Galati Yacht Sales — Anna Maria, Fla.
Gordy’s Lakefront Marine — Lake Geneva, Wis.
MarineMax — Clearwater, Fla.
OneWater Marine Holdings — Buford, Ga.
Prince William Marine — Woodbridge, Va.
The Boating Industry Top 100 Hall of Fame recognizes dealers who have won the coveted Dealer of the Year award twice. These companies support the Top 100 program through their continued excellence and growth.
While the Top 100 typically looks at the numbers and accomplishments from the previous, this year we asked our Hall of Fame dealers about something everyone is dealing with right now, the coronavirus pandemic, and how dealers have adapted to new ways of doing just about everything.
Remember the joy
At OneWater Marine, when boating was deemed one of the few escapes from a growing pandemic, the company quickly shifted to highlight the boating lifestyle to remind people the importance of spending time on the water.
“We decided to break away from every other company’s message and really just made things about the customer,” chief technology officer Dave Witty said. “We quickly emphasized across our network that we shouldn’t be focusing on sales calls with our customers, but rather checking in to see how customers are doing.”
With the size of its dealer network, OneWater already had a good system in place to maintain communication with its team and set the marching orders to give customers the escape they desired.
“Communication is key across the entire industry, just as it is with all of our customers,” Witty said.
OneWater focused on the stories of what boating does for families in creating memories and how boating can offer joy in times of uncertainty.
“We can’t forget how amazing this industry is,” Witty said. “We’re in an incredible business. No other business out there that offers such incredible experiences for our customers, as well as our team members.”
Set the pace and run
In last year’s Hall of Fame update, we focused on Gordy’s Lakefront Marine’s owners Tom and Steele Whowell and their mission to implement a certain culture across all aspects of the dealership.
This remained especially true for the brothers and the dealership as they began to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No doubt it’s been a rollercoaster of a year,” Steele said. “In the beginning, everyone was looking around saying how do we do this and how do we keep everyone safe?”
And as people flocked to boating as a means of something to do in a world of lockdowns, Gordy’s focused on their culture of providing the highest level of customer service to every single boater.
Though the brothers described the sudden rush of customers — both existing and new — as a wave, it was important to them to ride the wave as far as they could, while providing the same level of commitment to service that their grandpa and founder of Gordy’s instilled in the business from the beginning.
“In any area of the business, it’s all about taking care of the customer at the highest level and that’s just ingrained in our team and part of our culture,” Tom said. “Regardless if they’re buying a new boat or a used boat, — you know, a used boat is still a new boat to them — you need that same standard that gets delivered on a consistent basis every time in every department.”
Rotating lockdowns and a desire for ever-increased safety has pushed the digital world into the spotlight now more than it even was pre-pandemic.
Galati Yacht Sales was already underway on enhancing its digital shopping experience, but the pandemic pushed them even further to create the ultimate online boat shopping experience.
“Our whole go-to-market strategy has changed tenfold since March,” Galati COO/CFO Darren Plymale said. “We are selling boats today, without a customer ever seeing them by using mobile tools and proper product showcasing online.”
Most recently, Galati Yacht Sales unveiled its new Yacht Shopper online shopping portal. The Yacht Shopper provides potential boat owners with an easy-to-navigate shopping experience online, on par with many other industries.
“We’ve come to understand that people, especially during the times we’re in now, want all of their online shopping experiences to work similarly to others like real estate and other consumer sites,” Plymale explained. “That’s exactly what we’ve created.”
With the cancellation of live events, Galati decided to use part of that budget to invest in their digital presence and technology. Yacht Shopper is completely proprietary and was developed with the consumer in mind.
Trust your team
While the right team is important in any normal business, during any normal time, the right team is especially important during times of uncertainty, like we’ve often seen throughout the pandemic.
Having the right team in place across every department, is what Prince William Marine Sales owner Carlton Phillips credits much of their success throughout the ongoing pandemic to.
The dealership, like many others, went from bracing for the worst to the busiest they’ve ever been in a matter of months, but throughout both times, Phillips was certain Prince William had the right team in place to get through anything.
The team at Prince William Marine Sales works as a cohesive unit, from sales to service, everyone has their expertise and is willing to help whenever and wherever they can.
“I trust everyone on this team so much,” Phillips said. “The team as it is now, is by far the best we’ve ever had and that makes it so much easier to push through difficult times, as well as celebrate our successes.”