Butch Parks has a saying he likes to remind you of. It goes something like this: “It seems that when the crowd or masses are moving in one direction, we tend to go against the grain and go the other direction. It’s always less crowded and the view is always clearer from the front — and extremely panoramic.”
This philosophy has become the lifeblood of Parks Marina, based in Okoboji, Iowa. After living and working through several cycles of industry ups and downs, Parks leads his team of employees to run when others are slowing down and to slow down when others are running.
“When our competitors get where we are,” he says, “we will already be somewhere else.”
Take, for instance, the year 2009. The industry’s decline was at its most fierce point, and Parks was ahead of the game, driving his inventory to its lowest level in more than 15 years. Then, months later, when other dealers were working hard to reduce inventory, Parks began purchasing large amounts of inventory, using volume and cash discounts to reduce the cost of each boat.
With strategic foresight, Parks ordered every one of those boats with a non-catalytic engine, which further reduced the cost. The impact of this move ranged anywhere from $2,500 to $6,000 in savings versus a boat ordered after year-end 2009, giving Parks a significant price advantage.
These steps set Parks up perfectly for 2010, and the company catapulted through the year with the highest total of boat sales and profitability in its 25-year history – all while other dealers were scrambling to gain access to more boats.
Parks has underscored that one move with success throughout his operation. Aside from a slight dip in 2009, Parks Marina has raised its revenue every year since 2006 and is on pace to outperform the record year of 2010 this year. And nothing, not even the downturn that ravaged the rest of the industry, could break its string of 25 consecutive years of profitability.
So what’s next for a guy that’s always staying in front? Well, Parks just closed on the purchase of a neighboring lot that has tripled the size of his property and added 345 feet of shoreline. The goal, he says, is “to make the most exciting marina in the world.”
In fact, he’s aiming not just for a marina, but a marina district with a resort and convention area, along with more bars and restaurants to complement the Florida Keys-like setting of the Barefoot Bar at his main location.
It’s all part of Parks’ plan to keep customers coming back and keep his company ahead of the competition.