2021 Best in Class: Best Service Department

The Boat Shop
Tafton, Penn.

In 1958, a Pennsylvania family decided to open a marina on Lake Wallenpaupack, a man-made, 5,700-acre, 13-mile-long lake in the Poconos built for hydroelectric power. Wallenpaupack Marina prospered, and attracted the attention of Roy Finney, Sr., who joined the staff in 1962 and never left! He took over full operations in 1973, and Roy Finney, Jr., has since succeeded him.

“Some things have certainly changed,” stated Roy Finney, Jr., in his Top 100 application. “We certainly don’t caulk and swell wooden hulls much anymore,  but our philosophy of customer satisfaction, quality service, and unstinting attention to detail remains unaltered to this day.”

They have two acres of waterfront property as well as another 10 acres of non-adjoining storage and road front property. Over the years many transformations have taken place as they added additional water frontage, renovated buildings, and found new ways to better serve customers.

The main building, where most of the customer interactions take place, was first built in 1958. However, when they moved the service department to another building on the property, they expanded the main building into a three-story, 3,500-square foot facility housing the pro shop, rental counter, offices, customer waiting area, and showroom.

“Reminiscent of boating’s past, we decided that a metal or modern structure would not do,” stated Roy, Jr. “So we made the building a ‘Boat Barn.’ Made from rough cut hemlock, with true board and batons on the outside, and rough-cut pine on the inside, we gave our store an old-fashioned look. This allows us to keep the comfortable, casual atmosphere our customers enjoy, while also complementing and enhancing the natural physical beauty of our area.”

Another enhancement The Boat Shop made was in the area of staffing additions, including a new service writer. Three of the four new hires worked out, but not that one.

“The main failure was that our hire, who had experience in an automotive dealership, was so set in his ways that he was unwilling to work with our service manager to know what was going on,” explained Roy, Jr. “Second to that he wanted a commission-based pay structure as he had in the auto dealership, but he would push aside jobs that didn’t benefit him for those that did. We decided to part ways, but in doing so came away with very valuable ideas and lessons.”

One of the things that added to their learning process came when they handed out employee review packets to each employee. In these packets employees were asked to rate their co-workers in certain areas, and also provide feedback for them. This was all done with complete confidentiality and a third-party provider compiled the results in a series of reports.

“I went over the results with the individual employees in private meetings,” Roy, Jr. said. “This was perhaps the best employee review process we have ever done as the staff told each other exactly what I would, and more, since they see things I am not always privy to. But coming from their peers the results sank in and the ideas and implementation of improvements was tremendous.”

Another idea they had was routinely showing customers that by performing some maintenance and service chores they might not be thinking about would add to the resale value of their boat by an amount that exceeds the cost of the service. Through that initiative they have been able to increase the amount of service profit per boat without adding exponentially to the workload.

“Over the past 50 years we have certainly seen many changes,” added Roy Finney, Jr., in closing. “But one thing will never change though, and that is our love and passion for what we do.”

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