Short’s Marine

The moment you pick up the Short’s Marine 2008 Top 100 Dealer Application, you realize there’s one thing it won’t be short on: surprises.
It starts with the physical application. Its professional, magazine-style format is one you typically see from luxury yacht dealers whose customers require such high-end marketing materials, not from trailerable boat dealerships. But the Top 100 isn’t a beauty contest. The application’s appeal comes from its ability to bring this 59-year-old, family-run dealership in Millsboro, Del., to life by offering the appropriate information in a clear, concise and straight-forward manner.
In fact, it’s the dealership’s no-nonsense approach to doing business, combined with a passionate quest for improvement, that makes it so special. The seven year-over-year improvements it listed, for example, were concrete and specific. In response to boaters’ tightening budgets, Short’s Marine launched a free Do-It-Yourself Spring Start Seminar, a 2.5-hour off-site event that attracted a standing-room-only crowd and has led to more such seminars. Not only did the event benefit the local boating community, but it also drove $4,000 in new customer business for the service department.
Because of challenging economic conditions, Short’s Marine has seen an increase in boat owners looking to fix up their current boats. In anticipation of the service customer wait time this could create, Short’s set up a self-service terminal for those customers comfortable logging onto its Web site and ordering their own parts, which can be delivered to their house or picked up at the store.
Sales events are another area where Short’s Marine stands out. Its Labor Day Weekend Event and After Holiday End of Year Clearance together account for
19 percent of its annual revenue. To promote the 2007 holiday sale, it created a 24-page, four-color catalog, listing 249 new and used products.
The dealer’s three-day Labor Day sale set a new record in 2007. Thousands of people attended, perusing the more than 550 boats, PWC, trailers and motors on display and ultimately purchasing more than $1 million in boats and $135,000 in parts and accessories.
Short’s Marine also hired its first marketing director in 2007, who quickly instituted a program to track its advertising return on investment. Through it, Short’s identified $62,000 in ad spending that wasn’t producing the desired results. It was then able to boost up its ads through current media outlets and add new ones, negotiating contracts that gave the company more exposure through increased frequency and wider reach. The new director also created a public relations program through which it sends out one new press release per month, generating free publicity for Short’s Marine in local newspapers.
To increase internal communication and team-building, the dealership created a monthly employee newsletter, which has grown from two pages to between five and seven pages, and boosted the number of annual employee events. With 65 employees, four locations and six departments, this has helped the dealership function as “one team with one common goal: to provide the best sales and service experience to our customers.”
That’s a goal Short’s Marine is clearly serious about. Not only has the company used a third party to conduct its own CSI survey for the past 12 years, it also has two dedicated customer service reps on staff whose sole responsibility is to interact with customers and then pass the information they collect on to management. Finally, the company tracks its phone calls. If a customer calls, hangs up before the call is picked up and doesn’t leave a message, a report generated each hour lists their phone number so that the dealership can address the caller’s questions immediately.
That commitment to customer service also comes through in its schedule. Short’s is open 363 days a year, closing only on Christmas and Thanksgiving. This dedication from employees, who work all other holidays, is rewarded. Not only does the company make the standard dealer benefits like health and dental insurance available to its employees, it also offers an employer-matching 401K plan and a profit-sharing plan. “Short’s Marine believes that some of the best ideas come from the trenches, from the people doing the work” says Donald Short, president. And “building a powerful and positive team is a key factor in improving business.”
It makes sense then — and is perhaps the best surprise of all — that the dealership’s Top 100 application was designed and produced by a Top 100 Committee made up entirely of employees. In times like these, the ability of dealerships like Short’s Marine to offer customers a united and positive team to serve them at every turn is not only critical to its success, it’s also part of what makes us proud to list them among the Top 100 Dealers.

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