Maximizing ROI in the off season

There’s an expression that I’m sure you’ve all heard before: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

I hate that expression. And I hate it more and more as I get older. Don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with aging. I don’t mind the few white hairs on top of my head.

But don’t tell me that because we’re getting older, we’re done learning. Many of the smartest people I know are in their 60s, 70s and 80s – and they’re still as eager to learn as any college kid. Probably more so.

I like this expression better: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” —Aristotle

No matter how smart we are, we can never be an expert at every aspect of the boating business. It’s too complex. Between boat sales, service, finance, insurance, parts, accessories, marinas, etc., you’re managing at least three different types of businesses under one roof, and each has its own set of rules and ratios that drive its success.

Research shows that to join the best of the best in your field, that top one percent, it takes 10,000 hours of practice.

You’ll never be able to pass that 10,000-hour threshold in each and every aspect of every department in your business. And just when you master that one area that’s critical to your success in your specific job, I promise you, it will change.

That’s why you can’t run a boat dealership, or most other marine businesses, by yourself. You need a team. And you and your team need to be good at learning to do well in business.

So, what can you do to become excellent at learning, especially this time of year when many marine businesses are investing in training? If you look at recent research, it turns a lot of what we think we know about learning on its head.

For example, people typically forget 90 percent of what they learn in a class within 30 days. And the majority of this forgetting occurs within the first few hours after class.

To hold onto what you learned, you need to consistently re-expose yourself to that information. Here is what you can do to make the most of your team’s training.

1. Think and talk about it. Immediately after you complete a training exercise, discuss what you took away from it with your instructors, co-workers or even your spouse. Or get together with your entire team to download the key lessons.

A best practice that some dealerships have adopted is requiring all employees who participate in training to return to the business and teach the rest of the team what they learned.

2. Connect what you’re learning and real life examples. The more that you can connect what you’re learning with experiences and knowledge you already have in your brain, the more likely you are to retain it.

3. Tie learning to retrieving what you learned. If you can learn in the same environment where you will later want to retrieve what you learned, you’ll be more successful.

Also, if you study the same way you will use what you learned, that will help you retrieve it. If you’re practicing how to close a boat sale, that’s an oral exercise, so practice orally, not by writing down your close.

4. Space practice out. Cramming works great if you only need to remember something for a short period of time. But if you want to keep it for the long haul, space out the repetition. Schedule a once a week practice of a key new process or strategy.

5. The more elaborate and in-depth the practice, the better. You tend to retain more when a learning experience involves more senses: seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling.

In fact, if information is presented orally, people remember about 10 percent 72 hours after exposure. Add a picture or a video and that percentage goes up to 65 percent.

As you train this offseason, please let me know how the team at the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas can help. The way we see it, our job is to help the industry improve and grow, and we know the best way to do that is to serve you.

Liz Walz is vice president of MRAA. To learn more, visit or email her at


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