridge, VP, marketing. “That’s the heart and soul of why MarineMax is so successful. We’re not selling boats. We’re selling boating.”
Despite its size, MarineMax works to ensure its employees – and salespeople in particular – have and maintain a passion for boating. Not only do you have to be a boater to join the MarineMax team, the company has created events like Passion Days to remind employees of the joy of the boating experience they sell. The idea actually came from MarineMax President Bill McGill, who insisted when the retailer took on the Ferretti line that his salespeople sleep on and use the boats as part of their training. The best way to learn about a boat is to go boating, he said, a philosophy that has been incorporated into sales training on all of the retailer’s boat lines.
Igniting and feeding its customers’ passion for boating is, of course, another goal it continues to expand. It recently began opening its boating classes to the public, for example, something that has caught the local media’s attention and resulted in as much as triple the number of attendees, expanding MarineMax’s reach.
“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it,” wrote American author Henry David Thoreau. It’s clear MarineMax has been busy. Though the retail chain demonstrated its industry leadership last year, its thirst for further growth and improvement since has only served to underscore its No. 1 status.
That’s right, bigger CAN be better.

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