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2018 Editor’s Choice: Sea Ray of Cincinnati/Louisville

By Tim Hennagir

Sea Ray of Cincinnati/Louisville

Cincinnati, Ohio

Sea Ray of Cincinnati/Louisville focuses on honing four key business management items to a sharp edge during its day-to-day operations as a longtime Top 100 dealer. CSI, inventory turns, market share, and profitability are critical operating concerns. 

“Our goal is to meet or exceed the expectations of our customers in all areas of our business,” says President Ed Alf III. 

For Alf, the key to managing CSI is hiring talented people, training them, setting expectations and recognize when an employee delivers.

Sea Ray of Cincinnati/Louisville’s CSI scores are consistently at the top of the dealership’s manufacturers. 

“In 2017, our CSI scores were between 90 percent and 100 percent, depending on the manufacturer,” Alf says. Having the right models and equipment in stock is an art and a science. As turns increase, margins increase and interest expense is reduced. Having fewer non-current boats on the lot improves average margins, he says.

Merchandising boats, displaying them nicely and keeping them clean is important. When a boat is at a location for too long, it can be moved to another location.

Sea Ray of Cincinnati/Louisville’s 2017 profit was 5 percent of sales. “We did not sell any new sport cruisers or sport yachts, but we still kept our top line the same as 2016. We had an increase in expenses in personnel costs and health care costs. We were able to control our other expenses to help maintain net profit,” Alf says. 

Rising employee health care costs remain a key concern of many dealers. Sea Ray of Cincinnati/Louisville implemented two changes as its response, Alf says. 

“We increased our deductible from $3,000 to $5,000 annually,” he says. “Our company will reimburse an employee $1,500 if the employee meets the deductible. This lowers premiums for all of our health care participants.” 

The dealership’s health care provider, Humana, offers discounts on premiums for employees who accrue points through the provider’s wellness program. 

“All of our team members wear Fitbits or pedometers,” Alf says. “We saved more than $2,600 last year as a result of employee discounts through the wellness program.”

Sea Ray of Cincinnati/Louisville joined the Max Strother 20 Group in 2017. This group is composed of Supra and Moomba dealers. “The surf and wakeboard dealers provide us with new insights on how dealers are marketing to this clientele,” Alf says. “This is a huge growth market.”

Another key staff improvement involved hiring a full-time F&I person at Sea Ray of Louisville, Alf says. “Prior to that, we had centralized F&I. This worked well, but one person was bottlenecked with F&I and other responsibilities.” 

Alf says the new hire is helping the dealership grow and while moving the F&I function closer to customers at the Louisville store. 

Sea Ray of Cincinnati/Louisville also upgraded its website to a more responsive platform. Alf says the change was prompted by customers viewing the dealership’s website on smart phones and iPads. “We had to redesign our entire site, test it, and import data. Our traffic is up 8.42 percent from last year.”

For employees who contribute above and beyond their normal performance, Sea Ray of Cincinnati/Louisville gives out annual year-end bonuses. 

Sometimes, these outstanding employees will also receive an increase in base pay as well. “We also offer a bonus to our general managers based on probability of their location,” Alf says. 

Both of dealer locations have the convenience of easy water access, so when customers come in to take a ride in any one of the dealership’s boats, employees are able complete this task easily and comfortably. 

“Each of our two facilities were designed to be a boat dealership, giving us the advantage of not having to adapt to buildings that were built for other businesses,” Alf says. “We have a tremendous repeat and referral business.” 

There’s a strong correlation between having satisfied employees and satisfied customers, Alf says. “Highly motivated employees with a positive attitude who are fully engaged makes work more fun for everyone around them. We create a culture that attracts and retains these employees.”  

 

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