Kelly’s Port

Randy Kelly, owner of Kelly’s Port in Osage Beach, Mo., once told me that he has never had an original thought in his life. Behind the humility, however, is one of the most forward-thinking minds in the marine industry, a man and a company that approach the marine business with a thought process and mission that caters to every potential customer.
Year in and year out, Kelly and his two-location company, which is nestled in one of North America’s most popular boating destinations, the Lake of the Ozarks, prove that its success is based on out-maneuvering the competition with original thinking. In 2007 alone, for example, Kelly’s Port instituted 37 specific improvements to take an already thriving company and greatly strengthen its position in its market.
Merely based on his surroundings, Kelly faces a daily challenge mightier than that of most boat dealers: satisfy the expectations of his boat buying and storage customers and simultaneously meet the needs of hoards of vacationing boaters with the occasional breakdown. It’s true that, unlike many boat dealers, Kelly’s Port will provide service to any and all customers who hobble, wobble or call into his service department.
In fact, bolstering an already strong process for prioritizing and servicing customers, Kelly’s Port made the determination over the off-season that in order to really stand behind its motto of providing great service, it would have to define great service. Rather than defining it by a level of satisfaction or profitability, the team at Kelly’s determined to define it on the customer’s terms: Great service means same-day service.
The company already has at least three service boats with technicians on the water every day, but it implemented a plan to guarantee same-day turnaround for boaters in need.
“You would be surprised by how quickly we are at someone’s boat,” Kelly says, noting that his customers are always surprised at the company’s response time. “The future of boating is dependent on our ability to keep boaters boating, and we work very hard to make sure that they are.”
Kelly recognized early on in this economic downturn that the focus on service would be particularly critical during times where new boat buying has slowed. But while Kelly’s strengthened its service department with a few key moves over the last year, the dealership has always used service as its foundation.
“We realized this year that folks may not be buying new boats but putting Band-Aids on them until things started to settle down,” he says. “We made the challenge to ourselves that we would be the ones to put the Band-Aids on. We emphasize at our weekly service meetings that times are tough and that the businesses that will come out on top of this economic downturn will be the ones that take care of the customers, get the job done right and get it done quickly.”
At a time when other dealerships have been laying off personnel, Kelly’s Port went out of its way to hire new people and make its service department more efficient. It challenged every single person to “help drum up more business.” The focus has worked, too, as the company increased its service volume by 60 percent in 2007 and had seen a steady increase over those numbers well into 2008.
The innovative thinking, while fueled by Randy Kelly, has filtered its way throughout the company. Service Manager Alex Chisholm, for example, played an integral role in developing a plan to increase the service department’s efficiency, a must in order to deliver on the same-day-service guarantee. And the company’s mobile techs are being celebrated for helping the company capture additional service business while completing standard service jobs.
It’s that type of companywide effort that has propelled Kelly’s Port to its position as a Top 100 Dealer. And there’s plenty more of it on the horizon, as Randy’s sons Kyle and Ryan become more integrated into the business.

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