2018 Best in Class: Best Training & Benefits

Parks Marina

Okoboji, Iowa

Each year, Parks Marina makes many small and large updates, changes and improvements, with the ultimate goal of enhancing the customer experience while increasing profitability. At the core of that effort is an ongoing dedication to employees. According to CFO Darren Anderson, the Parks Marina team realizes that the dealership is no longer simply in the boating business. 

“Today, we operate as leaders in the outdoor recreation, entertainment, tourism and hospitality businesses,” Anderson says. 

As result of a new internal IT staff investment, Parks invested in and increased bandwidth for higher Internet speeds at all locations, which is proving beneficial to employees and customers alike. 

Customers and boat-buying prospects can now directly text an inquiry regarding any new and pre-owned boat inventory featured on the Parks Marina website.

“Due to our business growth and expansion plans, we added 13 new full-time employees in 2017, resulting in a 20 percent increase in staffing across our four locations,” Anderson says. 

And prompted by continued market growth and product demand, Parks Marina hired two new sales professionals and the dealership’s first female sales associate. “We believe in the importance of strong internal communications and desire to continually improve in this area,” Anderson says. “To this end, we launched a new monthly employee newsletter in 2017 with the goal to enhance camaraderie and improve communication among all of our team members.” 

Parks managers believe that the newsletter is the perfect platform to continually reinforce its focus on customer service through inspiring content.

After several years of hiring successful interns for accounting and marketing, Parks Marina has expanded this initiative to include marketing, sales, IT, accounting, food and beverage, retail merchandising, hospitality, and events. 

“We believe this strategy provides an excellent path to recruiting and hiring promising young people,” Anderson says. “We also welcome fresh new ideas they bring to our business.” Ultimately, everything within the business drives the goal of securing a prosperous future for the Parks Marina ownership, management and all employees. “As we analyze our business against every new recommendation for enhancement and opportunities, this is the key benchmark we use to measure the validity of every potential new undertaking,” Anderson says. 

The Parks Marina sales staff brings 160 years of experience. The staff includes professionals from multiple industries, including three former teachers, a technician, a beautician, a landscaper and a farmer. 

While this may seem like an odd mix within a competitive retail marine environment, according to Anderson, this composition is ideally suited to sell to the dealership’s demographic. 

“First and foremost, [Owner] Butch Parks believes the future success of his business ties back to two critical leadership mandates,” Anderson says. “He constantly reminds our leadership team of these fundamental requirements for success; Hire and train the right people. Treat them fair.” 

Subsequently, management works very hard to create a happy and productive environment where employees like to work. “We work very hard to ensure low turnover,” Anderson adds. Average tenure numbers are somewhat skewed by Parks Marina’s continued expansion, but notwithstanding, the sales team’s average tenure with the company is 16-plus years and the service team is 15-plus years. 

The average tenure throughout the entire business, including all new business units, is 7.4 years. Those figures are impressive, considering the fact that Parks Marina has had an increase in full-time staff of over 50 percent in the past five years. 

Cross training of jobs occurs in all departments. Parks strategically moves staff to various positions during slower times, or when assistance is needed in specific areas, so that they can gain valuable experience in different departments.

The best part-time summer co-workers are given opportunities to learn different areas of the business, and if desired, are often offered a full-time position after finishing school. Many technicians have been hired full-time after working for Parks Marina as interns. 

“We have never laid off a full-time employee, even in the long winter off-season,” Anderson says. “As a result, we are able to maintain and retain employees who forge careers with our organization.”   


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