2013 Editors’ Choice: The Boat Shop

Editors’ Choice

The Boat Shop
Tafton, PA

The Boat Shop may not be the biggest dealership in the country — it’s not in the highest revenue bracket; it has fewer than 15 employees, and it only has one location — but what the dealership lacks in size, it makes up for in heart and hard work.

“We are never ‘the best,’ and can always do a little better,” vice president Roy Finney Jr. said. “We are proud of our accomplishments and where we have been, but also know that where we have been is merely the foundation for where we want to go.”

The business is based on the foundation of a family tradition of boating so engrained in the Finneys that Roy Jr. reports boating has become a part of them, not just a hobby. Roy Sr. grew up on the lake and is still found out on the water, often with his extended family. His son, Roy Jr., is continuing that tradition, racking up the hours on his boat annually.

But the 55-year-old dealership isn’t run simply on passion; it’s also run on business acumen, as the company rejects the tendency to do things because they’ve always been done a certain way and instead focuses on moving forward and improving.

That refusal to live with status quo showed in 2012 when The Boat Shop hosted employee and consumer focus groups and mailed customer surveys, aimed at learning how the business could improve.

As a result of that polling, the dealership added tags to each boat in the service department, explaining who worked on it and when, and focused its advertising on customer needs. The Boat Shop also cleared up miscommunication about which detail package customers were purchasing, leading to better customer satisfaction.

A referral rewards program was also launched, giving customers who referred new prospects store credit. The program resulted in the sales of multiple boats to new leads, and, as an added bonus, the customers who received rewards often bought other products from The Boat Shop during the same trip.

Because of those and other successful sales strategies, The Boat Shop saw sizeable revenue and sales increases across the board in boat sizes in 2012.

The Boat Shop also found success in the pre-owned market, as it worked to increase profit and diversify its selection. Trade-in criteria were expanded, and consignment policies reworked. In improving its pre-owned inventory, The Boat Shop introduced itself to a more budget-conscious buyer who wouldn’t have normally been exposed to the dealership, and slip rental and storage revenue increased. Margins have also been impressive, and some used boat buyers have already returned to upgrade to more expensive models.

Another boost to used unit sales was the purchase of storm-damaged boats from insurance companies. Serving as filler jobs for techs, the boats were repaired and sold to customers at high margins.

But The Boat Shop didn’t focus solely on unit sales in 2012. The dealership’s pro shop was expanded, adding product including Connelly Stand Up Paddle Boards and increasing sales significantly.

The service department pay structure was also overhauled. After experimenting with different pay plans in 2010 and 2011, The Boat Shop finally landed on one that worked for the dealership and its technicians, paying them hourly, with monthly efficiency and bi-yearly profitability bonuses of extra pay and vacation days.

Though not new for 2012, The Boat Shop’s dedication to customer service and welcoming its buyers into its family make the dealership stick out as something special. Among its list of customer services is emergency repair service, a rental program, wakeboard and waterski lessons, and, for service customers, free loaner boats, pick and up and delivery and cleaning and bottom wash. Those services have continued through the years and show The Boat Shop’s commitment to loyalty.

“No, we are not the biggest dealership out there, or the flashiest, but we show our individuality in every facet, and on a local, or even national scale, our individuality will stand out. We are family, we are boaters, and in the end we are The Boat Shop,” Finney Jr. said.


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