Must-Read: First-time applicants

It’s no secret that this is a lengthy application. With 75 total questions, the amount of time and energy that goes into filling out the Top 100 Dealers application is significant.

We hope that the application process itself is enlightening for those dealers who choose to really invest their time in it. For many dealers, the process allows an opportunity to reflect on the inner workings of their business, providing ideas for improvement and reasons to be proud. Some of the best dealerships take the opportunity to sit down with their respective staffs and review the application to figure out ways to make all their systems and processes work together more fluently. It’s rare to find an avenue for exploiting such opportunities, but we hope and in some cases know the Top 100 application will do just that.

It’s not our place to tell you how long your application should be, but we can tell you what we’ve seen over the first two years of the program. For the first year, and with first-time applicants in year two, as well, we saw short applications. Usually 10-15 pages in length. We can call those “small” because in year two, we saw an enormous increase in the amount of information supplied by repeating applicants.

One dealer submitted 28 binders full of information. Two other dealers submitted four-inch thick, three-ring binders that had so much supplemental information they couldn’t be picked up by the spine alone. Most dealers packaged their application in some sort of binder, and the most popular choice seemed to be the three-ring binder. Many dealers now ask us what we’re looking for in the application. The simple answer is a nicely packaged application that is easy to navigate, preferrably in a three-ring binder.

It’s not that size matters, but you should know that when our editorial team evaluates the applications, we lay one application next to the other to compare them question-by-question. And if your application has one- or two-word answers or a short sentence, and the next guy has a full, descriptive paragraph (or two) along with supporting documents or examples, it’s easy to say that he probably provided better information than you.

The Top 100 Dealers Program is based on two concepts: to recognize and celebrate the elite dealers and to help the industry grow and improve. To recognize the best, we honor them in front of the industry (both in the pages of Boating Industry magazine and at the awards gala in November) by promoting their best practices. By sharing those practices, we help the industry improve. If your application doesn’t shed ample light on how you find success, it most likely won’t help you achieve Top 100 Dealer status. And with that in mind, it’s a good time to remind you that if you want to share those secrets to your success, but you don’t want us to share them with anyone else, you can mark any answer on the application as NFP – Not For Publication.

Here are some key points to keep in mind as you’re filling out the application.

  • Be complete. We’re looking for examples of professionalism and for examples of businesses that are well-run and will continue to be successful. Be complete in your answers. If we ask you what your goals are, don’t tell us that you’re looking to make more money or to grow. Everyone’s doing that. To make the Top 100, you’ll need to be specific. Goals aren’t just words. They include action plans. And a process for achieving them. This is just one example of where you should be complete.
  • Provide supplemental information. In some cases (CSI, for example), we ask for documentation. It’s highly recommended that you provide documentation wherever you can. Show us what your marketing materials look like. Submit your process maps. And any other interesting things that will help us look favorably upon your application would be recommended.
  • It’s not about the numbers. OK, so you have an incredible CSI score. That’s great, but remember, this program isn’t about the numbers. It’s about the processes behind those numbers. So if you have a CSI score of 100, and your most unique customer service initiative is a women’s boating class, which everyone else is doing, too, you won’t score as highly as somebody who has a detailed strategy for improving their CSI score.
  • Good luck, and please contact us if there’s any other questions we might be able to answer for you.

    The Editors.

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