* Dealers need to maintain their independence and retain their sovereignty. I don’t think there is a place for a franchise model in our industry. The specialized nature of what we do creates a lot of challenges to a one-size-fits-all model with rules to adhere to. For a boat dealership to be held to the same guidelines no matter what area of the country, it’s tough to do and maybe a little unfair.
* We want to do everything we can do to help our dealers put their best foot forward. But I just don’t think there is a place for manufacturers to get involved in how dealers [do business], especially when it comes to how they should design or locate their facilities. I do not feel as though it’s a very wise thing for any manufacturer to have a vested interest in other dealerships. Other dealers get nervous about that. It sounds like factory stores. I don’t think they have worked before, and I don’t think they’ll work today.
* Dealers and manufacturers need to not point fingers at each other as much as
they do. A lot of it is related to the cyclical nature of our business. Through the seasons, things slow down and that creates pressures on things, and when there is a softening, it gets even worse.
* The bottom line is there needs to be closer relationships between dealers and
manufacturers. Whether they’re legally binding or not, we need more long-term relationships. No dealer is going to be perfect. There’s a heavy human element in what we do, in both building boats and selling and servicing them. All of us go through periods of time that are uncomfortable, but we’re partners. To believe that we’re not acting in their best interests is a false belief. Too often, someone thinks I’ve got some motives that are going to undermine what their interests are.
* There needs to be some ability to communicate in a way that’s not heated and emotional, for the best interests of everyone. Whether people want to talk about it, there are a lot of jerks out there, people that want to take advantage of us, dealers and manufacturers alike. You have to work for what’s in the best interest of the brand, which dealers are representing. Dealers are as important to us as those who are working in our facilities. If they believe that, they can look past a customer that’s a jerk. We’re not fearful at all in having multi-year dealer contracts, but it has to go both ways. Represent the line. If we have a dealership in a specific area and we give him a long-term relationship and he takes on a competing line, then what have we really accomplished? We’re going to do whatever we can to make our dealers successful. They should do the same for us. I understand dealerships operate independently. If we do our job, then represent our product.
* I’ve learned something about [Steve Potts] I never would have learned otherwise: his passion. For example, he has allowed us to be a partner in this commercial development. He doesn’t need a partner. What he is looking out for from day one, he wants to sell more Scout boats. That is his bottom line.
* Three of our boat lines are in South Carolina. Scout falls into this category. They’re independent boat builders, which is important from my perspective. If we need to talk to the owner, we can do it. With them being local, if we have problems or issues, we can get parts and pieces as we need them or we can talk to people. We can deal with a problem a lot faster.
* Over the last couple of years, everybody has gotten into the big discounts and everybody is loading up on boats. If you look around right now, I think the boating industry has to be very careful. Nowadays, there is so much competition. Look at the auto industry. With their big volume buyouts, those guys aren’t making much money on the car itself. It’s more on the F&I side. Those boat builders that want to load you up in the fall aren’t letting the boat dealerships run at the pace they’re comfortable with. Guys, you know we sell X amount of boats, let us go at our pace. If the market doesn’t allow, I want to be able to lean out. We all have to be in a position where we can do that, otherwise if I have too much inventory, it’ll get old. We can’t let manufacturers dictate the number of boats we’re going to take, especially in times like right now. Everybody needs to get lean. I’ll order them again when they’re selling.
* That’s a relationship thing that needs to get better. Everybody needs to work together on that. If we have too many boats at dealerships, our margins are going to go down, our attitudes will go down. I just don’t want to see it get like the car business. We’re all not here for practice. We want to sell them and make a few dollars off them and keep everybody happy.